St. Augustine (354-430 AD) called prioritizing relationships in order of importance a ‘well ordered love.’ With priorities, something has to be most important; with order, something has to be first. What Augustine points out is that God wants us to make that Him, to place pursuing a growing relationship with Jesus above all else (see Pursue a Balanced Life – part 2). This is the principle behind the first rule in the the Manual of a Christian Knight. Knowing God and strengthening that relationship with an increasing faith is the foundation, not only for a Christian knight, but for a purposeful life. So how do you know what that faith looks like and how should you go about increasing it? First, lets settle on a definition, then turn to Erasmus’ first rule for the details.
strong or unshakable belief in something, especially without proof or evidence.
Oswald Chambers (1874-1917), Scottish theologian and chaplain to troops in WWI, said, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” Knowing that God is real and that His word is reliable is hard amidst all the competing messages in the world. To live your life like you know it is even harder. Harder still is making the pursuit of that knowledge, with increasing faith, your life’s highest priority. This is the kind of radical faith we are being called to; a strong, unshakable, deliberate confidence in the character of God, even when you do not understand His ways and when the rest of the world says you are mad.
Here is an interpretation of Erasmus’ Rule #1 for the Christian knight. (Click here to see a direct translation of the Latin text).
Faith is the way to Christ and Scripture is reliable.
Your belief in this should not be weak lip service, like most people.
Have a faith that comes from the heart.
Know that every word of Scripture is important to your well being.
Put your faith in God, not in the world.
Most people live like heaven and hell are myths.
Even if most people tell you it is madness.
God cannot lie, what he says is truth.
If you believe in God, you must believe what he says – confidently.
What you see and hear and touch is not as reliable as God’s word.
The prophets told of it, the blood of many martyrs proved it, it stands the test of time.
Christ became a man to fully reveal this truth.
Stir up a flame of faith and pursue God – ask God to increase your faith.
Increased faith will change you.
The greater your faith the less that vices and momentary pleasure will tempt you.
Not only will you be happier in life, you will be rewarded in eternity.
What has the most influence in forming your your view of the world? Does the wisdom of men and the influence of our culture hold more sway than God? Maybe you think they are incompatible, that the enlightenment of our modern age has made the Bible irrelevant. A collection of helpful stories and moral examples, but not reliable truth for every situation. As our world becomes increasingly convinced that we all got here without a creator and can live good and meaningful lives without Him, God is being increasingly marginalized. That has not changed in 500 years – it is precisely what Erasmus is warning us of. It was not true then, it is not true today, it will not be any more true tomorrow. In fact, the more you know about what God has to say and the stronger your connection to him, the more confident you will grow in your knowledge of the truth and the more your faith will increase.
So, how exactly do I increase my faith? Since God created each of us uniquely, the answer to this question is very likely different for you than for me. The journey toward an ‘increasing faith’, is just that, a journey. Increased faith is not a destination, rather a lifetime quest to follow God’s lead. You can be sure that He cares too much to let you stay where you are, if you are willing to follow, He will lead. To be prepared to follow, to find your individual answer to the ‘how’ question, you must understand yourself.
John Ortberg has written an excellent book called The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You. In Chapter Four, How to Grow, Ortberg says, “Spiritual growth is hand-crafted, not mass produced. God does not do one-size-fits-all,” and then he identifies some key questions to ask yourself.
- What brings me life? To make growth sustainable you need to identify the ways that you are energized.
- What is my temperament? Are you an introvert, extrovert, thinker, feeler?
- What is my pathway? Where and how do you experience God?
- What is my learning style? Everyone has a love of learning, but you need to identify your style to unlock it.
- What is my signature sin? Identify what is holding you back and learn how to break free.
- What is my season in life? What you need to continue to grow will will change as you grow.
If you were hoping for an easy answer like ’read your Bible more’ or ‘go to church on Sunday,’ the journey to increasing faith is a bit more complicated, a journey to more fully understanding God can only begin by tackling personal questions like Ortberg poses. There are other good resources available, but The Me I Want to Be comes with a very useful online assessment. I highly recommend this as a first step in your journey.
The last word on this will be His.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.