The Stages of Faith

An Inspired Essay by Rev. Lloyd Strom

Faith doesn't happen all at once. Unfortunately most people don't understand this, and tend to believe that faith is something that you either have or don't have. The truth is that faith can be developed through daily dedicated spiritual practice, which moves us through the following three stages:

1. Hope ,,,a Sense of Doubtful Expectation
Hope is the alpha, or beginning stage of the development of faith. It is our felt response to some good idea that arises in our minds to oppose whatever worries us. Hope is our expectation of something good happening to us. Unfortunately, because there tends to be lingering doubts and fears hidden beneath our hopes, they often produce a form of anxiety known as waiting.

Whatever gives us hope can eventually heal us, unless we base our hopes on things that can change without our consent. Therfore, if our hopes arise in response to that which is changeless, such as the Word of God, they will become a strong foundation for our faith.

2. Trust ,,,a Sense of Inner Peace
As our doubts and fears begin to fall away as the result of daily dedicated spiritual practice, we begin to experience an ever increasing sense of inner peace and trust in the creative process of Life. Trust is the transitional stage between our hopes and the ultimate outcome of our faith, which is the graceful manifestation of something good into our lives.

As our worries begin to whither away, the anxiety of waiting is replaced by the grace of patience, which is a calm certainty that something good is happening to us in the present moment, despite any appearance to the contrary. Whereas waiting is the activity of fear, patience is an expression of Love, which is the absence of all fear.

3. Gratitude ...a Sense of Quiet Delight
The final stage and ultimate outcome of faith is the experience of something good manifesting into our lives. Whenever this happens, our natural human response is to feel grateful. Consequently, gratitude is the omega, or final stage of faith. Gratitude is also the real human experience of loving God, for God is the unformed Good that is forever revealing Itself into our lives as an ever increasing manifestation of the many good things for which we are grateful.

By practicing gratitude in the beginning stages of our faith building process, we can hasten the time it takes to manifest something good into our lives, for whenever we perform an act of gratitude in the face of our fears our faith is deepened. The two most challenging spiritual practices that require us to face our fears with a heart of trust and love for God are forgiveness and tithing.

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