Importance of Faith


Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation. (Elton Trueblood, 1900~1994)

Today I attended a meeting in which 25 of us discussed the power of the mind, the power of belief, and the power of faith, which we treated as essentially the same thing; mainly, the power our mind (thoughts, opinions, beliefs, attitude) has over our physical and mental health, success, and happiness. I was pleasantly surprised to find everyone in agreement that how we view life creates the life we view.

That is, as someone else once said, "If life is a comedy to him who thinks, and a tragedy to him who feels, it is a victory to him who has faith." After all, if we have a negative attitude, we will experience a negative life (poor health, failures, and unhappiness). Not so long ago, the average person, and even many professionals, scoffed at the idea that the primary cause of man's suffering was the way he viewed life or what he believed in.

But now we know better. For example, Walter R. Newell, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada wrote, "If we believe the world as a whole is orderly and intelligible, we will behave in the same way. If we believe the world is chaotic and irrational, we will in turn be governed by impulse and passion (emotions)." Clearly, what we put our faith in will determine the quality of our life.

But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. Perhaps, before writing about the importance of placing our faith in the right place, I should begin by stressing how important it is to have faith. More than a half century ago, John Foster Dulles (1888~1959) expressed his concern about this matter: "We are establishing an all-time world record in the production of material things. What we lack is a righteous and dynamic faith. Without it, all else avails us little. The lack cannot be compensated for by politicians, however able; or by diplomats, however astute; or by scientists, however inventive; or by bombs, however powerful."

Yes, the answer to the world's problems doesn't lie in bigger threats, bombs, missiles, and armies, but in more faith. Faith in what? Faith in the intrinsic goodness of humanity. Faith in human nature. Faith in our ability to settle disputes peacefully. Our enemies want the same things we do; mainly, security, a sound economy, and respect. When we call our enemies evil, barbaric, and heinous, do we expect them to sit down with us and negotiate? When we strike a dog with a stick, do we expect it to wag its tail, or to lunge at us?

Yes, we need faith. Faith that things can, do, and will change for the better. Faith in ourselves. Faith that we have the necessary inner resources to cope with any difficulty. Faith that nothing is impossible. Faith that problems are the solutions to gaining strength and sharing in the adventure of life. Faith that in the end everything will turn out all right, and if things are not alright now, that's because it is not yet the end.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FAITH

1. It is the source of great strength. I smiled when I read how Walter Lippmann (1889~1974) made this same point: "Men with faith can face martyrdom while those without it feel stricken when they are not invited to dinner." Who are the great achievers? Those with strong faith or those whose hearts are filled with doubt?

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969) makes a strong case for faith: "Fear imprisons, faith liberates; fear paralyzes, faith empowers; fear disheartens, faith encourages; fear sickens, faith heals; fear makes useless, faith makes serviceable." Reverend Fosdick astutely realized that it is fear, not doubt, that is the opposite of faith. You see, we place our faith or trust in something because we expect good to result, so faith is the expectation of something good. And fear is the expectation of something bad (harmful).

2. Faith is the pillar that supports all acts of creation, or as Henry Miller (1891~1980) put it, "Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: it comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur." What is it, other than faith, that prods us along, one step at a time toward our goals? Some say, "I will believe it when I see it." But we will not see it until we first believe it.

3. Reason can go only so far, but faith has no limits. In the past, men of reason (scientists) have said that travel to the moon is impossible. But despite their concerns, men of faith brought us safely to the moon and back.

Would a reasonable person expect a ten year old child to sing opera? But a ten year old girl with faith proved she could do it. If you are one of the few people who haven't seen her yet, you can see Jackie Evancho here.

4. Men and women of faith are free of worry. One of NASA's most brilliant and fearless managers, George E. Mueller agrees, for he said, "The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety." Faith frees us from needless anxiety, fear, and worry, and allows us to focus on what is important.

Five months ago my car was completely destroyed in an accident. Needing another one, I visited a used car dealer. Met a salesman; we chatted, and got acquainted. I asked him which car in the lot was the best. He took me to one that was exactly two years old and in mint condition. He opened the door and gave me the key. I sat down, turned on the ignition, looked at the all-digital instrument panel, turned off the ignition, returned the key, got out of the car, and said, "Let's talk business."

At his desk, he showed me all of the car's documents, and told me how much the dealership was asking for the car. I explained that I wasn't interested in how much they wanted. Rather, I wanted to know how low they would be willing to go to get me to buy the car now. The salesman tried to get me to make an offer first. But I relentlessly refused. At last, he wrote down a figure on a sheet of paper and pushed it toward me, saying, "This is the best I can do."

I looked at the price, crossed it out, wrote a new figure, and while pushing it back to him said, "Give it to me at this price and I will pay for it in cash now." After getting approval from his manager, I got the car.

But I wonder if you got the real point of the story. You see, I paid thousands of dollars in cash for a car I did not test drive. At most, I spent five minutes looking at the car. I'm not suggesting that everyone behave as I did, but I trusted the salesman, had faith in the dealership, believed in the brand (Honda), trusted the documents, and had faith in my judgment and experience. Free from worry, I was able to act quickly and get exactly what I wanted. Five months have passed and my wife and I remain in love with the car.

5. "Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible." (Corrie Ten Boom, 1892~1983)

HARNESSING THE POWER OF FAITH

Thankfully, more and more people are recognizing the importance of faith. But simply understanding how important it is, is not enough to release its power. To benefit from its might, you must move beyond mere understanding to making it a part of you. It is not enough to understand the truth of faith; you must make it true for YOU. Only then will you be transformed by this mighty force.

Charles Blondin (1824~1897) was a French tightrope walker and acrobat that moved to the United States and gained fame by crossing the gorge below Niagara Falls on a tightrope, 1100 feet (335 m) long, 3¼ inches in diameter, 160 feet (50 m) above the water, carrying his manager, Harry Colcord on his back. One day, just before starting, he asked someone in the audience if he believed that he could do it.

"Yes," the man replied, "you can do it!"

The Great Blondin asked again, more emphatically.

"Yes, I'm sure you can do it!"

"Good," said Blondin, "because my manager isn't here today and I need you to ride over on my back."

When your faith in yourself, in others, and in life matches that of the faith of Blondin's manager, you will have released the power of faith, and you will be capable of living the life of your dreams.

SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF FAITH

We've come this far without defining faith. It may seem unnecessary, but just to clarify our understanding, I'll make a few points.

1. Faith means confidence, but not certainty, for if the outcome were certain, there would be no need for faith.

2. Faith is a continuation of reason. To have faith in the power of belief is not fancy or wishful thinking. It is reasonable because it is based on reason or science. After all, the placebo effect, or healing that comes from faith in the treatment rather than the treatment itself, is a long established scientific fact.

Tryon Edwards (1809~1894) also makes a good point about the relationship between science and faith, "Science has sometimes been said to be opposed to faith, and inconsistent with it. But all science, in fact, rests on a basis of faith, for it assumes the permanence and uniformity of natural laws - a thing which can never be demonstrated."

For the latest thought on how the mind influences our body and well being and for an introduction to epigenetics and biomolecular medicine see these two books (Don't be afraid; they are written for the layperson):

The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles, Bruce H. Lipton Ph.D. Hay House, 2008.

Molecules Of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine by Candace B. Pert, Simon & Schuster, 1999

3. Faith is pragmatic. Faith makes sense because it works. To have faith in yourself, humanity, and life leads to success and happiness. The naysayers and doomsday purveyors prove nothing other than their attitude leads to unhappiness.

4. "To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible." (St. Thomas Aquinas, 1225~1274)

5. Reason is knowing with our mind; faith is knowing with our heart.

6. "There is no such thing as a lack of faith. We all have plenty of faith, it's just that we have faith in the wrong things. We have faith in what can't be done rather than what can be done. We have faith in lack rather than abundance but there is no lack of faith." (Eric Butterworth, 1916~2003)

7. Faith is patience and persistence; it is holding on to our dream even after our rational mind gives up.

8. Faith is the gateway to adventure, for life is a leap of faith.

9. "Faith is building on what you know is here, so you can reach what you know is there." (Cullen Hightower)

"It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." (E. L. Doctorow)

10. Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813~1855) adds, "Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further.

CAVEATS

1. True, when we place our trust in others, we may occasionally be deceived, but better to trust many than to trust none and live in torment.

2. Some wish they had faith, but none who have it wish they didn't.

3. "We seldom lose our faith by a blow out, usually it is just a slow leak." (author unknown) Guard against slow leaks.

4. They who have no faith when the sun is shining will have none when the clouds come.

5. "Just as a small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it - likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicament and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them." (Viktor E. Frankl, 1905~1997)

6. Don't seek faith that life will spare you from difficulties. Rather, seek faith that life will give you the strength to overcome anything it throws your way.

HOW DO WE CULTIVATE, MAINTAIN, OR INCREASE OUR FAITH?

1. Focus on what you can do rather than what you can't do.

2. Never say you cannot do something without adding the word "yet." Example: I cannot dance YET.

3. Be open to it. Faith cannot enter a closed mind any more than you can enter a closed room

4. Look for reasons to have faith, not reasons to have doubt. Remember, we find what we look for.

5. Set and work toward your goals. Each success you experience will lead you to believe you are in control and anything is possible.

6. Help others have faith. Remember, we have to give away what we wish to receive.

7. Enjoy inspirational books, magazines, and movies.

8. Associate with positive thinkers, for you will become like the people you hang out with.

9. Don't be afraid to be tested, for a faith that hasn't been tested can't be trusted.

"Pity the human being who is not able to connect faith within himself with the infinite. He who has faith has... an inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence, calmness, and assuring trust that all will come out well - even though to the world it may appear to come out most badly." (B.C. Forbes, 1880~1954)

For more ideas on faith see: http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/faith.htm

© Chuck Gallozzi
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