What are the specifics of a “Faith Upgrade"? How a disciple of Jesus intersects with real life can be expressed by several key questions that we need to ask ourselves:
- Is my life in Christ changing my family relationships?
- Would the people where I work speak of me as a “person of faith?”
- What are the evidences of increased generosity or compassion in my life?
- How am I contributing to positive change in my community?
Faith is a journey, a process that continues through all of life. Our choice is to decide whether or not our faith is serving us and others well. So here are some strategies to upgrade your faith.
Evaluate your faith regularly. Set aside times to assess your faith. Ask yourself the above questions periodically. (Perhaps you may choose to do this in a personal retreat; or take a question every day and spend 15 to 30 minutes reflecting on and praying about your answers). Faith that isn’t re-evaluated becomes toxic or static or unusable.
If faith is your personal worldview, and the world is constantly changing, then it becomes mandatory to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of your faith often. How does God or your picture of God fit into a changing world? How does your current faith respond to the challenges and crises of a changing world; is it adequate? Are the perspectives and answers of your current faith meaningful and effective in helping you and others navigate the ever-changing journey of life?
Read and reflect deeply. Reading sacred Scriptures helps to fine-tune and shape our worldview and our faith in God. We must continually expose ourselves to the deep faith of other people, those who seem to possess a faith that makes a difference in their lives and in the world. We must expose ourselves to the rich sacred literature of spiritual giants through the centuries, men and women who have developed purposeful and meaningful faith, who have wrestled with the deep and difficult questions of God, life, and the world.
Throughout the writings of Ellen G. White, she makes the following statement many times: “By beholding we become changed.”1 This is her way of saying something very similar to what is stated in 2 Corinthians 3:18, and it describes a hugely significant human process. Life change and transformation (which includes our faith journey) comes by contemplating, reflecting upon, thinking about the highest values of life. And in that scriptural context, the author is talking about the dynamic of Godlikeness, becoming transformed into the character of God by looking at Jesus who manifested God so completely. The spiritual principle is that we become like that which we spend time observing.
Another New Testament faith development principle suggests this dynamic: faith comes by hearing the words of God (Rom. 10:17). In other words, according to this sacred example, if one’s faith centers on belief in a personal God, then that faith is grown and deepened by spending time listening to the words of God, reflecting on them, and allowing them to penetrate the heart and mind and soul. Sacred Scriptures in every religion provide one of the resources for encountering the words of God.
The New Testament book called “Hebrews” includes an entire chapter (11), often referred to as the “faith chapter.” It tells summarizing stories of many of the faith heroes in biblical history and what constituted their faith. These are great biographies of people who wrestled with life—and with God, who struggled to build and maintain faith in the midst of crisis and suffering, doubts and uncertainties, who experienced spectacular failures as well as successes, who were at times both faithless and faithful. These stories (the more complete versions are told in the Old Testament) are powerful resources to building your own faith journey in the real world.
So if you want to build your faith (upgrade it):
- Do you have a regular time set aside to do spiritual reading and reflection on that reading?
- Are you willing to immerse your mind, heart, and soul in those words from people who have journeyed before you and who have encountered the struggles of faith that have often resulted in a deepening of their faith?
- Are you willing to expose yourself to contrasting points of view about faith from people or sources you perhaps haven’t always agreed with in the past, to challenge your current worldview, your current faith perspectives? “Iron sharpens iron” (Ps. 27:17, NKJV). Either that exposure will help to deepen your current faith or it will expose flaws and weakness or inadequacies in your current faith so you can reshape and reform and make more effective your faith life.
Develop faith-building relationships. Faith is a relational experience. Spirituality is most effectively shaped and built in the context of supportive and mutual relationships.
Someone has said, “There are two things in life you cannot do alone: be spiritual and be married.” So whom do you have in your life that is journeying with you and supporting you along your faith path? Who is there that you trust with whom you can talk, raise doubts and questions, share your deepest fears and wonderings, bounce thoughts and ideas off; people who can be supportive of your personal journey, people whose own lives can help transform yours, people who might not only share your beliefs but who might also challenge yours, and people with whom you can do the same?
Faith, for it to be genuine, helpful, and based upon reality and truth, must be upgraded. The world is too complex and ever-changing for an old “operating system” to be effective. The basis of your faith might never change. But the details and dynamics and way you live it out in order for your life to be meaningful and significant to yourself and others might need to.2