No one else can. Not your parents. Not your church. Not your friends.
We need to own our own faith. Why and how do we do it you ask? Well, let’s me share a bit of my story and then give you a passage that will help you along the way, ready?
I don’t think I really owned my faith until I was 25 years old. I went to church almost every single sunday. I probably had conversations about faith and God before then but I never truly examined my faith. In many ways I was afraid of what I mind find if I did. What if God wasn’t real? What if the bible doesn’t carry the truth?
I would go to church on Sundays and try to live my life in a way of honoring God through the week. Sounds good right? Yes, and there isn’t anything wrong with this. I’m thankful for the faith community and family that guided me to that point in my life.
At some point in all of our lives we must go to from community-held belief to personal belief within community.
It is indeed a dangerous journey to go outside your community-held faith and beliefs (sidenote: this journey can be done within your faith community but many times a physical journey or pilgrimage is very helpful). Some may even criticize you out of their own fears or insecurities. The reality is: You will not come back the same as before.
On your journey, you will doubt and you will question, but God will lead you into a new personal and beautiful faith that you own wholeheartedly. There is no formula, but I found that Matthew 7 gives a great framework:
“Judge not, that you be not judged.”
As you go on your new journey it will be easy to look back at your old faith community and belief as something old and antiquated. Resist this temptation. If you are truly seeking God and desiring to own your faith, it will open you up to be more gracious and open.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Honestly seek God, seek relationship with him, seek to know his ways and you will be rewarded. Adopt a spirit of wonder and curiosity and let God’s spirit guide you. You will only receive at the measure in which you are open to it.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
It’s not going to be an easy path and you will be confronted with your inadequacies, faithlessness and hypocrisies. The temptation is to take the easy path, but it leads to, well…destruction. Take the narrow path, because only you fit on it. No one else can lead you to own your faith.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.”
On your journey you will find spiritual manipulators, those that tempt you to nominalism and those who use power in the church the wrong way. You will know them by their fruit. Use one of the gifts the Spirit gives you for your journey: Discernment.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
God is looking for the faithful yet honest ones to follow him, to know him, and to represent him. He will give us great gifts by the power of his Spirit to do great things on this earth, but sometimes we can get too enamored with the gifts or the greater mission. Your faith must be built on the foundation of being close to God in relationship. The journey is actually all about this.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
If you continue to be faithful and honest with God, your faith foundation will be strong as a rock and you will begin to see the faith house you can build with God in your life. Each room will have a memory of faith or maybe a photo from the journey to remind you how far you have come.
This journey of owning our faith will never end. It will have valleys and mountains. There will be advances and regressions. God will bring like-minded friends (church) on the journey and also put people (elders and mentors) in your path to direct you at opportune moments. Just remember it is a journey that has great riches to be found—pearls, treasures, Images of God, beauty. Try to enjoy it!
I would never take back the last 10 years of seeking God. He has been faithful to answer all the doors I knock on and to be found when I truly sought him.