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Archive for Saturday, September 28, 2013

Faith Forum: Does faith get stronger or weaker as people get older?

September 28, 2013

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Determining values, convictions, identity helps strengthen faith

Rick Burwick, lead pastor, 360 Church, 3200 Clinton Parkway:

As a person privileged to live life with many people from all backgrounds, cultures, faiths and multiple nations, I have observed fewer people growing weaker in their faith as compared to the greater number growing stronger as they age in years and in faith. The difference between those weaker or stronger are found in the convictions they hold.

History is full of leaders who changed the world because of their convictions. They serve as a strong inward compass, on display when we are under pressure. Someone has said that humans are like tea. Our colors show up when we get into hot water. Many people never develop convictions because they make them appear narrow and intolerant. Convictions are stronger than ideas or feelings. In fact, we might list it this way:

Idea: A thought or concept which is usually attractive because it is novel, or because it is yours.

Opinion: An idea you feel emotionally tied to, but might change as your emotions change.

Belief: A strong inclination tied to emotions and based upon thoughtful reflection.

Commitment: A decision to embrace a belief or principle based on your emotions, mind and will.

Conviction: A strong belief that so governs your decisions that you are willing to die for it.

Convictions come in our life when we decide on a truth source from which we will live. We have chosen to follow the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments as our source of truth.

Knowing that a truth source only works if we do, we chose to apply them to guide us during good and tough times. Then as we live out life rather than in a bubble, we expose our faith by putting ourselves in view of needs and crisis, where we begin to feel prompted to respond through serving, giving our time, talent and money. Through getting involved, we choose what’s worth living and dying for. We cannot determine convictions when in the middle of a crisis. They must be decided in quietness, taking the time to determine what is worth living for.

Once we know our passion and the contributions we can and want to make in life, we determine values. These values begin to direct what become our convictions. Our identity grows secure as we like the person we become. Almost everyone who embraces firm convictions by putting God and others first also has a healthy self-esteem as well as grow stronger in faith.

— Send email to Rick Burwick at pastorrick@cpaog.com.

Faith is a highly personal experience

Moussa Elbayoumy, community outreach coordinator, Islamic Center of Lawrence, 1917 Naismith Drive:

This may seem as a simple question, but it will be unfair to over-simplify it with a single answer. While it is almost universally true that the elderly are more religious, we know that faith is a very personal experience that differs from one individual to another and from one generation to another.

As people progress from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, they pass through many changes, not only physically, but also socially, mentally and spiritually.

A newly born infant knows nothing about this world and only starts to acquire knowledge and beliefs from its surroundings. Early childhood experiences are largely influenced by parents and teachers. Those formative years play the most important part in the development of our value systems, including faith.

However, as children grow up, develop their own views, values and identity, and assert their independence from both their parents and society, they may move away from the values and beliefs acquired during childhood (although in many cases, these beliefs are deeply engraved and find their way back at a later age).

Many life experiences such as the birth of a child, death of a loved one (parent, child, sibling, a close friend or relative), or surviving a war or catastrophe, can have a lasting impact — positive or negative — on a person’s faith belief and its strength. The more of these life changing events a person experiences, the stronger the impact on his or her religious beliefs.

People of all ages often seek to find meaning in their life and add the total of their life experiences together to form their unique belief system. Older adults, as they face their own immortality, may be more interested in reaching beyond themselves, caring for others, and disinterested in material possessions — which in a way defines religious beliefs and spirituality — bringing deeper personal satisfaction, comfort and peace to their lives as they mature and age.

— Send email to Moussa Elbayoumy at community@islamicsocietylawrence.org.

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