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    As we write this, we are coming out of the most recent surge of Covid-19 cases caused by the omicron variant.

    As we are beginning to see signs that we have weathered the worst of this wave, this is a great time to reflect on, reassess, and rebuild our faith. 

    The new variants that have been emerging every few months bring a lot of uncertainties and stress. There have been shut downs, unexpected quarantines, long lines for tests, and shortages of home tests. 

    How have you been holding up out there? I find myself getting reactionary—overreacting to everyone and everything because of all the stress I am carrying around inside. 

    Many of us have experienced heightened stress over the last few years, and in particular the last few months. Maybe you have faced financial challenges and stresses, or have lost a job or a loved one. Maybe you’re starting school and the stress of the new semester is upon you.

    On top of all that, you may be experiencing some level of isolation and distance in relationships. If you have mental and emotional health challenges, those may be exacerbated by Covid surges and all the stress that comes with them.

    All of these stressors can wear down our faith. So what can we do to rebuild our faith after it’s been battered by a Covid surge?

    Rebuilding our faith doesn’t have to be overwhelming or complicated. We broke down the process into five simple steps: 

    1. Remember who God is
    2. Reflect on what’s hindering you
    3. Rid yourself of unbelief
    4. Refocus on Jesus
    5. Rebuild your faith by taking action

    Remember God

    Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

    Hebrews 11:1 NIV

    Faith is the confidence that the good things we hope for will come to be. It’s being sure that God will come through for us.

    Are you more focused right now on what you can see? Or on what God can do? Faith is believing in what God can do. Faith is seeing beyond physical circumstances, challenges, human limitations, and emotions. It is being confident in what God can do and sure that he is always working with us.  This is hard for me. 

    To have this kind of faith, I need to take time to remember who God is.

    Read to remind yourself who God is

    And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

    Hebrews 11:6 NIV

    Take a minute to think about what it really means to “believe God exists.” God created the world. He created you and me. He helped Noah’s family survive the flood. He helped Moses free a nation. He helped David defeat Goliath. Jesus rose from the dead. People were healed because of their level of faith. 

    If God can do that, he can help us get through anything and do anything. 

    Reading the Bible helps me rebuild faith because it reminds me of who God is, how powerful he is, and how much he loves me. All I have to do is genuinely seek to be close to him and love him back. 

    When we really believe that God exists and that he wants and plans good for us, our faith will be powerful. Because our faith is dependent on God and not whatever is going on around us. 

    That’s why Jesus says: 

    “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.

    Matthew 17:20 NLT 

    When it comes to faith, a little goes a long way. 

    So how is your faith doing? A great place to start rebuilding your faith is reading the Bible while focusing on who God says he is. 

    Then, we can take on the next step, which is getting rid of the distractions that slow us down. 

    Pause and reflect:

    • How would you describe the condition of your faith today?
    • What are some qualities of God that build your faith?
    • What are some things you see as impossible that you need to remember God’s power can make happen?

    Reflect on what’s hindering you 

    Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up.

    Hebrews 12:1 GW

    What is “the race” we are supposed to run? It’s believing in God and following Jesus—living like him in our daily lives. It’s getting our faith to a place where we are changing our lives and changing the lives of people around us. 

    We are meant to change the world, make it to heaven ourselves, and take as many people with us as we can. Every relationship we have should be better, closer, more loving, and more life-changing because we bring faith to it!

    So what gets in the way of us running that race? This scripture tells us it is the weights that slow us down and distractions.

    The weights that slow us down

    These are some common things that tend to weigh us down and stop us from running our race:

    • Distance in relationships – insecurity from not talking to each other in a while.
    • Distrust – unresolved and unforgiven relationship issues can lead to fear and bitterness.
    • Doubt – viewing each challenge or opportunity through a lens of negativity.
    • Pain – experiencing grief, loss, mistreatment, or prejudice.   
    • Emotionalism – emotions dictating your life – we give into fear, insecurity, anxiety, and guilt. 

    The sins that distract us from believing

    When I am stressed I find myself running to food to feel good, instead of talking to God or friends about how I feel. Or I selfishly try and accomplish things to get them off of my plate to relieve the stress, but this can lead me to treat the people in my life I care about like tasks instead of relationships. 

    These sins leave me not only with a few extra pounds but also with more distance in my relationships. Needless to say, these aren’t the ways God wants me to live my life. Where do you turn or are tempted to turn when life gets difficult?

    Sin distracts us from running the race God wants us to run. It distracts us from God and his power, so our faith dwindles. 

    The Bible tells us that everyone has sin (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:7-9). So we don’t have to get down and discouraged about identifying it in our lives. Actually, being honest about sin is an important step in being freed from it. 

    Sin can be sneaky, and sometimes we don’t realize it is there. If you need some help identifying the sins that might be distracting you, these are some that I have found to be common especially over the course of the pandemic: 

    • Greed
    • Self-indulgence
    • Selfish ambition
    • Bitterness
    • Criticalness/Arrogance
    • Lust and impurity
    • Deceit/hiddenness
    • Unbelief

    These sins and others like them not only distract us from God, but they also get in the way of us building the spiritual relationships we need to help us renew our faith. Though I may not always see it in the moment, the more I turn to these sins the more selfish I become in relationships, and it has led to a lot of hurt and distance. God has another way for us to live that can refresh us rather than weigh us down:

    But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

    Galatians 5:22-23 NLT

    The amazing thing is we can be free of these sins because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross. Jesus died for our sins, and the more aware we are of our sins the more grateful we will become for that sacrifice.

    Because of what Jesus did for us, we can throw off our sins and move forward. As we’ll see in the next step, the process of throwing off our sins begins with honesty in prayer.

    Pause and reflect:

    • What are some weights or sins that have been hindering you from running your race with faith?
    • Which Spirit-produced fruit in Galatians 5:22-23 do you want to grow in this week? 

    Recognize when you’re entangled by unbelief

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 

    Hebrews 12:1 NIV

    Hebrews 12 teaches us to “throw off” entanglements and hindrances that stop us from running our race with faith. To throw off my sins and hindrances, I have to understand what’s at the root of them and then be vulnerable and honest with God about them in prayer. 

    What’s at the root of your entanglements?

    Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.

    Hebrews 3:12-14 NLT

    One specific sin that usually tangles me up into other sins is unbelief. Hebrews 3 says that our unbelief turns us away from God, and allows us to be deceived by sin. This unbelief doesn’t necessarily look like doubting God is real. Just like any sin, it can deceive us. Unbelief can show itself in cynicism, settling, apathy, or feeling defeated. We need to be aware of the warning signs that show we have been unbelieving if we are going to be untangled from it. 

    Here are some things I get entangled in when I’m unbelieving:

    1. Distractions – When desires, sins, and secret temptations have a stronger hold on me than God.
    2. Disappointments – When I haven’t addressed or resolved the pain of loss or unfulfilled expectations.
    3. Distance – When I’m disconnected from relationships, whether because of superficiality or isolation from God and others.
    4. Discontentment – When I am dissatisfied with life, and envy and jealousy take over my heart. 

    I’ll never forget going to Huntington Beach early one morning with friends in high school, with great anticipation to hit the waves boogie boarding. Upon arriving, I caught the first big wave I saw, but I was late getting onto the wave. It flipped over, plunging me deep under water, with the next wave following it crashing down on me as soon as I was about to reach the surface. 

    Disoriented underwater, I got entangled in seaweed. My board’s leash pulled me down, and rip currents threw me everywhere. I thought I was going to drown after ingesting a lot of water, and all I could think about was swimming towards the surface light above me. 

    After barely making it back to the surface, it took a long time for me to get back in the water because my head was pounding and I was so shaken.

    Unbelief is like that seaweed. It grips us tightly while the rip currents of life throw us around unexpectedly. Sometimes we become so shaken by the unexpected and caught in the entanglements of unbelief that even after a crisis is over we can’t “get back in the water” again spiritually. We find ourselves not wanting to believe again, love again, or hope again.

    It’s in these times when we feel shaken or entangled that we must honestly pray and pursue God’s help to spiritually resurface and rebuild our faith. 

    The pandemic has brought with it many physical, relational, and emotional hindrances. One of the most detrimental spiritual impacts of the pandemic in America is that fewer and fewer people are praying:

    It’s not uncommon for people to seek God during times of hardship. However, the opposite appears to have happened in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic. A Pew Research Center survey, released [just last month] found 29% of U.S. adults said they had no religious affiliation, an increase of 6 percentage points from 2016, with millennials leading that shift. A growing number of Americans said they are also praying less often. About 32% of those polled by the Pew Research from May 29 to Aug. 25 said they seldom or never pray. That’s up from 18% of those polled by the group in 2007.

    Seema Mody, CNBC, “Millennials lead shift away from organized religion as pandemic tests Americans’ faith.”

    Rather than allowing our faith to atrophy during the pandemic, we can rebuild our faith by identifying and talking to God about what’s tangling us up. 

    When we are specific and honest about these entanglements with God in prayer, we will find his help throwing them off. 

    I acknowledged my sin to You, And I did not hide my wickedness; I said, “I will confess [all] my transgressions to the LORD”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You [for forgiveness] in a time when You [are near and] may be found; Surely when the great waters [of trial and distressing times] overflow they will not reach [the spirit in] him. [7] You are my hiding place; You, LORD, protect me from trouble; You surround me with songs and shouts of deliverance. 

    Psalm 32:5-7 AMP

    When we are completely honest with God in prayer about both the sin that weighs us down and the unbelief that entangles us, we will find freedom in his forgiveness. This gives us the ability to stand strong even in distressing and trying times. 

    Pause and reflect

    • Which entanglement of unbelief do you relate to the most?
    • What can you be honest with God about today in prayer?

    Refocus on Jesus

    Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith. He endured the cross and ignored the shame of that death because He focused on the joy that was set before Him; and now He is seated beside God on the throne, a place of honor. 3 Consider the life of the One who endured such personal attacks and hostility from sinners so that you will not grow weary or lose heart. 

    Hebrews 12:2-3 Voice

    During the pandemic, the noise of negativity, tragic news, economic uncertainties, or polarizing political issues can constantly shift our focus away from God. Although there are many things we cannot control in our lives and in the world around us, we can control one thing: what we choose to focus on. 

    What would happen if we focused on living, loving, and leading our lives the way Jesus did, rather than allowing the noise of the world around us to steal our focus away from God?

    I’ve found that the more focused my thoughts and priorities are on Jesus, the stronger and more resilient my faith becomes. I’ve been known to be one who struggles with chronic unbelief, but my friends have helped me realize that my unbelief is often rooted in choosing to be chronically focused on everything else other than Jesus!

    I’ve also needed help from the Bible and spiritual friends during difficult times to learn how to set my focus on what matters most to God. This begins with learning from the Scriptures and especially from Jesus’ example how to grow strong in my faith in God, when the pull of disappointment and distraction from the world is strong around me. 

    Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! 

    Hebrews 12:2-3 MSG

    This scripture shows us from Jesus’ life three clear ways we can know our focus is spiritual, setting us up to live with faith as God intended:

    1. We are more focused on the joy of what God has in store for our lives, than the angst of our immediate circumstances.
    2. We are able to find inner strength and resolve from the Bible, to endure difficulty or hostility, rather than crumbling emotionally or giving into bitterness and blaming people.
    3. We approach our days with anticipation of God’s possibilities and hope for the future. This then fuels our faith to grow and change personally in such a way that it changes the lives of those around us.

    In short, our focus determines our faith!

    Pause and reflect

    • What has your focus been set on most today? What about so far this year? Is it on God and his possibilities or on people, problems, or impossibilities?

    Take action

    • Read through one of the Gospels in the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) to learn how Jesus chose to stay focused on God in the midst of stress and opposition.
    • Take note of Bible verses you can look back on regularly to shift your focus back to God throughout the day, rather than allowing the noise around you or inside you to deplete your faith.

    Rebuild your faith by taking action

    Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 

    James 2:21-23 NLT

    Rebuilding anything involves action, and our faith is no exception. James 2 helps us understand  more clearly that faith doesn’t grow by just identifying or reflecting, but by taking action. Taking action is a way we can exercise our trust in God. 

    I’ve found that taking one or more of the following actions together with my wife and with spiritual friends has jump-started my faith as soon as I choose to be spiritually active rather than sedentary.  

    1. Share your story:  Build or deepen a friendship by asking someone to go for a walk or have a cup of coffee. People are more open and in need of friendships than ever, especially after the past two years of Covid-related isolation. As you get to know them, look for opportunities to share your life with them. Sharing specific ways and times God has moved in your life will build your faith and theirs too.
    2. Share your heart:  Decide to take initiative to give your heart by seeing and meeting relationship or community needs around you. For example, start or get involved with a parent support group for special needs kids or single parents. Decide to mentor someone or start a study group on campus if you are in school. Initiate to build and deepen friendships with peers or colleagues at work. There is never a lack of opportunity to share our heart, if we only look to see the needs around us.
    3. Share your faith:  Share a personal Bible study that built your faith with a spiritual friend! You can make your own Bible study or use a devotional from Deep Spirituality. Share vulnerably with your friend how this Bible study helped you and ask for their help in areas you would like to keep growing. 
    Share.

    Ray Kim is a Southern California native who made the Bay Area his home after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley. He is passionate about community service, and is spearheading such efforts as the E-Hoops program at the University of San Francisco.

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