"Opportunity knocks but once," according to an ancient proverb, while another says, "look before you leap." This week's clergy discuss how to find the spiritual help to build confidence and achieve your goals, even when the odds are against you.

 

Bishop Andy C. Lewter, Hollywood Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral, Amityville:

Most religions provide a number of narratives about leaps of faith, and in the Christian case, the Bible illustrates a number of examples of people moving beyond the borders of their own behavior and doing things unexpected even by them. Because religion has systemized those narratives and made them available on a regular basis, one of the functions of religion is to inspire people with those narratives whether they come from the Bible, the Quran or the Torah, but their general purpose is to trigger in us the confirmation and the affirmation that we are able to do much more than we view ourselves capable.

In the case of Peter, who is recognized as the chief disciple/apostle of Jesus, he was able to convert about 3,000 people to a belief in a godly presence in their lives. However, Peter was an unlettered, untutored and -- according to the Bible -- ignorant person who would not have been able to speak with such eloquence and persuasion in and of himself. It is apparent that his proximity and relationship with Jesus inspired him to reach beyond himself and do more than he thought himself able to do. In like fashion, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, indigenous religions and Far Eastern faiths all reach inside of and pull from us capabilities, talents and accomplishments that we never would have been able to perform without the assistance of our faith. The daily confrontations we have with life's issues are as conquerable via our faith as many of the more profound theological achievements that we find in sacred literature.

 

Rabbi Yaakov Saacks, the Chai Center, Dix Hills:

It is my firm conviction that confidence is the greatest ingredient of success. If one is bright, educated and good at what he or she does, but lacks confidence, then there is a good chance of failure. Religion, believing in a power greater than oneself, allows one the confidence to take the leap. Take me, for example. I am a risk taker. When I first founded The Chai Center, I hardly knew anyone in the neighborhood. I literally had no funding and to top that off I was not even sure I was wanted. What I did have was the confidence that I was doing something important, for the greater good work -- God's work. I had the confidence to leap into this endeavor as I felt that I had my religious faith to back me.

Let me put it to you this way. It is akin to wealthy and concerned parents encouraging their children to strike out on their own, open a new business, develop some clever software. "Go on," they say, "we will support your endeavors." These children will go into the business with confidence knowing that they have full support of their parents' money and love. We too have the full support of the biggest investor of all. Go ahead, take the plunge.

 

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Goksel Guven, religious instructor, House of Hope Long Island, Deer Park:

God has created everything with his power. God creates our souls, and he gives us the power to control ourselves. But he puts some limits on us. We cannot see over the sky, we cannot hear everything like animals. But Allah also gives us hope and the belief that we can do good things with our limited power. For example, the Prophet Muhammad was born poor and powerless in Mecca. Because of his mission, his explorations, the people of Mecca exiled him from the city. His believers were also exiled. But the Prophet Muhammad didn't lose hope. More believers joined the religion from other cities and communities. And because the Prophet Muhammad was saying the truth to the people, the number of believers increased and after 10 years the Prophet Muhammad and his believers came back to Mecca without any trouble. In our religion if you want to do good things, you pray to Allah because he created everything -- he created time, places and the universe, everything is in his hands. Allah can give the things people need from his treasure. Allah orders people to not to lose hope because that is a kind of sin. We have to believe and trust in that Allah will give us what we want. There are two ways that Allah can respond: he can give directly to us what we want, or he can give us what we want in heaven.