I was 5 years old the first time I was forced to think about why I believed in Jesus and what it meant. I don’t know how the conversation started. All I remember is that one moment we were coloring and the next moment she was asking me why I believed in Jesus. As I looked at her in bewilderment and started to answer something to the effect of, “The Bible says…” [or maybe it was “My daddy and mommy say…”] she made a statement that sent me home in tears. “If you don’t believe in Santa Clause, then I don’t believe in Jesus.” It sounds like a ridiculous statement now, but I was devastated. Why did I believe? Why didn’t she believe? How was my belief in Jesus really different from her belief in Santa Clause? What difference did it make?
The Faith of a Child
Kids are so gullible. If they love you, you can tell them anything and they will believe and act on it. If you tell them that the mud pie actually tastes good, they will eat it. Maybe that is one of the reasons Jesus loved them so much and told fully grown, educated men to become like them. A child will not separate their love for someone from their belief that the person will tell them the truth, and will then proceed to act on that truth.
The classmate I talked about was a painful, perpetual presence – one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced, and one of the best. In the true spirit of a child, I knew that Jesus loved me and that I loved Him and that in the Bible, He told us to love others. Thus, in a true child-like spirit, I loved this girl who continued to torment me in any way she could. My parents would actually beg me at times not to go over to her house and I in turn would beg them to let me – telling them that God loved her, she needed friends, and God wanted me to love her. My parents would once again place me in God’s hands and let me go.
I don’t tell this story to show what a great kid I was – to this day I can’t believe I continued to go back and am amazed at my parents for letting me go as well. I tell this story to try to understand what it means to believe, and as a natural result of that belief, to act.
Growing up, I considered myself a believer – a Christian – a child of God – one of the “goody-goody” kids who was liked and resented in turn, but I never considered myself a disciple. It was one of those big “I’ll-never-live-up-to-that” words (with a connotation similar to that of the word, “missionary”). A disciple is one of the men (wrong gender for me), who followed Jesus when He lived on earth (kinda’ missed out on that one)…right? Well, yes, and…
Disciple: somebody who believes in and follows the teachings of a leader, a philosophy, or a religion [Encarta Dictionary].
Your turn: Search the Bible, your heart, and your mind. What exactly do you believe about God? If you believe He exists, what actions will follow? If you believe He tells the truth, what kinds of things does He say? How did the people in Matthew/Mark/Luke/John respond to what He said? How should we respond? Do we? Why? Why not?
The Pony Express is an exciting and important aspect in the development of the American West. An advertisement for it read, “Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” Hmm…not quite like the “Great benefits with opportunity to move up in the company” ads we see more often today, and honestly, not one I would be particularly eager to respond to.
Looking at the Bible and history, though, it doesn’t seems as though an advertisement to be a disciple of Jesus Christ would be any more appealing. “Wanted: Men and women to give up everything they naturally are, desire, and value for a God they can’t see. Must be willing to face adventure, uncertainty, persecution, loneliness, boredom, and even undeserved death.”
Do you ever feel as though your faith, or the faith of others, has cost you something? What have you had to give up? What would you be most reluctant to give up?
It’s not an easy task to give up desires and dreams – our identity, anything we think makes us who we are. What could possibly be the benefit of being left seemingly empty?
Read Philippians 3:7-21. What does Paul say about the costs and benefits of being a disciple?
What else does the Bible say about the benefits and promises of God to those who believe? (Here are just a few to get you started.)
Rom 8:28, Phil. 4:19, II Cor. 12:9, Dan. 6:16, Ps. 37:4-5
Finish this advertisement: “Wanted: Men and women to give up everything they naturally are, desire, and value for a God they can’t see. Must be willing to face adventure, uncertainty, persecution, loneliness, boredom, and even undeserved death. Benefits include…