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Do You Believe, Or Do You Believe?
Words are funny, because they're so variable that they become almost meaningless. I love my parents; I love chocolate ice cream. November is cool; the Gin Blossoms are cool. This can also lead to people using a term, causing you to think you know what they mean; you might be right, or might actually be mistaken. When a person claims to believe in "God," we all tend to assume they mean the God of the Bible. But they might believe in a great cosmic judge, or a god who set the earth to spinning and then stepped back to watch the show, or a God who is more interested in having his way than in loving people.
I say all this to explain the question I pose in the title: "Do you believe, or do you believe?" Like cool, love, and God, believe is a word that can mean a couple of very different things. For example, I do not believe in the Loch Ness Monster. Based on all the scientific data (habitat size, food requirements, breeding population, etc), I am convinced that the Loch Ness Monster does not exist.
However, I also do not believe in violence. Obviously, I do believe that violence exists. "Belief" in this case is not referring to that at all. When I say I don't believe in violence, I mean that I don't believe that it achieves what it claims to achieve. I don't believe in its power or its effectiveness.
Based on these two illustrations, we can see that it's quite possible to believe in God without believing in God. There are an awful lot of people in the world who are convinced in their heart that some higher power exists; they have a Loch Ness Monster kind of belief in God. But the question is not really whether a person believes in God; the question is what difference it makes whether they're right. Honestly, if the Loch Ness Monster exists, so what? It matters nothing to my life, and it has no impact on the daily decisions I make. It could not be more irrelevant. A person could say the exact same phrase about God: "Yeah, he exists, but so what?" They might have the first kind of belief, but not the second kind.
Both kinds of faith are essential, but it's the second kind that God especially commends. Romans 4 is a beautiful passage detailing the faith of Abraham, and in verses 18 and 21, Paul writes, "Even when there was no cause for hope, Abraham kept hoping, believing that God was able to do everything that he had promised." Abraham had the stronger kind of belief - he believed in God's power and effectiveness, which in turn made a difference in the way he lived his life. It's interesting to observe that Abraham never actually got to witness the fulfillment of the promise that God made to him. He died hundreds of years before the answer came. Yet he lived in confident hope that God was always good for his promise, and even though he he didn't personally see it, the fulfillment did arrive, and his hope was vindicated.
The question is this, for us who believe in God: "Which kind of belief do you have?" Is our belief in God merely an intellectual assent to his existence? Is he making as little of an impact in our lives as the Loch Ness Monster does? Or are we convinced in our hearts that he is who he says he is, that he does what he says he does, and that we can rely on his promises the same way Abraham did?
That is why a life of faith, which is another word for true belief, should look vastly different from the way the world operates. I imagine God saying to me, "Look bub, you claim to believe everything that's in the Bible. Creating bread from scratch, that's nothing for me. Parting a river and letting people walk on dry land - child's play. You even claim to believe that I brought Jesus back from the dead! Yet, the moment something difficult or confusing happens to you, you flip out and start panicking, or worse yet, you start blaming me. Don't you get it? Don't you get that I'm on your side, and that the same power that did those miracles is looking out for you?"
Let me point out something that you may never have thought of. There won't be many things we can't do in heaven. Sin is one of them; evangelize is one of them, because everyone there will already be in Christ. But we also won't be able to have faith. We'll understand all spiritual things, and we'll be able to follow God with our eyes, not just in our hearts. It's impossible to have faith in heaven. If you're going to have it, you have to have it here, or you're going to miss the chance forever.
Hebrews 11 talks about the two kinds of belief simultaneously. It says, "It is impossible to please God without faith [true belief], because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists [Loch Ness Monster kind of belief] and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him [belief in his power and effectiveness]." A lot of times we're taught that we please God through our actions, like being involved in church programs or reading the Bible and praying. Some of us think we please God through our inactions, that he's proud of us because we don't drink or swear or dance or play cards or worship with musical instruments or whatever. Yet neither of those ideas is Biblical. The only way to please God is to believe in him.
Because I don't believe in violence, I don't apply it to any situation. Violence is completely off the table as a possible solution, no matter what the problem. Because I do believe in God, I apply him to every situation. Again, no matter what the problem, I believe in God's power and authority, and I am confident that he will do the things he claims to do. You can tell whether I believe in God's power by seeing how often I rely on his power as opposed to my own.
Do you believe? If you claim to believe in God's power, the Bible challenges you to let that belief change the way you live your life. Rely on him in situations where doing things your own way would be easier. Step out in faith when playing it safe would be less stressful. If you truly believe that he is who he says he is, then let him prove it. Let him be God in your life. Then you'll have the kind of faith that the Bible talks about.
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Gay L Hall
10 Sep 2009
AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! I loved it Jim! It's sad to say but there are alot of Loch Ness christians out there, than there are God breathing christians, and it should not be so. God help us! Again, loved it and keep writing for His glory! AMEN!
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