The longer I have followed God, the more I realize that beliefs are not simple things. When we talk about beliefs usually what comes to mind is a creed on a piece of paper – something that can be written down that I agree with. For most people that may be the extent of what it takes to “believe” something. It’s definitely part of it, it’s definitely a start – provided what you write down is actually true. We split churches, make friends, argue and debate over what we each write on our own piece of paper, as though reading and acknowledging x-y-z statement is all it takes to believe, all it takes to have faith.
For me, it’s a dangerous oversimplification. The heart is not as easily edited as words on a page, and even though a person may aspire to trust in a belief, their heart may give them cause to stumble. A heart is an amazing mix of memories, experiences, emotions, dreams, nightmares, truths, and lies. All of these things try to have a voice in our life, and they may attest to the truth of some of our beliefs, while challenging others.
Beyond what goes on on the inside, we have the outside, our senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, sound. Sometimes we can rely on these senses to bring us actionable intelligence, sometimes not. More often than not, the Word of God gives testimony that our senses are not to be trusted when it comes to matters of truth. Our senses are like a constant, rolling, internal creed of what is and is not possible. Our senses are good at telling us what is, but not what can be – and “what can be” is the arena of faith.
History is littered with “impossibilities” that a few rogue individuals were “stupid” enough to ignore. While everyone may enjoy the comfort and safety of the herd, it will never bring innovation, renovation, restoration, or revival. Usually a reformer has to stand alone for their lifetime, but when they are gone many follow them into new freedoms. However, if it were up to conventional wisdom we’d still be in horse drawn carriages, leeched when we got sick, and afraid to fall off the planet if we traveled too far (some still are i guess).
The Bible is almost exclusively composed of men and women who believed God in spite of conventional wisdom, and in spite of what they saw, heard and felt. I doubt Jesus would have ever ventured one act of faith if he relied on precedence. Nobody doubted God’s ability to (theoretically) do the things Jesus did, but nobody else trusted God to demonstrate them like Jesus did. He would have never raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead if He would have been swayed by the scorning and laughter when He said in Luke 8:52, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.
Imagine how stupid Joshua must have felt in his natural mind. Okay God, let me get this straight – I march for 7 days, blow horns, shout and the walls will come down by themselves? How long would you believe God’s voice to build the ark before you gave it up? 6 months? 2 years? What about 80 years? God, where is this flood? because I don’t see it. If you were Abraham, how many of your friends would you tell that God spoke to you, and told you that you would be a father at 100 years old? Never mind the fact that your wife is barren too. At what point would you give up? Sure God “can” do anything, I just don’t have any idea if He “will.” That is not faith, and it is so much bigger than a creed on a piece of paper. In Romans 4:20-21, Paul writes this about Abraham:
20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
Whenever I read these verses, “fully persuaded” always jumps out at me. Now I doubt Abraham was fully persuaded when he tried that fiasco with Hagar. That means that during his time with God his heart changed. The process of being fully persuaded doesn’t come all at once. It’s not just the flip of a switch. It is part of a process of increasingly trusting God more and more, until your heart reaches full persuasion. Our faith is important to God and whether you believe it or not, He can’t work His will for your life without you. God needs your faith – not someone else’s – yours!
Real believing comes from tests and battles. It comes from times of proving and trusting. It comes from times of relying on God when there is no other way. When you reach a place in your heart where He is your only salvation and not your own ability or strength. A person may aspire to have faith in God and to believe for a miracle in a time of testing, but aspiration and theory is empty without proven times of reliance on Him.
One of my favorite characters is David. David didn’t have a creed, he had a God. He knew Him and relied on Him in a way that the rest of the Israelite army did not. He worshiped Him when no one was looking and relied on him whether or not friends and family backed him. Through God, he slayed the lion and the bear, and ultimately Goliath. How you live in private will show up in public. David didn’t have a theoretical faith, he had a working faith. He had a heart full of belief that moved him to action. We see this during his interaction with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:45-48:
45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 46 This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord‘s, and he will give you into our hands. 48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.
One of the most powerful images of faith to me is this picture of David sprinting toward Goliath with unwavering faith in his God. In spite of all natural reasoning, his lack of strength, size, experience, armor, sword, he relied not on himself, but on God. It reminds me of my Lord when he said in John 5:30, I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
This is faith and this is what it means to believe – to know your God and stand your ground despite all that is seen and heard, despite mocking and threatening, we choose to be unmoved. We are fully persuaded in the truth of our convictions. The journey of belief doesn’t end when you write down a creed on a piece of paper – it’s only beginning. Happy believing!
James 1:5-8: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.