Which god?    God or god?

“Thou shalt have no other god before me.”  (Exodus 20:3 KJV)

Which God Saves Us home Is God Still Here home Contact Me Site Search

Do you believe God?

June 8, 2013

Do you believe God?

A simple question - right?

Or is it?

Depending on how carefully you read it -
this could be a trick question - although not intentionally.
The point is to be sure I have your attention.

There are three little letters that are the key here -
two that are not there -
one that is.

The two that are not there - in

The one that is there - G

So -
it doesn’t say - do you believe in god?
It says - do you believe in God?

Just a few letters difference -
but the implications are huge.

I was reading Discover Your Destiny the other night.
No - it wasn’t a new Star Wars book.

It’s by Charles F. Stanley.  Here’s a short synopsis of the book -

Discover Your Destiny explores how God’s grace and love can strengthen, rebuild, and restore. Stanley guides readers to eternal, unshakable hope based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that can empower believers to rise victoriously from the most desperate situations. Even when you are suffering, God is in control, perfectly present, able, and at work. To the hurting and the troubled He imparts His righteousness, His perspective, His wisdom, and His faith. Above any difficulty, God is working for your ultimate good and eternal future. He is the source to which you can go when you desire to Discover Your Destiny.

So - in the book, he was writing about a counseling session with one of his parishioners.  The following takes place as part of that - with a person who was pretty much lost after a sequence of events turned her life upside down.

"I said, “What about God?”
She said very matter-of-factly, “Oh, I believe in God.”
I said, “Yes, but do you believe God?”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Believing in God and believing God are two different things. Believing in God is saying in your heart, ‘I know God exists.’ Jesus said that even the demons believe in God. But believing God is believing everything God has said about Himself, about us, and about the relationship He desires to have with us.”
She thought about that for a few moments, and then she said thoughtfully and sincerely, “I never thought about it that way. "

How about you -
have you ever thought about it that way?
Lots of people think about whether or not they believe in God.
But how many people think about whether they believe God -
whether they believe what He says -
essentially about whether they believe the Bible?

Given that the Bible is God’s Word -
If we believe in Him -
should we not also Believe Him?
And should we not therefore also believe what He has told us through the Bible?

If you can bear with a bit more logic -
if we believe in someone - but don’t believe what they say -
what exactly are we believing in?

Are we then believing in a liar?

Who would do that?

If we believe in someone -
including believing in God -
there has to be a reason for that belief.

In the case of the person that Charles Stanley was counseling -
she was looking for hope.

I know I want the same thing -
and I’m guessing that many of you are in the same boat.
Things aren’t so great here - on this little planet we call earth -
‘cause God gives us free will - out of His love -
and we so often make the wrong choices with that free will.

But -
in spite of all that -
we believe in God -
we want Him to save us -
even though we don’t deserve it - for a variety of reasons -
one of those being the simple fact that all too often - we don’t believe in Him.

It’s an interesting catch-22.
We really want Him to save us -
but we don’t act like He will.
We want to believe that He will save us -
but we don’t always believe that we have to follow His instructions on how to be saved.

Here’s another excerpt from the book -
taken from earlier in the same counseling session -

"God’s love is your ultimate reason to have hope.
If you know with certainty that God loves you and that He desires good for you, what is there to fear? What is there to dread? What is there to be depressed about?
I am not making light of fears, doubts, or depression. They are normal human responses. Hope, however, compels you not to remain in a state of fear, doubt, or depression. Hope encourages you to raise your eyes and look for the dawning of a new day—to anticipate God’s best."

How many people are looking for a reason to have hope?
It’s actually probably easier to answer how many people aren’t looking for hope.

Anyone who claims to be a Christian should believe the statement from above -

God’s love is your ultimate reason to have hope.

Likewise - most Christians (if not all) have heard the next lines after that -

If you know with certainty that God loves you and that He desires good for you, what is there to fear? What is there to dread? What is there to be depressed about?
I am not making light of fears, doubts, or depression. They are normal human responses. Hope, however, compels you not to remain in a state of fear, doubt, or depression. Hope encourages you to raise your eyes and look for the dawning of a new day—to anticipate God’s best."

We sing songs about this -
we hear it in sermons -
we study it in small groups -
we read it in various places.

But -
do we believe it?
Do we live like we believe it?

For the non-Christians reading this -
it’s probably pretty obvious to you that often the answer is NO!

For us Christians -
we want to say YES!
But if we examine ourselves -
and if we’re totally honest with both ourselves and the God we believe in -
can we still say without a doubt - YES!

Before you answer that out loud -
here’s what Charles Stanley had to say about his own experience with this matter earlier in his life -
when he was having his own crisis -
and he was talking to three of his most trusted friends about it -
including his own problems with his father dying when he was 9 months old - living with aunts and uncles until he was 9 years old - then having an abusive step-father -

"They asked me two or three questions, and then one of the men who was sitting directly across the table from me said, “Charles, put your head on the table and close your eyes.” I did. He said to me very kindly, “Charles, I want you to envision your father picking you up in his arms and holding you.” After a few moments, he said, “What do you feel?”
I burst out crying. And I cried and I cried and I cried. I could not stop crying. Finally, when I stopped, he asked me again, “What do you feel?” I said, “I feel warm, loved, secure. I feel good.” And I started weeping again.
For the first time in my life, I felt emotionally that God loved me. I had known as a fact from His Word that God loved me. I had believed by faith that God loved me. I had accepted the fact that love is God’s nature. But until that day, not very many years ago, I had never emotionally felt God loving me."

I know for me -
I didn’t have a talk with three friends -
but there were a few verses in the Bible that I remember from very early on that help to guide my search - from a section of the NIV titled “Ask, Seek, Knock” - in Matthew 7:7-12 -

Ask, Seek, Knock

Mt 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Mt 7:9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The thing that stuck in my memory was one summer (I was in grade school at the time) -
when I was locked out of the house -
was thirsty - so I knocked on the door and asked for something to drink -
and was given a glass of hot soapy water.

So this verse sticks with me -
that’s what I want -
someone who won’t give me a stone when I’m hungry -
or hot soapy water when I’m thirsty.

I’d like to say this is all easy now -
that I can always answer YES! to that question of do I always act like I believe God.
unfortunately -
sometimes when you’re knee deep in alligators -
it’s hard to remember that your original task was to drain the swamp.

In other words -
sometimes when things aren’t going so well -
it’s hard to remember that God tells us not to worry.

In Matthew 6:25-34 - Jesus talks about this -

Do Not Worry

Mt 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ?

Mt 6:28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we actually lived like we believe that?

There’s another place - John 6:29 - where Jesus tells us what we should do -
as opposed to what we shouldn’t do.  Again - a very simple statement in response to a question of what we must do.

Jn 6:28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jn 6:29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

You may have noticed - the translation here is to believe in the one he has sent

Well - I had to look that up to see what it meant in the original language.

Well that certainly clears it up!  

What we see here is that in this translation the word used from the original Greek is “on” - not “in” -
for what that’s worth.

The real point is what that Greek word means in words that we use today.  

So - it’s classified as a “primary preposition” -
which according to Dictionary.com is

any member of a class of words found in many languages that are used before nouns, pronouns, or other substantives to form phrases functioning as modifiers of verbs, nouns, or adjectives, and that typically express a spatial, temporal, or other relationship, as in, on, by, to, since.

The possible explanations then for this word would be related to

  1. Place
  2. Time
  3. Purpose

Given that God is omnipresent - exists everywhere at all times - place and time wouldn’t appear to be what Jesus was meaning.

Rather - it’s purpose that He was most likely referring to.

This would take us from the more general “believe in the one He has sent” - namely Jesus -
a more specific “believe the purpose of the one he has sent”.

That means “believe in” from the NIV means something much deeper than us just saying - “sure - I believe in God”.  Just saying that doesn’t require us to even think about what it means to “believe in God”.  It also - as we saw above - gives us no benefit - no hope - because we don’t know what we believe in!

The only way to “believe in” God - where “in” relates to purpose - is to understand that purpose.
Following understanding - which is a process - not a moment in time “I got it!” kind of thing -
can come belief.  It’s impossible to believe what we don’t understand - so we have to understand.  

At least we have to understand enough to have a valid faith.
Faith is the next step after understanding and belief.

The fascinating thing is that once we have some understanding -
plus some belief -
plus some faith -
we get more understanding -
more belief -
more faith.

At some point -
this turns into action.

We will start to want to live that out.
we will want to do the things that God tells us to do -
to believe in the purpose of the one He sent -
to try to live the way Jesus tells us to live -

- because we transition from
I believe in God
to -
I believe in God.

Yes - times will come when we question -
when we forget -
when we want to do something else instead -
but that’s when Jesus goes looking for us -
as we see in Luke 15:1-7 -

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

Lk 15:1 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him.  2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Lk 15:3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders  6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

After having written this - and going back to review -
I realized we have a 10 step “program” here for those that like that type of thing -

  1. Ask - Seek - Knock
  2. Understand
  3. Believe
  4. Have faith
  5. Understand more
  6. Have beliefs strengthened
  7. Have more faith
  8. (Continue through that cycle - while also continuing to the next step)
  9. Don’t Worry
  10. Know that Jesus will find you if you get lost

All of that leads to -

Believe in God

Know what you believe

Believe God

Do you believe in God?

Do you know what you believe? (And - is it Biblically correct?)

Do you believe God?