What Do You Believe?
We are going to trust--someone or something--so who or what are you going to trust? What have you been believing in really?
Life is complicated. We can be pulled in so many different directions. James says when our faith quakes, when our doubts dominate, when prayers are more like worries, our minds are like wind-whipped, storm-tossed ships, double-minded and adrift at sea, unstable in all our ways. (James 1:6-8)
Jesus makes some bold claims about His identity--so bold that there are only two options for a response:
I believe completely--enough to build my life upon it
or… Not right now. I’m not sure. I need more information. It’s too unbelievable. I don’t want to commit. What if it’s not the right answer? No thanks.
But when we don’t choose Jesus, we put our trust in other people or things or situations. What are things we put our trust in besides Jesus?
What’s consuming our news, right now especially? Politics. We put a lot of “faith” in the government, in politicians, in particular candidates. So if a certain party wins or loses or a particular person wins or loses, is that what you want to base your life on? Every votes counts, but do you want your life to depend on who wins?
Do you put your faith in your health? Do you count calories, track and measure your steps, your minutes and miles? Do you measure your self-worth on a scale or based on the size of your jeans? Do you have a disability that hinders, a disease that depresses, a diagnosis that knocked the wind out of your sails? Do your aches and pains determine your mood? We can make good choices for our lives and our health, but we can’t become immune to car crashes or cancer. No matter how many vitamins we swallow or blueberries we eat or how much we hide behind hair color, we can’t stop aging or avoid death.
Do you depend on your job, the success of your sales record, how many zeroes are in your check? Do you need recognition from your boss, your coworkers, clients? Do you put your faith and future in the hands of the stock market? Do you count on the routine, the status quo, life as usual?
Do you put your faith in other people, in a particular relationship? Do you need someone’s attention? Do find your identity in how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers you have, how many likes or retweets you get? What if people don’t react like you thought, treat you like you want, call when you really need a friend?
When we base our lives, our happiness, our decisions on “mere humans,” whether ourselves or someone else, when we put our faith in our circumstances or conditions, every change, every disappointment, every success will matter too much and will toss us like a helpless ship in stormy seas. We’ll be like a candle in the wind, blown around by our surroundings.
In Jeremiah 17:5-6, God warns: “Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight. He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.”
When we choose not to accept God for who He is, we choose to count on this world. We choose to be controlled by our circumstances.
But God offers us so much more through Christ.
God offers us a life above and beyond our circumstances.
How could Paul say: “I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”? (Philippians 4:11-13)
Paul stopped defining himself by his circumstances. He no longer found his identity in being a good man. He no longer put his faith in his success or wealth. He no longer lived in need because he found his true identity and all that he really needed in the great I AM.
I AM...the Bread of Life! “The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever.” (John 6:35)
I AM...the Light of the world! “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
I AM...the Good Shepherd! “I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.” (John 10:14-18)
I AM...the Resurrection and the Life! “You don’t have to wait for the End. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
I AM...the Way, the Truth, and the Life! “No one comes to the Father except through me… Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:6, 10-14)
I AM...the Vine! ...and you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples. (John 15:5-8)
C.S. Lewis, like Paul, confronted with the question of, Who will you trust? acknowledged the great I AM, and accepted His crazy claims. Lewis masterfully addressed our struggle with this choice in his book, The Great Divorce: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
So what do you really desire? What’s your choice? Just like Lewis and Paul, we are each confronted with what we really believe. Are you hungry for food, for fame, for attention, for love. Jesus is the Bread of Life! Are you lost in dark times? Jesus is the Light of the world! Are you desperate for forgiveness? Are you needy for a friend? Have you wandered away and gotten lost? Are you being hunted and tempted? Jesus is the Good Shepherd! Are you afraid of the end, afraid of death? Are you face to face with your own mortality? Does your “life” seem more like a daily drudgery toward defeat? Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life! Are you confused, unsure which way to go, which decision is right? Have you put your faith in the wrong people and wrong things and experienced the pain of disappointment? Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Does your life feel stagnant, like more loss than life? Are your best efforts only leading to frustration? Do you feel like no one is with you, knows you, understands? Jesus is the Vine!
With Jesus, he can--and will--give you everything you need. With Jesus, you are capable of a life like Jesus’!
Jesus said, “I’m not crazy. I simply honor my Father, while you dishonor me. I am not trying to get anything for myself. God intends something gloriously grand here and is making the decisions that will bring it about. I say this with absolute confidence. If you practice what I’m telling you, you’ll never have to look death in the face.” (John 8:49-51)
Which is crazier: trusting the wishy-washy, daily changing demands of a topsy-turvy world, or trusting a God-of-Angel-Armies who was, is, and will be?
Jesus said, “You’re tied down to the mundane; I’m in touch with what is beyond your horizons. You live in terms of what you see and touch. I’m living on other terms. I told you that you were missing God in all this. You’re at a dead end. If you won’t believe I am who I say I am, you’re at the dead end of sins. You’re missing God in your lives.” (John 8:23-24)
If you haven’t seriously considered the crazy claims of Christ, I encourage you to give them a chance? Maybe it seems too crazy to believe a book that’s thousands of years old, but is it any less crazy to believe what you read in Cosmo or on Facebook? Is it any less crazy to belief a political soundbite or some verbal spit-up posted on YouTube? Is it more ridiculous to trust what Jesus claims and does for our benefit or what some celebrity du jour claims for his or her own personal glory?
“If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn’t take it seriously, I don’t reject him. I didn’t come to reject the world; I came to save the world. But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I’m saying, is willfully choosing rejection.” (John 12:47-48)
If you have considered Jesus’ claims and accepted Him, are you really living based on His claims? Is your life any more like Paul’s than when you first believed? Or is your life still built on the ways of this world? Are you still experiencing the sea-sickness of your storm-tossed circumstances because you still can’t see something bigger and better beyond them?
“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.
“If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.
“Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’”
Jesus said, “For a brief time still, the light is among you. Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn’t destroy you. If you walk in darkness, you don’t know where you’re going. As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light.” (John 12:24-36)