Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." That's a tough teaching. Most of us who have a heart for people who do not know Jesus wish that this was not the case, but no amount of wishing changes the truth laid out by Jesus. He claimed to be the only way to God.
But believing is hard at times. I have found it more difficult to believe at certain times in my life. When my grandmother died, when I became disillusioned with the way the church operates, and when we lost our twins were all critical points that greatly challenged my faith. The first one led to me straying in a spiritual wilderness during my high school years. The second kicked off my greatest adult crisis in the faith. One in which I nearly stopped following Jesus. And the third caused me to doubt whether God really does take care of those who follow Him.
And I am not alone in struggling with my faith at times. We all find it difficult to believe at critical points in our life. As we mature in the faith, the challenge to our faith that different crises cause are different. No longer are we tempted to discard the faith, but we will use our supreme spiritual intellect and morph the faith just a little to appease our sensibilities. We stray from the teachings of Scripture and start to construct a God that is palatable. In doing so, we lose the faith one small step at a time.
Ask a rancher how a cow gets lost, and chances are he will reply, “Well, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of grass right next to a hole in the fence. It then sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next tuft. The next thing you know, the cow has nibbled itself into being lost.”
Those who claim to follow Jesus must hold tightly to what we claim to believe because it is easy to stray away. Like the cow just nibbling on the next tuft of green grass, we don't even realize we are wandering.
I read through the book of Hebrews and noted all that the author of Hebrews wrote that we are to believe if we claim to be followers of Jesus.
We should believe:
- God exists
- God rewards those who seek him.
- Jesus died to make us right with God.
- Jesus now rules at the right hand of God.
- Jesus knows how we should live.
And these beliefs are not just some intellectual pie in the sky thoughts. These beliefs, when truly believed, shape how we live.
Our belief in the these teachings
- allow us to enter into the presence of God.
- give us the confidence to keep the faith.
- enable us to encourage one another on toward love and good deeds.
- empower us with the boldness to live in the spiritual reality even when our physical reality tells us otherwise.
In the movie Henry Poole Is Here there is a scene where Henry Poole, played by Luke Wilson, is faced with a woman who believes. Henry Poole is given a fatal diagnosis and sentimentally moves back to the neighborhood where he grew up. But the neighborhood interrupts his peaceful demise. A picture of Jesus starts appearing on his outside wall. Henry thinks it is just a mark made form water, but his neighbor, Esperanza, believes it is miraculous. But then his six-year-old child, who has not talked since her father left the house over a year ago, touches the picture on the wall and starts talking. This scene picks up after that miracle.
For those who didn't watch the scene above, here is how it goes.
Henry asks, "Why is it so important to you that something like that could happen?...I'll tell you. Because if you can convince me, then suddenly your beliefs become more real. Right?...So until you get me to swallow your world and believe what you believe, you'll never have the kind of faith that you want to have. You'll always have a little bit of doubt. You'll never know if you're quite right. You'll always be kind of wondering if it is real. You'll always be sitting over there waiting for that man to come waltzing back in from the dead. And that's sad. That's really sad."
Esperanza replies, "I'm just trying to help."
Esperanza replies, "I'm just trying to help."
If we believe in Jesus, we will be accused of many of the things that Henry Poole accused Esperanza of. This is painful because, like Esperanza, we know that our beliefs will help people. We don't share what we believe out of ulterior motives. We share what we believe because we truly believe that people will be helped if they believe the same things.
Don't make the mistake of confusing "believe" with "pretend." If you have ever been to Disney, you would have also been inundated with their slogan, "believe." I was confused with what they really wanted me to believe in. Was I to believe hat Jack Sparrow is real? Was I to believe that my toys really do walk around my room, play, and have dangerous crises when I am not there? Am I to believe that I can be some special princess by buying a costume and wearing it around my house? (I bet you would like to see that.) It's fun to pretend those things (well, except for me in the costume). I have no problem with pretending, but belief is much more than pretending. Pretending is just fun; believing is the foundational core of who we are.
So if you're reading this and struggling with the faith, I challenge you to believe that God exists, God rewards those who seek him, Jesus died to make us right with God, Jesus now rules at the right hand of God, Jesus knows how we should live. He is faithful and just, and will honor your perseverance through the tough times. It might seem strange at times, but believing those foundational thoughts will lead you to living a more fulfilling life.
"Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" [Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)].