3/16/10

Transferring the trust.


We have started a three-session discussion at the law school in which we explore some of Christianity's toughest questions in a group setting.  One of the questions posed during the first discussion was "What does it really mean to believe?"  The purpose of the event, like most of our events, was to just get people thinking about their faith.  But during the discussion, I gained a new perspective on the concept of actually trusting God. 

Believing not just on an intellectual level, but as an act of the will. 
We started off our discussion with a question.  What would you say to Jesus at heaven's gate? Why should he let us into heaven?  One  of the most common answers to that question is "because I believe that Jesus died for my sins."  That is a great answer. And there is no doubt that scripture tells us that we are saved by grace. (Eph. 2:8).  We know the Christian lingo and what we are supposed to say.  But what does it actually mean to believe and more importantly, how can we make our belief practical?  To understand the logistics of belief, there are three phases leading up to true belief that need further exploration.  

Notice:  First, we notice or acknowledge the scripture.  For most of us, this happens when we are young.  This phase consists of learning bible stories and memorizing verses.  In other words, we are consuming knowledge about Christianity.  It is obvious, as a Christian, why we can’t stop at this phase.  Even the devil knows and can quote scripture. (Matt. 4:6).  This is just the beginning of belief.  To be sure, it is not a requirement.  In fact, I would venture to say that there are a lot of Christians who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, but have little to no knowledge of the bible itself.  However, learning the scriptures is learning the character of God, which we'll discuss below.  

Assent:  Next, we agree or accept that the scriptures are true.  This is the phase that most of us are in.  We come to a point where we actually believe that Jesus walked the earth, physically died for our sins, and defeated death through the resurrection.  This belief gives us eternal life, but what do we do with our belief?  How can we make it practical?  When a Christian begins to ask this question, they are entering the third phase to belief. 

Trust:  Finally, real faith is practical - far removed from sermons and bible studies and blogs.  It is the daily relationship with Jesus that builds trust.  In this phase, we take ourselves out of just knowing what Jesus did for us and accepting it as true, to believing that he can still take care of us in even the smallest areas of our lives.  

I have noticed that a good indicator for lack of trust in the Lord is stress.  Even as I type these words, I am stressed about a mid-term exam.  You could say that I am stuck in the "Assent" phase.  I completely believe the truths of scripture, but right now, I am not trusting God.  So, we see that the real question we need to ask ourselves during stressful or even difficult times is - Do I trust you Lord?  Do I trust you with __________?   Fill in the blank.  If we're honest, the answer is probably no.  Otherwise, we would not feel the burden of knowing the right thing to do.  Or in my case, having the right answers for the mid-term.  I am not saying, of course, that God will give me the answers to an exam if I just trust him.  He could.  Nor am I comparing a school exam to some of the much bigger issues that you may be facing.  But I am sure of one thing he promises us - peace in all circumstances.   

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  (Phil. 4:6,7).

Practical application. 
I believe there are a few ways to get practical with this knowledge:

(1)  Read the bible.  The first thing we all need to do is get in the word.  Just sit down and read your bible.  Pick a book and read a chapter or a few verses a day.  It may not seem like you are getting much out of it at first, but I guarantee you it will get into you.  You'll start to understand the character of God.  Don't limit yourself if you've got the time.  Nor should you pressure yourself to read more if you can't.  It's not about quantity.  

(2)  Talk to God daily like you talk to your friends, wife or husband.  Talk to Jesus out loud if you want to.  You may want to do this alone in your car for obvious reasons.  But seriously, would you be able to trust someone that you only talked to occasionally?  The more you get to know someone, the more you know whether you can trust them or not.  The same is true with our relationship with Christ.  The more we get to know Jesus personally through reading his word and talking with him in prayer, the more we can trust him.  And when we start to figure out he actually will take care of us in all things, we really get to know a deeper side of Jesus.  

(3)  Talk about your faith.  This should not to be confused with sharing your faith, which is also something we are called to do as Christians.  But that is not what I am saying here.  When you discuss your faith with other believers, you start to gain an understanding of why you believe what you believe.  Your confidence builds in the thought of actually sharing your faith with non-believers.  But in the beginning, talking about your faith with another believer helps you solidify your beliefs.  



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