My belief determines my action – or inaction.
I am firm believer in gravity.
And that belief determines my actions.
For example, I don’t take a step off of a tall edifice because I believe that gravity works.
I believe it is real – and that belief determines my actions.
I say that I believe that God is real.
I say a lot of things about Him.
He is good.
Everything He does is right.
He is Sovereign, the Most High God, in complete control.
He is worthy of all my praise.
He is a good, good Father and He loves me.
He hates sin – all sin.
He loves people – all people.
He is the Creator and as such, gets to set the rules. All of the rules.
But do these beliefs even inform my actions – let alone determine them?
I say, “I believe that God is good and everything He does is right.”
But then something goes wrong and I immediately doubt His love for me.
Or something goes wrong and I immediately go into fix-it mode, without stopping to pray or even to think about what His Word might say on this matter.
Or something goes wrong and I outwardly smile but inwardly start to fret about how it.
So do I really believe that “God is good and everything He does is right”? Or is it lip-service?
I say, “I believe that God hates sin.”
But then I find a way to justify my “little” sins.
I find a way to ignore my conscience and the Holy Spirit when they try to tell me I am wrong.
I compare myself to others, saying, “Well, I might be wrong, but he is worse.”
I do that instead of making the only comparison that is valid – myself to God and the standard He set as Creator.
So do I really believe that “God hates sin”? Or do I just believe that God hates the sins of others?
And one step further.
I say, “I believe that God loves people. They were all created in His image with intrinsic worth.”
But then I quickly plunk them into categories and treat them as their established-by-me category dictates. “With me” or “against me”. “Good people” vs. “bad people”. Or “worth my time” vs. “not worth my time”. Or “enemy” vs. “friend”. I once again justify my actions by comparing. Surely this person – the one in the “good” category – is worth more to God than that person. I may not say that aloud – but my actions scream it. There is a time and a place to call sin, sin. But there is never a time or a place to call the sinner better or worse than me. We are both created by God. Both loved by Him. Both sinners. Both in need of a Savior. Both held to the same standard of a Holy, Righteous, Just God – and both found wanting.
So do I really believe that “God loves people”? Or does He only love the people I like – or the people who are like me?
Last one. Because my toes are hurting from me stepping all over them.
I say, “I believe that God loves me.”
But then I look in the mirror and stick out my tongue because my reflection isn’t what I want it to be. I guard my own self-interests at all costs because I have to look out for myself. I wallow in self-pity because I am not loved by someone else the way I think they should love me. I evaluate my worth on how much I perceive the acceptance and love of other people. “Do they like me? Do they really like me?” I worry about what others think with barely a passing thought of what God thinks. I take the cross for granted. And I ignore God calling me to talk to Him, spend time with Him, sit with Him, share a meal with Him.
So do I really believe that “God loves me”?
And more than that, do I really believe that I love Him?
My beliefs – the real ones – determine my actions.
The good news? I don’t have to strain and struggle to manufacture real belief or its natural byproduct, godly actions.
Jesus had a conversation in Mark 9 with the father of a demon-possessed child. Here is how the conversation went:
“How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.
He replied, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”
“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”
The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”
When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”
Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.
Did you notice??? What Jesus did NOT say is as important as what He did say. Jesus did not chastise the father of the demon-possessed child who said, “I believe – help my unbelief.” He did the opposite – he honored his honesty and his heart by healing his son. My main job is not to conjure up more belief – my job is to be honest with God, just as this father was. Teresa of Avila lived in Spain in the 1500’s. She once said, “Oh God, I don’t love you, I don’t even want to love you, but I want to want to love you!” An honest cry of an honest heart. I recognize that my actions – and even my thoughts — show my true beliefs. And so, when my actions or my thoughts speak louder than my words, I have a choice. I can continue to live in denial, saying I believe one thing and doing another. Or I can cry out to My Help in Time of Need with an honest heart. “I want to want to love You. I want to want to love others. I want to want to be fully Yours – in my words and my actions. I believe – help my unbelief!”
King David knew this all too well. His lack of belief led him to commit adultery with Bathsheba – and then to have her husband killed to cover up the resulting pregnancy. When the prophet Nathan confronted David, he repented. And part of his repentance is recorded in Psalm 51 where he says to God, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, you, God, will not despise.” When I recognize that I am not really trusting God; when I become aware that my actions do not line up with my so-called beliefs; when I blow it, I need to follow David’s example and bring to God a humble heart, asking Him to make it new again. And David was right – God does not despise it. Instead, He “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. (I Peter 5)
So that is my prayer today and daily: “I believe – help my unbelief.” And may my real beliefs lead to real godliness today.