Monday, February 8, 2016

Why I Believe Enough to Keep Following Jesus Even When it is Hard, Costly, and Dangerous (Part #1 in the Why I Believe series)

I pray that God will use what I write to strengthen and encourage you in your faith (Act 14:22, 1Th 3:2).

This is the first in what will hopefully be a series of blog posts about why I believe in God and in Jesus and in all that the Bible teaches.  These posts could rightly be placed under the category of apologetics.  But I intend for these posts to be a bit different from typical apologetics in at least two ways.

First, I will be giving personal testimony as to why I myself believe.  The types of reasons I have for believing are similar to the types of reasons that many other Christians have had for believing throughout the centuries.  Still, it is my testimony and so parts of it will have a more personal feel.

Second, my focus is not on convincing unbelievers to accept Christ.  Of course, helping people come to initial saving faith is incredibly important, and I will leap for joy if I ever learn that anything I have written helps someone accept Jesus.  But I am writing a type of apologetics that is primarily meant to strengthen the faith of those who already believe.

How God Measures the Strength of our Beliefs

How certain are you that Jesus really is the Son of God, that He really rose from the dead, and that believing in Him is the only way to receive eternal life?

If you are mentally answering the questions I just posed, you may be thinking something like, “I am 99% certain”, or “99.9%”, or even “100%”.  And it’s fine to think like that.  But in the Bible and in our lives, God does not measure our certainty in percentages.  He tests our faith by placing us in situations where strong belief will lead us to act one way, and weak belief will lead us to act another way.  Sometimes these tests are very challenging and even painful.  I will illustrate this point with Lily’s story.

Lily’s Story

Wherever the Lord has led me in life, I have sought to share the truth of Christ and win people to Him.  This was true beginning in high school, then in college, and also while serving in the Navy.  It continued to be true when the Lord gave us an opportunity to live overseas in a Muslim majority area for fourteen years.

One of the first people from a Muslim background whom we helped lead to Christ was a young lady.  We call her Lily.  Our role in bringing her to Christ was indirect, but still important.

After Lily was baptized, she wanted to share her new faith with her brother.  When her family found out that she had become a Christian, they told her she had done a terrible thing and would surely go to hell.  They tricked her into returning to her home village by telling her that her mother was ill.  When she arrived they imprisoned her in her own home.  We began praying for Lily day and night.

Her village was far away and we could only get tidbits of news 3rd hand through a series of local church contacts.  After a few weeks we learned that Lily’s family had beaten her and was not giving her food as they tried to force her to renounce her new faith in Christ. We kept praying.  Early in the morning, all through the day, and often in the middle night when I woke, I prayed for Lily.

Three months after her return to her village, we heard that her family was still guarding her but were treating her less harshly and allowing her out of the house while she was guarded by family members. We kept praying.

About four months after returning to her village, we heard that she was occasionally able to call a Christian friend. We persevered in prayer.

Nine months after Lily had gone to her village, we heard some exciting news.  She had been allowed to return to the big city where we lived.  We had been praying night and day the whole nine months, and many of our friends around the world were also praying.  We wanted to see her, but we knew we had to be very careful.

About three weeks later, Lily came to visit us at our home.  She told us her story of how she had initially been tied up and beaten.  But God stood by her and helped her in many ways.  When Lily left our home that night we were so encouraged.

It was the last time we ever saw her.  To this day, we don’t know what happened to her.

A Test of Faith

Lily went through a terribly difficult test of faith.  And I also had my faith tested.

During the ten months that Lily was away from us, there had also been intense and widespread persecution of Christians in the city where we lived.  Multiple times, radical Islamic groups had set up road blocks and searched for Christians. On roads I often drove on. Many Christians were severely beaten.

If the Bible is true and Lily is going to be with us forever in Heaven, then there is no doubt it was all worth it.  If the Bible is true, it also made sense to keep sharing the faith with our Muslim neighbors despite the danger to ourselves and to them.

So the issue was not a merely an academic or theoretical issue of whether we were 99% or 100% certain of our Christian faith.  The issue was this: Did I believe enough to keep following Jesus even when it was hard and costly and dangerous?

We chose to stay in that nation which we love for ten more years and we continued to share Christ’s love and truth with our Muslim neighbors.  Some came to Christ and there were other stories of persecution and courage.

My goal in this series of posts is to share the reasons why I believe the Bible enough to keep following Jesus even when it is costly.

How does this apply to you?

The Lord may not have called you to share Christ in a Muslim setting, but He does call you to constantly make decisions which will be different depending on whether or not your faith is strong.

There is a way of living which makes sense if Jesus did not rise from the dead.  If there is no resurrection, then it makes sense to eat, drink, and enjoy life now as much as we can (1 Cor 15:32).  There is a very different way of living which makes sense when we are certain that Christ did rise from the dead.

Here are some ways in which our faith is tested:

1.  Do we use our money in a way that shows we believe Heaven is real?
2.  Do we set our priorities in such a way that shows we believe Jesus rose from the dead?
3.  Like Moses, is our faith strong enough to give up “the fleeting pleasures of sin” and trust God’s promises for something better? (Heb 11:25)
4.  Do we obey when no one sees us, because we believe that God sees us?
5.  Are we willing to take risks and face dangers, small and large, for the sake of the gospel?

So, you see, being really certain about the truths in the Bible turns out to make a very practical difference in our lives as Christians.

In the posts to come on this topic, I plan to share different types of reasons that I am certain that the Bible is true.  My prayer is that as I share, your faith will be strengthened so that when you face tests small and large, everyone will see that you really do believe in Jesus.

You can continue reading the "Why I Believe . . ." series of posts here:

                 Note:  Part 2 includes a poem I wrote

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this today. It was exactly what I needed to hear. You just never know when something you say will help someone else. Keep posting. Thanks for being my Pastor and my friend