From The Garden Bench - Belief
Words by David Hollows
Two new phrases have become part of our language in the past few years;
Fake news and misinformation.
You probably may have had an image in your mind of the person, country and context of these new phrases but you will be forgiven for this. Yet, in many ways, these phrases have been around for a long time but under a different guise; war propaganda, political messaging and others.
It is what we believe that matters the most.
For example, did you know that there is now a small group of people in the country whose members sincerely believe that the world is flat and there is another small group which believes that Civid-19 is a hoax. These beliefs are held despite all the accurate and scientific evidence.
Not too many years ago the fans of the pop singer, Justin Bieber, were called; Beliebers, until he became a Christian but what an opportunity to share your beliefs!
Photo by the United Nations COVID-19 Response via Unsplash
So, what do you believe?
Do you have a belief system which you refer to? For some people, belief is simply a moral code by which to live your life; do not kill, stop at the red traffic light, be respectful.
For others, belief is an intellectual activity which is one element of human maturity; in the Bible, Paul met these kinds of believers in Athens (Acts chapter 17) whereas for others, theirs is a simply philosophy; this is the only life you have, so live it to the full. Some people believe that religion and politics do not mix despite the fact that the Biblical 10 Commandments are the basis of the constitution of our country. Others believe that religion and science do not mix and yet there are many eminent Christian scientists.
And there is no shortage of religions from which to select a personal belief system, almost a pick ’n mix approach for some. However, conversations with persecuted Christians, in particular, reveal the full horror of how belief systems can be used to eradicate, marginalise and destroy people’s lives.
So, if you have a personal belief system, what do you sink your beliefs into?
Environmental concerns, politics, a career, family and friends, a rewarding hobby which satisfies your inner being.
Belief may require two elements; a relationship with those you believe in or a response which gives you a certain level of satisfaction similar to a comfort blanket. An example of this could be participation in theatre in order to boost your ego
Belief is not simple and straight forward and this also applies to the Christian faith. I cannot believe in a God I cannot see, is often a statement used to explain why a person is unable to accept the Christian belief system. Yet the Bible clearly tells us that God sees, hears, walks and is able to hold with His hands.
The Bible also introduces us to ‘blind’ belief. Abram was informed by God to leave his home town and travel hundreds of miles to a new and unknown country (Genesis chapter 12) Noah was instructed to build an ark to the great amusement of his neighbours (Genesis chapter 6) Both men believed that they had heard from God and that they should follow the advice God gave.
Again in the Bible, belief is sometimes representational; God has to use a concrete object by which to draw the attention of the person with whom He wishes to communicate; Moses and the burning bush (Exodus chapter 3) and the pillar of cloud/fire as the Israelites fled from Egypt led by God (Exodus chapter 13) The Bible also teaches us that belief is sometimes in a person; Joshua when he led the Israelites to claim the Promised Land or Gideon in a victory which should never have been won (Judges chapter 7).
Photo by Andy Montes de Oca via Unsplash
The fundamental belief in a Biblical person is in Jesus:
The story of the centurion and his very poorly slave (Matthew chapter 8) is one example of belief in Jesus. Another is in the story of the daughter of Jairus (Luke chapter 8) Both Jairus and the centurion had belief systems which were not Christian yet both understood the validity of believing that Jesus could and would resolve their difficult situations. Would that many Christians had the same simply belief in Jesus! There has to be an honesty in the Christian faith which allows us to express our belief or our struggles with our beliefs; the father cried to Jesus. I believe, help my unbelief (Mark chapter 9) and Thomas in the post resurrection context when he needed evidence in order to ground his belief (John chapter 20). Both stories demonstrate that if is acceptable to have different levels of belief and to have questions or struggles which need to be resolved. Not that much different to questions about Covid-19; why did God allow all this suffering? Why did God not stop the virus?
We also learn in the Bible that the belief of one person was shared with another who then accepted the same belief; Andrew invited Simon to meet with Jesus and Philip invited Nathaneal (John chapter 2)
Christians in the North African and Middle Eastern countries often relate how they met with Jesus in a dream or a vision and came to believe in Him just as Saul on the road to Damascus had a similar life-changing and belief- changing encounter with Jesus (Acts chapter 9)
The worldwide Christian Church has The Creed at the heart of its belief system;
I believe in God, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried, he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again, he ascended into heaven where he is seated at the right hand of the Father and he will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
A belief system requires evidence; I will vote for this person because .... If I recycle my plastics then I will help reduce the potential danger to wildlife. As chronicled in the Roman records, a man from Bethlehem was crucified and died during the Jewish Passover.
A belief system has to be robust if it to be of use to us. What sometimes causes our belief system to be shaken either positively or negatively? How then do you move forward with your belief system?
For Christians the response should be to talk with God in prayer, seek guidance in the Bible or speak with other Christians.
What or Who might increase your personal belief system?
The following hymns/songs may be useful to you;
I believe in Jesus (Mission Praise 264)
This I believe –Spring Harvest, Link Here
You may also find these prayers useful;
Almighty God, you have so ordered our lives that we must live by faith and not be sight. Give us such faith that we might believe in your care and that we are held in your everlasting arms and filled with your love.
Help us, you who are the keeper of all belief, to believe in a world worth saving, a dream worth sharing, a heritage worth keeping and a life worth living. Help us to believe in you so that we can believe in ourselves, your love and your grace. Praise to you, our faithful God, who believes to the ultimate in our relationship and friendship.
God bless you
Photo by Olivier Collet via Unsplash
Signing off; your local Lay-worker, David Hollows