There’s a prevailing notion that the mere granting of mental assent is believing. But is that really true?
Does simply saying you think something is true make it so? I know we live in a society that likes to reduce things to “manageable” things. We want to reduce achievement to “imagine the possibilities.” We want “positive thinking” to replace the hard work of following through. We want the mere good intentions we hold in our hearts to be enough without actually having to get our hands dirty in the hard work of ministry.
But when does this minimalism get so bad that it actually puts the lie to our insistence that we really do believe? When does a healthy dose of reality and honesty bring us to the difficult but necessary place of waking up to the reality of our own spiritual needs?
I believe this place of honesty and necessary reality check comes to us when we face the gap between what we say with our mouths and the consequences of our behaviors (or lack of behaviors). But we live in a society that seems to reward the delusion of “pretend” and the absolute protection of our egos. We really resist anything that makes us “feel” bad. And then we go further by insisting that if something makes us “feel” bad then it must be bad for us. Talk about a closed spiral toward total delusion!
So, how do we escape this trap of delusion concerning our real beliefs? How do we balance the necessary care and concern for others with telling the truth “in love” and bringing our lives to that place of uncomfortable confrontation with the gap between what we say and how we live?
In our Scripture Lesson today we read about Abram becoming a man of faith. We begin seeing him be transformed into that example of belief that acts as well as claims to believe. In Genesis 15:1-15 we see God and Abram (his name will be changed to Abraham as his transformation by his relationship with God becomes more clear) growing in their relationship as God confronts Abram with his true calling and offers Abram a vision of what his life can become if he seriously enters into relationship with God.
What I love about this passage is Abram’s willingness to hear God but honestly ask God “how is this going to happen?” He is honest in his relationship with God. And that, precious friend, is the first step in transforming your beliefs into actions; to love God and enter into an honest and intimate relationship with God that is both honest enough to question and brave enough to believe. This combination of love and confidence builds strong faith and peace that, even in the face of challenging circumstances, we don’t waver from what we know to be true. And that confidence is translated into actions. In fact, one without the other simply never rises to the level of true belief.
Abram and God love and know each other. And Abram’s closeness with God will be proven over and over again as Abram becomes Abraham, the father of the faithful!
Verse 6 in Chapter 15 is the key: “And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” The belief is counted as righteousness in the actions that prove the heart of Abram to be sincere and trusting in God’s promises.
Today, do you believe? Before you answer, do a spiritual inventory of your actions. That icon of yourself is a better diagnosis of your faith than what we want to think about ourselves. But before you fall into the other ditch on the other side of this narrow path (that ditch that lies to you and tells you you’re no good and what’s the use in trying!), “feel” bad, but to move us to the path that leads to spiritual health – the gift of true repentance and spiritual healing. If you are ever going to be free to become the person of faith you were created to be, it will be through the dual remedies of repentance AND action. It isn’t enough to simply “feel” bad. We must move beyond the slavery of our fears and “feelings” to the brave and daring honest relationship God longs to have with each of us. Because it is in that dynamic and thrilling practice of our faith that we discover just what is possible in our lives when we truly believe.
True belief produces real right relationships with God and others. That is the promise to everyone who does the hard work of repentance and practice of our precious and life-giving faith. God bless us as we become true believers in action as well as words!