There’s a prevailing notion that the mere granting of mental assent is believing. But is that really true? Is that really enough to actually believe?
Does simply saying you think something is true to mean you truly believe it? I know we live in a society that likes to reduce life to “manageable” sizes. 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. After all, “I meant well!”
Look at our lesson in Genesis 15:1-15. Here’s a portion:
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, thou hast given me no offspring; and a slave born in my house will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.
What I love about this passage is Abram’s willingness to hear and obey God, but honestly ask God “how is this going to happen?” He is honest in his relationship with God. And that, dear ones, is the first step in transforming what you say into how you live; 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! He is called the “Father of the Faithful” BECAUSE he IS faithful, not perfect. Abram isn’t sinless, but he is faithful. See the difference?
And here’s the key: “And he believed the LORD, and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” The belief is counted as righteousness as his actions prove the heart of Abram to be sincere and trusting in God’s promises. Abram obeys God and it is in that obedience that he hears from God all God will make of him because of his belief.
There really isn’t any way for me to emphasize enough the foundational power of the act of will in believing. In excersizing my will to choose to believe starts the process of the internal reformation of my heart towards God. And that willful choice to turn towards God in trust and confidence. I choose to believe that God knows me better than I know myself. I choose to believe that God’s plan for my life will reveal and allow the best “me” to emerge and create purpose and direction for my eternal life. Choosing to believe sets in motion all the internal work necessary to form the character of Christ in me.
Today, do you believe? Before you answer, do a spiritual inventory of your actions. It isn’t enough to simply “feel” bad or good. We must move beyond the slavery of our fears and “feelings” to the brave and daring honest and mature 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. This is what I mean when I challenge us to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, I believe, now help my unbelief! Help me to continue a life of belief that keeps the work of Your Holy Spirit working in my heart to form Your likeness in me. Give me the grace and courage to keep on believing even when it would be easier to abandon belief. I trust Your wisdom for my life and I ask You to continue Your work in my life for Your glory and my salvation. For You are a good God and You love mankind, and to You do we give glory Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto ages of ages. Amen