When I was younger, I was what Mike Myers called a “gulla-bull” in the movie “Wayne’s World 2”. (The guy from Saturday Night Live and the Austin Powers movies not the serial killer with the mask and huge knife from the Halloween movies)
“Robby what are you talking about. I’ve never seen Wayne’s World or the other movies that you’re referring too!”
I’m sorry. As I’ve shared before some of my inner monologue is filled with movie quotes. Little snippets from pretty much every movie that I’ve ever seen, especially the funny bits that crack me up and can be applied in many situations which most people don’t pick up on like now because they haven’t seen the movie. They just pop in there. Yes, I’m weird like that.
“We already knew that, Robby. What’s your point?!”
Okay, I’ll start over. When I was younger, I was a little more “gulla-bull” or gullible than I am now.
“Robby, are you sure about that?”
I’m not saying you can’t pull one over on me, but I’m a little more skeptical now. When people would say certain things, I would take it at face value. If they could say it with a straight face, and it wasn’t something to outlandish like they were abducted by aliens. You could also say that I was credulous. Credulity is a person’s willingness or ability to believe that a statement is true, especially on minimal or uncertain evidence.
“Yay, Robby learned a new word!”
It seems our current culture is willing to believe just about anything as well. You know the running joke that “everything you read on the internet is true”. If you say something loud and long enough today, there are a lot of people who will believe it without a shred of evidence and as long as it reinforces their own truth or ideology.
Well, having the ability to believe is vital to Christian faith, especially when what we are placing our faith in is unseen. There is plenty of evidence that God exists, but since we can’t “see God” in the flesh, reach out and touch Him, or talk to Him face to face it makes it difficult for some to believe. Even the disciples struggled at times to believe even after they had witnessed incredible miracles that Jesus performed, so they had their doubts. Thomas, the most famous doubter, whom we call “doubting Thomas” needed to see the nail prints in Jesus’ hands and feet in order to believe that Jesus was alive and raised from the dead. Jesus told his disciples that after He was crucified that He would rise again, but when He actually appeared to them after His resurrection they were amazed and surprised.
While some may look at “doubting Thomas” with skepticism, apparently Jesus was not upset by Thomas’ request to see His hands and feet, and not just to see them, but touch them. That’s probably what I love most about this encounter. So why doesn’t Jesus do that today? Why doesn’t He just show up and prove His existence, then there would be no doubt or would there? Remember the disciples and a multitude of people saw Jesus all the time, in the flesh, but they still had doubts. While there aren’t volumes of information explaining God’s physical departure from this planet, we do have a few clues including this passage from Hebrews 11.
1Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for. 3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:1-2 NIV
Also, remember what God told Moses on Mt. Sinai, while he was receiving the 10 commandments. He tells Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20 NIV) So, seeing God in the flesh is detrimental to our existence. We simply can’t handle it. It’s too much. Apparently, He found a way to reveal himself in the flesh when He sent Jesus, His son, but there is a part of God that we are unable to experience first-hand. However, Jesus promised to send another member of the “Godhead” or Trinity. The Trinity is God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are three, but also one. I know it’s hard to wrap our heads around this concept, but it is God’s nature and true identity.
The member of the Trinity that Jesus promised to leave with us is the Holy Spirit. However, this member of the Godhead is unseen. While the Holy Spirit is actively involved in our lives, it doesn’t solve the visible evidence issue. When we choose to believe, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us, within our spirit-soul. He is our conscience, He teaches, reminds, convicts us of sin in our lives, gives wisdom, inspiration, comfort, encouragement, helps us with our weaknesses, intercedes or prays for us, enables us to live a holy life, walks us through the sanctification process of salvation, and so much more. So, God has not left us alone. He is still with us, but it’s just more spiritual than physical. It’s clear that God wants us to be able to believe or have faith in his existence without seeing Him. That’s what the writer of Hebrews means when he says, ”faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” He goes on to explain that the faith of the “ancients”, or those who came before, was commendable or deserves praise because they were able to believe without seeing. However, God didn’t leave us clueless or without some compelling evidence of His existence.
20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20 NIV
The Apostle Paul makes it clear that God has given us enough to go on until He returns. God’s incredible creation alone should be enough to remove any excuse for not believing. God has also given us a collection of writings that He inspired, the Bible, to help us understand who He is and how He wants us to live. I also believe that we can see God at work in our lives in various ways through circumstances, dreams, and miracles. Maybe even angelic encounters that I haven’t had the pleasure of witnessing personally, that I’m aware of. However, we still have doubts, don’t we? Again, if the disciples struggled and they were eyewitnesses, then it shouldn’t be surprising that we do as well.
12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12-13 NIV
Having faith in something that is unseen and so vital to understanding the reason and meaning of all life that exists isn’t easy to comprehend. When Paul says to ”continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”, he is verifying that it’s not going to be easy. How many of us walk through life with fear, doubt, worry, anxiety, and even trembling at times? If it was easy, then why would Jesus say “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” in Matthew 11:28-30, “take heart I have overcome the world” in John 16:33 NIV, and Paul says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” in Galatians 6:9? Granted, sin is the primary reason for our struggle or why we are “weary and burdened”, but even those who choose to believe and are walking in faith get weary and weighed down by life. While Jesus said that we just needed faith the size of a mustard seed, one of the smallest of all seeds, it’s still hard and that mustard seed feels like it weighs a ton. (see Matthew 17:20)
The title of this series is “Lord, help my unbelief”. I’ve prayed this prayer many times. Not that I doubt God’s existence, but there are times when I struggle, even tremble, or have anxiety from the pressures of life, the weight of the world resting on my shoulders. We all feel it. Jesus and Paul were no different. They understood it all too well or they wouldn’t have offered encouragement for those who were experiencing it. Remember, Jesus was human. Need proof that Jesus experienced pain and anxiety? Read Matthew 26:36-46 for next week.
For the rest of this series, we are going to look at some of the pressure points, usual suspects, and the things that chip away at our ability to believe or keep the faith. Things that cause doubt, confusion, and contribute to our ongoing struggle of living by faith.
Have a great weekend! Love y’all!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC