“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
(I started this thinking these reasons would be easy to express and thus the article would be concise. But it has not turned out that way. So, this is the first half. The other 5 reasons should be posted here tomorrow.)
Driving hundreds of miles to (and from) two funerals of dear friends last week, I spent a lot of time reflecting on this thing of believing in God, serving in ministry, and going confidently into “the valley of the shadow of death.” Deacon James Gatewood and Minister Bill Hardy showed us how it’s done, from their daily faithfulness in good times to the difficult and dark days of suffering.
Our Lord said, “You believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1). The way I read Scripture, He was equating the two.
In my mind, to believe in Jesus is to believe in God, and vice versa. After all, our Lord said, “No one knows me except the Father. And no one knows the Father except the Son (moi!) and they to whom I reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27, my paraphrase).
If you had asked ten years ago why I believe in Jesus, my answers would have been somewhat different. But today, here are my top ten reasons for faith in the risen, living, ever-present, soon-coming Lord Jesus Christ….
1). THE BIBLE. There is nothing else on Earth like this book which lies on the table to the right of my laptop. It is the miracle of the ages.
I am almost daily impressed by the profound wisdom, the practical applications, and the consistent theme of the Holy Scriptures from beginning to end. The Bible is one of the great miracles of this planet. I shudder to think where we would be without it. What a debt of gratitude we owe to those who safeguarded it through the centuries, and delivered it to our generation intact.
Moses once said to the Israelis, “What great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:8).
I read that and think, “Moses, you only had a sliver of the full revelation. What if you held in your hand the entire Bible? How I would love to hear what you have to say about that!”
As I read the Bible, everything inside me stands on tiptoe and calls out, “This is so true. How did He know this about me?!”
2) JESUS. There is no getting around this and no other way to say it: I believe in Jesus because of Jesus.
It’s not just the heart of our Lord–His love for the little people, His patience with the leprous and the fallen, His rebuke of the hypocrites–although that’s pretty special in itself. It’s not just the teachings–the wisdom of the parables, the just-rightness of the Beatitudes, the insights about Heaven–although those are as remarkable as anything we can imagine. And it’s not just the miracles–Mark 2’s paralytic, Luke 18’s Bartimaeus, and John 11’s Lazarus–although the accounts of His miracles are pure gold in themselves.
It’s these–the Lord’s heart, His teachings, His miracles–and a thousand things more. It’s tiny little things like the Lord telling Nicodemus, “No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there” (John 3:13) and “If you’re not going to believe when I tell you earthly things, how will you ever believe when I speak of Heaven?” (3:12) It’s the way Jesus did not go around like a modern-day scam-artist announcing, “Hey everyone, look at me. I’m the Messiah. Watch this!” Instead, He taught and worked and blessed, then told people, “The works I do bear witness of me” (John 5:36). Pay attention, He was saying, and come to your own conclusions.
I have. I believe. Jesus is Lord.
3) PRAYER. We must not fall into the trap of saying “I believe in Jesus because He has given me what I asked for.” Some who never go to church and are ignorant of the Bible have assured us preachers they knew they were saved and heaven-bound because God had answered their prayers.
The greatest saints probably have more unanswered prayers than ones answered. And yet they live on their knees, talking with, listening to, and pleading with the Father. Why do they do it? They believe.
God has answered my prayers. He has said “Yes” and has led me “in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). And, often He has said “No” and that has also been comforting. It’s what a loving parent does.
Sometimes, the Father has sent assurance long before a prayer was answered that “You can quit asking now, and start thanking,” because the answer was on its way. Some of those answers came the next day and some are still en route.
When Scripture tells us to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything let your requests be known to God by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6), it’s the “with thanksgiving” phrase that leaps off the page and grabs my attention. Remembering the Lord’s answers in the past–naming them, giving thanks for them–inspires me this morning to drop to my knees and seek His blessings, His deliverance, His presence, His healings, and most of all, His will.
“O thou who dost hear prayer, to thee all men come” (Psalm 65:2). I believe.
4) MY FLESH. I know myself somewhat, enough to have learned not to trust me.
“In my flesh there dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:18). “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Those verses have my name all over them; sometimes I think they were put in the Bible just for me. (When I hear people giving advice to “trust yourself,” I want to laugh out loud. “Are you kidding? Do you know what is in me? I should trust that?”)
I am so capable of destroying all the good around me, so able to hurt the people I love by my words and wound them by my thoughtlessness. And yet, I hurt so few people and wound hardly a one these days. Few things more than this assure me the Lord is here and at work in my life.
One reason I believe in the living God is that my passions and my self-centeredness are not running amok as they would like. I pray daily the words of Psalm 141:3. “Set a guard upon my mouth, O Lord. Keep watch over the door to my lips.” And He does.
Many times at night, I will look back over the day and say, “This is really remarkable, Father. As far as I can tell, I didn’t wound a person today. I didn’t splurge on something expensive, did not indulge my appetites the way I thought of doing, and did not flirt with a pretty girl or beautiful woman. I did not tell that guy what I thought or give that one a piece of my mind. You really guarded my mouth, and how can I ever thank You for that?” (Lest anyone think I’m praying the self-righteous prayer of the Pharisee in Luke 18:11-12, all I’m doing is expressing amazement at the Lord’s “governors” upon my flesh. This is all of Him, not of me. It’s one more reason I believe He is real and on the scene, and I am eternally grateful.)
Paul said, “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of the Lord Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
I believe in Jesus because I see Him doing that very thing. My deep regret is that I’m only at the first mile marker, with so far to go.
5) THE PEOPLE. The Lord has some great, great people. They are Exhibit A of His reality and His power.
The fascinating thing about the Lord’s people is their diversity. They are all individuals, originals, no two alike. Each of the special God-people in my life is unique, and I am profoundly blessed from knowing them.
I mentioned James Gatewood and Bill Hardy earlier. Having followed the Lord Jesus for over 60 years now and having been a minister for over a half-century, I could fill a book with names of others who, like James and Bill, have “conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (Hebrews 11:33-34).
I believe in God because of Bryan Harris, Chet Griffin, Don Davidson, David Crosby, Joel K. Davis, Maude Sparks, Mildred Phillips, Margaret Perkins, Jim and Darlene Graham, and my wife. I believe because of C. S. Lewis, Warren Wiersbe, Bill Burkett, Ron Palmer, Carl F. H. Henry, Fisher Humphreys, and my children. I believe because of Corrie ten Boom, Elisabeth Elliot, Mitsuo Fuchida, Don and Rose Marie McCain, Lawrence Bryant, and my grandchildren. I believe because of my mama. I believe because of my dad. And I believe because of my big brother Ron.
I believe in God because of my grandmother who persevered under incredible burdens and trials but whose faith never wavered.
I believe in God because of Josie Lanzetta. This tiny lady struck terror into the hearts of grown men as she knocked on doors and witnessed to them. Al Lazaro, whom she eventually led to Christ, told me he ran from her. “That little lady scared me.” What did she do? Sweetly tell them of Jesus and warn them of hell.
I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ because of Billy Graham. The worker on the Graham dairy farm in Charlotte used to say of him, “When Billy was 16 years old, he was a typical kid. He had one thing on his mind and one thing only: he wanted to drive the farm truck.” That’s how the man coaxed young Billy into accompanying him to the evangelistic crusade. “If you’ll go with me tonight, I’ll let you drive the truck tomorrow.” God saved Billy that night and the rest, as they say, is history. That worker used to say, “There was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about young Billy. If you had a hundred teenagers in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was told that God would use one of them to bring the gospel to millions, you could not have picked him out. It was as though the Lord said, ‘Eeny meenie minie moe….I’ll take that one.’ Just to show what He could do.”
I believe in that kind of God who can use nobodies to shake empires.
Peter said the Lord redeemed us “that (we) may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9).
Proclaiming His excellencies. That’s what we are about, isn’t it?
I believe because of all the teachers and mentors, friends and colleagues, and dearest loved ones who believe also and demonstrate by their lives that Jesus Christ is alive and this is real.