Do you believe in God?
It’s a straightforward question I suppose, but often with a complex answer. Some might respond with:
- Which God do you mean?
- I believe in a Higher Power, if that counts?
- There must be something, right?
How might you reply to the same question? If you are reading this blog, then the chances are you do believe in God or are at least curious enough to find out more.
I suppose the challenge I want to raise today is this – does your belief in God make a difference in your life? Do you “believe” in God, and yet live your life as though you do not?
James puts it like this in his letter.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudderJames 2:19 (NIV)
James’ point in context is this, and excuse my liberal translation here: You believe in God? Good for you! So does the devil!
His point is that believing in God is all well and good, but what have you done about it? The devil believes in God too, yet I do not think we want to be like him at all!
So, is believing enough? Clearly not, if we believe like the devil does. What, then, can we make of Jesus’ words in the following passage?
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”John 6:25-29 (NIV)
Are James and Jesus here in opposition? On the one hand, it seems that James is saying believing is not enough, and yet Jesus suggests that believing is the work of God. Who is right?
In short, they both are and there is no contradiction here.
Believing is indeed a matter of the heart. It is in many ways a choice we make. We weigh up the evidence and ultimately choose to accept that there is a God or there isn’t. This is not, in my view, the kind of belief that Jesus was talking about.
Jesus, like James, does not want mere lip service. He is not talking about a belief which results in no change at all. For this is no kind of belief. The kind of belief that Jesus is after – the work of God – is to believe in Him, and for that belief to lead us to change the way we live accordingly.
I believe in exercise. I have a strong desire to be healthy. I carry a gym membership card, and pay a monthly subscription. But if I never go, and constantly eat junk food, then my “belief” in being healthy is worthless. For my belief to be of any benefit, I must act on it.
Paul talks much about faith in his letters. Some therefore conclude that Paul and James are in somewhat of a conflict. This is not true, and rather they are complementary. Paul focuses on faith, and James on acting out that faith. Doing good won’t earn you any faith, but having a true faith will always lead to some form of action.
I believe in God and the One Whom He sent. I hope that others can see this in my life. If they were to examine my diary, my bank account, my entertainment choices, my words and indeed any area of my life, I hope they would see my faith being lived out. I am far from perfect, and there are many areas in which I want to better demonstrate my faith, but I sincerely hope there is at least some evidence of Christ in my life.
How about you? Do you believe? Great – so what will you do about it today?
God bless you as you live out your faith. Let Christ so indwell you that you cannot help but be totally transformed in his love.