Do I Really Believe, or Believe What I Am Supposed to Believe?
There are the great beliefs, beliefs that people have devoted their lives to studying, beliefs that they have argued about and exulted in and sacrificed over and died for:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried. . . .
Sometimes people can rattle off words like that without ever asking themselves if they really believe them.
Faith is not simply holding beliefs. Many people, when they consider faith, think I believe that God exists, or Scripture is accurate, or Love is the greatest virtue. But at its core, faith is not simply the belief in a statement; it puts trust in a person. We all think we want certainty. But we don’t. What we really want is trust, wisely placed. Trust is better than certainty because it honors the freedom of persons and makes possible growth and intimacy that certainty alone could never produce. There can be no intimacy without trust.
The disciples looked at Jesus, and they thought, I like his life. I wish I could live like that. When they tried doing the things that Jesus instructed, they found that his teachings actually made sense when they acted on them. Forgiving worked better than vengeance. Generosity worked better than hoarding. They began to believe these truths for themselves. The growth of the disciples looked something like this: First they had faith in Jesus; then they began to have the faith of Jesus. Their mental maps began to look like Jesus’ mental map. Finally, after his crucifixion and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, his disciples realized that Jesus is the Savior of the world — that he really is the revelation of God himself — and therefore they trusted him with their eternal destinies as well.
We often try to get people to trust Jesus for eternity — to get them into heaven — without their first learning to trust him for their daily lives. As a matter of psychological reality, this just does not work. It produces people who say they trust Jesus and who might even think they trust Jesus, but what they do shows that they do not share his ideas about the way things really are and the way life really works. Therefore they are not able to live the way that Jesus would live in their place. It is hard to live as Jesus would live if we do not share at the core level his convictions about the way things really are.
Elton Trueblood wrote these words, and I think they are profoundly true: “The deepest conviction of the Christian is that Christ was not wrong.” Faith involves certain beliefs. Faith involves an attitude of hope and confidence. But at its core, faith is trusting a person.