Just Have Faith
Reading my Bible can be a chore. I’m not ashamed to own it. Hold on, put your rocks down for a minute. I know I’m not supposed to say that. I’m supposed to say that every time I break open the Word of God, light shines down from heaven and angels sing the Hallelujah Chorus as a glorious revelation from on high revolutionizes my understanding of life, the universe and everything. After all, Christianity is supposed to be all rainbows and butterflies, right?
Of course, I’m being facetious, but that’s not far off the image of Christian life I had as a young person growing up in the church. I felt as though everyone around me had this whole Christianity thing figured out, but here I was walking with Jesus across one rickety bridge in two left-footed shoes that were three sizes too big for me. I know my brothers and sisters in Christ meant well, but their answers to my questions often left me feeling as though it was somehow wrong to even have questions in the first place. “Read your Bible,” they said, “and have faith that God will give you all the answers you need.” At that place in my spiritual walk, I dismissed their advice as trite bumper-sticker speak. There had to be something more. What was the secret?
The secret, I eventually learned, was right in front of my face the whole time: I needed to have faith. No, I’m not joking. Believe me, I know how positively banal that sounds if you’re struggling with your faith, but one day something clicked and it made sense. The reason I was struggling in my faith was that I was too hung up on understanding how everything worked. It wasn’t up to me to understand; it was up to me to trust the Word. Jesus had something to say about trust in the gospel of Mark:
I promise you that you cannot get into God’s kingdom, unless you accept it the way a child does. –Mark 10:15 (Contemporary English Version)
At this point, I think it’s important to explain that when I was a kid, I went to an old-school church where the pastor preached from the King James Bible to the exclusion of any other version. I struggled with it because the language was stiff and unwieldy. I didn’t want to read a book I couldn’t understand, but the idea of reading another version carried the stigma of a teenager still riding a bike with training wheels. Later though, I shrugged off that stigma and started to explore, and that’s when the Word of God began making more sense. That verse we just read is a perfect example. In King James, it’s full of words like verily, whosoever and therein. In contrast, the way it reads in the Contemporary English Version is so simple, it’s beautiful. The meaning is plain: you can’t get into the kingdom of God unless you accept it the way a child does.
I don’t think Jesus meant that there are spiritual bouncers who will throw you out of the Kingdom if you don’t believe. I think Jesus meant that you can’t reason or calculate your way into the Kingdom; you just need to trust that it works the way Jesus said it does. Don’t try to figure it out. Don’t try to quantify it. Just believe, with simple, child-like faith, that the Word of God works, even if you don’t understand the process. Jesus had something to say about that, too:
The kingdom of God is like a man scattering seed on the ground and then going to bed each night and getting up every morning, while the seed sprouts and grows up, though he has no idea how it happens. The earth produces a crop without any help from anyone: first a blade, then the ear of corn, then the full-grown grain in the ear. And as soon as the crop is ready, he sends his reapers in without delay, for the harvest-time has come. –Mark 4:26-29 (J.B. Phillips New Testament)
I’ll say it again: it’s not up to us to understand how God’s Word works in our lives, beloved. Our only responsibility is to trust that it does. The earth will grow whatever seed is put in it. Plant corn, you get corn; plant roses, you get roses; plant nothing, you get weeds. The earth has no authority to say, “I don’t want to grow corn, I want to grow sunflowers.” When a seed is planted, regardless of what kind of seed it is, the earth goes to work just as God ordained it:
While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease. –Genesis 8:22 (NKJV)
Your heart is the same way. It grows whatever seeds are planted in it, and as the farmer of your own heart, you decide what to plant. Every word you hear or read or speak is a seed planted in your heart, and it will grow into a harvest. Sow seeds of doubt, and you’ll reap a harvest of hopelessness. Sow seeds of bitterness, and you’ll reap a harvest of hate. Conversely, if you sow the Word of God by reading your Bible, you’ll reap a harvest of faith, peace, joy and godliness. You don’t have to understand how it works, you just need to trust that it will cause you to grow and mature, just as the apostle Paul explained in his second letter to Timothy:
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. –2 Timothy 3:16 (New Living Translation).
The Word corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. Doesn’t that sound a lot like what a parent does in his or her child’s life? If we accept that God is our heavenly father and that we are his children, then this verse shows us beyond any doubt that the Word is how, more than any other avenue, God speaks into our lives. None of this is meant to suggest that God cannot speak to us in other ways, but that the surest, most infallible way to know what God wants for you is to read your Bible and trust that it will take root in your heart and make you the man or woman God wants you to be.
I suppose this is the point where I’m supposed to tell you that reading my Bible is no longer a chore, that it’s glorious and exhilarating and I can’t wait to do it every day. I could tell you that, and actually, there are times when it can be a truly enjoyable experience on many levels. That said, the truth is that I’m working out my salvation just like you are. I still have bad days, just like you do. The truth is that some days I have to make myself read my Bible, but even so, I have faith that the Word will do its part regardless of how I feel.
If you find yourself in a place where you’re questioning, my word to you is to have faith. Have faith that God loves you even if you don’t love yourself. Have faith that He wants you to live even if you want to die. Have faith that His thoughts toward you are holy and that he wants to give you a future, regardless of your past. Have faith that His Word will grow in your heart, even if you don’t understand how or feel like it is. Have faith that God’s word works, no matter what the devil says. Have faith that His Word works, no matter what other people say. Have faith that His Word works, no matter what your circumstances say.
Just. Have. Faith.