I am somewhat envious of people who experience God differently than I do. I hear about all kinds of experiences that are once or twice removed from me and say a silent prayer in the back of my head, “Why not me Lord?” Whether it be through worship, through quiet fellowship filled with God’s felt presence, or the dramatic conversion experiences, I don’t know what they are like except through the testimony of others.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. I am not even expressing a spiritual vitamin shortage. At least I don’t think I am. But the fact is that I have been a Christian all my life and when people tell me the dramatic stories of their subjective encounters with God, I don’t know how to relate. I just have not had them. I have never heard God’s voice, never had a dramatic life changing dream, never “felt” the presence of God in my room (even during prayer), never spoken in tongues, never gotten a “word from the Lord” (not even for this blog), and never had a sin dramatically taken from me. In fact, most of my spiritual life does not come easy. It involves wrestling with the Lord through prayer. I find it very difficult to stop sin, change bad attitudes, keep from forming bad habits, and to stop from hiding from obligations. In fact (though this may come across as blasphemous to some), the “peace that passes understanding” is something that is more often than not quit far from me. Sure, I do have peace in the ultimate things. Salvation, truth, the Lord’s love, and the truths of Scripture bring me “meta peace.” But as far as the day-to-day battle, the peace that I experience is very understandable, being absent most of the time. Continue reading
“Someday, maybe.” That was the perpetual attitude of a doctor that I was doing my best to win to Christ. I was a young enthusiastic Christian who thought he had all the answers. He was a seeker seeking answers. What a great combo when we were introduced. Our first evening together was spent discussing many questions about the reliability of the Bible. By the time our conversation was complete, I thought that I might have him. But he wanted to “think it over”. The next time we met he had questions about the problem of evil. After giving it my all, I thought we had for sure turned a corner. However, over the next year, the questions, issues, and objections found no end. We talked about the existence of God, the resurrection of Christ, Jonah and the whale and everything else you could think of. Every time I pleaded with him to believe, he just came at me with more questions. Once we went full-circle back to the questions we began with I realized that I had done all I could. His questions had been sufficiently answered. Yes, he could continue with the “What about this…” or “What about that…” possibilities, but none of them were probabilities. It was time for him to make a decision and he was not going to. His faith in Christ was always just one answered question away.
For some of us, that is where we are at. “Maybe someday” is the response. We are always one question away from making the decision to trust him. This is a kind of tire-kicker Christianity. We are always examining, but never buying. You need to examine if this is where you are at. Apologetics (defending the faith) can only go so far. I am not saying that there are not legitimate questions that we need answered. What I am saying is that at some point our indecisiveness becomes a definite decision. Our lack of faith in Christ becomes our new blind faith.
Here is the key: our conviction does not need to be perfect before we rest in Christ. It just needs to be true and sufficient.
I have not talked about this publicly before. I have not bogged about it. I have not used it as a sermon illustration. And never spoken of it before while I was teaching. It took me long enough to tell my wife about what happened. Like so many other things, it takes some time to process. I am always timid about events such as these. I don’t really know how to take it. So often, the interpretation that you come up with about the meaning of your experiences turns on you and places mud in your face (or here in Oklahoma, red clay).
It was a Wednesday afternoon when it happened. There was no real reason for it that I know of. In fact, this event was about the furthest thing from my psychological barometer. I was about to teach my classes in The Theology Program. The day before, I had responded to someone who had left the faith, attempting to do my best to restore confidence in this lapsing believer. This was certainly not atypical. There were no lingering doubts that had been surfacing. No new arguments that I heard that made me pause. I had every reason to be as confident as ever in my faith in Christ and the Christian worldview. However, this day would be like none other I had ever experienced. It was the day I quit believing.
You must understand. I have never been an “unbeliever” in any sense. There is not a time in my life that I can remember not believing in Christ. Sure, there were those doubts. Doubts about many things. But the serious doubts always ran out of gas very quickly as they were murdered by a few silver bullets that pulled back the curtain of their weaknesses. But this time was different. It was not any simple doubt that I was experiencing, but unbelief.
Like so many other things, I can tell you where I was when it happened. When Angie died, I was driving with the family on 635 in Dallas. When my mother had her stroke, I was sitting on the loveseat eating cereal. When Will busted his head open, I was playing Spiderman upstairs by myself. When I quit believing, I was beginning to sit down on my couch at home. By the time I pulled my legs up beside me, the terrible and foreign realization came to my mind that I didn’t believe. I don’t know why, but as I began to think about God, Christ, prayer, and all those things that form the normal spiritual backdrop to my thoughts, they had been robbed of their primary fuel—belief. I simply did not believe. There was this sudden realization that it was all false. Covering my life like a dark coroners blanket was a new belief: the belief that my whole life I had fooled myself into believing in something that was not true. I did not believe that God was real. Continue reading