Belief is the most powerful force in the world. While many of us claim to know certain things to be true, far fewer actually believe them to be so. Do you only know the truth, or do you actually believe it?
“What we believe about God is the most important thing about us.” - A.W. Tozier
I remember it like it was yesterday..
It was a late night at the University of Louisiana Monroe campus library where one of my favorite fraternity brothers and I were studying for exams the following morning.
After wrapping up my studies for the night, he and I struck up one of our famous off-the-wall conversations. He is a couple of years older than I, so the fact that a Senior was fraternizing with a Sophomore was a compliment in and of itself.
I had admired this man since we first met. You know the people you meet who are much, much deeper than they appear? He is one of those people, and I jump at any chance to go deep with him.
We held a two-plus hour conversation covering a span of topics. We quickly identified our differences in overall worldview and faith; however, there were multiple, pleasant similarities.
The thing I admired the most about our conversations was that regardless of the scope or sensitivity of the topic, each of us remained composed and did not allow our emotions to control us.
Of the entire conversation, the one part I remember most vividly was an odd question he asked.
“What do you think is the most powerful thing in the world?”
Taking a second to think, I answered, “Belief.”
He looked a bit taken aback and very interested in hearing my thought process behind the remark.
“Belief is the most powerful thing in the world. It drives the vast majority of each of our decisions in life. Belief has both ended and saved more lives than money, power, government, or weapons ever could. When boiled down, all we are is what we believe about ourselves and the world around us to be true. Belief is more than a thing. It’s a force. Belief is the most powerful force in the world.”
His eyes lit up. Now we’re on to something.
He and I continued on this topic for another thirty minutes to an hour before finally walking home for the night.
What a talk.
Since graduating, the times I get to see this friend are few and far in between, but when together, we always recall our beautiful conversation about the power of belief.
Since that night more than five years ago, I have made a conscious effort to refine and embrace my beliefs. Our conversation also made me much more aware of the underlying cause of the vast majority of world events occurring since then.
I struggled to identify even the smallest action I made to be based on anything other than my beliefs.
Whether it was based on what I believe about myself, others, the situation at hand, or God, all of my actions are founded in the principles of what I believe to be true.
But how do I know what I believe to be true is actually the truth?
One of the greatest challenges this life offers is the chance to question, investigate, and reconcile your beliefs with the truth. But in a postmodern society like our own, does “the truth” still exist?
The late Ravi Zacharias spoke much about truth. One of my favorite of his quotes about truth provides an understanding of how truth has been treated over the past half century.
“In the 1950s kids lost their innocence.
They were liberated from their parents by well-paying jobs, cars, and lyrics in music that gave rise to a new term---the generation gap.
In the 1960s, kids lost their authority.
It was a decade of protest---church, state, and parents were all called into question and found wanting. Their authority was rejected, yet nothing ever replaced it.
In the 1970s, kids lost their love. It was the decade of me-ism dominated by hyphenated words beginning with self.
Self-image, Self-esteem, Self-assertion....It made for a lonely world. Kids learned everything there was to know about sex and forgot everything there was to know about love, and no one had the nerve to tell them there was a difference.
In the 1980s, kids lost their hope.
Stripped of innocence, authority and love and plagued by the horror of a nuclear nightmare, large and growing numbers of this generation stopped believing in the future.
In the 1990s kids lost their power to reason. Less and less were they taught the very basics of language, truth, and logic and they grew up with the irrationality of a postmodern world.
In the new millennium, kids woke up and found out that somewhere in the midst of all this change, they had lost their imagination. Violence and perversion entertained them till none could talk of killing innocents since none was innocent anymore.”
- Ravi Zacharias
According to Ravi, between 1950 and today, we have lost our innocence, authority, love, hope, and the power to reason.
Argue this if you wish, but if you do, I challenge you to fact check yourself by reading tomorrow’s headlines.
I doubt we see much innocence, authority, love, hope or power to reason. I bet we see perversion, chaos, hatred, hopelessness, and unreasonable behavior.
I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic.
As you read the news stories tomorrow, begin to question what drove each of them to occur. I can guarantee the vast majority are traced back to belief.
Pastor of Dallas’s City on a Hill Church, Dr. James Reeves, says it this way, “All behavior is based on belief, not on knowledge. You might know something, but you likely don’t believe it. If you believed it, your behavior would change. It’s not possible to live contrary to what I believe. It is possible to live contrary to what I think I believe, but not what I believe.”
What do you “think” to be true versus what do you “believe” to be true?
To Dr. Reeves’s point, I ”knew” laying in a tanning bed could cause skin cancer. It took having surgery and thirty stitches in my back for me to actually believe it.
Why must we get burned before we believe the stove to be hot?
Knowledge forms belief, belief drives actions, actions cause consequences, consequences demand reflection, reflection seeks knowledge, and the cycle repeats.
The danger in this cycle comes from the source of our knowledge. Like the water we drink, information is only as healthy as its source. Two bottles of “spring” water could look the same. One could be mineral water full of vitamins and nutrients while the other makes you sick.
It’s all about the source.
What makes the difference between knowledge and belief? Experience.
I am constantly challenging myself and others around me to investigate what we know to be true. Especially our respective faiths.
Why do I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be true?
This is arguably the most difficult question for a “believer” to answer about his or her faith.
It is most difficult to answer for those who have not experienced faith themselves. For those who have come face-to-face with their creator, the answer takes on great confidence and peace.
I know the Gospel to be true because I have experienced it.
I have seen God.
I have felt him.
I know him, and he knows me.
When I’ve been down, he’s pulled me up.
When I’ve been up, he’s pulled me back down.
He walks with me, comforts me, and guides me.
I cannot exist outside of him.
He means everything to me, and while I should mean nothing to him, he knows the number of hairs on my head. He used 40 individuals over a four thousand year span to write his one, complete narrative and traced it through time just to tell His story to me.
In my attempt to reach him, I could never climb high enough.
Instead, he came down to meet me.
This is the Gospel.
And the Gospel is one, great paradox.
The backwards nature of the Gospel is the very thing which makes it most worthy of our belief.
Humble yourself to be exalted.
Become weak to become strong.
Give to receive.
Die to live.
Decrease to increase.
Suffer to rejoice.
The last will be first, and the first will be last.
The master will become the servant, and the servant will become the master.
God became man and died at the hands of man so that man could be with God for eternity.
This is the Gospel.
When other religions strive to make sense, the one faith that does make sense only does so because it doesn’t. If it made sense to us, it wouldn’t be worth believing.
As believers, the litmus test of our belief is our actions. Do your actions reflect your knowledge or your belief?
You can tell what someone believes about the next life by how they live this one.
Are you living for tomorrow or today?
Question your beliefs. Investigate your faith. Take accountability for your own understanding.
We serve the God who invites investigation. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have asked Thomas to feel his wounds.
Don’t change the truth to fit your beliefs.
Change your beliefs to fit the truth.