When Thomas the Apostle doubted that Jesus had been resurrected and that the other disciples had seen andtalked with Him,1 it took seeing the Savior himself and touching the nail holes in Jesus’ hands and feet to convince him. Such privileges are rare in the walk of faith. It seems that more often God wants us to believe without seeing, for which we will receive special blessings.2
What practical benefits does faith provide? Here are a few. In essence, it’s a short list of God’s promises.
The life which I now live … I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.—Galatians 2:20
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.—2 Corinthians 5:17
People often talk about “getting out of your comfort zone.” I hate hearing that. I confess—I like my comfort zones. I don’t like doing new things, especially things that I don’t understand or don’t think I’ll do well at. Lately, however, I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone regularly. I think about the magnitude of some new project or venture, and I start to shrivel inside, mentally backing away.
Jesus said that we are to love God “with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.”1 Notice that He didn’t just refer to our heart and soul, but also to our mind. God gave human beings mental faculties. He created us to be intellectual beings, capable of rational thought, intellectual growth, critical thinking, and reasoning. He also gave us a conscience to guide us in making choices that are morally right.
The apostle Paul said, “One person considers some days to be more sacred than others, while another person considers all days to be the same. Each person must have their own convictions.”2 Paul also said in that same discourse, “If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.”3 The point he was making is that it’s important we each explore our beliefs to determine where our faith lies on various issues. Analyzing, discussing, and debating points of doctrine can be healthy for your faith, as those all require you to research, dig deep, and find the scriptural foundation for your beliefs.
“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him.”1 Last night, thatverse came to mind and hovered for a long time. It’s not unusual for a Bible verse to show up in my thoughts, but this time was different. The words and their richness were enhanced—they seemed “louder” or something. I turned the phrases over and over, and looked at them from all angles, meditating on what that passage meant to me.
In Acts chapter 17 we read about apostle Paul’s first experiences in Thessalonica and Berea, two cities in what is modern-day Greece. Both cities had Jewish populations, synagogues, and apparently a number of prominent Greeks who had converted to Judaism.
In Thessalonica, “as was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said.”1 Some of his listeners were persuaded, but others were not. Those who weren’t stirred up persecution, and Paul and Silas fled to the nearby city of Berea.
Accepting points of doctrine without question does not come naturally to everybody. Just as God made people very different in their personalities and physical makeup, there are also different kinds of faith. Whether you need time to study and reflect and reason before reaching a place of belief, or you embrace spiritual concepts with little questioning, the goal is what counts—a living faith.
A friend of mine has extensively studied a number of religions, and we regularly enjoy deep discussions about variousbelief systems—discussions that invariably come around to our own beliefs.
“I respect those who believe in God, but I can’t manage to myself,” my friend once said. “I don’t feel it. I also can’t understand all that spiritual and supernatural stuff.”
I could relate. Not the part about not believing in God, but the part about not feeling or understanding the supernatural, which is what many people equate with faith.
“I don’t feel it either,” I told him. “I believe because I choose to. For me, faith is a choice.”
Believing purely by faith, having no tangible evidence, is not a natural approach for everybody in all cases. Just as the Lord made people very different in their personalities and physical makeup, there are also different kinds of faith. Whether you need time and study to reach a place of belief, or whether you embrace concepts with little questioning, the goal is what counts—building a living faith.
One day, while browsing in a bookshop, I came across an encyclopedia with a section of Bible-related articles. I was curious to see how a secular scholar might depict the great men and women of the Bible, so I began to read some of the short biographies—the prophets Daniel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah; King David; Samson; the apostles Matthew, Peter, and Paul. …