In our culture there is much being said about the misalignment that exists between what Christian’s believe and how they behave. These conversations rightly gravitate towards the misaligned behaviors found in many Christians lives. While that is a very prominent issue facing Christianity today, perhaps the reverse – while not as talked about – is more important; many Christians today do not believe what the Bible sets for Christians to believe.
In 2007, a survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life discovered several startling findings on this issue. 57 percent of evangelical church attendees believe many religions can lead to eternal life. 68 percent said there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their own religion. Michael Lindsay, a Rice University sociologist of religion said this of these findings, “There’s a growing pluralistic impulse toward tolerance and that is having theological consequences.”
In other words, because we do not want to say someone else is wrong, we are accepting everyones beliefs as equal. The implication is that in the near future our churches will be full of people who may live the “right” lives, but will have all the wrong beliefs.
In the gospel of Mark, we read of encounter Jesus had with a man who had just this struggle. A young boy had been possessed by a demon for much of his life, so this boy’s father made one last ditch effort to save his son: he went to Jesus.
When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion… Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (Mark 9:20-21).
It is right here that this man’s belief is revealed. He comes to Jesus because he does not want to miss an opportunity to have Jesus help him, IF HE CAN, but he is still not sure IF HE CAN. Sure, the father does the right thing by coming to Jesus, but when his beliefs are weighed, they are found wanting.
Every Sunday, our churches are full of people who are just like this boy’s father. We come to Jesus singing songs about Him, offering our services for Him, giving of our finances to Him, but not really believing in Him. Many Christians are good people who love their families, have integrity at work, are assets to their communities, but there is a major misalignment between their behaviors and beliefs.
So we must ask ourselves, “Do we really believe?”
Do we REALLY believe that God is all-powerful, God is all knowing, and God is always present? We might believe one or two of these truths, but do we REALLY believe all of them?
Do we REALLY believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven? It may work for us, but when we consider that truth could leave out two thirds of the world we backtrack on this belief.
Do we REALLY believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God? Many Christians admire the Bible, they believe it offers good insights into how to live their life, but do they believe it to be completely without error?
Do we REALLY believe that the grace God gives us in Christ is sufficient? Far too many Christians opinion of their standing with God is not based on what Christ did for them, but what they are doing for God.
Our churches are full of people doing the right things, but living by the wrong beliefs. This father does the right thing. He comes to Jesus, but he does not believe. So how does Jesus respond? Not by letting the man off the hook! Instead, He draws attention to the heart of the issue.
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24)!
If you pause on these words of the father, you can almost hear his voice crack as he holds back the tears. With these words, Jesus would look across the crowd and then heal the boy who had struggled with this ailment for most of his life.
What should we do if we are doing many of the right things, but are struggling with doubts?
The first thing we see him do is BE HONEST ABOUT HIS DOUBTS. He does not argue with Jesus’ response to Him nor does he justify his doubts, instead he acknowledges he has unbelief.
We take the first step to finding answers to our doubts and questions when we are honest about them.
The second thing we see this man do is ASK FOR HELP.
If you are being paralyzed by doubt, get help to overcome it.
That help comes by praying to God about your questions. That help can come by simply opening your Bible and understanding what your beliefs ought to really be. Often, that help is going to come from reaching out to someone and asking them for assistance.
No matter where you are with this topic currently, you should expect there to always be a tension with maintaining the right beliefs and the right behaviors.