Just as faith is a choice, so is unbelief. Both begin and are sustained by a decision. I decide to believe or I decide I will not believe. I decide to look for evidence of God or I decide to look for evidence there is no God. In effect, faith and unbelief are both forms of faith and require constant reinforcing
an ongoing pattern of choosing
an ongoing pattern of looking for evidence of God or evidence there is no God.
Everyone lives life by faith. Just ask them, theyll tell you what they believe, and they guide their life accordingly and resist influences that try to change their thinking. The problem is no one can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that what they believe is true. Atheism is a faith; science is a faith; materialism is a faith; sensuality is a faith; nihilism is a faith (there is no ground for truth or morals); existentialism is a faith (there is no real meaning to life, you have to invent one); communism is a faith, and obviously all world religions, cults and sects are faiths. As humans you and I have no choice but to live by faith. The question becomes: what will I choose to believe; what concepts will guide my life; what steps will I take to prepare for death? And whatever I choose will mold me, and change me into its image. Taking this one step deeper, you might say all humans worship
but what or whom we worship varies widely.
Abrahams faith (Ro 4:16-22)
In verses 17-21 Paul gives us a remarkable insight into the internal process that took place in Abrahams heart as he chose to believe Gods promise. He describes the moment Abraham became righteous by faith. He pictures him standing outside his tent under a starry night sky with the unseen but very present God in front of him. As we know from reading Genesis 15:1-6, on that evening God told him to look up and try to count the stars. Then He said that someday Abraham would have so many descendants that to count them would be as difficult as trying to number the millions of stars overhead. In time he would become the father of a vast, innumerable host.
The statement placed Abraham in an awkward position. Both he and his wife were both long past their years of fertility, so for this promise to be realized a nature-defying miracle would have to be performed on both him and Sarah. Yet he decided to believe (diakrino, v 20). He understood God to be the divine creator of the universe, and as such to have the power to bring the dead back to life and call into existence things which do not yet exist. And if He has the power to do that then Abraham determined He must certainly have the power to rejuvenate their bodies and give them a child. So long past any natural hope of having a child with Sarah, he chose to hope again based not on the laws nature but on the power of God and also His will which He expressed when He said, So shall your descendants be (v18).
What faith is not
Willfully forcing my mind to believe something that isnt true.
The power of positive thinking
Real faith is not something we generate in ourselves, its something we receive. It is a gift God give us (Eph 2:8, 9 - For by grace
), but to receive that gift we must make a decision to believe.
What did Abraham believe?
(v17) He chose to believe that God can bring people back to life from the dead.
(v17) He chose to believe that God can create something to exist that does not now exist, and that He has created the universe out of nothing.
(v18) He chose to believe that God would do what He promised to do even after all natural hope was gone (beyond hope upon hope he believed).
(v19) He chose to believe that God intended to keep His promise no matter how long he had to wait.
(v20) He chose to nurture his faith so that it grew stronger over the passing of time.
(v21) He chose to believe that God has the power to do what He says Hell do.
Why do people chose to not believe?
Every person would have their own story to tell, but it seems the reasons fall into certain categories. In my opinion most atheism, is rooted in:
At God: for failing to answer our prayers. In effect we become so angry we kill Him.
At people: a bitter, hateful attitude toward another person hardens the heart and makes it cold to faith (Mt 6:14, 15) (people who suffer great violation, betrayal).
2) Fear of judgment: I relieve my own psychological pressure by convincing myself that there is no God who will hold me accountable after I die for my rebellious life.
The pleasures of the world draw me so strongly that I have to begin denying God (I dont believe in God!) to calm the worry that Ill be punished someday. If I admit Hes there Id have to stop, and I dont want to.
3) A reaction to bad religion: The picture I have of God which has been formed by what people have taught me or modeled in the way they live is so unloving or cruel or unfair or powerless or vengeful that I must, at least, find another god to worship.
It comes down to these questions: What or whom will I worship? What voice will I listen to? What steps will I take to prepare for my death (eat, drink and be merry,: 1Co 15:32)? There are so many voices calling to me, to whom will I listen, in whom will I place my faith?
I personally believe that God has, in one form or another, reached out to every human regardless of the culture into which they are born. I believe that deep down we all know Hes there, and we all know Hes holy, and we all sense He wants us to come to Him. But at this point a battle begins in the mind as voices clamor with accusations, false teachings, temptations and doubts.
You can see this reality at work in children. Small children tend to ask religious questions even without prompting even in religiously hostile homes. They intuitively sense they somehow belong to Someone whos there, and those feelings have to be driven out and diligently repressed or they emerge again during key passages of life (births, marriages, divorces, funerals, illnesses and birthdays that ends in zero.)
Theres a spiritual magnetism, theres a gravitational force that pulls at us and has to be consistently resisted or well awaken to the One whos there
the One in whom we live and move and have our being (Ac 17:22-28).
1) He didnt know the name of the One who told him to leave his family estate and wander until he would be guided to a new land. He had to make a choice.
2) He didnt have any natural reason to believe God would give him and Sarah a child in their old age. But he chose to believe.
3) It made no sense when God asked him to offer up Isaac because, aside from the repulsive idea of human sacrifice, this was the child that He had said would begin his descendants (Heb 11:17-19). But he chose to believe that God would raise that son back to life.
Abrahams decisions are recorded in biblical history for us to see, and the result of these decisions can be tested. We know whether Abraham was mistaken or wise, whether God did what He promised or not. We have the advantage of looking back over 1000s of years of history. We know God literally delivered on every promise.
Now the questions is: will we choose to believe the promises Hes given us concerning Jesus Christ?
1) If you believe in Jesus, describe a moment when your faith was tested and you had top choose to believe again.
2) Are you having to endure in faith now, for health, provision, safety, the salvation of a loved one? What steps do you take to make your faith stronger?