My wife recently planted four plants in our garden. We were trying to teach the kids how to plant and maintain a flower patch. The plants seemed okay but after a few days of scorching heat, one of them started to wither. We put some composts around it and watered it daily but nothing changed until the plant died. We later discovered that the roots hadn’t been buried deep enough. Its common knowledge that plants will wither, especially under harsh conditions, if their roots are not deep enough. However, this is also true about faith.
Jesus alluded to this in the parable of the Sower and He specifically highlighted a category of people who hear God’s Word, welcome it, but cannot endure when the trials of life come because they had no roots [Matthew 13:20-21]. One thing that is certain in this life is that no one is exempt from trials [John 16:33]. I am learning that life is the great corrective to our pretensions about faith. What I claim to believe will be tested in the crucible of life and what I truly believe will be revealed in my response.
The trials of life also reveal our true worldviews. Under pressure, will we subscribe to what the Bible teaches? Will we cling to Jesus or look elsewhere? Paul wrote this to the Colossians looking for answers in a world of conflicting worldviews: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” [Colossians 2:8 NIV]. He said this after encouraging those Christians to “continue to live their lives in Jesus, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” [Colossians 2:6-7].
A famous Christian apologist says that our overarching beliefs must address questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny. That is to say, our worldview must consistently explain how we got here, why we are here, how we are supposed to live life and where we are heading. Do you really believe that all of us are made in the image and likeness of God? That we are uniquely crafted and given a purpose by a God who is eternally sovereign over all things? Does this impact how you treat others? Do you believe God is able to redeem any situation and bring good even from the worst of circumstances? Does this impact how you view trials? Do you believe that God cares about how you behave especially when no one is watching? Do you really believe you will stand before God to give account for your choices?
These are not just hypothetical questions because every day our actions reveal our answers. I was chatting with a friend about the cultural and religious shift we experienced when moved to the UK. Growing up, the church was the social epicentre of the community and life revolved around the church itinerary. We attended school with the kids we went to church with and everyone around us believed the same thing. We were somewhat sheltered and we never really questioned our beliefs deeply. As a result, we were unprepared for the assault on those beliefs and the plethora of worldviews we encountered when we left home. Away from the security of that community, our beliefs were truly put to the test and many of us struggled.
I see something similar happening to a lot of young people who have followed their parents to church all their lives but have probably never taken their faith seriously or questioned their worldview. Out in the real world, they struggle to describe their faith, let alone give a reason for it [1 Peter 3:15] and unsurprisingly, they are swept away by other ungodly philosophies [Ephesians 4:14]. So many are unable to identify false teaching especially if it is coming from a church pulpit because they never studied God’s Word for themselves and they are led astray. While others leave the church because they are unable to reconcile what they think Christianity is with real life.
Sadly, the Church often doesn’t prepare Christians, especially young people, to face real-world issues. Some preachers aren’t willing to be uncompromising in their message or address unpopular issues because of the repercussions. Some are legalistic, turning Christianity into a list of dos and don’ts which do nothing to build faith. In today’s society, its no longer sufficient to say “do this and don’t do that” without a coherent, relevant explanation. Now more than ever, Christians need to be able to explain their faith intelligibly and witness it in the midst of the circumstances of life. Yet so many can’t because their roots aren’t deep enough. Others forsake the faith when the going gets tough or deem it irrelevant.
Are you able to reconcile your life with your beliefs? Can the people around you vouch to the authenticity of your faith? Christianity isn’t subscribing to a series of nice, irrelevant ideas. It is a lifelong commitment to follow Jesus who claims to be The Author of life with the message of eternal life [John 6:68]. His claims are either true or false. As C.S. Lewis once put it: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” The depth of our faith will be tested by the circumstances of life. Like the plant in my garden, if your beliefs aren’t firmly rooted, your faith will wither.
The question we all have to ask ourselves is this: “how deep are my roots? Will I blossom or wither under the pressures of life?”