I remember arguing with a friend some time ago about the disparity between something in the Bible and our lived experience. It was the kind of frivolous argument Paul warns against [Titus 3:9]. As I tried to defend my stance, my friend asked: “is what you’re saying working for you?” I brushed off his question at the time, but I haven’t been able to forget it. I left that conversation wondering how many of the things I stoutly believe and avidly defend actually work for me. What if they don’t work for me, what then?
Let’s imagine two friends arguing about the efficacy of two different methods of losing weight. They can both be passionate about their methods and articulate their points succinctly. Imagine you’re observing them, and it became clear that neither of them has lost an ounce of weight by putting these methods into practice. What conclusions would you draw? Now, what if one of them has recently lost weight by applying the method they espouse, what conclusion would you draw then? Who would you be more inclined to believe?
Many of us hold certain convictions about how the world works, how to get ahead in life, etc. Despite some of the claims we make to the contrary, these convictions are foundational to our worldview and they dictate how we behave. We’re often so wedded to them that we feel personally attacked if anyone questions them. Yet, so many of us have never asked ourselves if these convictions actually profit us. We cling to them regardless because that’s what we know, and often we’re scared to scrutinise them just in case we don’t like what we find. In many cases, there might be nothing wrong with what you believe, but if it isn’t improving your life – bringing you peace, freedom or contentment, what then is the value of that conviction?
Sadly, this happens a lot among Christians. We claim to believe many things. However, there’s often little or no evidence that what we believe actually works for us. Our actions often reveal our true convictions when we fail to live out what we claim, especially when we’re under pressure [Proverbs 24:10]. This is one of the reasons unbelievers doubt our claims. Yet, it seems many Christians refuse to scrutinise their beliefs or confront experiences at odds with their claims. I can understand the dilemma because it’s hard to admit that something you claim to believe isn’t quite working for you. However, refusing to address this can lead to a deceitful life. As such, we’re warned that we can deny the God we claim to believe by our actions [Titus 1:16]. Nevertheless, God isn’t mocked by our duplicity [Galatians 6:7].
The truth is that as far as God’s word is concerned, God has staked His reputation on the fact that if we abide by it, we’ll find it profitable [2 Timothy 3:16-17]. So, if you find that what you believe about God and His word isn’t working for you, what then? A wise preacher once said that if you find yourself in this conundrum, then assume the Bible is right, and you’re doing something wrong. It’s a safe bet [Psalm 119:89]. If this is where you find yourself, don’t bury your head in the sand and refuse to address the proverbial elephant in the room. Don’t just acknowledge the elephant but do nothing to address the situation either. I’ve come to understand that God is unbending with His principles, and He doesn’t show partiality to anyone [Romans 2:11]. Therefore, if you apply His principles as He has instructed, they’ll work for you. If you don’t, they won’t work for you.
So, have you scrutinised what you believe and how it impacts your life lately? Ultimately, the truest measure of what you believe is revealed by how you live – the choices you make. Your life today is a composite of your past decisions, and those decisions were driven by your worldview. So, as you look at your life today, do you like what you see? If you don’t like what you see, are you still holding to those convictions that got you to where you are today? Do you have the courage to admit that something is wrong, and you need God’s help to make changes? Because as merciful as God is, He won’t impose His assistance on us. However, if we turn to Him and admit that something is wrong, and ask for His help, He’ll give us all the help we need [Hebrews 4:14-16].
I’ll be honest, up until recently, I’d hadn’t give much thought to what wasn’t working for me. But as it’s often the case, life has forced me to confront some things. I now have a better understanding of what isn’t working for me and why. Realising this has made a huge difference to my outlook. I’m no longer perplexed by my struggles and more than ever, I’m convinced that I know what to do to change my future. Even better is the fact that I’m not responsible for my desired outcome, insofar as making it happen in my strength. In doing what God asks of me, I’m essentially betting on God and His integrity. At this point in my life, I know enough about God to be certain of the outcome.
I see two common mistakes among Christians. We either try to make our relationship with God what it isn’t, or we try to explain away the dimensions of the Christian experience we’re missing in our lives, as though our experiences could invalidate God’s word. Both are erroneous positions and neither position profits us. Yet, if we can humble ourselves like Job [Job 6:24], and diligently submit to the instructions of the Lord [Psalm 19:7-11], we’ll find that He rewards those who diligently seek Him [Hebrews 11:6].