What does it really mean to say, “I believe?”
If belief is nothing more than mere intellectual assent to a specified set of propositions, then most of us are probably doing pretty well. For example, I believe in the deity of Christ. He is in fact the Son of God, much more than a moral revolutionary (as philosophers would like to reduce him too) or a great prophet (Islam’s verdict). I also believe that God incarnated himself in the historical person of Jesus, who many would accept as the Christ. I also believe that he died on a wooden cross at the hands of merciless Romans. Tacitus, the great Roman historian, and Josephus, the great Jewish historian, concur. I also believe that Jesus, called the Christ, was raised from the dead. If I did not believe that, the death of Jesus would a very lame ending to such a great life. Dead people cannot change anyone. I believe that Jesus is returning and that for those who have followed him, it will be inexplicably wonderful, and for those who rejected him (either directly or indirectly), it will be unfathomably horrible.
I can believe in one of two ways, either with my mind or with my heart. Believing with the mind does not necessarily mean that I am believing with my heart, but believing with my heart requires that I also believe with my mind. For example, I cannot believe with my heart that the delegation of unicorns is ruling the universe as we speak. It is too foolish. This is similar to Bertrand Russel’s celestial tea pot and Richard Dawkin’s flying spaghetti monster.
Furthermore, to believe with the mind is to nothing more than to give intellectual assent to the truth content couched in a particular (or particular set of) proposition. I might say, “I believe in that the following proposition, ‘Jesus is God’s Son’, is in fact accurately representative of reality.” But notice, I can make this claim an believe in this first sense without ever being impacted with such a belief. Sadly, I probably just described over 1/2 of “Christians” in America. James wrote, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19). In other words, the demons give assent to the truth-content of the proposition, “Jesus is God.” The problem is that the belief does not impact/influence their existence. It is a useless belief. This is probably what prompted Billy Graham to have once said that probably 80% 0r 90% of people in American churches on Sunday morning are not saved.
To believe with the heart is what God is after. It is a belief in Jesus that demands every part of you. James writes, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”(James 4:5). To believe with the heart is an all-consuming affair. To believe with the heart is a force that cannot be compartmentalized. In other words, it is a longing, a yearning, a heart-cry that cannot be tamed enough to apply it to one area of your life and not to another.
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God, when shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalms 42:1-2)
“O God, You are my God. Early I will seek you. My soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalms 63:1)
“My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord. My heart and flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalms 84:2)
Where did your hunger go? Where did your thirst go? The crying, desperate heart for the Lord? To see others know the Lord? To make a difference? To reach broken people? Again, what happened? Where did you get off on the wrong path? When was it that you started believing in the 1st sense of the word as opposed to the 2nd? What will you now do about it?
There are two different versions of ‘have to’: the have-to of duty and the have-to of desire. “I have to do this” can be an admission that there is a duty you need to fulfill even if you do not want to. The “I have to do this” of desire is an admission that you cannot help yourself. I have to get up early or stay up late to open God’s word. I have to pray. There is a longing, a desire in my heart that makes me miserable unless I am feeding it on a regular basis. The church at times seems full of duty-based have-to people. We need to stir ourselves up to call on the Holy Spirit to place within us the have-to of desire. This desire-flavored have-to is motivating, stirring, inspiring, even provoking. You become miserable if you do not surrender to the divine longing. It is God at work in you and through you to move you to Himself. This is a great time to lose control.
Will you be miserable and cry out until your hunger returns? Fight to see that hunger and thirst for the Lord return to your spirit/soul/body. Please do not settle for anything less. Eternity is at stake. God’s purposes in your life are at stake. The people who are suppose to receive Christ through you are at stake.
Religion does not recognize the language of hunger. The thirsty heart. The desperate cry. David’s wife, a picture of religion, mocked his exuberant worship. Mourn over your dry heart. Cry out for hunger. Cry out for thirst. And then, wait for the Lord. He can produce this heart in you. So, believe, really believe, in the only way that matters.
Are you hungry anymore?