It all began with Isaiah 7:9b, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” (NIV) This verse kept sticking in my mind. In the Message Translation it reads, “If you don’t take your stand in faith, you won’t have a leg to stand on.”
So what does this have to do with cross cultural workers? Everything! Our faith is tested frequently as we live in cultures not our own. Our reasons for what we say and how we act are questioned. Attacks to our faith come from within and without. And we often don’t have the support we came to rely on in our home country. Two people and their difficulties with faith have challenged my stand in faith.
Some time ago, someone I dearly love and who was raised in the faith, declared he was now an atheist. He no longer believed that God existed. He had been hurt in the household of faith, he felt believers were hypocrites, and thought those outside of faith were just as good, just as moral, and sometimes much better people than those he had grown up with.
I was afraid for him because he was turning his back on the One who had done such marvelous things in his life. I was sad for him that he refused to find grace from God to forgive those who had hurt him. Who among us has not been hurt by our brothers? Who has not seen hypocrisy? But just because men fail us doesn’t mean God is not faithful.
I had never thought I could understand apologetics. The logic of the arguments always seemed too intellectual for me. But because of this loved one, I began to read books that answer questions challenging our faith. I plowed through Total Truth by Nancy Pearcy. Then I read, more easily, Dinesh D’Sousa’s book, What’s So Great About Christianity? I began, but haven’t gotten very far in A Meaningful World by Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt. I’m beginning to feel more comfortable with the examples, but I still don’t follow all the logic.
In this study, I’ve seen my own faith grow stronger. Although I may never be able to logically debate a steadfast atheist, I know what things are absolutely non-negotiable for me. I also see that Christianity is based on facts that cannot be proven if one is unwilling to take them by faith. But then, atheism must be taken by faith as well. They don’t believe there is a God. They believe being good is good enough. They believe there is no meaning to this life.
Another dear friend is angry with God. “Why didn’t He answer my prayer? I prayed for one thing for many years and never saw an answer. I won’t pray anymore. I don’t believe God is involved in people’s lives today.”
I’ve taken a different approach to this one. I’ve reminded her of how many answers to prayer she has seen. I’ve shown her how her prayer was answered, just in a different way than she expected. I’ve challenged her to get involved in a women’s prayer meeting that is vital and active and to go to Bible studies that will feed her faith.
I find my own faith is challenged every time I tell her I will be praying for one of her needs. Will God answer this prayer? Will she be able to see verifiable results?
My husband teaches that we may have two different kinds of beliefs. First, there are our stated beliefs. These are the beliefs we quickly state when asked about our faith. We sing them on Sundays, read them in our devotionals, and even proclaim them to the world. They are statements we’ve heard since the earliest days of our new life. They are what we think we believe. Then there are our actual beliefs. These are the beliefs that we live out day by day. These are the ones that influence our actions, attitudes, relationships, and expectations.
Is it my actual belief that God answers our prayers or just my stated belief? Have I experienced His answers in a way that lays a solid foundation for my faith? Or am I trying to convince both this young woman and myself that God answers prayer? I can only stand firm on my actual beliefs. My stated ones will crumble and fall when challenged.
So whatever the challenge to your faith, are you standing strong? Will you take some time this month to begin evaluating what are your non-negotiable, actual beliefs? When you find yourself making a statement of faith, take note of it and then take time to reflect on the foundation of that belief. Like the Message Version puts it, “If you don’t take your stand in faith, you won’t have a leg to stand on.”
For an article on some practical ways to strengthen your faith see: How’s Your Faith?