Too many people think God is a concept. He is an idea, a theory, a way of understanding the world. Since He cannot be seen it is hard to believe in Him. After all, how can you trust something you can’t even touch? In school we learned that gravity exists by observing that every time we let go of an apple it falls. But there is no such ‘drop test’ to prove the existence of God. Yet, despite this lack of “proof”, many intelligent people do believe in God. Thousands of people throughout history have devoted their lives to serving Him, despite the fact that they have never seen His face. Ultimately this may lead us to wonder, does it really matter? Does a belief in God really change anything about our lives? Is a belief in the existence of a higher power solely a theoretical idea; something to be discussed at the dinner table with friends?
The Bible is clear about the answer to this question. It tells us that believing in God changes everything about our lives. Accepting God’s existence is a life-altering belief, not only in the hope that it gives us for the future, but in the way God’s presence can change our lives now.
A Promise of Eternal Life
In the most basic way, a belief in God saves our life. God tells us if we believe in Him, and in His son, Jesus Christ, we will be saved from perishing. John’s gospel tells us,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Our belief in God gives us a hope of eternal life. If we believe in God, He will give us life. If we turn our back on Him we will inherit death as the deserved consequences of our actions.
What is this eternal life God promises? God promises that there will be a time in the future when His son, Jesus Christ, will return to earth to establish His kingdom. At that time those who have believed in him and are found faithful will be given immortal life and will live with Christ forever. The Apostle Paul says:
We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him…For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16)
A Difference in Our Lives Now
But the change that occurs in our relationship with God is not just in our future. While a belief in God gives us great hope for a wonderful eternal life there is a very real way in which a belief in God also changes our lives in the present. The Apostle Paul explains a present day difference between those who believe in God versus those who do not. He reminds the believers in Ephesus of how their lives changed once they believed:
At that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ…through him [Christ] we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:13-14,18,22)
Before the Ephesians believed in Christ they were “foreigners” to God’s promises. They were “without hope” and “without God,” with no inheritance and nothing to look forward to. But what a difference once they were “in Christ”! Where they were once estranged, they are now “brought near,” no longer foreigners, but “citizens” and family members in God’s house. A citizen is someone who can partake of the full rights of membership in a society, with privileges a foreigner cannot claim. Likewise for us: once we are a member of God’s family we are grafted in to the great promises God has given His people both for the future and for the present. And when we are in Christ, we become a place in which God’s Spirit dwells. What a wonderful change both in terms of our future, and our present!
The Picture of a Loving Father
What does it mean to have God as our father and to be known as His child? Does this really change our daily experience?
Accepting God as our father brings with it all of the blessings of a human family. God promises to those who love Him that He will care for them like a father cares for his children. For example, in the Old Testament, the Bible records how God brought His people out of slavery in Egypt. He had promised them He would bring them to a beautiful land, a new country they could call home. While on their journey, the people faced many obstacles, such as enemy nations, that made them afraid. But God told them:
“Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God who is going before you will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord our God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went till you reached this place.” (Deuteronomy 1:29-31)
God cares for His people in real and meaningful ways by providing for their needs and protecting them from harm. Just as a little child needs his father to provide him with food, shelter and safety, once we are a part of God’s family, He will provide for all of our needs in a parental way. For example, God tells the us:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened unto you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)
God’s promises of hope are not just for the future, but make a real difference in our lives right now.What an amazing promise! The Creator of the universe invites us to ask Him for help, and He promises that He will hear and answer! Who wouldn’t want God’s help in navigating this difficult and often confusing experience of life? All God is saying we have to do is ask!
The Place of Suffering in Our Lives
So does this mean that once we believe in God we will get everything that we want? Does a belief In God mean that life will be easy? Even a superficial look at the lives of believers makes it clear that the answer to this question is “no.” It isn’t true that once we believe in God our lives will be free from trial. There are many examples within the pages of scripture of righteous men and women struggling through terrible hardship and trial. How can this be if God promises to answer our prayers and love us as a father? Well, it is because God loves us like a father that He allows us to experience hardship in order to grow. King Solomon writes:
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves as a father the son he delights in. (Proverbs 3:11-12)
Just as in our own parenting there are times we allow our children to experience difficulty in order for them to grow, God likewise permits us to endure times of trial for our own good. We, just like little children, need both praised when we do well and rebuked when we make mistakes. But experiences of suffering are more than just God’s disciplining us in order to teach us lessons. The trials he allows us to undergo build our character. James tells us:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
We are to face trials because they are good for us. They build character, faith and maturity. And no matter how difficult the challenge, God promises He will carry us through. God will demonstrate to us over and over again that He is the source of all life and that His blessings are abundant enough to meet all of our needs. There is nothing He cannot do, nothing He does not understand. And it is through these experiences that we will come to understand how high and wide and deep the love of our Father truly is.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-32,35,37-39)
Because of this relationship the believer has with God, he should therefore have confidence that everything in his life is under God’s control. A belief in God should change our daily experience. We no longer need to spend time wrestling with the anxieties of life. God has promised to care for us in all ways, both in times of plenty and through times of trial. Our every day life should feel much easier because of this belief. We are relieved from the burdens of stress and worry that heavily weigh upon those who do not believe in God.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap; they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet, I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed as one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire. How much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:22-32)
It should give us an enormous sense of relief and a peace to know that God is actively involved in every aspect of our life.
What God Asks of Us
What does God ask from us in order for us to receive these life altering blessings? Firstly, that we the have faith that He is the creator of the universe. That He does love us and has a plan of salvation for mankind. Paul tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who diligently seek him.” (Heb 11:6) God promises that if we are willing to put our faith in Him as more than just a concept, believe that He is living powerful Father, we will see evidence of His existence in our lives.
Secondly, as our act of faith, we must become a part of God’s family through baptism into His name. In order for God to become our Father, we need to become His children. Baptism is the way God has created for us to be “reborn” into a new family, one with God as its Head.
You are all sons of God through your faith in Jesus Christ, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)
Through baptism we leave our natural family allegiances behind and adopt a new family name through God’s son. We are no longer known as Jews or Gentiles, Americans or Africans, wealthy or poor. Instead we belong to a new family, God’s family, and can enjoy the privileges that God showers upon His children. God makes the pathway to Him plain.
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16)
So, does believing in God really matter? Does it really change anything about our lives? The resounding answer from scripture is, yes! God promises to those who love Him a hope far greater than anything this world can offer us. Paul tells us, “God our Savior…wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) If this is God’s hope for us all, what are we waiting for?
Written by: Brethren in Christ (Christadelphian) Church members