Sometimes, I meet people and they say to me, “I wish I had your faith” or, “Your faith must bring you great comfort.” It is as if they have no control over whether they have faith or not; as if faith, like a ray gun, zaps us from heaven; or is something inside us that we are either born with or not. But faith is not something out of our control, forced upon us, or something with which we are born. No. Faith is a choice.
When I first gave my life to Jesus, I chose to do so. Up until that point I knew about God and I knew about Jesus but I had not chosen to let him into my life. I had not opened myself up to him. And so, at the age of 19, I sat by a campfire, under a starlit canopy, and said, “I choose to believe in you.” And from that night on, my life was forever changed.
Belief is not knowing something is true. It is more than that. The biblical word, to ‘believe’ carries more weight than simply believing that something exists. To believe in God is, as the Amplified Bible puts it, to believe in, trust in, and adhere or stick to. Biblical belief in Jesus is to put your hope in him, your trust in him, and to place your past, present, and future into his hands. It is to take a step towards the God who loves us; to enter into his embrace; to become one of his own. But, importantly, it is still a choice.
And there are many paths to belief. We can make the choice to believe in Jesus based on what we perceive as evidence, our intuition, experience, intellect, or rationality. Some people wonder and marvel at creation and believe. Some experience something outside of themselves and believe. Some come to faith through philosophical debate, and some are brought to faith through legal argument. Yet others can be radically irrational and simply choose to believe using nothing but their free will.
God will never cross over the line and overrule our free will. He will never enter into a life uninvited. The scriptures bear witness to the truth of who Jesus is. The church bears witness to the truth of who Jesus is. The Holy Spirit working in the world around us bears witness to the truth of who Jesus is. The gospel – the good news – has been proclaimed in word and action for 2000 years, and we can choose to believe it.
The disciple Thomas, poor chap, has been dubbed ‘doubting Thomas’. He felt left out when the resurrected Jesus appeared to all the other disciples except from him. Everyone else had this amazing experience but not him. Still, he continued to hang out with the rest of the disciples. He had not given up hope but he needed to see for himself – and then Jesus came to meet him in person. God did not want a single one of his disciples to be left behind, and today, God wants us all to meet the risen Christ. He may well have ascended, so we are unable, like Thomas, to touch the scars on his hands or his side; however, we can meet him in the here and now and the way to Christ lies open before us. All we have to do is choose to believe.
And, oh, what a glorious thing happens when we pass from unbelief to belief; when we put our trust in Jesus Christ. It is like a blindfold being taken from our eyes. As the Holy Spirit pours into us, we experience what Jesus calls ‘life in all its fullness’. It is as if we had spent our whole lives locked in a tiny candle-lit room and thinking that room is all that exists, only to walk out of the room and see it from the outside looking in – blazed in the glorious heat, light, and warmth of the sun. The whole world literally opens up. We pass from death to life. We pass from darkness into glorious light.
So, today, may you choose not to stay locked up in the cramped, tiny room of a Godless experience. May you use your free will to choose to get up, open the door, and be free.