Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.
Is the above statement a fact or something I believe? How do you define “the greatest basketball player of all time?” Is it championship rings? Well Jordan has 6, but Bill Russell has 11. League MVP’s? Kareem has 6 of those to MJ’s 5. What about points scored in a career? Well that’s Kareem again. MJ scored 7000+ fewer points.
Do those statistics matter to me? No! Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of ALL TIME! Period!
So again, is that a fact or something I believe? What’s the difference?
According to dictionary.com, a fact is
something that actually exists; reality; truth:
While the same source defines believe as a verb meaning
to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so:
So a fact is something that is quite simply true regardless of anything we may do or say, but to believe or have a belief requires action.
I can’t prove His Airness is the best beyond all doubt, but I will argue that point to the death because I believe it. If I won’t actively, passionately, and verbally defend MJ then I do not truly believe he is the greatest of all time.
Maybe basketball isn’t your thing, so before I get where I’m going let me give another example.
Gravity. Is gravity a fact or just something we believe in? Now I’m not going to get all scientific and go into theory vs. laws etc., but gravity is both. It actually exists and something we have confidence in. It exists outside of how we act regarding it, but believing in gravity requires action.
We carefully follow toddlers around when they learn to walk because we know inevitably, they will fail and gravity will cause them to fall. We take elevators or stairs instead of jumping out of our windows because we believe gravity will pull us down and we’d be injured. We commonly think adrenaline junkies are insane when they jump off of bridges, out of planes, off of cliffs etc because we believe if any little thing goes wrong they could die because we believe in gravity. We act and refrain from certain actions because we believe in gravity.
Okay we’re just about ready to get to the point but let me take a moment a bridge it all together. When we truly believe in something we will be willing to 1.) verbally defend it ,i.e. MJ’s supreme hoop skills and 2.) act or refrain from certain actions because we believe in it.
Imagine you are taking a walk along a nice scenic bridge. As you’re walking around looking at the water or a boat or a bird or whatever, you see a young woman climb onto a rail in the distance in front of you. She’s shaking a little; looks scared. Suddenly she extends her arms and prepares to jump. What’s your natural inclination? Most of us would run toward her screaming and begging her not to jump. You don’t know her, but you don’t want her to die, so you start telling her all about what she has to live for. But it’s too late, she jumps! By the time you get to the spot she jumped from, you realize she is swinging on a bungee cord and her friends are standing behind you laughing.
Now, in that moment you verbally defended your belief in gravity by giving her arguments for not jumping and by trying to get her to refrain from actions that would cause her harm. You didn’t even think about it, but your complete belief in gravity compelled you to act.
So…Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you believe He is the savior of all mankind who took on all our sins? That if we just accept the gift of His sacrifice we can live eternally with Him in paradise?
Do you verbally defend Him when His name is taken in vain or when people dismiss His power and His blessings? Can you defend Him?
Have you ever been in a room where you were the only one who did believe, and a subject such as Creation or the salvation/afterlife came up? Did you shy away? Did you pull a Peter and deny Him to save face? Did you speak up a little and say, “Hey, I mean, I AM one of those ‘crazy Christians?’” Or did you respond like I would if you tried to tell me Lebron James is already greater than MJ ever was? (No disrespect to LBJ, but just stop it with the comparisons already).
I’ve been in those rooms and I’ve had to ask myself a tough question: why were people comfortable in bashing my God right in front of me? Sometimes, it was because they didn’t care what I believed, but other times it was because they didn’t know I was a believer. If I wasn’t acting like a believer why would they think I was? Let me tell you something, that sucks! That will really make you step back and re-access where you are in your walk with Christ. It was a rough prayer of repentance that day. And you can’t just show up the next day with a WWJD bracelet and a fish sticker on your car and be different or expect people to believe you’re different. You have to really pray and read and work on yourself constantly.
You can’t fake it. Many people try and believe their doing a good job, but people can tell when your beliefs aren’t really your beliefs. It’s like the Jordan analogy. There are a lot of stats and facts you can throw in my face to say someone was better that MJ, but you can’t sway my belief because I’ve experienced his greatness. Bill Russell has his 11 rings but I didn’t see any of that. But I did see game 5 when Mike had the flu and could barely stand up straight. He shouldn’t have played at all, but the whole team was bricking everything and committing stupid fouls. They needed him and he went into beast mode and dropped 38. I remember the game where he hit 3 after 3 after 3 and just shrugged his shoulders because even he didn’t know how he got in the zone. I remember the “push off” of Byron Russell then the jumper from the elbow to ice the Jazz. I remember him hugging those trophies, the tongue wagging, standing on the announce table punching the air in celebration.
My point is, a true believer knows about facts and stats but feels the real proof is in the experience. I can quote scriptures and parables if you want but you’ll feel my belief when I tell you about the night I fell out of the back of an Escalade doing 75 on the highway and my drunk passed out friend just happened to wake up and grab my belt buckle when my head was hitting the trailer hitch. I’ve seen money in my bank account with no explanation of where it came from. I remember asking God to show me signs when I’d find the right girl to marry, then being ordained as a deacon at church the last weekend in January of 2001 and the elder praying for the same thing. Then meeting a lovely lady the last weekend of January 2002 who just so happened to have been born the last weekend of January 1982. I randomly proposed to her the last weekend of January 2007 (I did not make these connections until a year later).
Now that may seem random to you, but I’m infatuated with symmetry and numbers and ‘coincidences’like that. Jesus knows that about me. See He’s a personal Jesus and he knows how to reach His children in ways we’ll notice. He knew I’d see those signs. The most amazing part is the wife He meant for me to find; the answer to my and the elder’s prayers, was born before I was. He was looking out for me before there was a me to look out for. So I could quote scriptures or I could talk about prophesy and inundate people with His stats, but I believe in Him because I’ve experienced His hand on my life. I can’t fake that.
Okay, so you believe that Jesus exists already. Good! But believing that Jesus exists is not the same as believing He is Jesus Christ your savior. Like I said, belief requires action. You can’t be the same as you were before you met Him.
My mother told me a story about her mother recently. (I never was afforded the opportunity to meet her because she passed before I was born.) My mom was asking about what it was like to be saved and how you notice when Christ has entered you heart if you’ve always believed He was there and always gone to church and studied etc. Her mother said, regardless of who you are or how much you know or think you know, when Jesus comes into your life, He doesn’t come quietly. It’s so true. It’s hard to verbalize those moments sometimes, but you know them when they happen. And when they happen, it really does make you want to share it with anyone and everyone in some way. Now obviously you shouldn’t run around slapping people with a Bible all the time. That’s probably not going to be effective. But it does make you want to take action. You will want to change!
You can’t find that kind of hope, grace, forgiveness, and love and not be transformed into someone else. That internal belief will begin to flow out of you externally. And as your belief grows, showing it becomes more and more natural. It’s not always about spouting bible verses or getting all Kirk Cameron on people (no offense). It’s not about going out to prove what you know or what you believe, but that once you do truly believe, the proof will come out by itself. You begin to change in noticeable, even if somewhat minute ways. For instance, you might begin to say you’re “blessed” instead of “lucky.” Maybe your language is a little less sailorish. Maybe you walk away from the gossip table or you begin to stand up for the person being made fun of. Maybe you stop hitting the club every weekend and start going to church more regularly. Maybe you stop arguing with your spouse or your parents about every little thing. Or maybe you just have a smile and a glow about you that was missing before. It’s bound to be different for everyone because we have different struggles, but something will change. Everything may change. People will notice and many will want to know what caused it. Will you tell them? Will you defend Him if you’re challenged?
I hope you said Yes! You have no choice. Because now you believe. You have confidence in His existence. You believe He is who He said He was, which means you believe that He is your Savior. Which means you will fall in love with Him. And if you love Him, you will keep His commands(John 14:15) and go our and teach… Let me go a little stream of consciousness here and lets talk about that verse for a moment. See personally, I always looked at that verse backwards. I read it to say, “if you want to prove to me that you love me, you’ll follow my rules.” But what it is actually saying is, “Once you begin to truly believe in Me and love Me, you will naturally begin to understand what I’ve asked you to do and naturally begin to follow my lead.” See when you believe in Him you begin to hear Him speak to you and know it’s Him. You begin to understand it’s not just “conscience” but that still small voice your mother used to tell you about. A loving guiding voice that helps you go the right way and do the right thing. When you love Him you recognize Him. When you recognize Him, you listen to Him. When you listen to Him you end up following his rules. You want to follow His rules.
It’s the same as it is in the parent/child relationship (because that’s exactly what it is.) When you were a child, your parents stopped you from doing things that would hurt you. Not to be mean, but for your protection. You hated it at first but eventually (hopefully) you realized that all they were doing was trying to lookout for you. You stopped obeying just because you didn’t want to get punished and started obeying b/c you recognized that they knew better. For some of us, we don’t ever recognize that until we have our own kids, so if you haven’t figured it out yet, keep living. It’s the same thing with Jesus. His commandments are not just the 10 in Exodus. He gives us little guidelines and direction all the time. We ignore them from time to time because we don’t really believe or we don’t really care.
Remember the adrenaline junkies I talked about waaay up the page there? It’s the same with them. They jump out of things not because they don’t believe in gravity, but because they believe in having fun more than they believe they might die…..take a second on that one. They do what they do not because they don’t believe, but because they believe in having fun MORE than they believe they might die. Do we keep things in our lives that we aren’t really sure God wants there because we want that fun moment more? Do we justify activities when deep down we know better because we’d rather have fun? An example I’ve heard many times “The Bible doesn’t specifically say ‘Thou shalt not _______, so it must be ok right?” most people have something they battle the,selves about so I’ll give you a second to think of one of yours…
Got one? Okay, well let me ask you this: who are we having those inner debates with? When we are justifying something in our own heads who are we really talking to? He’s always there we just need to listen.
Now I’m not trying to offend or make anyone feel bad. I’m sure not claiming to have it all together myself. All I’m saying is that if we really believe that Jesus Christ is our one true savior; that He was sent to Earth by His Father, the One true God; that He gave His own life as the ultimate sacrifice to wash every sin that every single person on Earth ever committed; and that accepting His sacrifice and gift of salvation is our only way to forgiveness and our only hope to reach the wonders of Heaven and live in everlasting peace and perfection; shouldn’t that belief require us to do something? Shouldn’t that shake our foundations? And equally as important, when we come across a non-believer, shouldn’t we share what we know? Not to boast of our own righteousness because ours is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), but because we want people to have the same inner peace and hope that a personal relationship and belief in Christ provides?
Sometimes we are worried about the reaction people will have to us. We don’t want to be made fun of. Sometimes we don’t want to speak up because we’re worried we won’t know how to express ourselves properly. That’s completely natural. Lord knows I have those doubts when I write these blogs. Will I say the right thing? Will anyone read it or care? Will I mischaracterize something on accident?
But what we need to realize is that a person who does not believe is no different than the girl on the bridge about to jump. When you imagined her, you didn’t know what to say to her. All you knew was you didn’t want her to jump, so you just started pleading with her. You did the best you could to save her life. So what’s the difference? We’re not always going to know the best thing to say and we aren’t always going to be in the mood to witness when the opportunity arises. But when you believe, you know what the gravity of their situation the nonbeliever is in. Your job isn’t to be a perfect orator. Just try to get them off the ledge. You might feel you failed, but you might be the only one who tried. So take action and He can take it from there.