Faith and Hedging Our Bets (Mar – Apr 2009)

By Matt Dabbs

by Kelly King Walden
January – February, 2009

I don’t think we really believe. There are some who do, but most of us are waffling. We believe in God – that intellectual acceptance of the reality of his existence that the demons have – but we don’t really believe what he says.

We keep hedging our bets. We believe our reward is in heaven and not on earth, but just in case, we want a nice home here, too. (We’d hate to live a life of sacrifice only to find out it didn’t count.) We believe that prayer works, but just in case, we don’t ask for anything too big. After all, miracles have ceased and we have to be realistic in our prayers. (We’d hate to pray in total faith for something preposterous that God maybe couldn’t do.) We believe people are lost without Jesus, but just in case, we don’t want to risk relationships or create awkward social situations. (We’d hate to look provincial and fundamentalist in our pluralistic culture.) We believe enough to go to church, but just in case, we’re not going to show emotion or be too vulnerable. (We’d hate to look foolish and undignified if our fellow Christians aren’t going to be demonstrative or transparent, too.)

If people, including our own children, are really going to believe this gospel is true, they’re going to have to see some drastic changes in the way we’ve done Christianity in the past few generations. We’re going to have to live a more radical life, and not just the Shane Claiborne kind, but also the apostle Paul kind. Paul was fearless and completely convinced that Jesus was God. He confronted and persuaded everyone he came in contact with, from prison guards to government officials. (Can we speak the gospel to clerks and bosses?) We’re going to have to live the Jim Eliott kind of life – believing God enough to walk into savage, Godless, enemy territory and lay down his life. (Are we ready to head into radical Muslim territory?) We’re going to have to live the George Mueller life, trusting God enough to pray “impossible” prayers, requests that can’t be granted by man alone. (Do we believe enough to pray these prayers out loud, to make them public in our churches?) If we live a safe, cautious faith, our message will be completely unnoticeable in the bustling marketplace of ideas that exists in America.

It strikes me that the motto for many Christians has been I Thessalonians 4:11: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your own hands.” Taken out of context, this verse has been an excuse to lay low and blend in. I stand guilty of wanting a tranquil little domestic life of Bible study and regular church attendance. But, just in case you haven’t noticed, that minimal, risk-free faith requirement doesn’t work. When we narrow our focus to one or two areas of the Christian life that we can handle without risking a lot (like Bible study or church attendance), we, and our churches, become insular and petty. It’s an inward focus that requires minimal spiritual maturing. And when churches focus inwardly, with an unwitting emphasis on keeping the saved saved, their membership at best plateaus, then dwindles. Not only do we not reach the lost, but the people with real, abundant faith who put it on the line daily don’t want to hang out with people who don’t really believe. And we may respond in surprise that we DO believe, but these faith=filled people are not listening because they’re too busy looking at our lives.

So what would our lives look like if we really believed? What would a church look like where the people really walked by faith? Our churches would retain their warmth and camaraderie, but we would better share this love with the REAL outsiders – the druggies, the families on public assistance, the kid who doesn’t know how to behave in church – not just the new families who are transferring in. We would be just as social in our “fellowshipping” after services, but there would be more spiritual content to our conversations – not just “Did you see the game last night?” and “Where did you get that purse?”, but more “What have you been studying in the Bible lately?” and “What do you need me to pray for this week?” Our churches would keep on joyfully singing God’s praises, but we would be more willing to incorporate into our services confession of our sins and stories of what God has done in our lives. If we no longer keep these things personal and private, our spiritual family can grow in belief from our changed lives and our answered prayers.

And when we start taking God at his word, our lives will not be so cautious and hesitant. We will be able to give away chunks of money and not fear that we’ve sacrificed our future comfort. He told us to give, and it will be given to us, running over, poured into our laps –Luke 6:38. When we start taking God at his word, we won’t let worry consume us and we’ll exhibit true peace to the world. He told us to pray about our anxieties and refocus on thankfulness – Philippians 4:6-7. When we start taking God at his word, we will not hesitate to walk into dangerous neighborhoods or hostile countries to be his hands. He told us not to fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul – Matthew 10:28. When we start taking God at his word, we can live a single, celibate life and not fear we’ve lost our only chance at love or pleasure or family. He told us that whatever we sacrifice for his sake, we will receive a hundred times as much and eternal life – Matthew 19:29. And, certainly, when we start taking God at his word, we will pray more. For then we will truly believe in the power behind that prayer. He has promised us that if his words remain in us, we can ask whatever we wish, and it will be given to us – John 15:7.

This life with God is full of uncertainty, and pain, and joy. It’s an adventure, but we keep trying to live it without any risk. Let’s quit playing it safe. Let’s quit hedging our bets and truly give it all to him. Let’s believe God with our lives.New Wineskins

Kelly King WaldenKelly King Walden

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About...

Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1584 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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