Friday, May 08, 2009

Trusting What You Can't See? (A Re-Run)

[I wrote this back in June, 2005, and thought I'd present it again now.]

"You're packing a suitcase
For a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed
To be seen"

The words come from Walk On, a song by U2, written in honor of the Burmese activist, Aung San Suu Kyi. In it, Bono and his bandmates urge the political prisoner to carry on with her life and work, trusting that the free land she envisions, a place far different from the one that keeps her under house arrest these days, will one day come into being.

The lyrics were the first thing to flash through my consciousness as I awoke this morning--odd because I haven't listened to the song in many weeks--and they set me to thinking about the whole phenomenon of trust or faith. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen," a wise person once noted.

"Is that true?," I wondered as I woke. Then I remembered hearing people catalog all the things we do each day as articles of faith, entrusting our lives to numberless, faceless people, circumstances, and things we know nothing about.

Often offered as an example is flying. I love to fly! But boarding a jet entails trust in pilots I've never met, flight controllers I've never seen, ground crews I don't know, engines and other physical components of the plane I've not examined, FAA officials charged with ensuring that all we passengers will be safe, and principles of aerodynamics that, as a post-modern primitive, I frankly don't understand.

And yet, I never think about these things when I board a plane. I trust that all will be well.

The God many believe is revealed to the world in Jesus Christ seemed to enter my life decisively back when I was in my mid-twenties. I sensed Jesus telling me, as He has billions of people down through the centuries, "Follow Me."

Follow a Savior you can't see because He promises you harmony with God, peace with yourself, and a new life that goes beyond the grave? It seemed ridiculous. I was insensitive to all the ways in which I entrusted my life to the unseen and unproven and thought there was no way I could ever surrender my life and will to Christ. Or should. (I still struggle with that trusting surrender. In fact, it's true to say that much of the life of faith, for many of us, is about struggling to trust. I myself am a lot like the man who told Jesus, "I do believe; help my unbelief!")

There were two major impediments preventing me from taking up Jesus' "Follow Me" invitation.

The first was Jesus Himself. In spite of having been brought up in a "Christian culture," I didn't really know Him. Jesus is history's greatest rorshach blot. On Him has been thrust all manner of interpretation and spin, from supposed Christians justifying murder, conquest, and oppression to the ignorant who approach him with what they call faith, but is really superstition.

I decided to get to know Jesus for the first time in my life by reading what His earliest followers said about Him in the New Testament gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. (I'm reacquainting myself with Jesus right now in a series of blog articles called, Getting to Know Jesus One Chapter at a Time.)

The second and bigger impediment to my following Jesus was His resurrection. I had never met anyone who'd come back from the dead. Still haven't.

Getting to know Jesus triggered a reaction I never would have anticipated: I fell in love with Him. I learned that He wasn't a milquetoast in a bath robe but the ultimate giver of tenacious love. He positively haunted my thoughts and consciousness. I wanted to be with Him all the time.

But a resurrection? A Savior Who died two-thousand years ago, risen from the dead and still living. Even after I became aware of scholars like Pinchas Lapide saying that they bought the historicity of Jesus' resurrection, I still found it hard to swallow.

Maybe you share the skepticism I once had. If so, please ask yourself a few of questions.

First: Do you find Jesus credible? If you do, then remind yourself that the New Testament Gospels find Him repeatedly saying that He would die, taking our punishment for sin, and then, rise again to offer life to all who trust Him.

Second: Why did more than five-hundred people risk their lives to avow that they had seen the resurrected Jesus? That's how many the New Testament reports having seen and talked about Him.

And: What's the likelihood that a conspiracy to back such a lie or in service to what some have suggested was a mass hypnotism the likes of which have never been seen, if the resurrection were a lie, would stand the test of time? There was simply no good reason for these people to risk supporting a Savior Who had been executed. It exposed them to the possibility of the same fate. But they did, many giving their lives in the cause.

Okay, you may say, "I'm ready to accept the possibility of following Jesus. I'd even like to do it. But I find it hard to trust."

The Bible understands this. It insists that we can't believe without the help of God's Spirit. So, if you'd like to trust Christ, please tell God this. The God Who came into the world to experience all that you go through and to go to a cross for you is more than willing to meet you where you are. Just say something like, "God, I want to believe that Jesus has come into the world to change my life forever and that He has risen to give me this blessing. Help me to believe."

If you do that, I know that it will be the beginning of many changes in your life.

Let me know if you've offered that prayer and I'll try to provide some pointers for how you can open yourself to a relationship of deepening trust with Jesus Christ.

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