Faith As A Verb

"I know, Lee, that you're a former atheist," Anderson said. "You could probably come up with a hundred questions about God that I wouldn't know how to answer. But do you know what? It doesn't matter, because I've discovered that this is true.

"I didn't develop a silly grin and glassy eyes. I've discovered it is more blessed to give than it is to receive. I've walked and walked with this. Every time I discover a new insight, every time Jesus speaks to me personally in ways I can't even articulate, every time I practice his teachings and experience the results-well, after a while I don't care how many intellectual questions you have about why this can't be true. I know it's true.

"It's like you say, 'Prove to me that a rainbow is beautiful.' I say, 'Well, it's red and green.' But you say, 'I don't like green and red together.' I'd say, 'But the way they are in the rainbow, it's beautiful!' I've never heard of anyone who thought a rainbow was ugly. When you are able to actually look at it for yourself, then I don't need to say any more. You've seen it, you've experienced it, and you know it's beautiful.

"I think faith is like that. Eventually, you have to move out and do it. By the way, in the gospel of John, faith is never a noun, it's always a verb. Faith is action; it's never just mental assent. It's a direction of life. So when we begin to do faith, God begins to validate it. And the further we follow the journey, the more we know it's true."

While his analysis had appeal, nevertheless there was an apparent loophole. "If faith is experiential, then you could get into Buddhism and find that meditation lowers your blood pressure and makes you feel good," I pointed out. "But that doesn't necessarily mean Buddhism is true."

"But remember that experience is just one avenue of evidence," he cautioned. "You also have to clarify the object of your faith, to determine if there are valid reasons for believing it's true. But the ultimate test of the pudding is in the eating. Buddhism does work for some things; atheism works for some things. But if you pursue the whole Jesus journey, you find that his teachings work consistently because they're true. Christianity isn't true because it works; it works because it's true."

I smiled. "It sounds like you're speaking from experience."

"Well, I'll tell you what-my faith is a lot better than it was thirty years ago. Do I have it all together? That would be stretching it. But I am so much more at peace with who God is, I'm so much more confident that I'm in his arms, and I believe that he accepts my feeble attempts to glorify him with my life."

"Do you ever have moments when you still doubt?" I asked.

"Oh, man, yeah!" he exclaimed. "I struggle with why I don't make more progress in overcoming my pet sins. Surely this can't be God's fault-but on the other hand, why is he making it so hard for me? I have those kind of doubts. I struggle with the horrible things happening in Kosovo and Indonesia and parts of Africa, where whole races are being annihilated-some of it in the name of religion. Why doesn't a loving God deal with this? I'm not saying I don't believe in him. I'm saying I don't have the complete and final answer to that question."

"Is there hope for congenital doubters like yourself?"

Anderson was adamant. "Yes, yes," he insisted. "Absolutely. When I say I struggle with my doubts and sins, I don't want to sound like someone who is being defeated or who has no hope. One guy from my church read my book on doubt and said, 'Oh, no! You mean you don't really believe?' I told him, 'No, I really do believe but would you help me with my unbelief?'

"These days, I'm experiencing God more than ever. I can even see God's grace in those times when he feels absent from me, just like the attributes of my wife seem more real when I'm away from her because I long for her. I pray more these days, and I see more of God's response to prayer than I ever have in my life. I feel less need to control other people or outcomes because I know God is in control.

"And ironically, I feel less equipped to answer all the objections that come from brilliant skeptics. But do you know what? That doesn't matter to me like it used to. Because I know this is true. I see it.

"I see it in my life, I see it in my marriage, I see it in my children, I see it in my relationships, I see it in other people's lives when they're changed by the power of God, when they're renewed by him, when they're freed by his truth."

Anderson's voice had an undercurrent of confident authority. Then, with a ring of finality, he declared: "Lee, I've tasted. I'm telling you-I've tasted! And I have seen that the Lord is good."

My mind flashed back to the image of a rural Canadian youngster in anguish over his doubts, desperately searching for solid spiritual ground to build his life upon. And now-not despite the doubts but because of them - he's found it. His personal experience with God is confirming to him over and over what no empirical evidence could ever prove.

I reached over and turned off my tape recorder. "Thanks, Lynn," I said, "for being so honest."

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