I love chick flicks, and if we’re going to have a long-term relationship, you’re going to need to accept this. In the 2010 flick, When in Rome, five people stuffed into a Vespa 400 microcar are careening toward the glass doors of a building when the magician inside closes his eyes and sends his energy toward opening the doors:
“Only BELIEVE!” he intones, and everyone yells in desperation, “I BELIEVE!”
And the doors open — because the people believe, not because the doors are automatically programmed. Sigh. That’s Hollywood.
“Believe” Is a Multi-Faceted Word
While believing is an essential part of Christianity, there’s always the question, What are we believing in? In Mark 9: 23-25, Jesus gives us a major clue:
“Everything is possible for him who believes,” Jesus tells the father of a demon-possessed son, to which the father immediately replies:
“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9: 23-25).
In this case, the parent had expressed doubt about Jesus’ ability to do something, and Jesus made it quite clear that part of believing in Him is that we fully accept his infinite power and ability to do anything He chooses. ANYTHING.
Believing 101 and Believing 102
Okay, that’s Believing 101. Believing 102 is more difficult, and it is frequently the part eclipsed by the Mega-Watt Just BELIEVE Speakers who urge people to voice their wants and desires in such a way that God has to answer their prayers, simply because they the people have said the right words in the right way:
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)
There’s that Believe word again, but it’s definitely not being used in the sense of careening toward closed glass doors, shouting out, “I BELIEVE that these things will open, simply because I’m being so loud and determined about it!”
Belief, in and of itself, is not enough, because the essential matter is this: What are you believing in?
The Power of God, or God Himself?
“I’m believing in the POWER of God,” the Mega-Watt Speaker replies. “Speak it, declare it, announce it, BELIEVE it, and the POWER of God will be released in your life.”
While it is vital that we believe God CAN do anything, we also have to address the issue of whether or not he WILL do anything, and it is in this matter that the Mega-Watt Speakers lead people astray.
God is not obligated to do anything we ask, just because we ask it. While words are powerful, and God Himself spoke the world into existence, the mere syntactical arrangement of the “right” words, coupled with a strong enough belief that this cunning verbal skill of ours will open the doors, is hocus-pocus, not Christianity.
And it is a hocus-pocus that has potential to damage people’s faith, because when they BELIEVE hard enough, and they say the right words, and they are still not showered with blessings, their logical conclusion is one of two things:
1) They didn’t do it right, somehow, because they don’t have enough faith
2) God isn’t who He says He is, and He’s messing with their minds.
Let’s look at Option 3, which involves the work of believing in the One He Has sent, from John 6:29, quoted above:
Believing in Christ is more than accepting that He exists and that He is all powerful — it is also accepting, in the worst of times, that He is all loving, all merciful, all kindness, all compassion — even. if. our. specific. prayers. are. not. answered.
Doing the Work of God
That’s where the “work” part comes in, because reaching for and achieving this acceptance is far more difficult than confidently speaking words and waiting for results; it is a matter of reading God’s word, talking to Him about it, patiently waiting, messing up as we impatiently lash out, reading more, meditating more, understanding something that used to confuse us — this all takes time, walking with God, collapsing in His arms, sitting by the side of the path in exhaustion and leaning against a tree. And then we get up and walk again, our hands in His.
It’s so much easier to jump into the Ferrari, yell out I BELIEVE! and roar forward.
But that only works for a few people, and the reason they can afford that Ferrari is because others are sending them money for the payments.
If you have been praying for something, earnestly, and it’s not happening, stop trying to tap into the power of God and seek out God Himself. He wants to walk with you, commune with you, teach you, love you, and your very insistence that He answer Your prayer, Your way, may be getting in the way of this.
It’s hard, I know. That’s why Jesus used the word, “work.”