Friday, October 30, 2015

Why I Am a Christian

I am a Christian. No one who knows me will be surprised by that confession. What might surprise some people is the path that brought me to faith. Though I grew up in the church, the son of a Presbyterian elder, the grandson of a pastor, faith in Jesus did not come easy for me. My years in college, and the years immediately following, were full of questions about what was real. It wasn’t obvious sin that kept me from Jesus – it was the question of whether there was actually a Jesus to turn to.

My path to the faith ran through the crucible of doubt. My doubts were intellectual and emotional. I questioned whether God existed, whether Jesus was truly divine, whether the Bible could really be trusted; I also questioned whether, if God did exist, he would actually care about me, whether he would be willing to forgive me, whether I even wanted forgiveness. My doubts were as comprehensive as they were unyielding.

Some people will tell you that doubt is evil, and that God is not interested in your questions. They say that you should simply believe, and everything else will take care of itself. That kind of certainty without evidence has always eluded me. Doubts were a constant companion in my young adult years. But I’m certain that even in my doubts, God was there, patiently helping, guiding and answering, even when I didn’t even realize it.

Now, it is certain that doubt is never seen as a virtue in the Bible, but neither are doubters cast into utter darkness with no chance to have their questions answered. God is gracious to us in our doubts. If you have doubts, you are not alone. We don’t like to talk about it in the church, but I’m convinced our numbers are legion – people with questions, who don’t know where to turn for answers. The great news is that there are answers available.

What finally broke through the gridlock of doubt for me? My doubt turned to faith on a simple premise – Jesus rose from the dead. Something happened on that first Easter morning roughly 2,000 years ago. After Jesus’ death, his disciples had all scattered. They were afraid they would be next on the cross. We find them, even after hearing reports of his resurrection, hidden in a room, afraid they’d be found. But then Jesus shows up. And that’s when things start changing.

History tells us all of the original disciples (except Judas, who killed himself after Jesus’ death) went to their graves proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the grave. And there was no benefit to them to lie about it. 10 of them died martyrs’ deaths. The 11th, John, was exiled to the island of Patmos to live his final days. None of them gained anything from proclaiming a lie. But there they were – until the day died, saying that Jesus, the Jesus who was publicly killed on a cross in front of thousands of people, had risen from the grave.

This realization was just what I needed – I went from wanting to believe, to truly believing. I went from hoping it was true, to being certain it was. Now, there are still days when I wonder about it all – but those days are few and far between – my worst days. The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of my faith. If someone could prove to me it wasn’t true, I would walk away from the faith immediately. And I think the apostle Paul would be right behind (or in front) of me. After all, he said “If Christ is not raised, our preaching is in vein, and your faith is in vein.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)

The bottom line is this – if you have doubts you are not alone. If you have questions, there are answers. If you want answers, you can find them. Your doubts are not something to be ashamed of - and they might be the very thing that lead you into real faith.  You might also find that in your doubts, Jesus was there all along, patiently pointing you in the right direction – faithfully pointing you to himself.