He saved them from the hand of the foe;
from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
The waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them survived.
Then they believed his promises
and sang his praise.
But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
In the desert they gave in to their craving;
in the wilderness they put God to the test.
So he gave them what they asked for,
but sent a wasting disease among them.
- Psalm 106:10-15
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
- Hebrews 11:1-4
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
- John 3:16-21
“When you are asked for trust, you may give it or withhold it; it is senseless to say that you will trust if given demonstrative certainty.”
- C. S. Lewis, On Obstinancy in Belief
“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?… Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.”
- C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
I recently watched some of the Ryder Cup competition. The team that the USA put together seemed unbeatable, and they won handily, a record number of points, but still, there were easy putts that were missed. I have had nothing riding on a putt, other than pride, and I have still heard my knees knocking, so I understand the circumstances. The USA Team was mostly youngsters, but will this be their last victory?
Why bring this up? Who would you say that you could “believe in” to win a point for the USA Ryder Cup team? Most modern pundits claim Tiger Woods was the greatest golfer of all time, but when it came to Ryder Cup points, he won only 36.5% of the points that he could have won. Sure, a lot of those losses were when teamed with another player, but let’s compare his record to a couple of other Ryder Cup golfers of the past, some that the pundits may have forgotten. Who has the most Ryder Cup matches for the USA? Phil Michelson, but he also has a monstrous number of losses. Even then, he won about 45.7% of the points that he could have won. My favorite golfers were Jack Nicklaus (64.8%) and Lee Trevino (66.7%). I liked Nicklaus because he had style, and he won a lot of tournaments while being a family man. I liked Trevino because he was entertaining, but he knew when to get serious. But as for the Ryder Cup, possibly the best team player was Arnold Palmer with 74.2% of the available points.
Why go through all those numbers? Even the best did not win every point, at best about three out of four. So, even when it is not life or death, you cold not trust any of these great golfers to get a point for you.
The three greatest hitters in Major League Baseball, thinking of batting average, were Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, but they barely got a fraction more than one hit out of three times at bat. Failure two out of every three times,
Only four NFL quarterbacks have completed more than two thirds of their passes: Deshaun Watson, Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, and Teddy Bridgewater. Since three of these quarterbacks are still playing, they may not end up above two thirds. People make mistakes. Gusts of wind happen. Good defenses can make it harder to catch the pass. And receivers can simply drop the ball.
I am speaking of believing that an athlete can do what they have spent their life doing, and we cannot get a guarantee anywhere.
When it becomes life and death, you cannot rely on anyone, or can you?
Never mind asking about politicians. We know their track record. We believe fervently each election day that the day after will be better, and whether our candidate won or not, times are rarely better and often worse.
We cannot even count on our beloved pastor to deliver a winning sermon every Sunday. There may be an occasional dud. Not a bad sermon, but one that did not move your heart in the right direction.
But when it comes to Jesus, God requires us to believe and trust in Him. The Greek word, according to those who know these things, means a combination of believe and trust. There is no turning back, because it is a life or death proposition. Jesus may not answer all our prayers with “Yes” because not all our prayers are within God’s will, even those that we have convinced ourselves are prayers for the glory of God. But God is always there. He always loves us. And everything works for the good of those that love the Lord, even when it may not seem good at that moment. And Jesus saves us from eternal punishment. We become adopted children of God. We will live with Him forever in paradise. As the psalmist said, we may forget God, but God will never forget us. It is a life-changing thing. We will never be the same again.
In trusting in Jesus, we are not just saying that Jesus existed 2,000 years ago and we believe that statement. We are saying that Jesus exists today and is active in this world, and He wants a real relationship with each person who calls Him Lord and Savior. We can trust Jesus. We can rely upon His promises. And in trusting in Him and loving Him, all you want to do is to be more like Him.
We rely on Jesus because it is a matter of life and death.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.