Faith is an interesting thing.
I find it fascinating that as we trace back human civilization – for as far back as we can see there has been some kind of faith, belief, or religious ritual. From cave paintings and burial rites to ancient temple complexes that were built while mammoths still roamed the earth, mankind has nearly always reached out for something greater.
A complete disbelief in God or the gods is a relatively new phenomenon. Religious belief has only come into question within the last few centuries – just a drop in the bucket compared to the full history of humanity. The burden today seems to be placed on those who believe to explain why rather than for those who don’t believe to explain why not.
For myself, I think of my faith in God as a river system. Belief in God is the large river cutting large swaths through the countryside. But that river had to form somewhere. Along the way, there are five smaller streams and tributaries — some larger than the others — that feed into the larger river of faith. As each of these smaller streams feeds into the others, the larger river begins to form and becomes an unstoppable force of nature.
So what are these streams, and why do they matter? I believe God reveals something of himself within each stream, and if we pay attention we will see the power and majesty of the mighty river begin to form.
I think this is where it all starts. Who on earth can look up at the night sky illuminated by stars and galaxies and not feel simultaneously small and incredibly important? The mountains, the ocean, waterfalls, rainforests, desert sunsets, peaceful snowfall on the evergreens – for man and countless others, they all point to a larger reality. The glorious, awe-inspiring beauty and design must have an artist, an engineer, an architect behind it all.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
This one is a bit more subjective, but I believe in God because I’ve felt him. I’ve felt his presence around me. I’ve heard the call of his Spirit to pursue a life of ministry. At one of my darkest moments I felt him whisper, “I’m not through with you yet.” I have known his presence in the midst of a worship experience, speaking to me through the lyrics of the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness. It’s like how you can tell when someone is looking at you from across the room, you can feel their stare… Or when you think you’re alone, but suddenly you feel the presence of another person enter the room before you even hear or see them… It’s hard to describe, but you know it when you feel it. Don’t discredit your own personal experience of God’s presence.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:1-3, 7-10
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Yes, I believe God is revealed in Scripture. Men and women throughout the centuries have had those experiences of God, encounters with the divine, and recorded them for us. God has chosen to reveal himself to us through the written word, preserved and passed down to us through the generations. We can know something of God through our personal experience and through our interactions with creation, but if we want to move from the general to the more specific — what is God actually like? — then we must seek him out within the Scriptures.
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
I believe that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God to humanity. This is by far the largest of the tributary system flowing into the larger river of faith in God. It’s been said that Jesus didn’t come to change God’s mind about humanity, but to change humanity’s mind about God. Do you want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus. Who does God love? Look to Jesus. How do we settle all the questions and debates about God in the Hebrew Scriptures (aka, the Old Testament)? Look to Jesus. Humanity had lost its way in fulfilling our call to be the Image of God in the world. Jesus comes and does it right.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-5, 14
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
1 Corinthians 3:16
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:12
One or two of these may be explained away, but under the weight of all five, it’s hard not to see evidence for God all around us. The danger comes when we begin to dam up the streams.
When we shut ourselves inside in front of our screens instead of getting out in nature;
when we fill our schedules so full that we never have time to experience the presence of God in the silence;
when we stop diving into Scripture because it no longer seems “relevant;”
when we stop following Jesus in favor of another lord or master;
when we cut ourselves off from the community of believers because who wants to wake up early on Sunday anyway?
…Then it’s easy to see how the rushing river of faith becomes nothing more than a mere trickling drainage ditch.
Are you damming up the streams of revelation that feed into the river of faith? Maybe it’s time to release the flood gates and reconnect with God.