Belief and Desire
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).
What we believe determines how we act. Christians know that terms like belief and faith have far-reaching consequences for their own lives. If we believe in God, then this is the starting point for pleasing Him:
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb 11:6).
“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’” (Rom 10:9-11)
What we believe about reality and truth is critical, for that, in turn, will affect every action we take. It will determine the course of the rest of our lives. Yet, Christians also know that an unbelieving world often mischaracterizes and misrepresents biblical faith. It is described as fanciful wishful thinking, accepting something as true without having any evidence. Christians need to show that such concepts about faith and belief are not true or biblical.
Yet is belief merely about what a person arbitrarily wishes? Do we believe something just because we want to regardless of what the evidence shows? Do we disbelieve something just because we want to? Either is possible, but does that have to be the case?
People will find themselves somewhere in here or between. Look carefully at the differences:
1. They want Jesus to be Lord and they believe He is.
2. They don’t want Jesus to be Lord, but they believe He is.
3. They want Jesus to be Lord, but they don’t believe He is.
4. They don’t want Jesus to be Lord and they don’t believe He is.
None of these make the claim that Jesus is Lord true or false. These are descriptions of subjective desires and beliefs, not objective reality as such. Further, while some may think that numbers 2 and 3 are more honest than 1 and 4, the fact that someone wants Jesus to be Lord or wants the Bible to be true does not mean that the truth must be the opposite of those desires (else 2 and 3 would prove opposite claims). People can be honest and also be correct in their desires. To be sure, 2 and 3 will present more cognitive dissonance in one’s thinking, but there is nothing particularly more noble about not wanting something to be true but believing it is anyway, or vice versa. Shouldn’t we want to believe what is true?
The real question is not what I want or do not want to be true. What I must do is identify my biases to the best of my ability and seek the objective truth. I know anyone, including myself, can spin the facts. We live in a world where such spin is to be expected in the reporting of any news item. Yet that doesn’t mean that there is no truth to be discovered and understood even after we’ve identified bias and spin. We must work hard to grapple with presuppositions and biases, then find the truth in the midst of these.
Wherever you are in the spectrum, there is always going to be something noble about the search for truth and the willingness to accept it no matter the cost. But that’s not because the acceptance of truth is just some mental assent, especially in this case. The acceptance of truth changes lives, and perhaps it is that fact makes us desire or not desire something to be true. Some will want Jesus to be Lord because of the peace that acceptance offers; some don’t want Him to be Lord because of the demand such would make upon their lives (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; Luke 9:23). Neither will prove the case, but neither negates the importance of the search either.
The search itself take honesty, and this is what Scripture shows is noble:
“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men” (Acts 17:11-12).
Notice the connection between noble-mindedness, the search, and belief. They did not just wish to believe and so they believed. They wished to search for truth, found it, and believed it.
Acceptance that Jesus is Lord is indeed life-changing. That truth, however, is not based on one’s desire. It is based on the reality of what really happened. As Luke said, he investigated everything carefully and then put it down in writing for Theophilus so that he might certainty concerning the things he had been taught (Luke 1:1-4). Search and see the evidence. It’s there. The question then becomes, do we want to know and accept the truth?