What Exactly Do You Believe?

Charles MartinBy Charles Martin9 Minutes

Excerpt from They Turned the World Upside Down: A Storyteller’s Journey with Those Who Dared to Follow Jesus by Charles Martin

Throughout the earthly ministry of Jesus, and leading up to and through the resurrection, the apostles’ problem was our problem. Belief. This has always been the problem.

So, let me dig at you a bit: What exactly do you believe? Let me put some teeth into this question.

  • If God asked you to build an ark, would you?
  • If He asked you to sacrifice your son, would you?

Okay, let me bring it closer to home.

  • If He asked you to pray for the sick— someone who was in a coma on life support attached to a ventilator, moments from being “unplugged”— would you?
  • If He asked you to cast out a demon, would you?
  • If He asked you to pray for a dead person, to bring them back to life, would you?

Still too tough? Okay, what if He asked you to:

  • Forgive someone who didn’t deserve it— at all. Would you?
  • Tell the Muslim with the prayer rug in the cubicle next to you about Him. Would you?
  • Risk a relationship with someone you love to tell them that their sin is not righteousness— even though they adamantly and defiantly claim that it is. Would you?
  • Go to a friend’s house to pray for their child who is a cutter. Would you?
  • Tithe before you pay taxes and your bills when money is already tight. Do you?

According to Jesus, the kingdom of heaven has come to us (Rev.12:10). If you are in Him, then you are in the kingdom. He also tells us that unless we become like a child, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3). Why is that?

I think it’s because children trust their fathers without needing to know why they should trust them. They just do. Peter hopped out of the boat as a child. Then began walking like an adult.

How would a child respond to the questions above? How would you? A few weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon, I found myself in a pool in my neighborhood with a bunch of our friends. Lots of people, kids, much chaos. One of my friends was playing with his son who’s two. Mind you, he — the two-year-old — can’t swim. At all. And yet that boy jumped a hundred times off the edge of the pool and into his dad’s arms. And most of the time, it was when his father wasn’t looking. Why is that? Because he believes in, has faith in, his father. Period. He has yet to let the water speak into his mind what it can do to him.

And it can kill him.

The word for “belief” is pisteuo. It means to “have faith in.” Or “put trust in.” Like that little boy jumping off the edge into the arms of his father. Pisteuo isn’t simply a decision of your head. It’s an action of your heart. And legs.

Take bungee jumping. Let’s say you and I are standing on a bridge where people are bungee jumping. It’s one thing to stand there, point at the rope and the little apparatus they lock around their ankles, and then watch as the folks take a swan dive off the bridge as we comment casually from the comfort of the sideline, “I believe that rope will hold me and so will that thing around my ankles.” It’s another thing entirely to walk onto the bridge, strap the rope around your ankles, and take a Peter Pan off the bridge. Positionally, standing there and watching others jump is believing that. Strapping it around your ankles and jumping into nothingness is believing in.

Big difference. The latter is pisteuo.

At the ends of the Gospels, Jesus was rebuking His friends for failing to believe in. For failing to pisteuo.

People who believe that, watch.

People who believe in, jump.

What gets people from the edge of the bridge to sailing through the air? I’m not sure I can answer that except to say that they do something: they respond to the invitation. “Come.” “Follow me.” And all the others. I can articulate difference between the watcher and the jumper in one word: Faith.

Faith acts. And it acts on what Jesus did and said.

Your and my first problem is that we don’t really believe what He said. If you really press us, we think that two thousand years has somehow changed His meaning. That time and science and medicine and the further development of humankind has somehow changed all that. That we know better today. That His command in Matthew 10:8 two thousand years ago doesn’t mean what Matthew 10:8 means today.

In truth, I’ve seen more not healed than healed. But I don’t pray because everybody is healed. I pray out of obedience. Because He said to. If I stop praying, the problem is me. Not Him. So, regardless of outcome, I keep praying. I am believing in.

I think our final problem is that we just don’t care. Or at least not enough to uproot us from our lazy, self-satisfied, smug, electronics filled, screen-staring worlds. And if you are thinking that for one second, I’m excluding myself from this last problem, don’t. I’m writing from experience.

It might help you understand what I’m saying if you read What If It’s True? In that book, we came to Jesus with hurts. With broken places. With need. And we opened our chests and invited Him to heal those broken places in us. To redeem us. And He did. In this book, we have come to Jesus with eyes open wide and hearts eager to follow Him. In answer, He directs our gaze at those around us who are broken and in need of healing.

And as we stare, He speaks to us, He commands us to use the authority and power He’s given us to do in others what He did in us. To be His hands and play a role in that process for another.

Said another way, in What If It’s True?, the blood of Jesus worked in us and for us. In my book, They Turned the World Upside Down, the blood of Jesus is working through us. First in and for, and only then through. And for the blood of Jesus to work through us, we must circle back and confront our problem.

We must believe in.

Taken from They Turned the World Upside Down by Charles Martin. Copyright ©2020 by Charles Martin. Used by permission of Nelson Publishing, an imprint of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com

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