In July, Terry and I went to the yearly Nazarene gathering of South Carolina, known as District Assembly. It is always a great time of learning and coming together with other believers.
During one of the sessions, one of our missionary speakers said something along the lines of “one day someone will ask you to give a reason for your hope.” What he said reminded me of the struggle I once had with verbalizing why I believed what I did. This struggle began when I went to college. As a freshman, I quickly learned that I could not rely on answers like “because I believe” or “I just have faith.” And I certainly could not tell someone that it was simply what I always believed and what I grew up learning. That would make my faith nothing more than a tradition. College is filled with people ready to debate and belittle your life-long beliefs. But honestly, if I was an unbeliever and someone gave me any of those reasons for their faith, I’d have to question them also. So I knew it was high time to claim my faith and make it my own. I couldn’t ride on the faith of my parents or anyone who has gone before me.
Books like “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis and “The Case for Faith” by Lee Strobel did a lot for me and growing my faith. I tend to feed off of intellectuals of the faith more than those who speak of emotional testimonies. Of course, both have their place, strengthening one another, but the scientist in me needs reason and sound theology. This sermon series by Midtown Church also helped me to better understand the history and evidence of Jesus Christ. Then, as a senior I went to a presentation by John Lennox that helped me to better understand the connection between God and science (watch here).
After I heard the missionary say that, I began to fervently write down what I would say if asked to give a reason for my hope. Here is what I came up with, from my own experiences and from things I have read or heard that have stuck with me.
–Jesus was either God (who He claimed to be) or a crazy person. The “good person” idea cannot stand. A good person does not claim to be God if that is not true. That makes him a liar.
–Truth exists. Saying something like God “is right for some but not for all” does not make sense. If God is real, which I believe He is, He is real for all people, not just some. If you think that God is only real for those who believe, then you’re acknowledging that He is real. If you are saying He works for some people, but not you, you are saying He is unreal. God can’t be both real and unreal. He is not dependent on what man believes.
–Our brains are limited. While some brains have proved to be extraordinarily brilliant, there is a cap on how much we can do. This reason really has more to do with why unbelief doesn’t convince me of anything. There is so much in the world and in life we may never understand, but I believe that someone does. Someone who knows how each individual ticks and exactly how and where the universe expands to.
–Nature speaks for itself. When I look around, I see the work of a skilled artist. The way the earth so magically exists and how beauty can be found everywhere. The way that gravity and energy can be calculated by a formula. It all blows my mind and points me to the Creator.
–I’ve had spiritual experiences. It has often happened while worshiping, but it has also happened when walking to class, sitting alone in my room, having in-depth conversation with loved ones, or looking into the eyes of a stranger. Quite suddenly everything feels illuminated and I feel like I might begin to float. It is unlike any other earthly feeling. The current day or time or place has no reins on this experience. I can be thinking of nothing and it can arrive, demanding all of my attention. I do not feel it with my heart or mind, but with my soul, my spirit. It is a glimpse into eternity that remains in me just long enough to keep me grounded until the next visit.
–The testimonies of others and myself cannot be disproved. Hearing that God has caused people to make 180⁰s in their lives is not at all uncommon. Most believers can tell you of a time that God has rescued them. If not, they can tell of a time they have seen God radically change someone else’s life. God has rescued me in my own life from a time of despair and hopelessness, it is the power of God that sustained me and pushed me to live.
–GOD IS FULFILLING. This is probably my number one reason for my faith. Nothing- no relationship, no goal or aspiration, no life experience, no thing or person, can make me feel whole like I do when I am focused on God. I have heard this time and time again from others, but it is the truest thing I know. I never felt complete of fulfilled for more than a temporary time, until I completely gave myself to God. I don’t have to try and I don’t to have to strive to be anything but His own. My freedom is because of Him.
This list of reasons is not at all exhaustive, because almost every day I learn, hear, or see something new that strengthens my faith. Along with these reasons are how God’s love is not exclusive nor does it have to be earned. My faith is based around love, the one thing that holds human kind together.
I know that these reasons would do nothing to convince some to consider a living God as true. But these are the reasons that sustain my hope. I have seen so many people who have hardened their hearts to the idea of a God and I no longer try to heatedly debate them. I know now that if anything will convince someone it is love. Unconditional love that expects nothing in return. Love that causes people to act and to forgive and to speak out.
Because of these truths, this is my favorite Bible verse:
“No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” 1 John 4:12