From Head to Heart
It is our relationship with God that saves us, not solely our knowledge of Him.
I’m coming to find in my life that knowledge often lets me down. But God never lets me down. If I trust in my ability to understand what God is doing in my life, I will be disappointed when I come across something I don’t understand. If I simply learn to trust God, then I am never disappointed.
For me, I have found that the preoccupation with having to understand everything is a hindrance in growing my relationship with God. I have had to focus on moving the knowledge in my head to a trust in my heart.
If I simply learn to trust God, then I am never disappointed.
Some may read this and feel uncomfortable, because it may sound like I’m saying that understanding the Bible isn’t as important as simply trusting God. This is a complex and confusing topic, and I find it hard to explain. I often find when trying to describe something that is difficult, it can be better to define what you are NOT trying to say.
- I’m not saying that if you read and study the Bible enough that your knowledge will save you.
- I’m also not saying that all you need is to trust God and He will save you.
Reading and understanding God’s word is important, but it is not the goal. The goal is to grow closer to our Creator and his Son, our Lord Jesus. This is a conversion process. It always begins with knowledge. It must begin with a desire to understand the Bible. You must know God to trust Him. But if you just stay in the knowledge gathering mode your whole life and don’t use that knowledge to build a relationship with God, then you have no hope.
1st Corinthians 13:8 famously tells us that “love never ends,” but “as for knowledge, it will pass away.” You must be converted. Whatever knowledge that you develop in your life must bring you to a lasting and growing relationship with God.
It is our relationship with God that saves us, not solely our knowledge of Him. God is concerned that you have an active and growing knowledge about who He is. How else can a healthy relationship be built if you don’t know who He is?
God is more concerned that you trust Him. What good is all that knowledge of God if you don’t develop a relationship with Him? The relationship grows because you add more knowledge about who God is and what He stands for. You also nurture it by experiences that you share with God.
Effectively, you grow your trust in God by hearing how He has dealt with those in the past, and by seeing how He deals with you today. You won’t be saved if your faith is still based solely on knowledge. That knowledge must bring you to a trusting relationship with God for you to be saved. Proverbs 3:5 comes to mind, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
You must have things that you understand correctly. But the Faith that is described in the Bible is based in trust in God (rather than us), and a faithfulness to God by being humbly faithful to others. Each time we are stretched to deal with something outside of our familiar patterns of thought, we have the opportunity to grow.
Life is a series of challenges to a faith that is preoccupied with correct thinking. You see things, hear things, and read things that make you question what you once thought you were certain about. You are exposed to articles, blogs, posts, songs, stories, movies, shows, and conversations that make you stop and think.
Peter Enns, a Christian author and college professor, ran an informal survey1 in 2013 that asked the following questions: What are your one or two biggest obstacles to staying Christian? What are those roadblocks you keep running into? What are those issues that won’t go away and make you wonder why you keep on believing at all?
He writes: “In the days to come, I was overwhelmed with comments and e-mails from readers, many anonymous, with bracingly honest answers, often expressed through the tears of relentless and unnerving personal suffering. The responses fell into five categories.
- The Bible portrays God as violent, reactive, vengeful, bloodthirsty, immoral, mean, and petty.
- The Bible and science collide on too many things to think that the Bible has anything to say to us today about the big questions of life.
- In the face of injustice and heinous suffering in the world, God seems disinterested or perhaps unable to do anything about it.
- In our ever-shrinking world, it is very difficult to hold on to any notion that Christianity is the only path to God.
- Christians treat each other so badly and in such harmful ways that it calls into question the validity of Christianity., or if God even exists at all.”
As I read over that list, I had an overwhelming feeling that those survey answers totally resonated with me. It’s not that I don’t have answers to those problems. I’ve had answers that I have shared with young people and friends who have brought similar questions to me in the past. It’s just that I don’t really feel like my answers are genuine, accurate or honest.
I’ve learned now that I don’t have to have answers to those questions. I shouldn’t expect myself to fully understand the way that God works or why He does what He does. When my faith is based on the knowledge that God is good, that He loves me, and that He is all-powerful, then it doesn’t bother me when I don’t understand something.
That doesn’t mean that I have given up on thinking about these things. I am in a lifelong, loving relationship with God and Jesus, and I want to do all that I can to better understand these questions because I believe that will improve my relationship.
You may have noticed that all five of these issues have one thing in common. Peter Enns describes it well. “All five categories have one big thing in common: Faith in God no longer makes sense to me. Understanding, correct thinking, knowing what you believe—these were once true of their faith, but no longer are. Because life happened. A faith that promises to provide firm answers and relieve our doubt is a faith that will not hold up to the challenges and tragedies of life. Only deep trust can hold up.”2
The common denominator is that it doesn’t make sense to us as humans. From a human point of view (the only one we have fully in this dispensation) these things seem wrong. “For now we see in a mirror dimly.” 1 Cor 13:12. With practice and knowledge, we can begin to see through what we understand to be a more divine point of view.
We may want to reconsider the answers that we give our young people when questions like these arise in their lives. We may want to reconsider whether we give them answers at all.
We can be honest and admit that we do not have all the answers.
For me, the gut reaction has been to jump to the defense of the Bible and give them a workable answer, pieced together from other important concepts in the Bible. It is best to come to their level and relate to them that these are things that we find troubling as well. We can be honest and admit that we do not have all the answers.
Share with others that you agree that these really are challenging questions, and that you struggle with these issues yourself. But also, be sure to share with them the one big certainty that we do know: God is good, God loves us, and God is omnipotent.
God knows way more than we will even come close to knowing. His understanding is way beyond ours. We need to come to love God, and to trust that God is doing what is best. My head may not always be able to understand why God does something, but my heart trusts Him.
Simi Hills Ecclesia, CA
1 Enns, Peter. The Sin of Certainty (pp. 119-120). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.
2 Ibid. (p.120)