Why I Believe
Have you ever doubted if there really is a God? If your answer is “no", that’s awesome. I hope you never have a time when you need to look into why it’s worth believing in God. I hope this remains a trivial subject for you forever.
The reason I’m writing about this, though, is because, for a lot of people, including myself, there comes the point when the question ceases to be trivial. There are two main reasons why this can happen, in my experience.
First, you may come in contact with somebody who doesn’t believe there is a God. Even though you might find believing easy and something you take for granted, it’s usually lot more difficult to convince someone else to believe. Second, something comes along in your own life that shakes your faith in God, and then you start asking yourself, “Why do I believe?”
That second reason, the shaking of one’s personal faith, is what I see happening to King Jehoram of Israel in 2 Kings 6.
Jehoram’s Loss of Faith
“Is serving God worthwhile?”
To quickly summarize: Samaria, Israel’s capital city, was under siege by Ben-Hadad and the Syrians. The people had become depraved. They were eating their own children. Because things were so bad, Jehoram was losing his faith in God.
Here, “losing his faith in God” doesn’t mean one is questioning whether God exists. People rarely care about the theology of whether or not God exists. This notion might come later when they need to justify their reasoning, but what they usually mean is that they are losing faith that God will help them, that doing things God’s way is worthwhile. The result is they think they should do things their own way instead of conforming to the ethics, moral standards or guidelines from God. In short, it is less about belief in existence and more about trust. They are asking “Is serving God worthwhile?”
You can see this in King Jehoram’s own words: “Surely this calamity is from the LORD; why should I wait for the LORD any longer.” (2 Kgs 6:33) It’s not that he doesn’t believe in God as much as he thinks God is unreliable. He has been waiting for God to deliver him, and God hasn’t. You hear his thought process: “So really, what’s the point? I might as well just give up on God and go do things my way.”
If you were in this situation, you might ask, “Really, why should I believe? Clearly God doesn’t seem to be coming through for me right now. Why shouldn’t I just give up on God?” But there are actually several reasons why you might not want to give up on God.
God Has Helped Before
First, God had helped Jehoram before. This isn’t Jehoram’s first interaction with God. Back in 2 Kings 3, Jehoram was also in substantial military trouble. At that time, he asked Elisha for help from God, and God delivered him. Again, just a few verses earlier in 2 Kings 6, Elisha had been telling Jehoram, through the word of God, the exact locations where the King of Syria was planning on invading. God clearly was doing a great job of delivering him. It sounds a bit silly for him to then think: “Well, God has helped me every time before, but this time it’s different. This time, I’d better not trust him.”
But, at the same time, I know that’s something I’ve done too. So, we shouldn’t be too critical of Jehoram when we’ve made the same mistake. Nevertheless, it is still something to watch out for and learn from: When you are starting to doubt, look back on what God has done for you before. If God was worth believing back then, why should you think He’s suddenly changed who He is?
God Is Good
Another reason to believe in God, even when it seems like life is not going well, is that believing in God motivates you to do the right things. Abandoning God is often an excuse to abandon good. And so, while you may frame it as a theological change, it’s often just an excuse to do bad things.
believing in God motivates you to do the right things
Jehoram wanted to kill Elisha because the state of affairs in Samaria had become perilous. But killing Elisha is a bad thing. Elisha hadn’t done anything to deserve death, whether Jehoram believed in God or not. Jehoram was taking out his pain on someone else, and that’s always a bad thing, regardless of the circumstances. Jehoram saying that God isn’t coming through for him doesn’t justify him killing an innocent man. It’s just an excuse.
And often, unfortunately, that’s exactly why people choose not to believe. Sure, you will hear about whether or not God exists, but the underlying motivation is not theology. It’s that the person wants to do something that God says is wrong. If that’s the case, the problem isn’t God. The problem is us. If God is keeping us from doing evil things, He’s doing exactly the right thing. Stop trying to do evil things, and all of a sudden, believing in God might start to seem a lot more attractive.
You Don’t Have A Better Option
A final, fundamental reason why Jehoram should have kept believing in God is because he didn’t have a better option. What if Jehoram did abandon his faith in God and killed Elisha. Then what? He’s still stuck in a besieged city with no food. But now he is stuck in a besieged city with no food and no God. Sure, maybe abandoning God could give him more options to enjoy himself before he dies, but ultimately, he’s still going to die. The only true option he has for escaping is trust in God. Cutting that off just dooms him to death; it doesn’t make things better.
While we may not be stuck in a besieged city with people starving around us, the point is still valid for us today. God is the only one who offers a way to escape death. Yes, there are people who will offer to freeze you in liquid nitrogen on the off chance that someone in the future will be able to unfreeze you. But even if that somehow worked, that would only delay your death. The chance of death is 100%. There is nothing out there offering eternal life except God.
Understanding God’s Power
Fortunately for Jehoram, in the end, he didn’t kill Elisha. And Elisha told him, through the word of the LORD, that “By this time tomorrow,” rather than people starving, food would be plentiful and cheap.
One of Jehoram’s officials thought this was impossible. The king also thought that all the Syrians leaving was impossible, that it must be some trick. But it wasn’t. God made the Syrians leave in a panic, thinking that the Egyptians and the Hittites were after them. They really had left. Samaria was saved, the people went out and ransacked the camp and food became cheap.
While this is an interesting story, the theme is one we see throughout the Bible: God can do things in ways that we’ve never thought of. Just because we think it’s impossible doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for God. The limits of our understanding are by no means the limits of God’s power. You might remember these examples:
- When Sarah laughed at the idea of having a son at 90 years old
- When Moses asked how God could give meat to all the people in the wilderness
- When Jesus’ disciples wondered how to feed 5000 people in the wilderness
Don’t limit God. If we refuse to believe because we think God couldn’t possibly do something, He may very well take that as a challenge. However, God proving us wrong is rarely a good thing for us. In the case of Jehoram’s official, he did get to see that God was right and he was wrong, but he didn’t get to benefit from it because the people trampled him, and he died. Limiting God isn’t going to help you.
How Do We Know It Was God?
It is quite possible, and not unreasonable, for a doubter to ask, “How do we know that was even God? Nothing obviously miraculous happened here: the Syrians just up and left. Maybe the king really had hired the Egyptians and the Hittites to help Samaria and they were just late? Maybe, there was just a lot of random noise that night and the Syrians got spooked? Or maybe, the Israelites just got really, really lucky.”
The thing is, you can explain a lot of events by luck. This is how people sometimes explain away answered prayers: “Well, if you just pray enough times, sometimes what you pray for is going to happen.” In this case, they might say, “It wasn’t like a giant hand came out of the heavens and picked up the Syrians and threw them away. How would you know that this was because of God and not some other reason? God is invisible. How can you believe in something you can’t see?”
This is where a crucial detail about this particular event helps us: Elisha predicted this before it happened.
And that is why we can believe that there is a God. Because of His word. Because when God says something, it happens. Sometimes even crazy things happen. That’s not special. But to be able to predict when some crazy thing is going to happen before it happens, and then have it happen as predicted? That’s special.
If you hadn’t known about Elisha making that prophecy, you could see it as just plain luck. Maybe if you were living in Samaria, slowly starving, and then the Syrians suddenly left and you now have food, you could put it down to luck. But, as soon as you knew that Elisha, God’s prophet, had predicted it, you wouldn’t be able to put it down to luck anymore. You’d realize it was of God.
This is why, if you want to see God working, it’s so important to listen to His word. If you don’t read the Bible, you probably won’t notice when God does things. God’s hand is invisible. If you don’t know what to look for, you’ll probably miss it. Refusing to listen to His word won’t stop Him from acting, but it will stop you from noticing.
So, if you want to believe, or if you want someone else to believe, expose them to God’s word. Show them what God is saying. And then, when you know what God is saying, you’ll be able to see His works in the world around you. If you don’t hear His voice, though, He will be easy to miss.
Finally, if you’re having faith problems; if you feel like God isn’t answering your prayers and doesn’t seem to be behaving the way you’d expect; if you are reading your Bible and feel you have a good understanding of the way that God should be acting, but it’s not showing up, I have a very important piece of advice for you:
You see, Jehoram was one day away from deliverance when he gave the order to kill Elisha. The very next day, the city was saved. Jehoram looked like a fool because he didn’t wait.
I know what this is like. My faith was majorly shaken when I was trying to go a certain way, and everything seemed to go wrong. I felt God was refusing to answer my prayers; that everything seemed to be turning out the opposite of my idea of good and right—the way God would want it to be.
It was tough for me, for a long time, because it seemed like nothing made sense, and God wasn’t there for me. Even though I was trying to do everything right, nothing worked out. The funny thing now is that when I talk to people about my situation, they will say, “Wow, James, you dodged a bullet.”
God is good, and that God does care about me, even when I’m too unwise to see it
But I didn’t dodge a bullet. I wasn’t dodging at all. I was doing my level best to get in front of that bullet. And God grabbed me, kicking and screaming, and dragged me out of the way. And I’m so, so, glad He did. But it took me a long time to see it. Not because God wasn’t working, but because I didn’t understand that what He was doing was for my good.
And this realization has done a lot for my faith. I have learned, the hard way, that God is good, and that God does care about me, even when I’m too unwise to see it. And so, I believe in Him because He has helped me before. And God is good. The lesson is simple: Don’t be like Jehoram. Don’t lose your faith just because it seems like God hasn’t yet done what you are expecting. Wait for him.
Waiting For Jesus’ Coming
The reason why this lesson is so important is because we’re all waiting for Jesus’ coming. Jesus’ disciples were expecting him to come in their lifetimes. And they’re all dead. Their successors were expecting the same. And they’re all dead. And on and on, for literally thousands of years, people have been expecting Jesus to come. And he hasn’t come…yet.
’It’s easy to lose faith. It’s easy to think that he’s never going to come. But my experience with God is that, while He might take an exceedingly long time to do things, much longer than I would want. It might take me even longer to understand why. But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. He does. And He’s still good. And I’m not going to give up on Him, even if I die before Jesus comes. Because I still don’t have a better option. And even though I might be dead, God has the power to do anything.
He has the power to raise me up when Jesus comes. So, at that time, I will get to see that God’s word is worth believing. Unlike Jehoram’s official, who saw, but didn’t get to benefit from God’s work, if I’ve died in faith, I will not only see the fulfillment of this prophecy, but I will also get to enjoy it.
And that’s why I believe.
Bro. James Robinson,
San Francisco Peninsula, CA Ecclesia