11/17/16 Steve 20's
At times I tell atheists a secret about us Christians that they are often surprised I will admit: although we may seem rock-solid in our beliefs, sometimes we fake it! Many who now identify as atheists come from strong church-involved backgrounds, but they have rejected living by faith or belief in God altogether because they don't want to be phony or hypocritical. A guy I spoke with named Steve told me about his strong church background but that he now claims atheism, saying "I really want to believe, but I just have to admit I really don't."
To people like this, the honesty about their doubts feels more authentic than pretention about belief. They see authenticity as being more important than obedience to God. But both are important. Like all people, Christians have good and bad days and seasons, times of hope and disappointment, faith and doubt. We want to be authentic, but worry that being open about our doubts will bring others down or just make us look bad.
I told Steve about the need sometimes to "fake it" as a Christian. An example might be that sometimes the Bible seems dead or boring, but we fake it and read it like it’s full of life. Sometimes our prayers make us feel foolish, like we are talking to the air, but we decide to fake it and pray as if God is right there next to us. Sometimes our praise and worship is far more a sacrifice than a time of heartfelt joy, but we raise our hearts and hands to the Lord regardless. We act as if we have faith, and then the faith appears. It's kind of like trying to fall asleep when we don't feel sleepy. We lay down and close our eyes as if we are tired, and before we know it we are sleeping.
Faith, according to Hebrews 11, “is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." We might get discouraged by the "confidence" and the "assurance" part of that definition, thinking we just don't have it. But what about the part about not seeing? What if we just don't feel it? That same chapter in Hebrews also says "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Our belief may not result in feelings of confidence or assurance, but it can result in persistence and obedience. God will reward our obedience regardless of how we feel about it. Our disobedience may feed our doubts, but our obedience will feed our faith.
In telling him all this, I was able to be authentic and obedient at the same time. We can be honest about our doubts, but continue on in obedience. And we can encourage unbelievers to do the same. Many atheists with a church background say they have never had a "born-again" experience. I believe them. And how can someone yet dead in their sins come to new life in Christ simply by an act of the will? They can’t. But they too can fake it. They can read the Bible like it is true, and pray like they believe someone is listening, and repent like they are truly sorry. And instead of staying asleep, pretty soon they will wake up to new life and faith.