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Do You Believe What You Believe? Part 1

“Trust & Expect”


Think of all the things throughout your day that you both trust in and expect to happen without even giving it a second thought….


You wake up and go straight to the coffee maker to brew your cup of joe, and you trust & expect that this particular batch will not be laced with cyanide. You don’t think twice about it.


You hop into your car, turn the ignition, and you trust & expect that your vehicle will not explode (though you may have seen this happen in movies).


You drive 80 miles per hour on a freeway with hundreds of other cars ALSO driving 80 miles per hour, and you trust and expect that everyone will stay in their respective lanes. And though you know statistically there is a less than 1% chance that you’ll die on that freeway, most days you don’t give it a second thought. Not only that, but your trust and expectation has grown so much that you’ve cultivated the ability to do other things while driving (talking on the phone, listening to podcasts, eating a cheeseburger…..I’m not condoning all of these, but let’s not deny that we all do it).


The list goes on and on.


But the point is that, in all of these areas you have, over time, through practice, experience, and feedback, become so trusting and expectant in what will come to pass, that your life reflects that trust without you having to think about it. This deep trust has even made its way into your body through “muscle memory.”


And that’s a good thing.


Actually, that’s a great thing.


Why? Because we don’t want to live our life second-guessing if what we want to happen will actually happen. We don’t want to live a life paralyzed by doubt and fear over whether or not it’s safe for us to get on the freeway every day.


We want to develop a strong sense of trust and expectation so that we can confidently live a life that reflects that trust without having to constantly stop to think (or over-think). And we want that trust to be so deep in us that it comes out effortlessly in our bodies.


Now, what I’m calling “trust & expect”, the Bible calls “Believe.


The biblical word for “believe” (pisteuó) can also be translated to mean “have faith in,” “trust in,” or….get this…..“expect.”

That fascinates me.


Because It means that when Jesus says to his disciples, “You Believe in God; Believe also in me” (John. 14:1), he’s telling them to put their trust in Him and expect Him to be right.


It means that when Jesus says to “Doubting” Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed” (John 20:29), he’s telling him that anyone who never got to see Jesus’s resurrected body, and yet still lives their life expecting Him to show up as a real, non-physical presence with them…that is a person who will live a rich and full life.


And finally, we must mention the most famous verse in the entire Bible:


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16


Now, here’s how I used to hear these words:


“For God so loved the world that he sacrificed Jesus on the cross to die for my sins, so that if I profess publicly that I agree with everything that my church teaches about Jesus, I will punch my ticket to Heaven after I die.”


Am I the only one who read the passage this way?


Is there a problem here?


Well, if you notice, Jesus says nothing in this passage about his death on a cross, sins being forgiven, or heaven in the afterlife.


And notice how I had always interpreted the word “believe.”


To me, believing in Jesus meant intellectually agreeing with what I had been taught about him in Sunday School, confirmation, etc. It meant being given information, facts, and theories about Jesus, memorizing them, and publicly regurgitating them back to my church and to the world at the appropriate times.


By this logic, believing in Jesus took no more effort than believing in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or the Loch Ness Monster.


Now, imagine if you applied that same definition of “belief” to your relationship with driving…


You’ve been told that it’s safe to drive on the freeway, and that the chances of you getting hurt on the road are very minimal. And then you proceed to tell everyone around you how much you agree with these facts and statistics. You post on social media how much you believe in the power of driving. Your Instagram is filled with pictures of selfies in the garage with your new car behind you. You watch livestreamed tutorials on Sunday mornings about how great driving is, and you comment how thankful you are to have been welcomed into the family of “fellow drivers.” You’ve even plastered bumper stickers on your car that say, “I BELIEVE in the FORD Almighty!”


But somehow, despite your public enthusiasm, your car never gets out of the garage.


You never take it on the road.


Your boss calls over and over because you continue to fail showing up for work. She is also confused because of how public you were about your beliefs. She’s tempted to call you a “hypocrite.”


And maybe she’s not 100% wrong. Why? Because it would appear that you don’t actually believe what you believe. And your life has revealed that hidden reality.


How did that happen?


Well, your definition of “belief” has now governed how the rest of your life will play out. If you are convinced that to “believe” something is simply to intellectually agree with it, then you will never feel the pull to test and verify that belief through experience. If all you have to do is “agree” that driving is safe, you never have to actually drive in order to find that out.


And others will know you believe by the fact that you told them.


But if your definition of belief lines up with that of Scripture, and that it means to “trust” and eventually come to “expect,” then you will realize that the only way you’re able to arrive at that kind of belief is to experience it for yourself. The only way you’re going to arrive at a solid belief in the power of driving is to….well…..drive!


And even if the first few drives are shaky, you will eventually come to learn that, as it turns out, all those tutorials you watched, all those statistics, all those experts you read, are right.


And now you actually know that!


This is the kind of belief Jesus invites us into. A belief that is based on experience, trust, and expectation. And the path to that kind of belief is not a pretty process. At times it can be a downright messy and painful process (Mark 9:14-29). But it is a process nonetheless. And Jesus promises to be in our midst, to teach us, and to guide us towards true belief (trust/expectation) in Him if we will simply make plans to meet him there.


With that in mind, I wonder if Jesus, in John 3:16, actually meant something more like this…


“For God loved us so much that he offered his one and only Son to us as a gift, a model for how to live the good life, that whoever learns how to put their trust in him, and expect him to be right, they will truly live an other-worldly kind of life, both now and into eternity.”

Is this new interpretation off-kilter? Inaccurate? Dare I say…heretical? If so, please correct me where I have strayed.


My goal is not to “be right” on this. But what I am saying is that these two different interpretations of John 3:16 will produce two different kinds of people. And within the Christian community, it may even produce two completely different kinds of churches.


But that’s for next week.


For now, I challenge you to reflect on these questions: How do you define belief? What does it mean for you to believe something or someone? How has this played out in your life?


I’d love to hear your feedback.


Thanks, friends.

-Andrew


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