December 3-4, 2005
Today I got up and turned on the lights. Then I made a pot of coffee, took a shower, got dressed, jumped in my truck, pushed the button and the garage door opened, drove to church, walked up the steps into my office, went over my notes, and now I’m here on this stage answering this question: why do I trust? Why do I have faith?
I’ve got a secret for you today. There’s no such thing as a non-believer. Tell your neighbor that. There’s no such thing as a non-believer. All of us are believers. All of us live by faith. For someone to say, “Well, I don’t have enough faith, I don’t have enough trust,” is totally bogus. It’s ludicrous. We all live by faith.
I had faith that the lights would come on. I had faith that the coffee pot would crank out another cup of caffeine. I had faith that the shower would clean my body. I had faith my truck would start. I had faith the steps would hold up my body weight. I had faith in everything that I did today up until this point.
So we live, we operate by faith. Well, why do I trust? Why do I have faith?
I’VE GOT AN INFRASTRUCTURE FOR FAITH
The first reason is I have an infrastructure for faith. I am made in the image of God, and God has given me a foundation, an infrastructure for faith.
Everything we do is all about faith, it’s all about trust. I’m made in God’s image. Just the opportunity to have faith has been bestowed to my life from the God of the universe. So the gift of faith is given to me by God and He’s the only reason why I have faith.
Now, a lot of us have faith in the wrong stuff. But we all have faith. There is no such thing as a non-believer. Everybody is a believer, whether you believe in atheism or whether you’re an agonistic or whether you’re into evolution or Taoism, Buddhism, Islam or Christianity. Whatever you can think about, whatever you do, we all live by faith.
And the reason I have faith and have faith in the stuff I did this morning is because of the evidence. The reason I knew the lights would come on is because the lights have a pretty good track record in my bedroom. My coffee pot, man, I could go to my coffee pot and know that thing would make some strong coffee. It has not let me down yet. I trusted in that. Those steps? I’ve been up and down those steps probably thousands of times. They hold my 185 pounds really well. My truck starts. Oh, does it start? It’s never failed me. I live by faith.
I cannot explain to you how my truck operates. I cannot give you the intricacies of electricity, but I trust. I live by faith. I’m made for faith. I’m a faith man. You’re a faith man or a faith woman. We live by faith. Why do I trust? I trust because I have the infrastructure for it.
I’M NOT LOOKING FOR ABSOLUTE PROOF
Here’s the second reason I’ve jotted down why I trust. I trust because I’m not looking for absolute proof. I’m not looking for absolute proof. What does it mean when I say the word “proof”? Proof is the way of showing the truth or the falsehood of something beyond a shadow of a doubt. That’s what proof means. Evidence is whatever points to the truth or falsehood of something.
So proof shows me beyond question, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the truth or falsehood of something. Evidence gives me a sign; it shows me that something is true.
Faith is belief without conclusive truth but with convincing evidence. It’s huge that we distinguish between those three terms—proof and evidence and faith. We live by faith.
Some people try to prove everything. You’re not going to prove anything, because there’s always the point in every belief system—no matter if you are an atheist or you’re an agnostic; if your into Taoism, Buddhism, Islam or Christianity—there’s always a point where you have to take step of faith, a step of trust. There’s always that point.
One time in Houston, I did a wedding and the groom said, “I want you to meet my father.”
I said, “Okay.”
And I met his father and his father was a nice guy. He was a little shy but nice. And I asked this father, “Well, what do you do for a living?” I was trying to make conversation.
He said, “Well, I invented the weedeater.”
I said, “Get out of town!”
How brilliant do you have to be to think up a weedeater! Here’s a good game to play. Just grab your weedeater, crank it up, close your eyes and walk into a weed infested field. It’ll just make a nice path for you, won’t it?
That’s what evidence does. Evidence does not prove beyond the shadow of a doubt the truth or falsehood of something. It does, however, lead us to a point right up to the edge of making a faith or trust decision.
I could spend all day and night talking to you about the historicity of the Bible and why the Bible is the most reliable piece of ancient literature in the world. I could stack reams and reams of books about the existence of God. I could give you all the evidence. I’ve done series about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and who God is and on and on and on. But the evidence is not going to kick you over into making a faith decision. We’ve got to know the evidence. And the evidence is very compelling and very, very convincing; but still, we’ve got to take that step of faith and trust.
Okay, I’m going to take my hand out of my pocket now. What am I going to have in my hand? A piece of lint? Or maybe some cash money? Okay, I’m going to confess to you; I’m going to tell you right now what I have in my hand. Are you ready? In my hand I have a $20 bill. Who in here believes that? Lift your hand if you believe that. Thank you very much for trusting me. Raise your hands again, the believers.
Now, those of you who are not raising your hand, you’re an unbeliever and you’re going to hell! [Laughter] I’m telling ya what right now! I’m kidding!
We’ve got some believers here, thank you. You have faith in me. You trust in me. You’re believing without conclusive proof, but you have convincing evidence. You’re saying, “You know, I trust Ed. He’s a man of his word. I bet he does have a $20 bill in his left fist.”
Okay, I’m getting ready to destroy your faith. If you raised your hand, I’m getting ready to mess you up. [Ed pulls his hand out of his pocket and he’s holding a $20 bill.]
You’re saying, “Wait, wait, wait. Whoa, big fellow! What do you mean you destroyed my faith? I believed you had $20 and you do.”
I just destroyed your faith because when I showed you this money, you moved from faith based on evidence to knowledge based on proof. Maybe you try to search for certainty. You say, “I’ve got to be certain. I’ve got to be sure.” You’re never going to be certain. You’re never going to be sure. You’ve got to take the step of faith, the step of trust.
I turned those lights on. I made the coffee. I took a shower. I started my truck. I walked up the steps. Everything was about faith. I don’t have convincing proof, but I have compelling evidence. Why do I trust? I’m made for it and I’m not looking for absolute proof.
BECAUSE OF WHAT FAITH IS AND IS NOT
Here’s another reason why I trust. The third reason. I trust because of what faith is. What is faith? Faith is belief without conclusive proof, but with compelling evidence. Faith is Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
So, I trust because of what faith is. And also I trust, watch this now, because of what faith is not. We know what it is, but do we know what faith is not? Faith is not a doubt-free commodity.
People think, I’m talking to believers now, “Whoa, I doubt, so that means I don’t believe, because the opposite of belief is doubt.”
Wrong! The opposite of faith or belief is unbelief. The word “believe” means to be in one mind about something or someone we trust. To unbelieve means to be in one mind about something or someone we reject, something we don’t believe. To doubt comes from the word “dubatere,” which means two minds.
Picture a wobbly suspension bridge between belief and unbelief. That’s doubt. When I’m on the bridge, then I’m not really sure. I’m in two minds. I have issues. I have questions.
“Well, I guess because I doubt that means I don’t have faith.”
Wrong! Whenever I talk about faith, I’m talking about doubt. Whenever I’m talking about doubt, I’m talking about faith. Faith and doubt run on parallel tracks. Jesus is more interested and welcomes our doubts more than the church does. And that’s pathetic. Fellowship Church is a church that welcomes you, doubts and all. I’ve got questions. I’ve got doubts. And that’s good. John the Baptist doubted. Abraham doubted. Thomas doubted. Jonah doubted. Even Jesus doubted. And most of our doubts are just uvulas.
Now, some of you don’t know what I’m talking about. You have got to pick up last weekend’s message where I talked about why I doubt. I talked about the uvula principle.
“I doubt.” That just means it’s crunch time. That’s when people step up and make the big plays, right? I mean during crunch time we can show our courage. We can say, “Man, I’m going to take it to the next level.”
Well, what happens when we’re dogged and dominated by doubt? What do we do? It’s an opportunity to step up and have a deeper faith walk. God wants to use your doubt and mine to launch us in a greater trajectory with greater depth than we ever thought imaginable. So welcome doubts! But don’t let doubt lead you to unbelief, because it can.
So, faith is not doubt free. Faith is also not a feelings-based commodity. Recently, Lisa and I watched a movie. Well, it came to this touching part in the film and I began to cry a little bit. Was Lisa crying? No. What if you did a documentary on our behavior during the film? You would say, “Oh, that white Suburban pastor seems to be more in touch with his feelings than his bride. Very, very interesting. He cried; she didn’t. Intriguing.”
That’s not intriguing. Lisa enjoyed the movie probably more so than I. But I cry easier than she does. So just because you have this feeling or shed a tear does not mean that you have a deeper faith than someone who is standing stoic in church and who never lifts his hands or hers hands or never sways back and forth. How do you know? You’re not God. Yet, we think faith is this feelings-based commodity.
But a lot of people jump on the feelings train. Choo, choo, choo, choo, choo, choo! Oh, I’ve got to feel it. Choo, choo, choo! If I feel it, man, that means it’s real. Choo, choo, choo, choo, choo! And then we say, “If I can have this experience or this vibe or this encounter with God, then my feelings can take me above the clouds and I can be riding on the sooooooooul train! Choo, choo, choo, choo, choo!
And then here’s what happens on the soul train. We’re so in touch with our feelings, but one day the train begins to slow down. It breaks through the clouds and comes to a screeching halt and we don’t feel it any more. And then we say, “Where’s God?”
And we search for another feelings-based deal, another feelings-based situation. That’s not faith. Yeah, feelings sometimes accompany faith. But many times feelings aren’t all about the quiver in the liver or the spring in your step or the twinkle in your eye or the tear dripping down your cheek in a movie. I can make you cry every weekend. I know how to do it. But I’m not going to manipulate you.
What’s so hilarious is that several times I’ve cried during the message and invariably, when I’m around the community after a message where I’ve cried, people, I kid you not, will come up to me and say, “Hey, Ed, I just wanted to stop and tell you, man, that message this weekend was from the heart!”
I think to myself, “Like the others ones aren’t?”
So, I guess I’ll just cry every weekend and then people will go, “Man, we really worshiped because Ed made us cry again. Oh, I have so much faith!”
Sometimes we do cry. And that’s fine. But it’s not this feelings based sooooooooul train! Faith is not doubt free. It’s not feelings based.
Faith is also not a currency. Some people believe that God is a candy man and we’re living in Candyland; and if we have enough faith, God will just rain candy in our lives. “God give me some candy. I want some more candy. I like Twizzlers®, God. Raisinettes®, God. And, man, those Kit Kats®, I love those. God just rain candy! I want some more candy.”
What is that all about? Is that about God or about our self-centeredness? It’s about our self-centeredness. God’s not our errand boy. He’s not our messenger boy. We can’t make God do something because we exemplify faith. God is sovereign. God is sovereign. So that is not, I repeat, that is not what faith is all about. Faith is belief without conclusive proof, but with convincing evidence.
IT IS A HIGHLY INTELLIGENT THING TO DO
Here’s the fourth reason why I trust. This is kind of humorous to me. It’s a highly intelligent thing to do. I’m not bragging on myself, but I’m just telling you it’s just highly intelligent to have faith in Jesus Christ.
I believe the evidence is definitely compelling. I could stack it up and it would weed eat you into a faith decision. It’ll take you to that point. Then you step over the line, and it’s just a highly intelligent thing to do. Some of the most intelligent people in the world are believers. Some brilliant PhDs and mathematics and scientists and all the other elements are believers.
On the other hand, there are some brilliant people who are not Christ followers. We all have our choice, but everybody lives by faith.
But I truly believe Christianity is the most logical thing to do. And it happens with a faith decision. God does not want us to park our brains at the door before we become Christ followers. He doesn’t want us to dumb down before we make and take the faith step.
People say, “Well, Ed, I would like to invite my father to church, but he’s an intellectual.”
Okay. Like we’re card carrying idiots? If your father is an intellectual, I can turn you on to about 150 people who’ve forgotten more than he knows; and they are believers. I don’t care how smart he is. There are believers who are smarter.
The other day I boarded a plane from San Diego to Dallas. I was out there speaking and I went through the routine. You know, I walked on with my briefcase, my carry on and a bag full of stuff I bought for my kids. I don’t know how I was able to get it through all the security, but I did. And as I was walking onto the plane you know, I was stopped. Suddenly I hear this “Sir, sir!”
I turned back and the flight attendant said, “You’re going to have to check one of those bags.” And this lady was just doing her job. She was a very nice, but very direct flight attendant. So, I turned around, handed her the bag and she put it underneath the plane.
I found my seat and started to just watch people. Here’s some advice if you fly. Don’t read. Don’t look out the window. Just watch the people. That’s better than any film, any reality show, any novel. Watch the people. Man, there are some hilarious people. I love to people watch.
I saw this one guy board the plane who was Mr. California, Mr. West Coast, with the cool glasses, a briefcase with the Wall Street Journal hanging out. He took a seat in first class, ordered a bloody mary and just kicked back waiting.
I saw another guy board the flight and I could tell he had only flown maybe once or twice. He was a little nervous. He sat down and someone said, “Hey, man, that’s my seat.” He apologized, “Oh, I’m sorry.” And they helped him find the right seat. My heart went out to him. I should have helped him, but I just watched him.
Then a woman boarded the plane, and she was kind of emotional. I could tell she’d not flown that much. She was a little shaky and very nervous.
So the plane takes off and we’re flying up at about 34,000 feet and we hit some turbulence. No big deal. The guy who had flown like one or two times was like, “Whoa! God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him…now I lay me down to sleep….” This guy was freaking out a little. The woman was really freaked out. Mr. Frequent Flyer, what was he doing? Drinking his bloody mary and reading the Wall Street Journal. He was unflappable. He had ice water in his veins! And the plane, several hours later, landed at DFW.
A lot of us think that when we try to board God’s plane with our baggage, with our doubt, with our junk and with our questions, God says, “No, you’ve got to check those bags. You can’t board with those bags. No, not on my plane!”
But just the opposite is true. God says, “Baggage and all. I don’t care. You name the doubt, name the issue and name the questions. Come on, come on, come on, Ed, with your doubt. That’s right. Come on with your questions, with your concerns. Yeah, you right there. Come on, come on. Bring it on.”
That’s what God says. There’s enough room for all of our baggage on God’s plane. Some of us have a tiny bit of faith. I mean, I’m talking like a mustard seed type faith. But Jesus said, “If you had the faith of a mustard seed, that’s all it takes.” And some of us have had that mustard seed faith and we’re like that man who had flown that plane one or two times. And we put our mustard seed faith in the right object—Jesus Christ. And we’ve made it from San Diego to Dallas/Fort Worth.
Some of us are like that woman. We have about that much faith and we put our faith in the right object, Jesus Christ, and he’s taking us from San Diego to DFW, too. We got there, too.
Some of us here have frequent flyer faith. I mean, we’ve flown a lot. We have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of miles under our belts. And turbulence doesn’t bother us. We still get from San Diego to DFW.
We all have different amounts of faith; yet, we get where we need to go if we trust in the right object. All of those three passengers put their faith in the right object, this 737, and it got them where they needed to go. But I will tell you, Mr. Frequent Flyer had the most enjoyable flight. Why? Because he put his faith and trust in planes all over the world.
So when you’re in doubt; when you’re suspended between belief and non-belief; when you’re in two minds, don’t just stand there.
You know, it’s kind of like my father. I used to go to football games with my father, and Dad loves to yell at the referees. He doesn’t cuss at them; he’s just very competitive. And here’s what he would say to the referees, “Move around! You’re killing the grass!”
As a little kid, I was thinking, “What’s he talking about?” And the ref would look up like, “Isn’t that that pastor in a local church?” I’d sit there with that “He’s not my dad” look.
Well, that’s what God is saying to you and me when we’re dogged with doubt. We’re just standing there and God’s saying, “Move around! You’re killing the grass. Move toward faith. Feed the faith. Put your faith in the right object.”
It’s the logical choice. You’ve got faith. Don’t sit there and say, “Well, I don’t have faith.” You’ve got faith. Just put your faith in the person of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding.”
ANSWER THE BIG QUESTION
Okay, we’ve got to answer some questions. Here is a question I want to ask you. In fact, let’s let Jesus do this. Let me have Jesus answer it and ask it too. Jesus was walking in Jerusalem and there was a pool called the pool of Bethesda. All these crippled people would hang out around the edges. And it was said that an angel now and then would touch the water. And if the crippled person was the first one to touch the water after the angel, then he or she would be healed.
So Jesus walked by this pool right up to a man hanging out by the pool who had been lame for 38 years. And Jesus said a very weird thing. In John 5:6 He said, “Do you want to get well?”
I find that strange. The guy’s been crippled for 38 years and Jesus said, “Do you want to get well?”
Well, I’m going to turn that and ask that question to you. And let’s allow Jesus to answer it in your life and mine. Do you want to get well? Do you really want to believe?
Some people don’t want to believe. They have a vested interest in keeping God at bay. They don’t want God to exist. They don’t want the Bible to be true, because they don’t want God to have a back stage pass to their lives. And they use these intellectual arguments like, “Oh, I’m just an intellectual and I’ve got some serious problems and concerns with this situation and I’m just not sure. You know, I’ve read The DaVinci Code and have seen this special on the History Channel, and you know, I’ve been to the Jesus Seminar, and I just don’t….”
Those are just uvulas man. Uvulas. I can point you, in fact, I will point you to books that are just as compelling and just as stirring as anything the world has to offer us about evolution vs. creationism; about the reliability of Scripture; about the person of Jesus Christ.
But again, those books and things will just weedeat a path up to a certain point. You’ll still have to take that faith step. But I have got to ask you, “Do you really want to believe?”
“Well,” you’re saying, “I’ve just got a mustard seed type faith.”
That’s cool. That’s enough to get you from San Diego to DFW. But don’t stop at the mustard seed. Allow your faith to grow. Get into The Word and worship The Word of The Word. Don’t bow down and worship the Bible, the ink. Worship The Word of The word. Who’s The Word of The Word? Jesus Christ. The Word of God. And he has some dynamic things to tell you and to build up your faith so you can increase your faith from a mustard seed faith to a frequent flyer faith.
But answer the question. Answer the question. Do you want to believe? Maybe you need to pray, “God give me the want to, to want to.” He’ll do that, too.
CLARIFY THE OBJECT
Clarify the object of your faith. I have that jotted down here, too. Who’s the object of your faith? It’s got to be Jesus.
LEAVE THE ISLAND
Oh, this is a funny one here. Leave the island. Did you ever watch “Gilligan’s Island” growing up? Man, that show messed me up. That’s a frustrating show. Here the professor could make radios out of coconuts, but they couldn’t figure out how to make a boat to get them off the island.
A lot of people, when we doubt, we’ll keep it secret. We want to be on Gilligan’s Island just hanging out with Skipper, Gilligan, Mary Ann, Ginger, Lovey and Mr. Howell on Gilligan’s Island. We think, “I’d better not share my doubts because they might think I’m not a believer. And I feel all this guilt and shame because I doubt. Maybe I am an unbeliever. I doubt. So I guess I don’t believe.”
Don’t do that. Leave Gilligan’s Island and doubt in community. That’s what the local church is all about. If you’re truly seeking, say, “God, reveal yourself to me.” I’m telling you, he will do it.
TALK TO YOURSELF
Here’s something else to do. Talk to yourself. I love New York City. And last year I went to New York and saw some crazy people up there in New York. I’ve seen people walk the streets of New York and they just talk to themselves. You see them just carrying on a conversation walking around talking to themselves.
I’m not talking about that. Not crazy talk. You see, I can get dominated by doubt when I listen to Ed. When I just listen. Because I’m a sinner, I have a sin nature and I tell myself some stupid stuff that causes me to doubt. “Maybe doubt is unbelief and I don’t know.”
And if I just listen to myself, I’d become these crazy New York type people then. Don’t do that. Talk to yourself. Don’t listen to yourself, talk to yourself.
Well, what do you talk to yourself? You talk the Bible to yourself. You speak the truth to yourself. You hide God’s Word in your heart.
What am I saying? Here’s what I’m saying. Trust is a must. Trust in Jesus Christ. Trust is a must. Because if you don’t trust, you’re going to be dust.
Remember, don’t just circle the airport in some holding pattern. You have got to land the plane somewhere. Either land it and put your trust in Christ or not. But I’m putting my money on the one that came back from the grave. I don’t know about you, but that’s who my money and my life is on. It really is.