Does it really matter if you believe in God?

Published 11:57 am Saturday, March 8, 2014

by Brandon Robbins

I hear all the time people saying things like, “my faith in Jesus” or “my faith in God.” But what exactly do we mean when we say those things?  Does that mean that we believe in God? We believe in Jesus?

But believe in what? We believe that Jesus exists? We believe that he was the Son of God? We believe that he’s going to provide us with a nice house and reliable cars and well-behaved kids?

Is that what it means to have faith?

If you’ve grown up in church – or maybe even if you haven’t – you’ve probably heard the story of David and Goliath. To paraphrase, here’s how the story goes:

Once, there was a war between two nations: the Philistines and the Israelites. These two countries had seethed with hatred for one another as long as anyone could remember. For years, they had gone back and forth, each experiencing victory and defeat.

But this time, things were different. This time, disaster seemed eminent – at least for the Israelites. That’s because this time, the Philistines had a secret weapon: Goliath.

Goliath was considered a giant. He stood heads above all other soldiers, with strength and cunning to match. He was considered unstoppable.

Now there was a custom back then that in lieu of a violent battle that would cost the lives of hundreds, maybe even thousands of men, each side could send their best soldier forward. Then, the two best soldiers would fight to the death, and whichever one proved victorious, that side won.

Naturally, the Philistines present Goliath as their premiere fighter. The Israelites, on the other hand, present no one. Who could even possibly compete with Goliath?

For what seems like an eternity, the two nations are at a stalemate. Goliath constantly taunts the Israelites, prodding someone, anyone to step forward. But no one does. Or at least, no soldier steps forward.

One day, however, a young shepherd boy named David approaches the king and asks if he can fight. To everyone, this seems like a joke. This is like putting a goldfish in the ring with a pelican. David doesn’t stand a chance. Even Goliath thinks so, insulted by the pitiful competitor before him.

But appearances can be deceiving. You see, David isn’t standing alone before Goliath. He has God on his side. He has faith that the one true God will use him to prove victorious over this Philistine giant and his false gods. And he’s right. With nothing more than a slingshot and rocks, David defeats Goliath, earning victory for his entire country.

Now for most of us, whenever we’ve heard this story, we’ve heard it told as a lesson on faith. David had faith in God; and because of that, God helped David to conquer the giant rather than suffer defeat. We take it to suggest that what the Bible is trying to teach us is that if we have faith in God, God will help us to conquer the giants in our lives. If we really, truly believe that God won’t abandon us, then God won’t. We can have whatever we need.

To a certain degree, I’m okay with this interpretation. I definitely believe there is a place for such beliefs. There is nothing wrong with our believing that God can heal our marriages, cure our diseases, get us through unemployment. Jesus himself would often tell the people he healed that it was their faith that healed them. We need to trust God in profound and impossible situations.

But I think there’s more to the story of David than this. There’s more to the story than just what God can do “for” us if we have faith. What about what God wants to do “through” us?

If you notice, the true victory in the story is not that God kept David alive. It’s that God used David to save an entire nation of people (two, really, if you consider the potential casualties of war). That’s the power of David’s faith. Not only did he “believe” in God. He followed God. He was willing to go wherever God led, doing whatever God asked.

That’s because faith is a verb. It’s not just something we believe. It’s what we do. It’s how we live. It’s who we are.

Faith isn’t just knowing that God exists or hoping that God will take care of you. Faith is the willingness to follow Jesus wherever that leads. Maybe it will lead you to change jobs, or spend time with the homeless, or distribute your money differently. It is loving and trusting God so much that you are willing to bet everything on God.

That’s why, this Sunday, at Courtland United Methodist Church, we’re starting a series of sermons called “40 Days of Faith.” In it, we’ll be looking at what it means to grow in our faith, where that leads us, and what that can do for our relationship with God.

Because the truth is, God wants more than just our belief. God wants our lives, our true faith that we can give God everything, not just what benefits us. And when we’re willing to have that kind of faith, not only does God watch over us, God uses us to change the world.

BRANDON ROBBINS is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or