Like many people of my generation (born in the late 1960s and early 1970s), I was taken to a Christian church as a child by my parents. I learned a little bit about the Bible and was told general things about God, that He had a Son named “Jesus” and that there was a Holy Spirit. I was also taught that they were all One Being. By the time I was a teenager, I had even memorized one scripture that I considered my favorite:
John 3:16 (KJV) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
At the time, we had attended a couple of different Southern Baptist churches. And along the way, I matured enough to go from having intellectual (or book-taught) knowledge of God to developing a belief in Him. I also believed that Jesus was the Son of God. I believed in the Holy Trinity.
But that’s about as far as it went. The churches I attended had plenty of nice people but there were serious issues with the way they were run. And while I didn’t fully understand what those problems were as an adolescent, I picked up enough to want to stop attending. However, since church attendance was mandatory for me and my sister when we were kids, I grew to resent church. I protested in what little, ineffectual ways I could. I may have been there physically but I chose not to sing and had little interest in being taught anything, especially the sermons.
Things changed when I turned eighteen. My parents now considered me an “adult” and gave me the choice of attending. By then, I was starting to understand the managerial problems at our church. The pastor had hired people to build a “mega-church” but in the process had incurred $2 million in debt. When the pastor asked his congregation to take out second mortgages on their homes to help cover that expense, I felt it was very wrong. And that’s when I left that church and gave up on “organized religion.”
Over the next several years, I would occasionally be invited to other churches and I actually visited a few. But I never felt like I belonged at those churches. I didn’t experience God’s presence, though I didn’t understand that at the time. What I did know was that it was disappointing. In truth, I did want to find a church home. I still believed in God and His Son, Jesus Christ. I was on a search and would not be satisfied until I found something “real.”
After I met Angel, the woman who would become my wife, a second time (our first meeting did not go so well, but that’s another story), one of the first things we discussed was spirituality. We soon found out that we both had attended churches and believed in God and Jesus. Even though neither of us had found true salvation yet, we had a common belief. That belief would help solidify our friendship and follow us throughout our dating period and engagement. We prayed together often. And when we said our wedding vows, we made them to God.
By the time our first anniversary came around, we had both given our lives to Jesus Christ and had found a nondenominational church home. Our faith grew through being taught how alive and present God, His Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are -- not only in this world but the entire universe. We were taught about sin and that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live without it. It can be a daily struggle but with the Lord's help, sin can be overcome.
1 Corinthians 10: 13 (KJV) "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
We came to understand that the Bible -- through the Holy Spirit, which is present in our very beings after we ask Jesus Christ to come into our hearts and become our Savior -- becomes a living thing: God’s Word
John 1: 1 - 5 (KJV) "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."
Studying and meditating on God’s Word, prayer, church attendance/participation and having a good relationship with one’s pastor and the ministerial staff all work together towards one goal: getting closer to God and His Son, Jesus Christ. It has taken me all my life to realize this. In the process, I have learned that God is the greatest intellect in the universe. He is also the greatest creative muse anyone could ever hope to have. I pray and ask Him to inspire me in everything I do -- and He does!
Perhaps equally important, He is the embodiment of fatherhood. In times of pain, loss or just great stress, I have turned to Him. I lean on Him when I’m alone or it’s the middle of the night and everyone’s asleep or I don’t know what to think (of a situation or problem) or pray for. And He is there. I can feel His presence comforting and reassuring me. And whether it’s right then or later, I receive an answer to whatever is hurting or troubling me.
There is much darkness in this world because of sin and unbelief, which tend to lead to one another. A whole generation or two have been actively taught that there is no God, devil, heaven or hell. Noted intellectuals and celebrity-like representatives of science treat belief in God as if it was the height of ignorance. Evolution is taught as fact when it is more theory than not. And people go to extreme measures, even killing themselves or others, thinking they are trying to "save the planet."
We can certainly do humane things to reduce or eliminate pollution and extend natural resources. These are common sense things that make life better for everyone. It's when people start using the issue of "the environment" to control other people (or nations) politically and financially or take it to extremes (the aforementioned suicides or murders) that problems occur.
To be clear, I am not in any way against science. It is a wonderful tool for exploring and understanding the world (and universe) around us. However, I am against the abuse of science. That is, when people try to use science to justify their beliefs that God does not exist and spirituality is somehow meaningless superstition.
Wars, genocide, mass and individual murder, terrorism. corruption, injustices -- all the evils visited upon the human race -- are manifested through sin, which starts in the human heart. As people turn away from God, they turn away from hope. And when people lose hope, things get worse. They may find a form of happiness but it doesn't last. People wonder why bad things are happening to them (and the world) but don’t find satisfactory answers. They may even blame God...but forget that they proclaimed they didn’t want Him.
It comes down to a personal choice: Do you want to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from the Bible? And people have different reasons for not believing. Some have never felt His presence or love, even when attending churches. Many people have been hurt and/or betrayed by people claiming to be "Christians," those quick to claim the title but not live the life. It is understandable.
But God is the same today as He was in the Bible, thousands of years ago. He was the same when He created the universe. He has always had limitless compassion and more love than we can truly comprehend. He loves everyone but He hates sin. He knows each of us and wants to help us, to guide us in turning our lives around. But we have to believe in Him. We have to trust Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. But trust can be difficult when one has doubts or has been hurt before.
I will conclude this with the reason I believe in God: He is an active part of my life. Every waking moment, I know He is with me through His Holy Spirit. I can call on Him and He hears me. The Holy Spirit speaks to me. I commune with Him through prayer. He builds my faith, strengthens me, my marriage, my relationships with my family and friends. He inspires my creativity and fulfills my soul. I am a better person for not just believing, but having a relationship with Him. He is my heavenly Father. And I love Him for who He is.
He can be all of that and more for whoever is seeking Him, whether openly or just within their heart. He can send someone "real" to anyone and lead them to somewhere the living Gospel is being preached. And they can finally find hope.
Thanks for reading this.
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian, happily interracially married since 1995. Father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.