William Tyndale, Bible translator. One who was “absolutely confident” to the death
Yesterday I got a most interesting message on facebook. A creation doubter said he was interested in my answer to the question of why I am “absolutely confident” in my beliefs. I’d like to tell him thank you for such an awesome opportunity. We are commanded by God to “be ready always to give an answer for the hope [confident expectation] that lies within you.” I Peter 3:15 This is the first time I’ve gotten to give that answer!
First, I need to make an observation about today’s Western intellectual culture. It is considered a virtue and honor to rely on one’s own thinking to decide what is right and important for yourself. To rely on some authority (other than one’s modern peers) is to be weak-minded and backwards. God calls this foolishness and arrogance.
At the same time, to be fully convinced that one has found unchanging truth is considered highly arrogant. Doubt is, for them, perhaps the highest virtue of all. In their view, to say “I could be wrong about everything” is to be truly humble.
But no one actually lives like this. Mathematicians rely on unchanging constants as the foundation for every equation they ever work. Engineers assume the tests performed on the materials and shapes they work with will continue to follow the same laws into the future to build safe structures. Scientists fully expect an experiment done in the exact same way, under the exact same circumstances to have the exact same result. If it doesn’t they look for some unknown variable. They don’t just write it off as “the rules of physics changed since last time”.
Every person trusts so completely in gravity they aren’t fearful to leave their home. They know the power won’t suddenly stop causing them to tumble off the planet at any moment. We all are “absolutely confident” about any number of daily realities. If we weren’t, we would be huddled in our beds in constant terror.
Now to the question:
Yes, I am absolutely, 100%, I will die rather than admit any doubt, confident that God is who He says He is, has done the things He claims to have done, and will bring me into His heavenly home the moment my mortal life is over.
- I’ve experienced God. I know Him. I’ve trusted in Him, talked to Him, and seen Him work in, through, and for me. There have been times in my life when there was every earthly reason to be terrified and Jesus has filled me with peace. Often His peace came hours, days, or even years before the proof of why I needn’t worry came into being. Just this past week I’ve turned over rather serious concerns to God’s control, experienced His peace, and am starting to see glimpses of how He’s going to work things out.
I would give you specifics, but each case involves others who haven’t given me permission to share.
At other times, things don’t end up with a “happy ending” by the world’s standards. This is perhaps when I feel God’s presence the most clearly. Jesus is described as a “man of sorrows”. When I am in pain from any grief or loss, I sense His care and sharing in my pain. He helps me to walk through the darkness, keeping my sanity and finding joy when happiness is a distant memory.
- I’ve also seen God at work in other’s lives. My husband was a grieving, bitter alcoholic in his youth. Jesus got a hold of him and turned his life completely around. Instead of focusing on his own pain and desires, he now focuses on the needs of others, living a life characterized by peace and joy. Hundreds of people knew him before and can testify to the transformation in his life.
My family works with people suffering from serious mental illness. I’ve watched hundreds of people with bipolar and schizophrenia turn over their hearts and minds to Jesus. Slowly they stabilize to the point where they not only don’t end up the hospital often, but they are reaching out to people around them being a blessing and exuding joy.
I fully expect you to write each of these off as mental exercises or coincidences that don’t require any god. Here’s the thing: I can’t put into words what is really going on. When a person believes in Jesus they receive a completely new dimension to their lives a unbeliever can’t imagine.
I’d like to give you an analogy of what I’m trying to describe:
The blind leading the blind (Photo credit: Squonk11)
Imagine a valley where everyone is born blind. They’ve learned to survive as they are, although the large boulders scattered everywhere do cause them problems.
One day, a soft voice whispers to people going about their business, “I am the Eye Doctor. Come to me and I can restore your sight.”
Many people ignore his call, pretending they didn’t hear it, or that the words are nonsense. But a few are interested enough to follow the voice, including you. Gently, the Eye Doctor shares the unknown realm of sight and the beauties awaiting those who have their sight restored. He explains that if you will trust him, he can replace your defective eyes and then begin the long process of building brain connections to allow you to comprehend what you’re seeing.
You decide to trust the Eye Doctor enough to allow him to perform surgery on your eyes. It’s over in an instant. Even from the first moment a previously unimaginable world of color floods you. It’s overwhelming!
Daisies in dew 2 (Photo credit: april–mo)
Over the next few months, the Eye Doctor works with you, building up connections so your brain can understand the information your new eyes are sending you. Suddenly the world is brimming with beauties. The tiniest flower, blade of grass, and rock are gems bringing great delight. More than this is the joy of getting to know the one who gave you this gift. He speaks to you, guides you, and explains to you why you are the way you are. Even knowing your weakness, he loves you. The feeling is like nothing you’ve ever imagined before.
One day, you realize you can recognize the faces of those around you. You can see them blundering around, slamming into rocks, hurting themselves and others. The next day, you try to warn someone carrying a small child that they are about to fall over a rock. A little later, someone carrying a heavy load heads for yet another boulder and you call out in alarm. To your surprise their response isn’t gratitude, it’s annoyance at your bossiness.
Many people begin to avoid you and you start noticing angry expressions on people’s faces even when they remain silent. It hurts.
But then there’s a face that looks right at you. This has never happened before! So, you move around to see if they just happened to be turned your direction. No, this person follows your quiet movements. You smile at them. They smile back. It’s another person who’s been to the Eye Doctor! Oh, the joy, oh the fellowship! Finally, someone who understands the wonder of what’s happened to you.
The next day, a group comes to you and grabs your arm. They drag you to the council and demand you cease and desist your bothering of the good citizens of the country. “There is no such thing as sight. There is no such thing as color!” they cry. “If you insist upon your delusional beliefs, we will ban you from the valley. Admit you were wrong, or suffer exile.”
Are you in any doubt about what has happened to you? Not a bit.
Are you tempted to pretend it was all a lie? Just a little. Being exiled is a serious thing.
But then you see the Eye Doctor standing behind the crowd. He has his hand out, ready to walk with you into exile and care for you. All fear fades and you speak calmly and boldly, “I know whom I’ve believed, and am absolutely confident he is real and what he has given me is real. There is sight and there is color. I only wish you would come experience it with me.”
This analogy is my own, but the Bible often refers to people outside of Christ as “blind”. Jesus Himself said He is the light of the world. Another word picture God uses is to “pass from death into life”. The difference between death and life is not something someone can describe to a person who’s only known death.
Do I think this testimony will change my correspondent’s heart and mind? No. People have free will and adults have a lot invested in the life they have chosen. But, I also believe in the Holy Spirit. He is the one who shines the light of Jesus into hearts, and for some reason, He often chooses to work through ordinary words.
So, all of you who have been to “the Eye Doctor”, I ask you to pray for my friend. If it was just me, I would ban any opposing view on sight, it “isn’t good for my blood pressure“. But taking the time to share with each person who comes to me is a sacrifice of love I make to the Creator God who “isn’t willing that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth.” II Peter 3:8
For another take on the experience of knowing God, check out Creation Clues: The Little Things