Once, when discussing the nature of salvation with a skeptical intellectual named Nicodemus, Jesus made a claim the skeptic thought was ridiculous—that people need to be “born again” before they can enter the kingdom of God. Nicodemus challenged, “Why would that be true, and how could it happen?” Jesus responded by basically saying, “Nicodemus, are you really in a position to question the logic of my assertions? Have you ascended into heaven and come back in a way that you would be able to verify these things? No one has ascended beyond the earth to figure these things out; rather, one has come down from heaven to reveal them” (John 3:1–14, my paraphrase).
In other words, we have neither the mental capacity nor the life experience to evaluate Jesus’s claims about eternity. The question is: Is he who he says he is? We are presented with the same question posed to Moses: Do you really believe that the I AM has spoken?
If our faith depends on figuring out all the answers, we’ll never possess faith. You see, faith is not a response to a convincing explanation but a convincing act of revelation. Faith happens when the unexplainable encounters the undeniable.11 “Without faith,” the writer of Hebrews says, “it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6). If you are going to know God, it will be because you believe he is who he says he is and trust him with things you cannot verify.
Let me share an example of what that kind of faith looks like.
During my senior year of college, I became good friends with a Muslim girl named Aisha who had grown up in Central Asia. She was spooky smart. I asked her if she would like to read the Bible with some friends of mine and me, and—more out of curiosity than anything else—she agreed to do so.
Somewhere along the way she became fascinated by Jesus. She bristled, however, at his claims to be God. As a Muslim, she had been drilled from birth with the idea that there can be no Trinity. I tried every analogy in the book to explain how God could be one being in three persons, but she kept saying, “I just can’t see it.”
One night I finally asked her, “Aisha, what if Jesus were to appear to you right here, right now, and say to you, ‘I won’t explain to you how this all works, but I want you to know that my claim to be God is true, and I want you to believe it and follow me even if you can’t understand. Later I’ll expand your thinking so it makes sense. But until then, I just need you to trust me.’ Would you believe him?”
Aisha thought about the question for a moment and then told me that she wanted to go home and think about it some more.
The next morning, she called me at 7:00 a.m. She told me that during the middle of the night she had a dream that Jesus was knocking at her door. She got up to answer, and when she did, she realized she really did believe that Jesus is who he said he was. It was only fear, she admitted, keeping her from embracing it. But she knew that if he really was who he said he was, she could trust what he said to be true. That morning we prayed together, and she put her trust in Christ as Savior.
Your questions may not be about the Trinity. Maybe they are about why God would let a tsunami take the lives of 100,000 people in Southeast Asia. Or why your father got Alzheimer’s disease. Or why God still hasn’t brought along that special person for you to marry. Or why your spouse left. Or why God says certain kinds of sex, which feel so natural to you, are wrong. Or why so many people in the world aren’t Christians if Christianity is actually true.
I’ve had many of these same questions. They are legitimate ones. But let me give it to you straight: God will not answer all those questions before he calls you to follow him. He didn’t for Moses or the prophets or his disciples. He simply speaks—in an undeniable way, through burning bushes and empty tombs—and invites you to believe. If understanding everything is a prerequisite to belief, you’ll never believe.
Each one of us must decide if we believe God is the Voice speaking. I always tell our college students that faith is accepting what you cannot understand on the basis of what you can understand. There are many things we may not be able to understand. What we can understand is that Jesus really is the Son of God. He proved that.
That doesn’t mean all our questions will vanish the moment we believe. They didn’t for Jesus’s disciples:
When many of his disciples heard [these things], they said, “This is a hard saying: who can listen to it?” . . . After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:60, 66–69 ESV)
I love Peter’s answer. It’s authentic, even if a little uninspiring: “Leave? Uhhh . . . where else can we go? Your words confuse us and sometimes anger us, but they are the only ones that give life.”
Having faith does not mean having all your questions answered but perceiving that there is One who does have all the answers. Like Peter, your faith may be filled with questions. There will undoubtedly be moments where you have nothing else but Peter’s confession: “We have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
What we must avoid at all costs is editing Jesus, forcing him into a mold where he answers our questions the way we like. This is not worship of God; it’s worship of ourselves. And it is the greatest substitute for true faith.
Greear, J. D., and David Jeremiah. 2018. Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
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