Most of us roll our eyes at the first mention of theology; we make jokes about theologians chasing black cats in a dark room. But in fact, we are all theologians. Theology is simply what we believe about God. And while those ideas may be invisible or mysterious, they are so real that others can infer what we believe about the Almighty by watching the way we live. So try this on for size: bad theology is the reason many church people are grumpy on the outside and bitter on the inside.
For instance, take these three false and utterly un-biblical ideas about faith that are found everywhere in the church today.
- Many church people believe God is obligated to keep us comfortable throughout all of life because of our faith, The most commonly heard response to tribulation is two words: why me.
- There’s this widespread notion that we are entitled to understand the rationale for every painful thing God does because we have faith. If I can’t figure out what God is doing, it can’t possibly make sense in Heaven!
- And finally, we believe that faith guarantees we must always succeed in everything we touch. Not even the shadow of failure can ever cross our lives! Everything I do has surely earned the blessings of God, right?
Now consider what the Sons of Korah said about true faith in Psalm 46.1 – 3. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.”
The psalmist doesn’t insist this life must be trouble free. To the contrary, he finds strength and refuge in his God who is there for him when life is agonizing and threatening. Likewise, he clings to no guarantee that the earth will never give way when the mountains are thrust into the sea. That has already happened in the Bible… in the first book… to a godly man named Noah! Rather, the boast of the writers of the psalms is that if the earth should fall away again or the mountains should be covered in water once more, they will not fear. Rather, their faith in God’s strength will be constant.
We see life from a different point of view; one we did not derive from the pages of God’s Word. We have made this false assumption that faith is the promise of constant comfort, complete understanding, and routine success. When it doesn’t happen, we look for people to blame. We point fingers at family and friends; at leaders at church or bad translations; at luck, and karma and a hundred other lame superstitions. And we grow bitter. Callouses begin to form around the heart. Ultimately we have to blame God, like it or not. Worship is no longer so interesting when our illusions have crashed to the ground; people who haven’t also lost all hope are a nuisance and a threat.
The same myths and lies that can sound so motivating on a cheery Sunday morning, like the heresy that God is compelled to bless token generosity by making you a millionaire, leave people disappointed and burned out when they crash and burn on blue Monday. And they will always disintegrate one way or another because they are promises God has never made.
Test your attitudes about faith and adversity. When it seems an idea you had about God has left you in the lurch, sit down and find where you ever found that notion. Is it a scriptural principle or just another cultural fantasy? There’s a reason Proverbs 4:23 directs us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” It doesn’t mean be careful who you love. It means be careful what you believe. Insist on Truth. Search the scriptures and pray.
Lift up the Cross!