Ask not what you must do to keep God on your side, but rather ask what God has done to keep on your side.
It may surprise you but the Bible is not really concerned about atheism. Meaning it does not waste too much print in convincing people that there is a God that we should believe in. It takes God’s existence as a given.
The Bible is far more concerned about idolatry — the belief in false gods — and as such it uses an enormous amount of print on helping us to see the real nature of God. Remember in the Garden of Eden the sneaky snake did not try and convince Adam and Eve to doubt whether there was a God or not. Rather the temptation revolved around the nature of God, which in effect was saying: “Do you really trust that God loves you? Really? I think not! God is denying you freedom and knowledge. You need to look after yourself. Take, eat and become like God yourself.” [A sneaky paraphrase].
Granted we don’t carve out little statues to bow down to anymore (although TVs do come to mind) but all too many of us bow down to what the dominant culture has determined to be of greatest value. And what is that when all is said and done? Money. The dominant culture — world over — says millions of times per day in millions of different ways that “you are nothing without money”. Money is the god above all gods — because with it we can acquire all the others — happiness, acceptance, success, validation, security, freedom, health and control (just to name a few). Now these are not necessarily bad at all — but when they become our ultimate concern we make them into an idol — and idols always, always demand sacrifice — and this leads to so much destruction and death in the world.
Now here is the really crazy thing. We can even end up praying to Jesus to help us to worship these other gods. In fact there are churches who exist and grow purely on the promise that if we pray just right (and contribute just enough) then Jesus will bless us with more and more money. As if Jesus were interested in helping us to worship another god. At the end of the day our “God” is whatever we place our ultimate trust in and what we have given our heart to. And even atheists have given their hearts to something — so this makes us all believers. The question is not whether we believe or not — but rather what we believe.
So, what is your God like?
Fierce or friendly? Merciful or judgemental? Generous or stingy? Inclusive or exclusive? For all or just for some? Nationalistic or universal?
These are worthy questions to wrestle with. In fact, the Bible is filled with people who wrestle with God. Remember Jacob — he refused to stop wrestling until he grew in understanding of who God is. And he was subsequently re-named Israel. We are all called to be Israel — ”God Wrestlers”.
The invitation of Jesus is to trust that what he says and does represents God’s nature and so we are invited to wrestle with him. To refuse to let go until we grow in understanding.
Wrestling takes effort and energy. It also takes rest and reflection between rounds, not to mention fitness and technique training. What does your training programme look like? How much time per day/per week does it take? What exercises does it include? Have you got a training partner(s)?
As we train, question and wrestle, may we be set free from fear to confess our idolatry even (or especially) if our worship of Jesus has turned into a means to worship idols itself.
There really is no more exciting question to carry than to ask ourselves: “What is my God like?” “Where have I given my heart?”