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BOWEN: The man who made the long journey to faith

Every time I think of the Easter season, I think of those who make a long journey from disbelief to faith. One of those individuals is journalist and author Lee Strobel.

The amazing light of Lee Strobel — the one-time atheist turned believer — will long serve as a testimony to the power of faith. His “The Case For Christ” book, then movie, tells his story — this once Chicago Tribune journalist attempts to prove Christianity wrong from a researcher’s point of view.

In one of the opening scenes of the movie, Lee’s wife and young daughter are eating in a restaurant when the little girl gets choked, causing immediate chaos throughout the restaurant. No one is able to dislodge the food from the child’s throat, and she likely would have died right there … except … by “chance” a nurse happens to be at the restaurant and is able to perform the Heimlich and save her life. Lee’s wife Leslie — gripped with both fear and thanksgiving — pours her trembling heart out to the Good Samaritan nurse. But the nurse says, “Oh, it wasn’t me that saved your little girl. It was Jesus.”

That night when Lee and Leslie put the little girl to bed, the girl asks her mom and dad innocently: “Who’s Jesus?”

Leslie looks hopelessly to her rational journalist husband for the answer, which he provides freely:

“Oh,” he said, “we don’t believe in Jesus. We’re athiests.”

With that, they kiss the 6-year-old good night, as the little girl says, “I guess I will be an atheist, too.”

You cannot help but to gasp at that. But while Lee Strobel is content to chalk up the powerful event of that day to “chance,” Leslie cannot quite get over it. It weighs on her mind, and that tugging at her heart leads her to investigate this “Jesus” thing further, ultimately forcing Lee to as well. While Leslie is truly looking for something to anchor her life to, Lee is looking to debunk this silly notion of a Jesus who was raised from the dead.

Strobel’s story — really, more of a “journey” — truly is compelling, even until the end when — after he has spent months looking to prove the fallacy of this resurrection notion — Lee asks his editor if he can write an article on his findings. Of course, his editor knows the nature of the thesis and declines.

That night at home, as Lee laments that lost opportunity, Leslie says non-assumingly: “Well, then, write a book.”

Since that casual “write a book” suggestion, Lee Strobel has written twenty “apologetic” books, including the one that bears the name of his movie, The Case for Christ, and also his powerful A Case for Faith. We find a hint of greatness in this journey.

The topic of faith probably has never been timelier than it is right now as men are searching for something real to anchor their lives onto.

But for most of us, we do not need to investigate the resurrection of Jesus — as does Mr. Strobel —by interviewing medical doctors or psychologists. We simply go where we can find the greatest evidence for faith. Once we arrive there and spend time in that place, we accept its truth without hesitation. A far greater writer and “journalist” even than Mr. Strobel says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

We do not have to travel the country at all to find these great truths. We take the little book we call the Bible — particularly those first four amazing books of the New Testament — and we read the gripping account of a risen Savior, accepting the truth of those accounts through faith.

No, we do not accept them blindly but, rather, because there is overwhelming evidence that those accounts are true. Four men — evangelists — tell the story of a risen Savior in beautiful harmonizing detail, and we find the evidence is not only compelling but also convicting.

The world, I think, largely has missed the true meaning of this thing we call faith: Faith, you see, does not mean that we cannot know. It simply means that we cannot see.

Some time ago my Texas friend Tonda Miller sent me a video of a neurosurgeon who had a seizure and almost died. He says that, during the seizure, he actually went up to heaven and saw all of its beauties. As he speaks — certainly looking and sounding authoritative with his white jacket and apocalyptic story — he holds in his hand a model of the brain. The doctor explains that his experience had to have been outside the cortex of the brain, that it was something beyond man’s mental capacities. So, as a result, he believed that heaven must be real.

My first thought at hearing that story was this:

Wait a minute! We do not have to get a “free trip” to heaven for us to believe. Faith is knowing without seeing — not knowing because we’ve seen!

Certainly, we are glad that the gentleman now believes. But are we not more impressed when a man takes the inspired book in his hands, examines its great message continually and passionately, then comes to this one inescapable conclusion: I believe!

Faith, you see, is not the guessing, the assumption, the theory, the possibility of things not seen.

Faith is the “evidence of things not seen.” Faith is evidence! So, today, we — along with all the Strobels of the world — take our place firmly and confidently in that one arena in this world that makes logical and spiritual sense. We call that arena “faith.”