BOWEN COLUMN: Have a little faith
Now that June is here, we have a new group of seniors who are about to set out to make their way in the world. I thought some of them may be the children or grandchildren of some of my own classmates from way back in 1974. But whoever you are, and wherever the stage may be that you walked across, here’s a little pep talk for you high school seniors of 2021.
I was thinking, what is it that a young man and young lady’s mom and dad most want of them? The first thing that came to mind is that they would want them to go into the world with a strong, organic faith. Perhaps this question will help you stop and think about where you’re headed in that regard: Will you choose faith, or will you not?
A person could figure he’d get to that question down the road when he has time to think; but, truth is, it’s not a question you can put off for later. With faith, no decision is a decision in itself.
You understand. You begin answering the question the minute you take ahold of that diploma and the principal’s hand and step down off of that stage. You may have lived on your parents’ faith for the first eighteen years of your life. That’s a good start, but that will only take you so far. As you travel a sometimes bumpy, curvy road, your faith is going to come up against some formidable roadblocks. It will only stand up if it’s your faith, if you own it!
It recently dawned on me why some people choose to follow the Lord and some don’t. There is within all of us either a will to believe, or there’s a will not to believe. Some choose not to because they can’t seem to be able to wrap their minds around the Bible’s teachings. As young people step into the classrooms of what we call higher education, they are about to hear many skeptics stand in front of them with world views that are a mile and a half from the Bible.
So, I’ll be the first to say in regard to biblical reliability: There’s plenty of biblical, historical, literary, scientific, and archeological evidence to support faith in the Bible. But, as is attested by some of those intellectuals who will stand before you, if a man doesn’t want to believe he can find enough ‘evidence’ otherwise to talk himself out of it. (If you need some shoring up in that area, pick up any book by Lee Stroebel or Josh McDowell. Even better, roll your sleeves up and spend some serious time in the Bible. That’ll do.)
By the way, in case someone decides to just remain neutral, I’ll tell you that, unfortunately, you can’t accept the lovely Rose of Sharon and reject the validity of the Bible. The two will have to go together.)
But what we’re talking about here is not just a decision to believe or not to believe in the Bible and Jesus of Nazareth. It’s more of a decision to live it or not to live it. That’s what it comes down to. To live it is going to make you choose not to go to certain places and hang out with certain people, and it’s going to demand that you ‘be’ a certain kind of person.
It won’t take you long to figure out that it isn’t just something hidden away in the back roads of your mind, something that you don’t really have to use. People sometimes try that; but your faith sits right there on your front porch for everybody to see. It’s not just something up in your head. It’s in your arms and legs, too.
Faith really is a funny thing. Sometimes it feels strong, and sometimes it needs life support. The good news is that even the great men and women of the Bible experience doubts, and they have their share of failures. So why are they considered men of faith? I think it’s because in all their lives, they never lose their will to follow the Lord. They choose faith even when they realize they had just failed in faith. They skid off of the road from time to time; but they find some way to pull themselves out of that ditch (with Providential help, of course) and to plod on down the road of faith again. That’s what faith looks like, I think.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard comes from an old Canadian preacher named Lynn Anderson, a preacher Lee Stroebel interviews in his classic book, “The Case for Faith.” Stroebel asks Anderson for a good starting place to developing faith. Mr. Anderson replies that a person needs to surround himself with the right things: the right people, the right reading materials, the right influences, and he needs to go to the right places.
Then he makes it real: “After all,” he says, “if you want to grow roses, you don’t buy an acre at the North Pole. You go to where roses grow.”
“Ah, that’s the key!” I could not help but think when I read that. If you want to walk by faith, you’ll have to go where faith is.
Right now, then, before you take another step out into the world, and before you make
the next of the ten thousand decisions you are going to be make in your life, tuck that one point safely down into the corridor of your mind:
If you want to grow faith, you have to go where faith grows.