Have you ever asked yourself, “What if?” Two words … but the conflict they sometimes generate can be very disconcerting.
What if my faith is bogus? What if there is no God and therefore no objective moral standard by which I can guide my life? What if Jesus was a fraud, or at best, a distraught rabbi with a wild imagination? What if the writers of our New Testament were sincere but sincerely deluded?
Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel had his own “what if” – what if there really is a God? “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God!” (from his book The Last Word, quoted by Timothy Keller in Preaching, p. 82 ). Not me! I want there to be a God and I can’t imagine what my life would be like if He were not the primary force in my life.
Now, please stay with me. Believe me, I am neither bragging nor complaining. I do, however, want to make a point.
Because of my faith, think of all that I have missed. I trust you don’t know what I have missed, but if you do, I suspect you can verify that life without God is no cake-walk. Current headlines will answer that one. Exploiting the freedom to live as we please without an objective moral standard, “doing what comes naturally” as the saying goes, often demands an awful price. Eventually, we must “pay the piper.”
I must be honest and admit that if it were not for my relationship with God and my decision many years ago to live “by the Book” I would be in a heap of trouble. I need God! I need His forgiveness for a clear conscience; I need His strength to face the crises of life; I need His moral standard to keep me from doing something stupid and counter-productive; I need the assurance of an eternity in His presence after death to give me stability during tough times. Yes! I need God! My entire outlook on life, my planning and the goals for which I strive have all been affected by my perspective on God.
So … back to the question: what if my faith is bogus? The Apostle Paul, who had to deal with that question for himself, put his conclusion this way: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.”
It is, ultimately, the resurrection of Jesus Christ that gives me supreme confidence that I am on the right track. My faith is not bogus! The resurrection, which Jesus had predicted on several occasions, verified His message.
When Jesus was being abandoned by many who found the principles He taught to be too demanding, he asked his disciples, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” And Peter was quick to respond. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”