Ask any woman in the Sunday School class I teach at Ames Blvd. Baptist Church how they know God is real, and then take a seat. Their stories will take a while.
They will talk of answered prayer, beauty out of life’s rubble, conviction over sin, of joy and peace. What makes their stories remarkable, to me, is that almost all of them have husbands, children, or close family members who do not know the Lord.
These women – my friends – know something about heartache and trial. They know a bit more about God’s faithfulness.
One day I asked them how they know God is real. One seasoned believer answered simply, “Because He’s been faithful in the past.”
I thought it was profound.
Read that again: Because He’s been faithful. God is trustworthy. A growing Christian should have an arsenal, if you will, of stories and experiences she can draw upon when explaining her faith to a non-believer. She should be able to say with conviction, “I trust Him.”
This simple statement, backed up with real-life experience from inside the crucible of life, is necessary in a day and age when New Atheists, Hollywood, and sadly, even some Christians think faith is believing something that “cannot be proven” or worse, “believing something that isn’t true.”
But trust is different. It is provable. We trust those who have shown themselves trustworthy. Even the culture understands the difference. While this certainly is not all that should be said, making this distinction can be important.
Critics like to imply that Christians must work themselves into a lather of delusion in order to believe. As famed atheist Richard Dawkins claims, Christians believe “in spite of” the evidence.
This is why Greg Koukl, founder of Stand to Reason ministries and a leading Christian apologist, goes so far as to encourage Christians to stop using the word faith when talking to a non-believer, and use “trust” instead. Today’s culture doesn’t understand “faith.” Faith is caricatured as hardheadedness that rises up out of denial and intellectual weakness.
Trust, however, is earned. You only trust someone you know well. When a Christian recounts examples of specific answers to prayers, or a turn of events that only God could have orchestrated, she is giving evidence for why she trusts God.
This is not to say that experience grounds our beliefs. Far from it. Scripture grounds our beliefs. All experience must be evaluated in light of Scripture.
Nor am I talking about emotion. I am not saying invite people to follow Christ because He gives peace, or will “help them through life.” Rather, I’m encouraging Christians to give evidence of specific occasions of answered prayer, recount tangible moments when He acted, and tell of the wonderfully, creative ways in which God has moved on our behalf.
In other words, give a reason “for the hope within us” (1 Peter 3:15) by explaining why God can be trusted.
A good memory is biblical. Jesus chided his disciples for forgetting how He had fed 5,000 with five loaves (Matt. 16.9). Isaiah 63:7 says that in the day of God’s judgment, His followers will remember and give testimony of all “He has done for us.” God has proven Himself trustworthy. As philosopher J. P. Moreland writes in Love Your God With All Your Mind, faith is “a trust in what we have reason to believe is true.”
After all, we are called to urge others not simply to believe truth claims about Christ, but to place their lives completely in His hands.
Using “trust” as we explain our faith, backed up with real-life examples of God’s involvement in our lives, can cut through the cultural fog and help reach a world desperate for Christ.
Marilyn Stewart is the assistant director of news and information and the managing editor of Vision Magazine.