Roadblock #6: The Relevance Factor
TYPICAL WORDING: “I don’t need faith … in what way is it relevant to my life?”
PROBLEM: Many folks these days, the young especially, don’t see any compelling reason to turn toward faith. They are busy with their own pursuits, relationships, travel plans, careers, dalliances, fun etc… , and don’t see the need for religion. To them, honestly, religion seems rather boring and a bit weird. Their questions concerning religion include: “Why should I bother? What does it do for me? Does it bring me money, thrills, a better life? None of my friends are into it; so why should I be? I don’t understand church that much, so what would I do if I went? Synagogue is boring. Anyway, who has time for it?” Faith, and especially organized religion, do not seem to scratch their life’s itch.
SOLUTION: Faith could not be more relevant to both the young and old. Properly understood faith benefits every area of life from childhood to the grave. The sooner a young person acquires the right perspective on faith, the better for his/her life. The key is gaining a clear perspective about life. Once the young receive an education which inspires faith, they will see its benefits and many will flock to it. Honestly, the young have the most to gain by faith. Too many look at life with short-sided vision and a shallow perspective. All people, especially the young, need to open their eyes to how a life with faith is superior, and how a life without faith hurts and hinders the journey of life. Those disinterested in faith can learn to think more carefully about the road of life and see how faith is the best thing they could acquire while young.
EXPLANATION: Religion can appear to be a sideshow in life hardly the central interest for many people. Worship services in particular feel like an unnecessary intrusion onto their precious weekend activities. Also religious organizations tend to repel visitors by asking for money and offering little tangible in return. Religious people seem odd to those who are not initiated in their religious practices and jargon. All of these factors work to make faith – at least formal faith – appear peripheral or irrelevant.
That is looking at faith and religion superficially. When someone evaluates something for relevancy, surely they must look at the heart and center of what it is, not the peripheral. The center of faith reveals these relevant attributes:
- Faith is a life to enter into which becomes both thrilling and challenging. It is by no means boring. It brings challenges and a sense of fulfillment.
- Proper faith leads to abundant life. Life without faith runs aground after awhile. Workers may do fine without a tool until they find out they need it. Then they wish they had it. So it is true with life. It goes on well until you realize you are not equipped. The naive rush into life without equipment.
- Correct faith puts you in touch with the One who made you and knows you best. Without it you live in the dark and never realize your potential. Your Maker is the best source for your happiness and harmony.
- Faith informs and brightens every area of life from recreation to work; from family to dealing with enemies, to lonely thoughts within and social interactions without. No category of life is excluded from faith’s touch.
- Faith deals simultaneously with the overall meaning and purpose of life and the everyday workings of life. It deals with the “here and now,” and the “there and then.” It is both philosophical and practical; awe inspiring and delightful.
- Faith touches the body and soul. It connects you to the ground for living now, and speaks of the sky and your future beyond this life.
- Faith transforms every area of life – the will, the mind, the emotions.
Sometimes the best way to discover the relevance of faith is to listen to the testimonies of people who were not interested in faith and then became actively involved. Why did their perspective change? Listen to what they are saying and think more deeply about your own life and its direction. Millions of people began their journey of faith in middle-school, high school, or college. They too were bored with faith, then became intensely interested. What did they discover?
Christian Scripture, for example, includes these very sound and relevant truths for life from those who knew God. They range from guidance for life, mysteries of the future, and life altering thoughts. Consider how each statement is so practical and useful for every facet of life.
Matthew 7:12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 16:26 – “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Proverbs 12:15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”
Proverbs 13:11 “Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, But the one who gathers by labor increases it.”
The Apostle John
1 John 1:9-10 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”
1 John 5:20 “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”
The Apostle Paul
Philippians 4:12-13 “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
And there are literally thousands more. All one has to do is begin to look into it, find a helpful guide to the Scriptures, and the truths will become alive in one’s soul as faith appropriates this “logic on fire” in holy Scripture. Truth will light up your life in a way you have never imagined! It literally is an untapped world to enter into.
Roadblock #7: The Deception Factor
TYPICAL WORDING: “I don’t trust formal religion. I’ve seen too much deception, manipulation, and hypocrisy in it.”
PROBLEM: Another stiff-arm to faith by observant people is the deception which goes on in the name of religion. There is no denying that religion has been used to control the masses, loosen people’s grip on their own money, manipulate their consciences and even do worse. So this deception has proven to be one of the greatest roadblocks to faith. If people inside of organized religion live so poorly, why should someone feel compelled to join them? If they have been caught in deception on earth, why should they be trusted when talking about heavenly things like faith and God?
SOLUTION: Those are very good questions. They demand solid answers. The answer is this: Deception in some religion, even lots of religion, is still no reason to throw out all faith and all teachers. It simply does not follow logically. Granted, there are many bad apples. However with millions of bushels of apples even a few thousand bad apples is no reason to throw out the whole crop. In fact, it only underscores how import it is to get faith correct. If faith is the key to all of life, and if there is evil present in the world, then we should expect there will be evil penetrating religion to lead us astray and discourage us from seeking truth, love, and spiritual understanding. We need to look past the deception to the good if we are to see clearly! Besides, from ancient times, loving teachers like Jesus warned of false teachers who would come and mislead many. So we should expect some deception and guard against it.
EXPLANATION: Who from my generation can forget the Jonestown suicide in the name of religion? About 900 people who joined a cult called the People’s Temple which started in Indiana, committed joint suicide on November 18, 1978 in the South American country named Guyana by drinking poison and lying down together to die in the jungle. The cult members had been promised a utopian society, but ended up dead. It was called the Jonestown Massacre and was led by a false teacher named Jim Jones. Today, there are those who commit unthinkable atrocities in the name of Islam. Every month a new horror is done in the name of Allah. Christianity has long been criticized for the Crusades, for the burning of books, for the Inquisition, and for petty squabbles between denominations. The name Jesus has been dragged through the mud. Hindus have literally let people starve as they revered cows. They have often not encouraged care for their own poor. Cults lie and deceive. The Roman Catholic church has been embroiled in sex abuse scandals. Evangelical leaders on TV have been exposed as frauds and hypocrites. Pagan religions practiced child sacrifices. Satanism does some of the most disgusting acts imaginable. Every religion has its human rights abuses.
So it is understandable people are hesitant to commit to faith for the fear they will get caught up in something bad. They clearly do not want to believe the wrong thing, join the wrong organization, and end up getting burned. Their lack of familiarity with religion does not help either since their lack of discernment makes them more vulnerable.
However to lump evil religion in the same category as good is a grave mistake which is itself destructive and foolish. Discerning and mature individuals know the difference between good and evil. They know what builds up and what destroys. They can tell those who serve others verses those who manipulate others. Observant people know the difference between helpful acts of faith and destructive acts of misguided zeal. That is one of the main reasons I am writing this blog – to guide the one seeking truth. To use the faculties and observations you already have to lead you to that which is a true and beneficial faith.
It may surprise some of you to know that Christianity teaches that both the Archangel Michael and Satan are religious persons. One worships the Good God; the other worships all things evil, including himself. No one with discernment would lump them in the same category. Even in the fictional and highly popular Star Wars series the dark side of the force is opposite the good side. Differences exist. That is self-evident truth. So the solution is not to lump good and evil together but to maintain discernment about what is good and noble verses what is evil and wasteful.
Keep in mind too that religion gets an unfair rap from many in the media and school. The media tends to focus on exposing those who were trusted and have abused that trust. However the number of excellent things being done by believers in the name of God are not usually reported because those kinds of events don’t drive up the program’s ratings. Millions of times weekly people serve one another, give money to meet a physical need, assist others in crisis, patiently counsel and teach the downtrodden, visit people in prisons and hospitals, volunteer, and do a host of other beneficial things in the name of religion. Hospitals are started. Schools begin. Hunger funds are raised. Soup kitchens serve meals. Education is advanced. Beautiful worship music is composed. The lonely are cared for.
Yet in assessing religion, many choose to turn a blind eye to the excellent things accomplished. That is not a fair or accurate evaluation.
Just to underscore this … Believers in Jesus are there at the scene when disasters strike. They are there when widows need support. They offer rides. They care for foreigners. They bake meals for others. They give up their vacation leave time to go oversees and help with a mission. They give to charities at a higher rate than any other group. They make friendly neighbors, hard laborers, faithful friends, and loyal citizens. They grieve with those who grieve, and they rejoice with those who rejoice. Most of this good is organized and motivated by the formal church. The formal church is not all bad. It does a lot of good unreported by the media.
These benevolent acts and sincere devotions are signposts indicating there is much out there to trust.
Remember, there also exists deception in the name of science, or deception in the realm of business. Yet we continue to use science and business looking for the best in each. So also with religion. Each one must be looked at fairly and squarely.