How to be a believing Christian and a practicing atheist at the same time
And through Peter, the Lord recently spoke into an area of my life where I don’t find it particularly easy to strike a happy balance: in doing the things I do, how much does God want me to do, and how much does He want to do Himself?
On the one hand, I don’t want to sit on my heinie and expect Him to do it all. But on the other, I don’t want to be racing ahead of Him, slogging my guts out trying to do the things that only He can do.
They say that an atheist is someone who lives out their lives as though there is no God.
And sometimes we find ourselves, despite believing passionately in Jesus, living our lives quite independently of Him; in effect being both a believing Christian and a practicing atheist at the same time.
Scary thought that, eh?!
So how can you and I get the balance right – I mean in the practical things we do day after day? Well fortunately, as always, God’s Word has the answers:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.”
As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin. (James 4:13-17)
It seems to me that there are three things that we get wrong according to this Scripture, and once we realise what they are, we have the opportunity set them right:
1. We plan as though God doesn’t exist:
Now God isn’t against us planning ahead – in fact, His Word encourages it (Luke 14:28). But when we plan things – the ‘when’, the ‘where’ the ‘how long’, the ‘what’ and the ‘what for’ – without Him, how much sense does that make, given that none of us really knows what tomorrow will bring? Why is it that we somehow manage to race ahead and do our planning before asking God what His plans are; before drawing quietly aside and waiting on Him in prayer and His Word; before listening to the Holy Spirit? It doesn’t make a lot of sense does it?!
2. We presume about tomorrow:
And since we don’t know what tomorrow brings, it seems to me that it’s somewhat presumptuous of us to be so firm and self-confident about our plans. The Lord must shake his head sometimes when we, like just about everyone else, “boast” about what tomorrow will bring. We all do it. I met a man recently about the same age as me – great guy with a heart for the Lord. He’d lost over 50 kg in weight exercising and working out in the gym. He was fit as a fiddle and had everything to live for. At dinner he told me that he’d “just added 20 years to his life”. Of course in theory he had. Two weeks later he dropped dead at the gym as people do sometimes. When you and I presume that tomorrow will be what we expect, we miss the point (Luke 12:16-20). I suspect that what God is calling us to here, is to humble ourselves by placing our very lives in His hands.
3. We put off doing what’s right:
This is what I call the proactive procrastination model – some of us have turned it into a fine art form. Tomorrow I’ll start losing weight … tomorrow I’ll spend time with the kids … tomorrow I’ll … Putting off what we know to be right – God has a name for that. He calls it “sin”.
Don’t know about you, but in those three simple things, I feel like God’s just dropped the answers to my dilemma into my lap. It’d be just like Him too!