How to be a believing Christian and a practicing atheist at the same time
I am so blessed to have a pastor at my church who is a deep, profound and relevant teacher of God’s Word – so Pete if you’re reading this, thanks mate.
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!
Wow, that is a really hard issue for us as Christians to address. Am I doing this because I want to or does God want me to.
We just need to sit back sometimes and wait for the answer to show itself. When it does it often is the opposite of what we would have chosen for ourselves.
We can be so sure we have the answer and know what is best, but God has a way of bringing us to a position of humbleness where we find that the only way forward is to listen and let Him guide us.
Handing over control can be a very scary thing but it also brings a sense of relief and safety. This is all God is looking for….our complete trust.
Someone told me today that human beings are always looking for security not freedom,society gives us an illusion of security,Christians can easily fall in that trap therefore live like atheists instead of trusting His word.Now Jesus gives eternal life freely and only through Him can we be free indeed.But everyday,minute second we have to fight the good fight of faith,it is not an easy road and Satan the father of lies keeps telling us that there is no God,that we are heading to oblivion !Pray without ceasing which means that God is involved in every aspect of our lives even the atheistic parts as He refines us through trials and tribulations.I will turn 59 at the end of this month and already things on earth seem so strangely dim .Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee ,that is the only way for the Christian to escape the atheist invitation from the devil !
Funny I find this scripture today the second time as I listened during lunch time to a short lunch sermon in the city that contained also James 4:13-17. I think the Lord is speaking to me to keep an eye on this issue. Very true, thanks for this. God bless! Michael
Excellent thoughts. You got my attention.
“Atheist” maybe too strong a term for this, perhaps it is more like “God ignorer”. When we ignore God, we forget his wisdom; Prov 3:6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Sound’s like good planning to me…
In ignoring God, we also forget about being living sacrifices Rom 12:1.
I draw encouragement from my pastor Ken, who on the weekend spoke an excellent word about sowing and reaping the Word of God into our minds. “Put the Word in, you get the Word out.” If we put the Word into our hearts and minds, we will reap a Word harvest in our thoughts and we will never ignore Him…
I guess this is one of the most common “failings” of we Christians [from my discussions with many Christian friends]. We humans have a instinct to react, assume & then find ourselves in a situation that is not as “we had planned”! Many years ago a friend gave me a tract which said – “Let go & let God”. So true!!
Wow, i’m printing this out and putting it on my wall where i can see it and be mindful to seek God for my decision making. It so true that most christians do live there life as though God is not in it, and at the moment i’m one of them but wanting to change that. I’m so hungry for his presence in my life, maybe the decision making is a good place to start. start small and work your way up. thank Berni great insight and very enlightening.
Norma, Vicki and Kyra,
thank you each for your encouraging thoughts. And you see all this came, because I just toddled along to church last Sunday and listened to the message that my pastor – Peter Godwin – had prepared and faithfully proclaimed.
Sometimes, I think it’s easy just to stay at home on Sundays, to have a lazy day. And sure, a rest every now and then isn’t a bad thing.
But the thing about gathering together as God’s people is that the Lord works through that. In this case, he used Peter to teach me something profound, as well as then getting that out through this blog to thousands more.
Just takes faith the size of a mustard seed … now where have I heard that before?!
Wow Berni, I’ll have to re read & re read your story, I have had my mind & eyes opened….please Lord, help me, in every way, you know I need help to rectify this, I lift myself to you…..thank you Lord for Berni & his family & his ministry you’ve given him a great gift….please bless this ministry & Berni’s family….please Lord help me soak in what Berni is saying….In your Holy Name, amen
So true ….sometimes we dont have the planning or vision…..just day to day…maybe not daring to believe