“It is so hard to believe because it is so hard to obey.” – Soren Kierkegaard
I have talked to many Christians, from many different denominations, who all have different ideas about what to do when attempting to convert someone. When I was an atheist, I would, more often than not, be bombarded with phrases like: “you just need to accept Jesus in your life,” or “you gotta pray to God and ask forgiveness for your sins, and he’ll forgive you!” While these things may be true, simply throwing these phrases at someone is not going to do much to help them; in fact, it will most likely annoy them.
On these occasions, the expectation was to simply go through the motions of praying, or simply saying the words “forgive me God,” and somehow, magically, I’d be saved. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
Simply telling someone to believe in God accomplishes nothing. In fact, you are doing more harm than good.
To exemplify this, there is a story in Mark, chapter 9, that helps us understand how we must truly believe before we can receive God’s blessings:
A man takes his son, who he believes to be possessed by an unclean spirit, to the followers of Jesus. They were unable to perform any miracle, so the man takes his son to Jesus directly. At this point, Jesus discovers a principle ingredient missing from the situation: belief. The man had obviously heard of Jesus, or had maybe even seen the miracles performed by Him and His followers; thus, he asks for his son to be healed.
The Bible mentions that the son had suffered since childhood, even “. . . [throwing himself] into the fire and into the water to [be destroyed]” (Mark 9:22 NKJV). Can you imagine having to watch your son suffer for so many years, unable to help him, watching him even attempt suicide? Perhaps you can imagine, maybe you have experienced something similar with a child of your own. Regardless, hopefully we can all appreciate the desperation this man must have felt when he asked Jesus for help.
In Mark 9:22, the man says to Jesus, “. . . if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
That one word . . . IF
It is so significant because it helps us to understand that simply the act of going to Jesus and asking for help is not enough. The man has a need, he is desperate, he is suffering, he even acts upon his desperation by seeking help from the Son of God, and yet Jesus says to him, “. . . If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23 NKJV).
Then, verse 24 says: “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!‘”
The power to receive healing doesn’t come from wanting healing, or even acting upon those desires; rather, the healing comes from believing that God can actually heal you.
True belief in God is the hardest thing you we will every do, if you even do it at all. The trust required to leave all worldly desires, thoughts, opinions, and understanding behind . . . and simply believe in something you can’t see, converse with, or even really prove exists, is beyond all reason.
However, despite the odds, it has happened, to even the most hardened of minds. These men, despite their experience and culture, eventually made a conscious decision to not only believe in the God of the Bible, but also chose to become a follower and promoter of Him.
One of my favorite examples of a radical change in beliefs is King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia. In the book of Jeremiah, chapter 4, King Nebuchadnezzar II is called a “destroyer of nations.” He not only laid siege to Jerusalem once, but came back and did it a second time, even destroying Solomon’s Temple! Even with this limited information about the king of Babylonia, it is safe to say that he had no respect for God, or His people.
But then, something miraculous happens . . .
In chapter 4 of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar II declares: “To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth . . . I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. How great are His signs, And how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And His dominion is from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:1-3 NKJV).
How can such a radical change happen in the mind of a man, a king, who had caused so much death and destruction?
While most Christians might say that it was due to the King’s madness (which was predicted by Daniel), I would argue that it actually began with Daniel’s example of the benefits of following the God of Israel. When King Nebuchadnezzar II ruled over the Israelites, he instructed his servants to bring “. . . young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand,” to the palace to serve him, and learn the ways of the Chaldeans (Daniel 1:4 NKJV).
In chapter 1 of Daniel, Daniel and his companions refuse to follow the diet of the king and his court; instead they only eat vegetables and water. Because of this, the king soon realizes that Daniel and his companions were better “. . . in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm” (Daniel 1:20 NKJV).
Daniel had left an impression on the king. He didn’t preach to the king, or even really mention God at all! King Nebuchadnezzar II recognized Daniel’s abilities (which were obviously blessings from God) and decided to put him above even his own countrymen. If this had never taken place, I would argue that the king would never have even asked Daniel to interpret his dream in the first place.
I would encourage you to read the story of Daniel, specifically paying attention to the way he influenced those around him. The principles contained in the story, especially those pertaining to missionary work, are well defined:
- Daniel exemplified his belief in God, and so he was able to positively influence those around him.
- Daniel was able to be of service to those he influenced.
- And third, Daniel was humble. He never boasted of his beliefs, nor did he ‘preach’ his beliefs to the king, or anyone else. Daniel simply showed the people the power of God.