Category Archives: Faith and Unbelief

Why Do You Believe?

After Mary Magdalene reported to Peter and “the other disciple” that Jesus’ body had been taken from the tomb, they ran to the tomb.  Peter went in first and found the strips of linen lying there along with the burial cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head.  Then the other disciple went in, and the Apostle John reports of himself, “He saw and believed.” (John 20:8)  

What was the reason for John’s belief?

Did he now recall the times when Jesus had explicitly said he must suffer, die and be raised from the dead?  Was it because of his close relationship with Jesus that he now had an epiphany, connecting Jesus’ past words with the experience of seeing an empty tomb?  The answer is that we don’t know for sure and can only speculate, but it does trigger the question of what is the reason for our belief.

Is it because of the upbringing and training by our parents?  Is it because of our own investigation and analysis of scripture, the historical record, archeological discoveries and scripture scholar commentaries?  Is it a combination of one or more these things PLUS God’s grace?  

I believe that God created us with a built in desire to look beyond our physical existence — a DNA that seeks understanding of who we are and why we exist.  As St. Augustine observed of God, “You made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  

I was raised Baptist in the faith of my father, attending Baptist Sunday School from the time I was a toddler until age 13, at which time I became a Roman Catholic, the faith of my mother.   I never seemed to question my faith in Jesus as the son of God, born a real human person of the Virgin Mary.  I readily accepted that he suffered the horrible death of crucifixion and was raised to new life by the power of God.

As an adult there was a time when my faith began to take a back seat to my career.  Then one October evening I met the person of Jesus in a very personal and real way, and subsequently experienced the release of the power of the Holy Spirit in my life.

What was the reason for this renewal of my faith?  Was it the frustration with the sin and disorder in my life and the willingness to change?  Was it the example of my wife coming home from a Life in the Spirit Seminar full of joy four nights in a row? Was it the prayers of my wife and a devout mother?  Was it God’s love and grace?

I believe it was all of the above, but God’s grace was the driving force.  God may use a particular circumstance, the words of a friend or stranger, an experience of failure or suffering, the words heard in a scripture or a sermon, or the forgiveness and love of a friend.  Like John, God wants all of us to see the empty tomb and believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead, conquering death and equipping us to live a life serving God and one another with love and truth.

Tongue-tied for Not Believing

How often are our tongues silent because of limited faith or fear? 

When the angel, Gabriel, appeared to Zechariah, to tell him that his prayer had been answered and his wife would bear him a son who was to be named John, Zechariah asked, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”  After explaining that he was God’s messenger, Gabriel said, “And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens because you did not believe my words.” (Luke 1:11-20)

Zechariah could not speak until the time of John’s circumcision when his speech returned and he confirmed that the baby should be named John instead of a name more familiar to the family.  Luke reports, “His tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God.” (Luke 1:64)

How often are our tongues rendered silent because our faith is not strong enough to believe that God is acting in a given situation?  How often do we fail to speak up for fear of what others think?  How often do we fail to offer to pray with someone for fear of being rejected?

Weakness of faith and fear disables our tongues from being used by God to further his will and purpose.   

While there have been times when my faith has not been as strong as it should be, there have also been times when I would ask God what he wanted me to do and then sought to do it.

A few years ago my wife took a phone message from a former secretary.  Her message was that she had cancer and experienced a stroke, and sounded like she wanted to say goodbye before she died.

Her name was Marilyn and she had been my secretary more than 30 years earlier.  When I returned her call she told me about all of her medical difficulties and that she was confined to a wheel chair.  She said she was calling people who had impacted her life.  She recalled how I had encouraged her to go back to college and get a degree, which opened the door to her advancing in her career with our company, Mobil Corporation.

While she was talking I asked God what he wanted me to say to her.  “Pray with her,” was the response.  So, I asked her if I could pray with her.  She said that she didn’t used to believe in God or go to temple and pray, but now she did.  Mindful that she was Jewish, I prayed to the Father that he would bless her and heal her of the effects of her cancer and stroke.  She offered her “Amen.”  I finished our conversation by saying, “Marilyn, I want you to call me back when you stand up from that wheel chair and start walking.”

About six months later I received another call from her.  “Mr. Dalgetty, you told me to call you back when I could walk free of that wheel chair.  Well, here I am, walking.”