Why “Believing” Is Not Enough
In centuries past, young men and women found the strength to stand up for what they believed, even in the face of pressure and persecution.
Joseph stood strong against an Egyptian temptress, because giving in “would be a great sin against God” (Genesis 39:9).
Daniel refused to compromise his convictions in the face of an antagonistic Babylonian culture.
Peter and John chose to obey God rather than men, though doing so invited persecution.
Others throughout history have done the same, becoming modern-day parallels of those who “shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, ...became strong in battle... were mocked, ...chained... killed” (Hebrews 11:33-37).
“So what do we have to do,” you might ask, “to equip our children and young people to resist the pressures of a godless culture and stand up for what they believe? Do we simply teach them to believe the right things? Is that the answer?”
That may seem logical, but it’s not that simple. Because in today’s cultural setting, mere believing isn’t enough. In fact, I would go so far as to say even getting our kids to believe in the right things won’t be enough.
Now, I know many people may question my assertion that believing is not enough. I’ve had parents and other adults react strongly when I’ve made that statement in the past.
“Josh,” they say, “how can you say believing is not enough? I was taught to just believe the right things about God and the Bible, and I turned out okay. Why would it be any different for my kids?”
Allow me to explain. You see, when earlier generations were growing up, most were taught that right was right and wrong was wrong. They were told that certain things were inherently and objectively right and true for all people, for all times, for all places. They were instructed that those things were true, whether or not they chose to live according to them. And they learned that solid beliefs were important and meaningful to their individual lives. And while the popular culture did not always reinforce such messages, it seldom opposed them. It may not have always been easy, but many people resisted the temptations and stood strong for the things they believed. But that is not the case in your child’s world.
In fact, I am convinced that the majority of our young people have accepted or adopted Christianity not because they have judged it to be true and thus worthy of acceptance but because Christianity—or at least their own “smorgasbord” version of it—seems to be the best option they’ve encountered to date. They may have been initially attracted to Christianity for any number of reasons: an exciting youth group, an emotional church camp experience, the influence of a Christian friend, or any number of other factors. Yet it’s unimportant to them whether what they believe is true in an objective and absolute sense because they regard truth as something that is subjectively determined, something they are to discover and define on their own.
But what happens when something more exciting or emotionally stimulating comes along? What will keep our kids from changing their beliefs? Or what will happen when they face the great challenges of life and they’re morally or ethically at the end of their rope? Will their subjectively determined beliefs hold them steady? Will they make the right choices? The studies—as well as our past experience with young people—lead us to conclude that they will not.
Today merely “believing” isn’t enough. Not because believing isn’t important; it is. But as we stated earlier, in today’s culture believing is made out to be more of a preference based on one’s subjective feelings at the moment. And that kind of believing isn’t enough. Our kids need a deeply held belief in God and his Word, a belief that will root and ground them in the faith so that no matter what tests or trials or storms of life come their way, they will stand strong. We are talking about a belief that goes so deep that it unlocks the secrets to one’s very own identity, purpose, and destiny in life. It is a belief that can equip our children to become “twenty-first-century gladiators” who can enter the arena of an antagonistic culture and not crumble under its pressure.
I truly believe that your children and mine live in a culture that is radically different from the one you and I experienced in our formative years. Theirs is more like the culture the early Christians faced two thousand years ago. Today’s culture is completely intolerant of anyone who believes in absolute truth—that is, a truth that exists outside ourselves, one that is true for all people, for all times, for all places. Consequently, if our young people assert—or even suggest—that what they believe is absolutely and equally true for everyone, they will face widespread scorn and quite possibly persecution.
Thus, if our kids are going to hold firmly to their faith in such circumstances, it is not enough for them to “just believe” or give mere intellectual assent to certain things about God and the Bible, even if those beliefs are correct doctrine. Because of the pressures they face and the influences they reflect, our kids will require something beyond belief. In short, we must help them move beyond belief to convictions.
This is an excerpt from Beyond Belief to Convictions.