How can you commit your life to someone you haven’t seen? This is an unasked but implied question to disciples from those on the outside. As a Christian and as a minister I’ve had to find an answer, indeed a personal response, to this question. I’d like to share with you my journey from indifference about Jesus to a faith commitment to Him.
It was my good fortune to have someone ask my mother if her children could go to Sunday school. I’m sure she had numerous reasons for agreeing, including an hour of peace. Across the years I’d heard stories from the Bible and was impressed. Still, Jesus was no more interesting than Caesar or Napoleon or my cricketing hero (of the moment).
In my middle teenage years I was a happy hypocrite ignorant about much of the Bible and indifferent to the One it revealed. God however was on my trail. One night I sensed an ultimatum. ‘Shape up or ship out!’ God was getting serious. What was happening? What I had heard over the years about Jesus and which impressed me had now aroused my mind to act. Was the Bible true and therefore to be let loose within my person or was it a lovely myth? I decided it was true!
The following years such a presumption was put to the test. I needed to be sure. So I compared the Bible with history and found it was factual. I’m no scientist so I needed to know how as such qualified people viewed the reliability of the Scriptures. This took me through a bit of a tangled arena but when I emerged from it I was confident about trusting what God’s Word revealed about creation. Nature, according to Psalm 19 and Romans 1 reveals certain things about the unseen God.
The really big issue however had to deal with Jesus as the Christ, the drama of the cross and resurrection. Was it a mixture of myth, miracle and history? Or, was it an actual, historical, verifiable and prophesied event? Secular as well as Church history endorsed all the areas. To me one of the ‘clinches’ was what happened to the original band of disciples. Their commitment to Jesus as the promised Messiah, the Son of God and promised King of Israel cost them dearly. They lost family and friends and ultimately their lives for an unswerving commitment to Jesus and to the fact of His resurrection and ascension. They weren’t stupid. They wouldn’t pay such a price for a lie!
All of these features made my conviction of commitment to Jesus ‘concrete. It may be summed up this way: I heard, I was intrigued, I investigated, I found answers to my doubts and the charges levelled by sceptics, other religious groups and my own self-indulgent will.
Still, I had never seen Jesus. Still haven’t! My commitment to Him was, and remains, an act of faith in His word. The amazing thing is about this faith relationship is over the years it has been tested, tried and been found true. Not, may I hasten to add, by my grit or denial of tough issues. No, it is because the One to whom I committed my life has journeyed with me. His word has linked me to Him.
At the beginning of my new direction in life I admit it was a true but fragile commitment. It was only across time did it toughen up. This came about through discovering the grace and presence of Jesus and the uncrushable truth of His word. Would I say that in those early months or years I loved Jesus? In a way yes, but not deeply. How can you love someone unseen? He may have been unseen by my eyes but not unknown to my heart. Unseen but not unfelt! Some may question this but I liken it to a blind man unable to see the sun but he can feel its warmth. My love for Jesus grew through knowing Him in worship, obeying His teachings, responding to His promptings, seeing the difference between the old and new me and witnessing His providential grace, mercy and forgiveness. His love to me, and you, never changes. My love for Him has matured and expanded over the nearly sixty years since the night I heard Him say those five words: “Shape up or ship out!”
There are many other reasons for this commitment leading to love I may share another time. Just to close I’d like to add the following. Could I be mistaken? There is always a slim wedge of doubt which tries to get between me and the Lord. If I am mistaken (which is unlikely), this cannot be denied. My Lord has blessed, protected, guided and thrilled me across the years of marriage, parenting and ministry. I (we) have a hope that points beyond this life. Such a hope tells me I shall see Him face to face. That is Christ’s gift of transforming grace and power He worked on your behalf and mine on the cross of Calvary. His resurrection secured it eternally.
One of my favourite verses comes from 2Timothy 1:12 and speaks of the intimacy of faith which matures over the years: ‘I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him’ (NRSV).
Peter expressed it very well to the persecuted church: ‘Jesus Christ, whom, having not seen you love…’ 1 Peter 1:8. This apostle was building on the promise of the risen Lord in John 20:29, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
©Ray Hawkins July 24th 2016.