When I was in high school, in addition to being heavily involved in my youth group, I played trumpet in band and tennis. I wasn’t particularly good at either, but I had fun and enjoyed both groups of people. There was just one problem.
His name was Steve Seeburg.
Steve was a really good guy. Polite, well behaved, and smart. He got good grades – better than me in fact. He played tennis – better than me. He played the trumpet – better than me.
That was the problem. Almost everywhere I turned, there was Steve, being a better Brady than me. In high school, it’s incredibly easy to go from confident to insecure wreck in a heart beat. For me, it only took Steve showing up at the courts or band room, and I could feel twelve inches tall. (To be clear, Steve was never anything but nice.)
I wonder if you and I struggle with insecurity in our faith. I don’t mean doubt, where we question parts of our faith because of a lack of understanding. I mean we become insecure – anxious that we may be wrong about something in our faith, or that we’re not as good at our faith as we should be.
There is a story in 1 Kings, where Elijah, this incredible man of God and prophet, has called out almost 1,000 other priests to a challenge of faith. It was a duel of gods with a simple win condition – first god to set a sacrifice on fire wins.
If it were you or I, we may panic, rushing to pray that God would hurry up and win this thing, so we don’t look foolish. If you’ve ever staked your reputation on “I’ll beat you”, you know the anxiety of watching the other person get a head start.
But Elijah sits down, as if he is uninterested in the duel he set up. There was no urgency in Elijah. He was calm, cool, and collect, because he had no doubt that the only real God on that mountain top was listening for his prayers, and not anyone else’s. You see, it was because Elijah understood something that no one else on the mountain top did: Elijah wasn’t up there with three different gods, vying for dominance. The other prophets were up there with his God and His prophet. It wasn’t a competition because God didn’t need Elijah to defend Him – He was using Elijah to display Himself.
Charles Spurgeon was once asked about defending the truth of scripture from critics.
“Defend scripture? I’d sooner defend a lion.”
I hear a lot of Christians get really defensive around certain subjects like specific scientific principles and theories and other faiths. We’re quick to denounce scientific findings, as if they threaten the truth of our faith. We’re quick to point out every reason other religions are wrong, as if they could topple God.
Here’s the thing: we have no reason to be defensive.
If God, as revealed to us in the form of Christ and affirmed in scripture, is true, then there is no scientific theory that will discredit Him. God, the true God, is not some fragile construct the requires our belittling of others or defensive reactions.
But that reveals the real problem, doesn’t it. The god we’re defending, the god we’re running to the aid of, the god we’re tearing others down over, isn’t the true God. It’s a god we’ve created along the way.
And we’re scared that, when that god gets challenged by a valid question raised by science or philosophy, it will topple over.
For too long, the church has sounded much more like the prophets of Baal than Elijah on Mt Carmel. We’ve shouted and hollered, hoping that god is going to show up and prove us right.
Instead, we need to learn to be confident like Elijah, and let God be God.