However, there are men and women for whom the holy, inspired Book of God is not enough. For most of these, even though they haven’t read the Bible, the Bible is simply not enough. They look for signs that God is real. They continue to search for miracles, today. They watch for symbols of the Christ.
Some search for archeological and scientific evidence (and isn’t it nice when these support the case for our beliefs?), but others look for modern prophecy, healings, and gifts, and for direct conversation with God.
Television preachers have propagated this idea with their claims of God coming to them to give them a message outside the Word, changing the Message of the gospel to fit their own agendas; on the radio, callers conclude that if you become ill and don’t receive immediate healing, your faith is weak. Even in our own community, there are those who claim a special anointing, and to prove it they showcase their own talents for the congregation for applause.
This is nothing new: in fact beliefs held by some are based in legends from the olden days. Some believe that the Bible doesn’t provide enough proof for its own infallibility, that nature and history are, in fact, superior to the Bible itself in proving the existence of God. Let’s ponder a few examples:
We know, from observation, that many animals are born with their eyes closed. One legend has it that lion cubs are actually born dead, but come to life on the third day when the daddy lion breathes life into them. Is this a sign from God to prove the story of Christ’s resurrection after His third day in the grave?
You’ll recall Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem. Some people have noticed a cross-shaped mark on the shoulders of donkeys, which they say, is a symbol that this is the breed that carried Jesus, that day. Nice story, but is it true?
It is said that a robin picked a thorn from the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, during His crucifixion, and a spurt of blood dyed the bird’s breast red. The robin still sports a redbreast today. Some people have vivid imaginations to make up such tales.
Of what kind of wood was the cross of Christ made? There is no reference to the wood itself in the Bible, but some people have made up their own answers to the question. One camp claims the trees growing in the American West, known as “quaking aspens” quake in shame because the cross was made from aspen wood. Some others believe the wood was from dogwood trees, the official Missouri state trees. They allege that in the past, dogwoods grew as tall as oak trees, but after the crucifixion, the trees never grew tall again. Now, the trees (out of shame, apparently) grow low to the ground with narrow, twisting branches that could never be made into the beams of a cross.
Some look to the blooms of the tree to strengthen their faith. The white flower has five petals, each tipped with red, allegedly illustrating the blood on the two feet, the two hands, and the head of Christ at His death on the cross.
Supposedly, the blooms of the redbud tree are red either from shame or from blood. It is maintained that the blooms are red because it is from a redbud tree that Judas hanged himself after betraying Christ. In fact, Oklahoma’s state forestry officials had to convince ladies’ garden clubs this was not the tree of Judas before making it the official tree of the state, pointing to the fact that it grows in North America, and not in Israel.
The list continues: people find they need these “signs” and “symbols” in order to keep their faith alive. Clearly, they do not realize that the Word of God is proof of itself. It is the record of miracles and prophecies that can’t be disputed. It is a record of scientific knowledge. If only we would study the facts, our faith will be more firmly established. If we only work to better realize the timeline of Biblical history, our faith will be strengthened. If we only spend time in the Word, wrestling with the Message, our faith will be supported and reinforced many times over.
To establish and support my faith, I don’t need anything other that the Word of God. I love what Paul writes to Timothy in his second letter. He writes, in chapter 4: "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith…" (emphasis mine).
We could not truthfully deny that what Paul says is true. These verses tell us that Paul was able to fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith himself, because he did not pursue futile avenues of strength. Having his ears tickled was not his method of being ready in and out of season. Giving in to his own desires and not following the will of God was not how he remained sober, doing the work of evangelism. Turning to myths and legends was not how he endured hardship and fulfilled his ministry. In a nutshell, Paul practiced what he preached.
On the one-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on our nation, the Pick Three lottery numbers in New York were nine, one, and one. You may have been a part of the water cooler conversation about that coincidence. Are we to read into that happenstance that God is sending us a sign? Perhaps this was a sign that He, too, mourns the loss of life? Perchance He wants to remind us He is still with us even in stressful times? Maybe he wants us to do more gambling?
We build our patriotism by looking on the symbols of the flag, and the Statue of Liberty, and that’s appropriate. It’s also appropriate for us to build out faith, by looking to the Bible, by looking to the proof of prophecy, by looking to the life, the cross, the tomb, and the ascension of Jesus Christ. Just the facts.