Do you wonder if your faith is real?

I have written about my decision to become a Christian and about the beginnings of my journey to a real faith. Like many people, I was soon to question the validity of my decision. For many months after my conversion, I did  little to implement any change, except that I joined a weekly Bible study, where I began to learn a lot.

Who asked if it was real?

It was about a year after the mission, when I went to a weekend houseparty at Weston-super-mare. We had times of worship and a visiting vicar gave some Bible-teaching, but students ran most of the meetings. Some people talked about the spiritual progress they had made in the year. They mainly talked about the way God had become more real to them. Some asked us all to ask ourselves if our faith was merely superficial.

Was my faith real?

I began to doubt. I didn’t really doubt God as much as I doubted myself. Was I a phoney? I spent many hours asking  everyone what I could do to be sure. We went round in circles. By the Saturday night, I was very worried. I had a bad night, dreading the next day. We all planned to go church in the morning, mostly choosing one different from whatever we were used to, and then to hear a final talk from the visiting vicar after lunch, before we went back to Bristol.

Could I find real faith on the sea front?

On the Sunday morning, I got up early to get some time by myself with God. (Don’t say you don’t believe in miracles). I went to the front and saw the sun shining on the mud. I was alone, until a man appeared: the Reverend Lawrence Denny, our visiting speaker. As he was probably hoping to be alone with God too, I tried not to bother him, but he asked how I was. I was evasive, but he was good at his job and got it all out of me.

I got some real help.

The vicar reminded me of some of his talks. He quoted Jesus, “You are Simon, you will be Peter”, meaning God has plans for you that mean changes, but let them be the ones God wants. Don’t try to be like someone else. Jesus didn’t say, “You are Andrew (or whoever) you will be Peter,” as his plans for Andrew were different. My mistake was that I was worrying that I wasn’t like some of the other Christians who had been talking about their experiences.

Doubt and faith are often linked
What was the real issue?

Another quote was, “You did not choose me, I chose you.” Rev Denny asked if I thought God had chosen me, adding that this ‘chance’ encounter was a clue to the answer. Strangely enough, he managed to make me laugh. He was just the right person to get through to me right then. If I didn’t know God very well, he knew me!  Finally, I understood that what mattered wasn’t my feelings, but my response to God. I should trust and obey him as far as I could,  and let him worry about things I couldn’t control. Those words have come back to me often over the decades.

Did people in Church find God was real?

After my talk with the vicar, and after breakfast, I went to a Brethren church. A lot of people talked about the reality of God in their lives. These were not students who had been Christians for a year or so longer than I had. These were old men who had found God real through two World Wars and a lot of hardship in between. It put things in perspective. By then, I had already made another big decision. It was to do as the vicar had said.

Did God become real to me then?

The service ended with Holy Communion, or the Breaking of Bread, as they called it. After I had received the bread and wine, I felt a real peace and a confidence that I was a Christian and my life was in God’d hands. I have had my ups and downs since, but I have never really worried that my faith was phoney.

Is Scotland real?

When I ask myself if God is real, I often remember a story a friend told me. She once went to Northern Ireland, to a beauty spot on the very North East. The guide promised you could see Scotland from there. However, it wasn’t a clear day and she couldn’t see it. The guide was most apologetic and said, “I assure you, it really is there.” My friend didn’t doubt that Scotland really was there, even on a hazy day. In the same way, God is there, whether he feels real to you or not.