Have you ever had a 'gut feeling' about an upcoming event or a situation? You know, that feeling down deep inside that helps one sense something that hasn't occurred just yet. I'm no anatomy expert, but I think most of the cognitive stuff that occurs probably happens about 24 inches north of our abdomen area. However, I can say that our thoughts, fears, and unknowns can affect the abdomen area and below. That tightness one feels in their 'gut' when an unknown is about to be revealed is legitimate. Belief is different and yet the same as the 'gut feeling'. Belief can be a good synonym for faith. Most of us can agree faith is not always a warm fuzzy predictable thing. Unknowns arise and our faith is either challenged or affirmed. Faith and belief while not concrete terms are places to build a mindset of assurance and hope.
Belief (n.) - acceptance by the mind that something is true or real, often underpinned by an
emotional or spiritual sense of certainty (Encarta Dictionary, North American)
Our faith journey is based upon a deep rooted and unshakable belief in God's word and God's promises therein. The apostle John offered to the readers of his Gospel this account of Nicodemus arriving to meet with Jesus. Nicodemus was a teacher of the scriptures and yet struggled with theological substance. He wrestled with head knowledge and spiritual power. Take a look at Jesus' response.
"I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of
heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of
Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone
who believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the
world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not
condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in
the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:12-18, NIV)
If the author John had gone to the same university I attended and took the same writing class I took, he would have never used the same word seven different times in these few sentences. My professor would have handed him a thesaurus. Biblical writing is different. When a word is repeated numerous times it is to make the reader aware of a growing importance of this concept. Jesus offered Nicodemus and us the foundation for all of life. Belief in God and belief in Jesus Christ is essential for those who seek eternal life. There is no other way to have our sins atoned, our dead life made new, or hope spring forth from defeat.
Christianity without belief is akin to an automobile without a battery. No faith diminishes God to an empty idea on the pages of a Bible. No battery diminishes a car to an oversized paperweight. Belief then is that driving force behind life and hope in God's promises and it drives us forward. When we read about miracles and teachings of Jesus, our faith is strengthened and broadened. We see patterns emerge from the pages of the Bible and if we pay attention we'll seeing an ongoing story being told and unfolded. (* insert big seminary word here, "meta-narrative" [ongoing story])
God's ongoing story for creation began in Genesis and continues on toward the consummation of His church in Revelation. Our belief that God is at work everyday and is still fully able to reconcile us to Him is what keeps us going. Often, we cannot see what God is doing but faith pushes us forward to trust that God and Christ are unchanging. Belief matters. It affects our minds and help us function. It brings strength and clarity to our Christianity and relationships. Try testing your faith and belief meter. See if you score high on these two elements of your Christian journey. If so, great. If not, don't fret. People much more intelligent and influential than you and I have struggled here. Believe.