Superstition is as old as man. An incomplete picture of why things work the way they do fuels the imagination to conjure up hidden forces at work behind the scenes. Pull back the curtain and perhaps one will find an “all powerful” being at work pulling the strings. Accessing – and eventually perhaps cajoling or influencing that being – can easily become the basis for a religious belief system.
Does Christianity fall into this same category? Some unbelievers, observing the behavior of professional athletes, might believe that superstition is at play. Praying and acknowledging one’s deity, they assume, is a way of seeking to influence the outcome of the contest. For some, it seems like a cheap – and silly – trick.
But this is not what Christian players are doing when they acknowledge God, nor is it what a mature devotion to Christianity would include.
Some non-believers who consider this behavior will ask themselves a very basic question: will becoming a Christian “improve” my life? Is it a ticket to greater wealth and prosperity, better relationships, a future filled with every type of goodness and blessing? For many, this seems too good to be true, but they pursue it hoping for the best; for others, it appears to be a shell game or cheap con, and they reject it without ever considering what it really entails.
The nutshell answer is: probably yes. In most cases for most people, developing a relationship with God in which you accept His gift and then living a life that reflects His will, as best you can achieve it, will improve your life in some important and significant ways. But having a “better” life is a by-product of belief, and not the main point of devoting one’s life to Jesus.
If prosperity or other rewards become the main point, Christianity begins to be marketed as a product, a method of achieving some desirable end. A person identifies a need in his or her life and Christianity fills that need, the way any product might do. But this is not the message of Christianity. The Bible is not a “how to” manual on achieving financial or worldly success. It does not promise riches in the here and now, nor an end to all hardship… nor a victory in every football contest. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the early fathers of the church, and their followers, could have attested. (Except of course for the football part.)
In short, Christianity tells the story of man’s broken relationship with his Creator. It claims to speak truth about the nature of God and of this broken relationship and what is needed to fix it. The Old Testament provides the backdrop as God prepares a people to serve as the vehicle for redemption. Jesus comes – not to make my life profitable or more fulfilling in some modern sense or to help me nail down a spot in the Super Bowl- but to fulfill the ancient prophecies, to give His life as ransom for us, and to thereby restore our relationship with the Father.
Christianity should be assessed on its merits – are its claims true? – not on what it can achieve for you. The Apostle Paul said as much, when he said that we are to be pitied as fools if Christ did not rise from the dead. Everything rests on that truth claim. Once we see that Christ did rise, and we place our trust in Him, He will do a work in us and will eventually welcome us into His Kingdom. But Paul himself remained physically afflicted, and there is no reason to believe that by following Christ, our problems will disappear.
We will, however, look at them differently, and by living Biblical values, we will probably have a better life than we might otherwise have had – and certainly a more fulfilling one.
Posted by Al Serrato