Recently I have read a great book, ‘The Ragamuffin Gospel’ by Brennan Manning. It is book that I would recommend to everyone. He looks at the struggles we have with following Christ and the trouble we make for ourselves. I won’t spoil the book for you by telling you any more, but I will say it is worth the read and will revolutionize your life.
In his book he makes a statement that has had me thinking for months. He called most Christians ‘Functional Atheists’, and as I have thought about what this means and the implications of it I have come to agree with him. Unfortunately I have to say that in my life I have been guilty of being a ‘Functional Atheist.’ So what is a ‘Functional Atheist’ you ask, and how can a Christian be one? Well let me explain. Brennan Manning states ‘Functional Atheism’ as
“The belief that nothing is happening unless we are making it happen. Though our Christian language pays lip service to God, our way of functioning assumes that God is dead or in a coma.”
How many of us have heard or even used the phrase ‘God helps those who help themselves’? I know I have. And in some respects this phrase is true, because if we are unwilling to put our lives in motion into the basic acts that God would have us doing then He is unwilling to help us. Let me explain. If we are unwilling to get a job and pay our bills and be responsible God will not miraculously make us profitable and pay our way for us. However we have taken this phrase further than God intended. In my own life I have “trusted God” to help with my finances but then when God didn’t ‘seem’ to intervene I got out the credit card and made my own way. So I paid lip service to the truth of scripture that God will look after me and when He didn’t work it on my schedule, I then acted in my own strength and made my own way.
How many of us have done the same thing? And in more areas than in our finances. We say that God is looking after us, and make our requests known to God and then we get uptight and try to solve our problems ourselves. Often only making a mess. So by our actions we demonstrate that God is uninterested in us and uninvolved in our lives, even though we say the exact opposite. And to a watching world, who sees us doing this we seem to not believe what we are preaching and then wonder why they don’t want what we are offering.
I have found that God doesn’t always work on our time-table. When you know the beginning from the end you can see things from a different perspective. One year I needed new tires for my truck before winter. They barely had traction on dry pavement let alone on ice and snow. But my finances were low and I could not afford them. I got myself worked up as October changed into November and wondered why God wasn’t helping me. These tires were not something I could do without, so they weren’t just something I wanted. They were a legitimate need. And it really seemed like God wasn’t answering. But that year we got snow really late. It was two days before Christmas when snow finally came. Which is very unusual where I live. It often snows in September/October here. And two weeks before it snowed I got a cheque in the mail from a tax rebate that paid for my tires. I got them before it snowed. God looked after me even though He did it in a way I didn’t think about or understand until afterwards.
When we take our burdens upon our shoulders we often remove God’s ability to help us. Only when we begin to trust Him and allow Him the time to work on His schedule and not ours will we begin to see His hand in our lives the way He is longing to. Matthew’s gospel states that God works in our lives according to our faith. What we are believing God can do will show in our actions. And mine have shown little faith I must confess.
So in this new year and as I grow in my relationship with my Creator and Saviour I am choosing to lose the ‘Functional Atheist’ from my vocabulary and allow God to do what He does best, look after me and reveal His life in me. Can I invite you to share my journey?