This is a guest post by Travis Peterson (Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Evangelism, First Baptist Church of Columbia, IL).
Psalm 53:1a – The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
It fascinates me that, last night, I preached Psalm 14, which is almost identical to Psalm 53. Without question, God has placed one thing in my path, on purpose, two times. And what is striking me most is the first line of both Psalms, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”
The fool, a person about whom the Bible speaks with the utmost contempt, says to himself, in his own heart or mind, that there is no God. Often, we immediately take this verse as a way for us to look down our noses at any atheists we know, calling them fools and touting our own superior understanding. But I think, if we are careful, we can find more meaning in this text. The fool says, not only outwardly, but at times inwardly, that there is no God. He may not even admit his atheism. He may not even recognize his own atheism.
So, here comes the question that stunned me: “Are you an atheist?” “Of course not!” I cry, “I’m a pastor and a seminary student! There’s no atheism here.” That is what I say with my mouth. What about my heart? What does it tell me? What will reflect my heart’s condition is my behavior. Does my heart show me as a true believer in God through action? Am I acting, with every second of my life, as one who believes that God, the true God, the God of the Bible, is with me? Or, am I saying I am a believer with my lips, but actually living as though I am the only one here. Am I living as a fool? Am I living a practical atheism?
Think of it this way. You have a major problem. Perhaps you are caught in a traffic jam and are late for a meeting. Perhaps you have just discovered that an assignment is due today when you thought it was next week. Perhaps you just received some bad news from the doctor’s office. Perhaps you are a pastor who is feeling the pressure to straighten out a thousand twisted threads in a church when you only have 2 hands. Perhaps you are a mother whose children simply will not behave. How do you live in these pressure-filled moments? Would someone who looks in at your life believe that you believe in God? Do you pray, trust God, and respond with Christlikeness? Or, like so many of us, do you get frustrated, stressed out, overwhelmed, or discouraged? Do you complain, saying, “I don’t deserve this,” and then have a pity party?
Christians, if we are honest, there are times when, if we are not careful, we will live like fools even when we say with our lips that God is there. When we live for ourselves, when we act as though we must solve all our own problems, when we fail to trust God for the future, when we look for others to blame for our problems, when we act without prayer, we live as fools, as practical atheists. Sure, we acknowledge Jesus with our lips; but, when the rubber meets the road, we deny Jesus by the way we try to handle everything on our own or refuse to try to do something that appears to be beyond our own human abilities.
Today, repent of living as a practical atheist. Turn away from the temptation to make this life all about you, your comforts, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Live like one who believes, truly believes and knows, that God is real, he is with us, and he will never forsake his children. Ask yourself, on a regular basis, “Am I living as a fool or as a believer?” Ask, “Does this action make me look like a believer or a practical atheist?” Determine to live genuine faith before your Lord.
Dear Lord, I acknowledge that there are moments, and far too many of them, when I live as though I am the only solution to my problems. I pray that you will forgive me for living in my own little world of practical atheism. Though I would never declare philosophically that you do not exist, I sometimes live as though that is what I believe. I pray that you will fill me with your Spirit, and remind me regularly of your presence. Let me live what I truly believe, that you are my God, my Creator, my Lord, my Refuge, my King, and everything I need. I trust you. Help me, I pray, to live out that trust in every aspect of life.