In the book of Acts chapter 27 we read about the Apostle Paul and his journey as a prisoner on a cargo ship. God had given Paul a vision that he would get safely to Rome. The journey started out quite calmly after a few days a huge, life-threatening storm arose, that tossed the ship to-and-fro. The frightened crew feared for their lives, and contemplated abandoning the wave-tossed, stricken vessel. Paul exclaimed to the centurion in charge and the soldiers guarding him that they needed to stay in the ship, no matter what!
The ferocious storm continued for several more days, and fiercely beat upon the ship; so much so that the hull and rigging began to fail. Anything that wasn’t securely tied down was swiftly washed overboard into the raging sea. The fearful crew was ordered to lighten the ship by throwing their valuable cargo into the roiling sea.
After several days, the storm subsided, and the heavily damaged ship was run aground onto an island. Paul, the soldiers, and the exhausted crew survived because they stayed on the ship, and because they believed in Paul and his vision that God had given to him. Acts 27:31 says, “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.”
We all believe in “stuff”; some of it matters, and some of it doesn’t. When I was a little boy I fell out of a tree; as a result, I formed a belief in gravity. That is a belief that matters. I have no plans on re-testing whether the law of gravity is true or not. I had determined that the law of gravity IS true a long time ago, and henceforth - not because of the fall, but because of the sudden stop! - I continue to believe that gravity is real and has consequences when you try to defy it.
Our various beliefs are established by the things we experience, by what we see around us, and by what we are taught. These beliefs mold us and make us into who we are, and ultimately who we will become. Beliefs establish the building blocks of our character and are intricately woven into the fabric of our lives. It is our beliefs that support the formation of our reputation and the creation of our legacy that we will eventually leave behind.
All throughout our lives, many of our beliefs may be challenged and as a result can and will change. Additionally, as we learn and are exposed to new experiences, we will either alter our beliefs or learn new ones. Our belief system must be influenced and guided by the power of God’s Holy Spirit and His infallible Word. The things we experience, see, and are taught may not necessarily come directly from God, but we can allow them to have a Godly influence upon our lives and as a result, see them from a positive perspective.
Out of all that “stuff” that we believe, the only beliefs that truly matter are the ones that will save us. Mark 16:16 says it like this; “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” It is the things that are truthful that we believe, and we become totally immersed in, that will ultimately save us.
At times we are just calmly going through the seasons of life, and our beliefs are not being challenged. Then suddenly, as if from nowhere, we encounter those unexpected storms of life. We become buffeted, battered, torn apart, and scarred by the people and the world around us. We lose sight of the land and horizon. Our life compass breaks.
All the frivolous things that we thought were so important and believed that don’t tie us down and ground us, all get washed away through the tears of our pain and sorrow. When all that remains are just the bones and a shell that seem hopeless and hollow. But, deep within that cavernous, echoing chamber of emptiness, is the framework of our beliefs that - if they are based on truth and the undergirding power of God’s Word and Spirit - will deliver us and place us back upon solid ground.
Our core beliefs based in truth will be those monumental moments in life, such as the day that we turned our lives around, the day that we were baptized, or the day that we were filled with God’s Holy Spirit. Then there are also those times that we were given miracles and delivered from the destruction of the enemy. These are the events and experiences that we build spiritual altars around, that form our foundational beliefs.
Core beliefs cannot be established on fear, desires, culture, traditions, or non-biblical teaching. There is never a time to walk away from our core beliefs, no matter the strength of the storm. There is never a moment when anyone should deny the power and influence of the truth that formed the foundation of our core beliefs. For it is clear those truths create an indestructible shield that surrounds us, girds us, and binds us. Don’t jump off the ship!
Rev. Damien Erwin