Day 23: A faith that works – Part 7e

The proof of the pudding is in the eating

Bible References (NIV)

Devotional

We have been looking at how, if the Christian faith is true, it should make sense not only rationally, but also in experience. Today this can be shown not only through hearing people’s stories but also in the data.

Secular studies that include questions that ask about a person’s religious beliefs often produce data that reflects the unique power of this particular faith to change people’s lives for the better. (Comparisons are rarely printed, because the matter is sensitive).

For example, a 2021 study published in Christianity Today’s November edition revealed mental health benefits for regular church attenders, including an 84% reduced risk of suicide, a 29% reduced risk of depression and a 50% reduced risk of divorce. They found that children growing up in church-attending households were also less likely to be depressed (12% less likely) or use drugs (33% less likely).

However, data on the positive effects of the Christian faith today goes far beyond basic mental health benefits. An article by The Gospel Coalition (published March 2022) cited various data showing that those who embraced this faith experienced improved marriage strength, marital satisfaction, life satisfaction, an increased sense of meaning in life, higher educational levels, volunteer more, become more generous to charitable causes, have more civic engagement, improved financial stability, more stable long-term family dynamics, improved long-term physical health and increased longevity in life.

Not all of these changes are, however, miracles. Some benefits will be the natural result of living by the good values of the Christian faith. However, some are miracles — like when people find themselves able to break free from drug addictions from the moment at which they prayed to God. While everyone’s experience is different, there is a pattern in which people turn to God, after which they find a new strength to change. This is, however, only discovered if we stop to ask these people what they believe it was caused them to change. When we do this, a pattern is found. People’s stories matter!

In Psalm 71 we see the Psalmist’s recognition of the importance of telling our faith stories. Through remembering and re-telling the stories of all that God has done our faith is encouraged and helped through the hard times. This storytelling is important because it is easy to forget important stories.

In Matthew 11 you read of John the Baptist having a moment of doubt. Jesus’ reply was simply to remind him of the miracles — because they speak! God isn’t there to give us great experiences all the time. Instead, he does miracles in special moments to help us discover what is spiritually true. Beyond that we need to make good choices, living by faith in what we discovered.

There is probably no evidence for the Christian faith as powerful as this. God works in people’s lives — and the data shows it.

Video clip: A faith that works – Part 7e — 4mins

Reflection questions

  • What encouraged you from today’s devotion and video clip?
  • What is significant about the patterns of changed lives found in connection with Christianity, as compared to individual stories (which we might potentially find a one-off example of in connection with every culture and context)?
  • There is a saying, ‘A person with an experience is never at the mercy of a person with an argument.’ Is this statement true? What point is it trying to make?

For prayer

“Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you speak to us not only through your Creation and interactions in history as recorded in the Bible – but also through data, where changes in the lives of those who’ve turned to you can be measured. You have covered every possible angle to reassure us where we have doubts. We are amazed and blessed by the things you do in our lives. Thank you.”

coming up in our next devotion

Day 24: A faith that works – Part 7f

The next question is about what that God is like, and whether he/she/it can be known. The Bible records a history, the first half of which is believed by over half the world’s population (Jews, Christians, Muslims). These agree that this God has revealed himself to us. What is discovered early in the Bible is that he is a good God, not bad.

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