I was very fortunate to grow up along the coast in CT. My grandmother had a house right on Long Island Sound where we lived for 4 years and where I spent as much time as I could. I grew up seeing the beauty of the ocean, the work of the tides and the power of the waves. I was able to experience the wonder of nature all around me and the vastness of the universe when I looked up into the dark skies at night. Looking at the amazing world around me, I never really doubted that there was a God but there are those who look around at the world and question how there can be a God.
There are people who look at the world and see poverty, injustice and the inhuman ways we treat people and ask how there can be any kind of loving and intelligent being behind it all. When those who claim to believe in God are the ones who participate in the senseless violence and injustice we see, it makes believing in God that much more difficult for many. According to the Pew Research Center the number of people who do not believe there is a God has almost doubled in recent years and the number of young people who do not believe there is a God continues to grow.
So when the Apostles’ Creed starts by saying, I believe in God… we are already beginning to separate ourselves from many others. Believing that there is a God is not a given in our world and there is no scientific proof that God exists. For centuries people have been trying to come up with some kind of evidence for God but we have none. Some people try to use science to prove God is real while others use science to prove God is not real and the truth is that science will never settle the question for either side. Adam Hamilton has said, The question of God is unlikely to be resolved by science. Theists and atheists can look at the same data and reach different conclusions.
Some people have read Darwin’s theory of evolution and seen how science and the natural order can explain the existence and variety of life in this world without the need for God while others have seen in Darwin’s work gaping holes that can not be explained by anything other than God. Some scientists can explain the beginning of life as the coming together of a variety of forces and elements at just the time and place in some sort of Big Bang while others have said that the probability of elements coming together by chance to create life is about 1 in 10 to the 40,000 power – which astronomer Fred Hoyle said would be similar to the chances of a gale force wind blowing through a junk yard and spontaneously assembling a Boeing 747. Or as someone else has said; it would be like this cocoa, flour, sugar, eggs and oil assembling itself into a chocolate cake.
While in many ways the created world in which we live is the best evidence we have for God, there will always be those who will find some kind of natural explanation that satisfies their minds. So believing in God can not be proved which means that believing in God is always a choice of our faith. We choose to believe in that which we can not see. Once we make this choice, however, God helps us see and experience more of himself so that our faith is made more certain.
Now the Apostles’ Creed doesn’t just tell us about the existence of God, it points us to the kind of God who exists, I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. The God we believe in and trust is the God who in wisdom and power created all things but who is also the God who loves and has a relationship with all that he created. God is our father. For many of us it is by looking at the created world and our own personal connection with God that we are convinced about the truth of God.
Look at Psalm 19:1-4. For those who are looking, the created order declares the work of God. We hear the same thing in Romans 1:20. God speaks through his creation and proclaims his power, creative spirit and love. When we look at the glory of a sunset or the intricate beauty of a flower we can see the handiwork of God. When we see the changing seasons or the moons gravitational effect which creates the tides, we see the amazing way God’s creation fits together so perfectly which reveals to us the intellect and wisdom of God.
Our faith in God can be strengthened and nurtured by how we look at creation, but it can also be formed by how we look at ourselves. Many people believe in God because they believe their entire existence points to something larger than themselves. When I was a child growing up at the beach we lived far enough away from town and the local nuclear power plant (no joke) that it was very dark, so I could see a lot of stars and even the faintest hint of the milky way. I remember thinking how vast the universe was and how small I was and that feeling of insignificance didn’t push me from God it drew me in. We hear something like this in Psalm 8:3-5. The God who created the vast world gave birth to me as well.
Our faith and belief in God is also given birth and shaped by the experiences we have of God. As a father or parent, God does not create and then walk away, God is by our side. I believe in God because there are countless times when I have felt God’s presence and known beyond any doubt that God was with me. Feeling loved and accepted and cared for by my home church, the people of God, was evidence of God’s reality. Having God’s word come alive as I read it was evidence of God’s presence and guidance in my life. Hearing God’s voice and feeling God’s joy, forgiveness, love and power all helped strength my belief in God the creator of the world and father of me.
Many times it is looking back that I have most clearly see the hand of God at work in my life. The summer I worked in Yellowstone National Park I was supposed to work in area known as Lake. When I arrived I was told I was going to work in Grant Village. I was concerned because my ministry assignment was in the Lake area and I wasn’t sure what I would do. The ministry team told me to just go work in Grant Village and hook up with the ministry people there – which I did. Working with the team in Grant Village was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I know it was God’s hand that worked it out for me to be there.
At the end of the summer I had to write an evaluation of my ministry and the verse that came to life for me was Romans 8:28. God works for the good in all things for those who love Christ Jesus and are called according to his purpose. God took the changing circumstance of that summer and put me right where he wanted me. Some might have just said it was a coincidence or a lucky break but for me it was further proof that there was a God who created me and who loved me. God knew what I needed and where I need to be and God moved things around to get me there. All of this has helped me be able to say, I believe in God the father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
Why do you believe in God? What have you seen or experienced in life that has helped you come to know and see the reality of God? What helps you see God at work in your life and in the world and what gives you the assurance and conviction that God is real when you can’t see God? It is important to identify these things because faith in God isn’t just something we should affirm it needs to be something we share. Affirming our faith is important but are we willing to pass on this faith and help others see and experience the God who not only created them but loves them deeply.
Affirming our belief in God also needs to shape and direct how we live, all of our words, attitudes and actions. The Apostles’ Creed is not just a statement of faith it needs to be the set of beliefs that guide what we say and do. When we believe in God the father almighty, maker of heaven and earth it immediately changes our worldview. If there is a God who created all things, then our place in the world changes. No longer are we at the center of the world or even the center of our lives because we are not our own. We are no longer the creator of our lives we are the creation. As science and medicine continues to push the limits on creating life and cloning parts of the body, what does it mean to say that God is the maker and creator and that God is the father of all life? There is a humility that comes when we believe in God and this is important for us to cling to in our world. It is this humility that helps keep us from getting too proud and arrogant.
Yet as small and insignificant as we are – the God who created the world also created us then revealed himself to us. In the Old Testament God revealed himself to Moses and shared with Moses his name – I AM. God is the one who was before all things and created all things. God is truly I AM. In the New Testament, Jesus went even further in revealing God to us by telling us to call God, father. If God is our father, then that makes us God’s children which means that we have value, worth and dignity. God as our father means that all human beings have value, worth and dignity which shapes how we see people and how we treat people. When we begin to see the image of God in ourselves and others, in shapes our attitude and actions.
Because God values all life we are not to demean others or put them down. If God is our father than all human beings are our brothers and sisters and part of our family. If we are going to affirm that God is our father then there is no room for insults, bigotry, racism or sexism. There is no room for placing ourselves above anyone else. If God is the father of all then we need to learn how to do justice, practice loving kindness and overcome evil with good. The golden rule of loving others becomes the guiding principle of our relationships because God is our father and we have been created in God’s image.
Believing in God as the creator of the world also gives direction to how we are to care for the world in which we live. Let’s go back to Psalm 8:5-8. God calls us to rule over all of creation which means that we are really stewards of creation. A steward is a person who uses someone else’s resources wisely. God has called us to care for the world which means we need to take seriously environmental issues and how to care for the world wisely. Many people see 1970 as the beginning of the modern environmental movement with the formation of the first earth day. It was around that time in school that we began to talk seriously about the R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle.
No matter what you may think of the Paris accords or man made climate change, being a Christian means taking seriously the call to care for the creation because this is not our world – it is God’s and we have been called to care for faithfully. While we can hold vastly different views on things like our use of fossil fuels and alternative sources of energy, we all will be called to give an account of how we cared for God’s creation. God is the creator and told us to rule over the creation with wisdom and to make sure we are using it all according to God’s will and purpose.
If we believe in the God that the Bible reveals to us, then we also know that we are never alone and that we are never without hope and help. The Bible tells that God is with us, that God knows our lives intimately and that God is present to help us. This is part of what Jesus tells us in his sermon on the mount. Matthew 6:25-33. As our father, God knows what we need and God will provide all that we need so we don’t need to worry. The more we believe in God and trust God the more confident we become God the almighty is with us.
We can’t prove that God is real – it is a choice we make, it is a step of faith for us to say, I believe in God the father almighty, make of heaven and earth. The more we affirm this and trust this, the more our eyes and hearts and minds and will be open to experiencing God. Believing in God changes our lives and our destinies. It keeps us humble and yet fills us with power. It shapes our relationships and helps us work for peace and justice. Believing in God reminds us that this world is not ours and yet we are called to rule over it with respect and care as if it belonged to us.
It is a simple statement that begins the Apostles’ and yet it is a profound statement of our faith that has huge implications on our lives and relationships and our place in this world. Would you stand and join me as we affirm our faith together with the Apostles’ Creed.
Apostles’ Creed – God
1. Since the existence of God cannot be proved, identify the reasons you choose to believe in God.
• How has the faith of others helped you believe in God?
• How can you help others believe in God?
2. The Apostles’ Creed identifies God as both parent and creator. What other ways might you describe God? How do all of these words add to your understanding of who God is?
3. Read Psalm 19:1-4 and Romans 1:20. In what ways have you seen and experienced God through the power and wonder of creation? What parts of creation speak most clearly to you about the existence of God? How does creation point to God’s purpose and plan?
4. God is described as our father (parent).
• What does this image tell us about God?
• What does this image tell us about us?
• How does this image shape and direct our relationship with God and others?
5. If God is the creator of heaven and earth then we are the stewards of God’s creation. In what ways can you more faithfully and intentionally care for God’s creation? What specific steps can you take this week to be a better steward of all the earth’s resources?