To become a Christian, all one has to do is pray to Jesus and say "I believe in you and I receive you".
I cannot tell you how many times I've prayed those words over the years and yet there are times when I still wonder if I've done it right. When I was little, I was told that praying those words only means something if you really accepted Jesus in your heart. But what does that mean, exactly? The issue that I have is this: wanting to believe that something is true isn't the same as believing it.
I have no problem believing there is a God. But how does one go from believing in a God, to believing that same God came to earth in the form of a person named Jesus, who was then murdered, but came back from the dead so that our souls could live forever? Why doesn't this belief or knowledge automatically translate for me like it seems to do for others?
If it hasn't become abundantly clear, one of my struggles as a Christian is faith. I have feared over the years that I was one of an unfortunate few whose heart God had hardened. Romans 9:21 discusses how a potter has the right to decide to use some lumps of clay to make a jar for decoration, and another to throw garbage into. What if I was one God had made to "throw garbage into"? Not a pleasant thought. But then Romans 9 goes on to say that even though God has the right to show his anger, He is patient and merciful. Thank goodness for that.
I have asked God why I should have so many doubts. Why couldn't I just believe and have faith?
Romans 10:17 (NLT) says "faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ". Ephesians 2:8 words it a little more specifically, "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God". The "it" referred to in this passage, is faith.
It seems pretty clear then that faith is a gift from God. I can't manifest it myself. This makes me feel a little better but it has also meant that I've come to accept that faith is a struggle God has given me, and that I am just going to have to work through it. I take a lot of comfort from Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT): "...let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith." The perfecter of our faith. This implies that it okay to struggle with faith! This verse has made me realize that I truly am a work in progress - God is still working on me. I'm not a lost cause! He just isn't finished with me yet.
Most recently when I questioned God about my faith, the following words popped very clearly into my head: just keep asking.
Once again it would appear that God is trying hard to teach me the lesson of depending on Him instead of myself.