What we believe about something shapes the way we respond to it… for good and for ill.
Consider two beverages: alcohol and coffee. With the first, if you go beyond drinking it from time to time toward not being able to function without it, you’ll be labeled alcoholic. But if you’re among those who can’t function without a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, you are more prone to being labeled connoisseur or aficionado. Two beverages. Two different responses. Or how about cigarettes versus social media? Which is the greater addiction: smoking cigarettes (which is harmful to your health without question) a few times a day on a smoke break, or your compulsion to check your social media feed every five minutes?
In both instances, being out of balance in one is culturally reprehensible while the other is socially acceptable. And whether it’s welcomed by our culture or not, when something is life-altering in a bad way, quality-of-life-affecting—even outright destructive—no matter what we believe about it, it’s not good. Nor is it good for you.
In today’s text, we see that Zechariah refuses to believe. I would speculate there was something broken in his heart, his mind, his emotions. We see the evidence of a wound hiding at a much deeper level. He responds to a heavenly, angelic encounter with skepticism. Really? Something had taken root in him. Something had been cultivated that bore bad fruit, that of disbelief. He presumed to decide for God what God could and couldn’t do. This is serious business: What we believe matters. Especially as it leads to either action or inaction. Real faith will wind up being visible (James 2). That’s what we might have expected from someone like Zechariah with priestly responsibilities, in a role where he’s been entrusted to lead God’s people.
For us, practically speaking, it’s all fine and good to want something in the morning, to desire godliness in moments of prayer and devotion. But afterward, we need to go and live out what we say we believe. We need to endure. We DO those things we know to be right and good. Because when the pressure is on, what is IN us—what we truly OWN internally—is revealed.
What’s being cultivated in your heart? Are you growing more gracious and attractive in your demeanor? Or are you heading down the path toward becoming like a cranky old man? Pray this prayer: Lord help us. We just don’t always get it right. We’re grateful for grace. We’re humbled anew. Lord, truly... help us. We NEED you.