|Vol. 13 No. 3 March 2011||
David Q. Fisher
“Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world” (Archimedes).
Ludmilla Pavlova, an adjunct professor at UMass Amherst, wrote on her blog: “Archimedes’ famous quotation has always been a symbol for me of the power individuals have to change not only their own destiny, but also to affect social and organizational change. The two prerequisites are: a place to stand, and a lever long enough.”1
There have been times in my life I have asked myself, “Where is my place to stand? What is my lever and fulcrum with which to build my life, my faith, to change what needs to be changed in me, to empower me to live with a faith and a moral integrity that are genuine and true?” A simpler way to phrase the question is, “Why do I believe in God and seek to obey Him in my life?” Yet, asked another way, “What is my core belief, the place I stand?”
Since July of 2007, I have asked this question with more seriousness and questioning than any other time in my life. The questioning began when our two-month-old grandson, Sully, was diagnosed with A.L.L. leukemia that July. Since Sully’s death on August 2, 2008, the questioning has continued with earnest. If I ever did, no longer do I take for granted the existence of God. No longer do I take for granted the truth of Scripture, the place of the church, the importance of moral integrity, or anything else connected with Christian belief, teaching and the faith I have held all of my life.
Two weeks ago, in a gathering of fourteen ministers for study, I was asked about Sully and the impact of his suffering and death on my faith. My response, without hesitation, was this: “What has helped me is my belief in Jesus Christ, the love of God revealed in Him, and the promised hope we have in Him through His death and resurrection. If it wasn’t for Christ, for being able to keep coming back to Him,” I said of my faith in God, “I’d chuck it all.”
At that moment, and other moments the past three and one-half years, this is my answer to the question asked above. “Where is my place to stand? What is my lever and fulcrum with which to build my life, my faith, to change what needs to be changed in me, to empower me to live with a faith and a moral integrity that are genuine and true?” “Why do I believe in God and seek to obey Him in my life?” “What is my core belief, the place I stand?” The answer – Jesus Christ!
Faith must come from reason. “Faith comes from hearing,” the apostle Paul wrote. Certainly then, it is wise to construct our faith on what we have the most reason to trust. Faith built on groundless trust is really superstition (Trueblood 38). Groundless trust is useless faith.
As a college student I was required to read A Place to Stand by Elton Trueblood. He wrote, “The primary proposition for the Christian, his ultimate act of faith, is the trustworthiness of Jesus Christ. It is here that the Christian finds a place to stand” (35). The answer to my question above could begin with creation or inspiration of Scripture or God himself or a number of philosophical arguments. I long have pondered Peter’s words in 1 Peter 1:21. Trueblood’s statement strikes a cord with me. (Last week I pulled his book off my shelf where it has been since my college days.)
Take every reason for faith in God and all the beliefs and practices of the Christian faith, as important as all of these may be, and put them together. Where do I go as I struggle with my doubts, my grief and my questions? At times I ask myself, is it true, what I have believed all my life and preached these forty years? I keep coming back to Jesus Christ.
How did I respond to Trueblood’s words forty-two years ago? I do not remember. Last week his words gave expression to the faith in which I stand.
A Christian is a person who, with all the honesty of which he is capable, becomes convinced that the fact of Jesus Christ is the most trustworthy that he knows in his entire universe of discourse. Christ thus becomes both his central postulate and the Archimedean fulcrum which, because it is really firm, enables him to operate with confidence in other areas. (38)
I am convinced of the truth of Jesus, the truth of what He said and claimed concerning Himself, what His disciples said and claimed concerning Him. Above all, I am convinced of, humbled by and my heart moved by His love seen in His death, His resurrection and His life now. The apostle reminds me. “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Jesus is the place I stand.
Jesus Christ convinces me God is. Concerning Himself, Jesus said, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). Jesus is the source, the firm ground on which my faith in God stands. Notice the apostle Peter’s words concerning the faith of the Christians to whom he wrote, “who through him [Christ] are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21). Jesus is my core belief, the core reason I believe in God. Jesus is the place I stand.
Jesus Christ reveals to me and convinces me who God is. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). Of the unbelieving, Paul writes, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Peterson paraphrases, “Christ… gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.” Jesus is the place I stand.
Jesus Christ reveals to me and convinces me God loves Sully, my family, me and all of humankind. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus is the place I stand.
Jesus Christ reveals to me and convinces me God does not abandon me when bad things happen to those I love and to me. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). “Nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). Commenting on Romans 5:6-10, John Stott writes, “So what we have been given in the sin-bearing death of Jesus Christ is not a solution to the problem of pain, but sure and solid evidence of both the justice and the love of God, in the light of which we may learn to live and love, to serve, to suffer and to die” (60). Jesus is the place I stand.
Jesus is my core belief, the place I stand, my fulcrum and my lever with which I am able to lift any doubts and challenges that come to my life, attacking my faith. Jesus is my core belief, the place I stand, my fulcrum and my lever with which I am able to lift my heart and mind to faith in God. Jesus is my core belief, the place I stand. Jesus keeps me standing.
Trueblood, Elton. A Place to Stand. New York: Harper & Row, 1969.
Pavlova, Ludmilla. <https://blogs.umass.edu/lpavlova/2009/09/19/solar-decathlon-a-lever-for-growth/>.
Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1996.
Stott, John. Why I Am A Christian. Downers Grove: InterVarsity P., 2003).