Today’s Scripture: Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Matthew 15:7–9

When an atheist renounces his faith, it’s a big deal. Yet, when a Christian acts like an atheist, nobody seems to pay any attention. George Bernard Shaw was a famous playwright and philosopher. In his last writings, he said, “The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. Its counsels, which should have established the millennium, led, instead, directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed them once. In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions of worshippers in the temples of a thousand creeds. And now they look at me and witness the great tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith.”

It is a tragedy that at the end of his life, George Bernard Shaw gave up his belief in atheism but did not replace it with faith in God. An even greater tragedy is the thousands of Christians who go through life as practical atheists. This means they believe Jesus died and rose again, but they do not live like it. They know Jesus died because of their sin, but they live as if sin doesn’t make any difference to God. They believe Jesus can save them from Hell, but they do not believe He can help them pay their bills, find a job, recover from an illness, overcome their shortcomings, find a mate, or face the day’s challenges. They believe everything the Bible says about miracles, but they do not believe God can perform miracles in the impossible situations they face. They believe God is love. However, they get frustrated and discouraged when He takes away the things they think are good (tangible), because He wants to give them what is best (often intangible).

Sadly, we are all guilty of being practical atheists from time to time. What can we do about it? First, we should confess our lack of faith to God. Then we should take steps to build our faith. Maybe we could study what God did in the lives of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. Perhaps we could talk to some older Christians about the things they have seen God do in their lives. We might even think about times when God helped us through difficulties. These faith-building exercises will make us ready to trust Him.

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder