Many months ago I was visiting my sister and at her church we sang “This I believe” a song by Hillsong Worship based on the Apostles' Creed. The chorus stuck in my head and it popped back in today, here it is:
I believe in God our Father
On one level, this is simplistic in the extreme. I believe in the Trinity. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus and his church. Bish, bash, bosh, it's barely even complicated enough for Christianity 101.
There is more to Christianity to this, there are some who could sing the above in clear conscience yet by other views prove themselves not to understand the gospel. This is not the answer to every question asked in the long dark teatime of the soul. There is more to the reality of faith, the daily struggle of walking with Jesus, the putting off of sin and putting in of holiness, the failures and falls and the mistakes and the missteps.
But while there is so much more to be said and sung, this is still a necessary part of all that is to follow. It is still necessary even if it is not all sufficient. Singing it in church and listening to it a few times since, two words come into my head: defiant and triumphant.
Imagine, standing on a hill, a storm approaching, a hurricane not too far away, life in all its topsy-turviness, the wind raging, the rain pelting down, the very rocks threatening to blow away. And in the midst of all this thunder and chaos, screaming this song out at maximum volume.
Fortunately for everyone else, I restrained myself from actually shouting but I did put some extra defiance into my singing (for anyone standing nearby, I apologise). For the simple statements have great power. You cannot mutter “I believe in God our Father” in a small voice, you cannot sing quietly that “we will rise again” nor can you swallow the line: “For I believe in the name of Jesus.”
It is nice to be reminded that Christianity, in all its complexity, retains a remarkable simplicity. It was refreshing to sing, not of my feelings, which can be all over the place, but of my core beliefs which, by the grace of God, remain foundational.
There may come a day, although I hope not, when I lose sight of these core beliefs. It is possible, I think, to reach that dark place even after experiencing the salvation offered by Jesus. Doubt can cripple faith in the existence of God and the resurrection from death. If that dark day comes, I hope that I could sing the Creed. That I believe, though with many doubts, would be better than having belief die completely.
The daily pressure of secular society is that belief in God, the Trinity and the resurrection is a great joke, suitable only for the weak minded and the fool. The Apostles' Creed stands against this. The defiance of the song comes from it's simplicity – no arguments, no defensiveness, no apology, but a simple and joyful: “I believe in Christ, deal with it.” It is, if you like, the Christian equivalent of a mic drop.
In a day and an age of moral relativism then strong faith or exclusive belief is seen as an offence. And that is the second defiance of singing the Creed – the refusal to be silenced by the modern spirit of cynicism, materialism and narcissism that knows no god but the god of “being true to yourself”. The Creed speaks of true beliefs about the nature of life, the universe and everything and any other belief that sets itself in competition is by necessity false. In singing the Creed and bringing to mind all that is true, it also acts as a reminder of all that is false – the empty promises and delusions of a world in rebellion to God.
The second word that came to mind was triumphant. Belief in the resurrection is belief in ultimate victory over the final enemy of death. If there was a song to sing while on death's door, this would be up there. For it speaks of a triumph, won by Jesus Christ, over death, and if death then hell and if hell then sin. And if all this, then how much more all other things? If death is defeated then how much more all who persecute the church? How much more will the wisdom of this age come to nothing?
And if all those things – then also the troubles and cares of our finite lives. “That we will rise again” is a rich comfort for the darkest of times, “I believe in the name of Jesus” is a ray of sunshine in the deepest of pits. If all else has failed us but our faith remains, that is reason enough to rejoice. And if all has failed and our faith has faltered but we can still sing the Creed, though tormented by doubts and fears, then there is still joy to be had. “I believe,” said a man to Jesus, “Help my unbelief” (Mark 9v24) and though struggling in faith he was not turned away.
Thinking about the cares of life, I have found it helpful to sing this song for it fixes my mind on reality. “Oh”, I say to myself “I do believe in God the Father, I really do believe in Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit. Of course I will rise again and yes, it's all because I believe in the name of Jesus!” And so, my troubles seem less pressing, set in the context of an everlasting God and a resurrection soon to come.
Our Father everlasting