How Can We Know If God Exists?
Opening Song: “I’ve Always Loved You” (by Third Day)(Please click HERE)
I am so excited to be here with you all! What a treat to hang out with you, get to know you better (for longer than 65 minutes on Sunday morning or even 120 minutes every other Sunday evening!), and get to know God better together!
Today we are going to get to know God the Father better, and we will divide our time with Him into two parts:
1. Talking about whether or not He exists (the evidence and the arguments);
Remember, you are young men and women now—if you lived 100 years ago or more most of you would be married, having children, running the farm, and fighting off murderous bandits with your own two hands by this point in your lives! So you must start taking your faith in Jesus seriously, and by that I mean you must start to take ownership and responsibility for it yourself, without blindly believing what your parents believe or only going to church/reading the Bible/praying/thinking about God when they force you to.
Question: Does God exist? If yes, or if no, how do you know?
Some say NO because:
1. You cannot see God.
Response: Here are some ways to discuss this/think about this:
You cannot see molecules, either, at least not with our eyes alone. You need specialized equipment. Maybe God is like this. Maybe you need specialized equipment to see God—like the Bible, or the Holy Spirit, or faith. Maybe faith is a specialized tool that is just as scientific as a microscope. A person would have been wrong to state, 500 years ago, that molecules do not exist simply because there was no way to see them. You cannot see wind either, or love, but you can see what they do—wind blows leaves and love makes people smile. We might not be able to see God, but we can see what He does—creates, helps, protects, etc.
Some people put too much importance in Science; they say that Science has proven that God doesn’t exist, or they say that God hasn’t been proved to exist using scientific tools, so He must not be real.
Well, you can’t measure cold with a ruler, but that doesn’t mean that I’m hallucinating or dreaming when I’m standing outside on the bus stop with my 6 year old daughter in January!
It’s not that the ruler is bad—it just wasn’t designed to measure cold. Science isn’t bad either—it just isn’t able to tell us if God exists or not. We need different tools than microscopes, bunson burners, rulers, and x-ray machines.
Question: Do you believe that the planet Jupiter exists? If so, why? Because you’ve seen pictures? Pictures can be doctored—that doesn’t prove it’s there. Because you’ve seen it with a telescope? People who are in the desert long enough without water often see beautiful waterfalls and shiny cities—but they’re not real, they’re called mirages. Maybe you’re just seeing a mirage through your telescope. Have you ever been to Jupiter? Nope. Has anyone ever actually been there? Nope. Then it must not exist!
Now hear me out—I believe in Jupiter. But everyone believes in Jupiter, even though there’s arguably less evidence for Jupiter’s existence than for God’s existence.
Think About This: I was sick during this lesson at last year’s retreat, and had been for the past four days: horrifically sore throat, coughing, lack of energy, wooziness, and loss of taste buds. Not having your taste buds is tough. I really like food! I really like eating at Culver’s, and I could barely taste the delicious buttery goodness of the butterburger, the crunchy saltiness of the French fries, the sweet flavor of the fruit punch…I couldn’t taste any of that! But would it be true for me to say that those foods don’t have flavor? Would it be logical for me to declare that flavor itself doesn’t exist simply because I can’t taste it?
Of course not. The problem isn’t with flavor, or Culver’s; the problem is with my taste buds—they’re not working properly and are therefore unable to detect the flavor. Well the Bible says that humans have a similar problem—we are born spiritually dead, all but unable to detect the presence of God on our own. We can barely taste God the way Adam and Eve could. But this doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist, it just means that we need to get healthy so that we can taste God once again.
If a person is born color blind, is it fair—or scientific—to declare that color does not exist?
Do fish believe in the tops of mountains? They only know the water…See what I’m sayin’?
Also, some say God doesn’t exist because:
2. Belief in God is so primitive, so simple—we’re smarter than that now!
Show Video: “Not That Smart”:
Response: Here are some ways to think about this:
That’s what some people are saying today. Many more people were saying that at the start of the 20th century (the 1900s)—we don’t need to hold on to the crutch of God because all we need to do to make the world a better place is to work together, to use our vast knowledge and superior understanding to improve society through education, technology, hard work, etc. (kind of reminds me of what the people were saying during the building of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9).
That was the thought held by some of the smartest and most educated people 100 years ago. And look what happened during the 20th century: two World Wars and countless other conflicts costing hundreds of millions of lives. Not exactly the results we were hoping for!
A. There were and still are some nations that are officially atheistic—they do not allow people to believe in God and run their countries as if God doesn’t exist (the USSR, Cuba, China). Two of these countries became some of the poorest nations on earth, and China & the USSR committed some of the worst atrocities in recorded history, killing tens of millions of people under Stalin and Mao Se Tung)! These are countries whose societies are based on the belief that God does not exist!
B. In 1861 a very smart man was horrified by war and wanted to invent something that would cause people to choose never to make war again with large armies. His name was R.J. Gatling, and his invention was the Gatling Gun, a machine gun. Future guns designed from his original gun were used in World Wars I and II to destroy more lives than ever before.
This is human wisdom!
C. Leading up to World War II, eugenics was a popular philosophy “which advocates the improvement of human hereditary traits through various forms of intervention. Throughout history, eugenics has been regarded by its various advocates as a social responsibility, an altruistic stance of a society, meant to create healthier and more intelligent people, to save resources, and lessen human suffering…During the 20th century, many countries enacted various eugenics policies and programs, including:
• Genetic screening (Leading to aborting deformed babies!)
• Marriage restrictions (You can’t marry someone with bad genes!)
• Segregation (both racial segregation as well as segregation of the mentally ill from the normal)
• Compulsory sterilization
• Forced abortions, or, conversely, forced pregnancies
• Genocide (concentration camps).
The modern field and term were first formulated by Sir Francis Galton in 1865, drawing on the recent work of his cousin Charles Darwin. From its inception eugenics was supported by prominent people, including Alexander Graham Bell, George Bernard Shaw, and Winston Churchill. Eugenics became an academic discipline at many colleges and universities. Funding was provided by prestigious sources such as the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and the Harriman family” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics). This is human wisdom!
D. Does anyone think that smoking cigarettes is good for your body? Does anyone think that smoking cigarettes makes you healthier and helps you live a longer and better life?
Well, not too long ago (as late as the 1960s), many doctors believed that smoking was good for you! How crazy is that? But we know better now, of course. “Each year, a staggering 440,000 people die in the US from tobacco use. Nearly 1 of every 5 deaths is related to smoking. Cigarettes kill more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide, and illegal drugs combined.”
This is human wisdom!(http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_10_2X_Cigarette_Smoking_and_Cancer.asp).
-Jesus said in Matthew 10:13-16 (NIV): “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”
-Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (NIV): “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
God, and His truth, can be understood even by children, by people who aren’t educated. God makes it this way so that no one can show off a Ph.d or a fancy diploma and brag before God. God is the smartest—not us. He knows best—not us. He is the most important—not us. So I’m not saying that all human wisdom is bad—it’s not. But if we are basing important decisions—like whether or not we believe in God and in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the World—simply on human wisdom, we’re gonna be in danger eventually (see Matthew 7:24-27 NIV).
But there are good, logical, reasons to believe in the existence of God:
1. Approximately 90% of the world believes in God: 90% of the world currently believes in God or some higher power/being. Approximately 95% (or more) of all the humans who have lived over the past 4,000 years have also believed in God. Again, this doesn’t prove God exists, but it doesn’t seem likely that a small group of people who don’t believe in God understand the truth of the universe while everyone else is wrong.
2. Cosmological Proof: Everything is caused by something else. Thus, there must have been something to begin the first cause (or action). E.G. the old question: which came first, the chicken or the egg? Either way, someone or something had to make the chicken or the egg—that’s God!  Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology (baker, Grand Rapids: 1998), p.p. 182-183.
3. Teleological Proof: The complexity of the universe shows that it was intelligently designed. If you find a watch in the middle of the forest, you assume that someone made the watch, not that it just happened to come together randomly.  Ibid, p. 183. Honestly, sometimes we humans get too smart for our own good and totally overthink a simple situation—sometimes we think our way OUT of believing in God! (Like a intellectual genius who simply CAN’T make up their mind about which ice cream flavor to get, analyzing the different molecular make up of each flavor, trying to scientifically determine which flavor lasts the longest and which flavor will be most delicious based on factors like the person’s age, the current state of their tongue, what they just ate for dinner, the temperatuire in the ice cream store, etc. Eventually the ice cream shop closes and the person doesn’t get any ice cream because they over analyzed a simple decision! ).
4. Desire: All humans want. Whether it’s love, attention, popularity, money, fame, power, stuff, or the Cubs to finally win the stinkin’ World Series, all humans want. We desire. We hope. We need.
But have you ever thought about why we want so much?
Whenever we want anything we are trying to meet a need that we have, we are responding to having a shortage of something.
For example, we want a drink of water because we are thirsty. We want food because we are hungry. We want that cute guy or girl to like us because we feel lonely. We want a quadruple quarter pounder with cheese, sometimes, because we feel sad. We want a cool car when we’re 16 because we want people to notice us. We want an energy drink because we need to stay up late and cram for a test tomorrow. Etc. etc. etc.
But what happens when you get everything you want?
It happens to some people. They literally get everything they want. Now they might not have a submarine or they might not have been able to travel to the moon, but they pretty much have everything. What happens when you have the coolest clothes, when you’re with the cool group in school, when you have the best body, the cutest boyfriend/girlfriend, the best car, the best grades, the most money, the best personality? It isn’t enough. Look at people who seem to have all of their desires, and many of them still aren’t happy.
And yet we still have this desire for…something (or Someone).
Maybe it’s because we were made to know and love and enjoy and obey God, and that desire can only be satisfied by knowing, loving, enjoying, and obeying God.
C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Maybe our desires as humans, and the fact that we are never truly happy even when we have all of those material desires, prove that God exists and that we are really desiring Him. Maybe we need the “invisible” God to truly live and be happy, just like our lungs need “invisible” air molecules to make our bodies live. Just maybe…
So I hope you see that there are good reasons to believe that God exists—as you seek God He expects you to use your mind, your feelings, your emotions, and faith (trust) as well. But remember that the main thing is that you actually seek God—try and figure out if He exists—He does!!! And remember that your mind, feelings, emotions, and research can lead you to belief and trust in God—but ultimately there is always an element, a portion, that must be of faith. The mind and experience might lead you to the water, but only faith can make you drink it. For the Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV). This is not the end of the road, but only the beginning. God made you to know Him, and in order to know Him you have to look for Him!!!
The Bottom Line: Many people don’t believe God exists because if He exists, then He probably has rules for us to follow. If God exists, we probably owe Him our attention, allegiance, money, freedom, etc. If God exists, it means that we would have to change the way we think, what we believe, and how we act. I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly want to change. I like myself the way I am, and I don’t have to change for anybody! (being sarcastic here) But if God exists, God the perfect Creator of everything, I would have to change for Him. This is the biggest reason why people don’t believe in God in my humble opinion.
We’re like children who, when they’re upset, cover their eyes and say, “If I can’t see you, you’re not there!”
How many of you, when your parents have frustrated you because of unfair treatment or an unfair rule, have said or thought, “I can’t wait to get out of this house and be on my own so I can make my own decisions, so I can do what I want and not have to listen to them all the time!”? I thought that sometimes when I was growing up…And that is how many people think of God. They don’t want to listen to Him, obey Him, serve Him, etc. They want to be in control of their own lives, and they want to get out of His house as soon as they can. So they make up clever arguments in their minds that God doesn’t exist and defend those arguments to their dying days. But deep down, when no one is around, they know that God exists. They know He is there…they just don’t want to admit it, because they’d have to change…
Romans 1:18-20 (The Message) states that God has made His existence and power clear to all humans through His creation—some have simply chosen not to believe it (like a person who doesn’t believe the doctor who says they have cancer).
“But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.”
So I hope you see that there are good reasons—there is EVIDENCE!—for believing that God exists. And I pray that you will chew on the statements of this message while asking God to help you trust in Him. And I pray you would take the step (not leap!) of faith to trust God exists even though you cannot see Him…yet!
Questions for Further Discussion
1. Any thoughts or reactions? What was confusing, weird, interesting, etc.?
2. Why does God want us to have faith in Him?
3. What are some of the reasons that it’s tough to trust/believe in God?
4. What can we do to overcome those challenges to faith in God?
5. Why doesn’t God just “prove” His existence?
Potential Response: Because we show whether or not we love Jesus by our faith in Him—by how we live.
Example: it’s not how you act when your parents are around that shows your love for them, but how you act when they are not around (when you can’t see them)! God wants our love for Him to be real and pure—so for now we can’t “see” Him. But Jesus will return soon, and then we’ll be able to see His beautiful face forever!
Also, He already came down physically as Jesus, and most people still didn’t believe in Him! So God is using another method—faith in Him.
6. Will you choose to believe in God, even when He feels far away? If so, how will your life show that you trust in God?