As Christians, we believe in God. We believe Jesus came to earth, died, and rose again for our salvation, that he is seated at the right hand of the Father and is coming again. We do not believe the resurrection is just a story; we believe it is a historical fact. But why do we believe these things? Near the end of his gospel, the apostle John explains his purpose in writing: “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31)1 In other words, John wrote about the signs Jesus performed in order to provide us with reasons to believe. Reasons for belief are absolutely necessary, because our Christian faith is a rational faith. While we could not have come to saving faith without the work of the Holy Spirit, this does not mean that our faith is divorced from rational thought or the ordinary rules of logic; rather, it is belief based on adequate evidence.
As we go through life, we may encounter things that cause us to doubt. New information that seems to contradict our beliefs, an argument we’ve never considered before, or a traumatic personal experience can shake our faith to the core. In times like this, we are often exhorted to “just have faith.” But statements like this are unhelpful; they are based on a warped view of faith. If we are to have rational faith, we cannot “just have faith,” we need to have reasons. God has given us a mind with which to love and glorify him;2 to attempt to force oneself to “just believe” is to attempt to turn off that mind. Rather, with the help of the Holy Spirit and much prayer, we should use our minds to seek for truth and resolve our doubts.
But didn’t Jesus tell Jairus to “only believe”? Let’s look at the context:
And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.”Mark 5:22-23
While on the way, Jesus is interrupted by the woman with a flow of blood. As Jesus ministers to the woman, the news of Jairus’ daughter’s death arrives:
While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”Mark 5:35-36
I want to note something: Jairus knew his daughter was at the point of death. Yet he had come to Jesus with the confident assertion that if Jesus laid His hands on her, she would live. Jairus was not seeking Jesus in lieu of an ordinary physician. He was earnestly begging Him to help, believing that Jesus possessed powers beyond what was humanly possible. It is not explicit from the text whether Jairus considered Jesus to be the Messiah or God incarnate (though the fact that he fell at Jesus’ feet may be suggestive); but he clearly believed He was at least a prophet. As a ruler of the synagogue and a devout Jew, he doubtless knew that both the prophets Elijah (1 Kings 17) and Elisha (2 Kings 4) had raised the dead. Jesus was not asking Jairus to believe in the absence of reasons; He was pointing to the fact that Jairus had sufficient reasons, and should not be afraid, but believe.
Despite Jesus’ exhortations to have faith, Jairus and those with him evidently still didn’t fully believe, because Scripture records that “they were overcome with great amazement” (Mark 5:42) when the girl arose and walked. Despite their lack of faith in the presence of sufficient reasons for faith, Jesus still had mercy and provided them with yet another reason to believe—the miracle they had witnessed with their own eyes.
We do a great disservice to ourselves and others when we descend to irrationality in support of our faith. God is not offended when we use the minds he has given us to wrestle with the hard questions of life, provided we do so in humility, recognizing the absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit’s aid. By the grace of God, we can emerge on the other side more humble, more grateful, more firmly established in the truth, and better equipped to communicate the truth to others—in short, with more reasons to believe.