Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I like going to the movies. Always have. As far back as I can remember, to Saturday afternoon matinees as a kid. In more recent years, one of those unforgettable movies I saw in 2016 was Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson. Maybe you also saw it.
Not for the faint-hearted I might advise. It’s a World War II epic which received a 10-minute standing ovation at its premiere. Based on a true story of the April and May 1945 battle, it is brutal and bloody, and may be offensive in its depiction of death and enemy fighting.
The true story of Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor, Hacksaw Ridge is about conflicts of many kinds:
- duty to God versus duty to country
- individual freedom versus communal responsibility
- healing versus killing
- love versus hate
- and so on.
The film is also about an internal war, of course, as Doss—brilliantly played by Andrew Garfield—wrestles with maintaining his faith and convictions as a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, amidst extraordinary pressures to compromise his faith. Desmond Doss refused to carry a rifle and will not shoot or harm anyone, based on his religious beliefs. It is a fascinating true story.
Mel Gibson had a series of interviews about his movie, and he said: “People have to be discerning about who they are and who other people are. How do you make that work without big clashes and upheavals? In life, we must deal with what’s around us in the best way we know how, holding staunchly to what we believe.” He admitted this was not easy.
What do you think about people who hold strongly to their beliefs? I think we mostly respect them, even if we don’t always agree with their views. It’s not just religious people who have strong beliefs—many do about all sorts of issues. But religious belief is something different. I’m sure we admire people of conviction. Your thoughts are a result of your attitude in life. Your general outlook, your view of the world, how you approach each and every day. This is stuff we know deep inside, but rarely talk about.
But a good attitude will mean you are mostly filled with empowering, positive and encouraging thoughts. While a poor outlook or attitude in life will see you struggling with negativity, despair, disillusionment. Have you ever felt disillusioned and in despair? I have.
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The Importance of Right Beliefs
And what do you think shapes your attitude in life? Your beliefs do: they drive you each day to make certain decisions—good and bad. Beliefs are very powerful. Just watch that movie Hacksaw Ridge and you’ll see what I mean. Your beliefs—they give a sense of meaning to everything in around you. They are your map to this world. Without them you would be lost, not be able to recognise, judge, accept, adopt anything as you just cannot recognise it.
Your beliefs shape your behaviour and actions. They can inspire you, pull you down, make you grow, limit you. We may have inherited a belief system or values from our parents. And at some stage we need to make a decision. Do I go with them for the rest of my life? Or do I formulate my own belief system? A baby is not born an atheist, agnostic or Christian. As the child grows, he or she starts developing attitudes and what the home is like, and the friends they mix with—it’s different for each of us.
Maybe you believe in the stars—in astrology. People have been making major life decisions by the stars for centuries. There isn’t any real proof that the way the planets and stars are aligned will actually do anything. Yet, daily horoscopes and astrological charts have become a guiding tool for many people, who truly think that one’s birth date determines his/her fate and can help him/her make day-to-day decisions.
Do you believe in intuition? Some people believe that some kind of a sixth sense provides us with silent guidance.
What Are Your Beliefs?
Each of us has some beliefs about the form of reality that shapes our lives. If you believe you are eight-feet tall, you will duck when you go through doors. If you believe that the world is a rotten and dangerous place, you will not go to meet life eagerly—you will withdraw and live defensively. If you believe that money is the most important thing in life, you will organise your life around getting it.
To believe in Jesus Christ is to hold life-shaping beliefs that we learn through him and to let those beliefs shape our lives. It is to decide that Jesus really is the one who has shown us the truth about the shape of reality.
Do you mind if I asked you:
- Do you believe in God?
- Do you believe he is the creator and sustainer of the whole world?
- Do you believe he is the ruler and the judge of all people?
- Do you believe he has been sovereign over the course of human history?
- Do you believe he is the one to whom one day you must give answer for every idle word and thought of your heart?
- Do you believe that God is here, now, looking over us at this moment, amongst us, present with us, knowing us even more intimately than we know ourselves?
- Do you believe in God?