Written By Chia Poh Fang
Poh Fang never dreamed of being in a language-related profession; chemistry was her first love. The turning point came when she received Jesus as her Savior as a 15-year-old and expressed to Him that she would like to create books that touch lives. She serves with Our Daily Bread Ministries in the Singapore office as Managing Editor.
Are you a believer? You may be surprised to hear this, but all of us are—regardless of our religious inclination.
We live by faith everyday—faith that our alarm clock will wake us up on time and faith that we will live to face tomorrow. It is impossible to live, not simply exist, without a certain set of operating assumptions in our life. We sit on a chair assuming that it will hold us up. We make plans for the next day believing that we will live to fulfill them.
We are a group of believing creatures. Each one of us subscribes to some form of beliefs, values, and knowledge and we uphold these as truths in our lives. They dictate our actions and shape our thought processes, mostly at the subliminal level. They are so innate that we are often unconscious of their workings in our lives.
Like our heart, our schema—the way we perceive and respond to our surroundings—serves as the silent mover of things that happen in our lives. Our heart pumps at a rate of 70 times per minute. In one year, it pumps 3.5 million liters to seven million liters (depending on our activities) of blood through the body. It does enough work in 12 hours to lift a 65,000kg tank car about 30cm off the ground. Silently but steadily, it keeps us alive.
To stay in top form and to prevent sudden malfunctioning, we need to remain healthy by strengthening our pulse rate through a systematic exercise routine and a balanced diet. We need to watch our cholesterol levels to prevent a heart attack. If we were to draw a parallel between our schema and our heart, we need to constantly challenge our assumptions and bring them under the spotlight. Are there “fats” in our thought patterns? How are we strengthening our reasoning? What are we feeding our mind with?
I have always found it very intriguing that a similar experience can draw varying interpretations from different people. One may condemn his misfortune while another may count his blessings. Why such diverse responses?
Perhaps, it’s because some of us believe that a person is a product of his or her experiences. They believe that people involved in our early stages of development and our life encounters played a huge role in conditioning us to relate with the world around us in a particular way. If this worldview is true, we are stripped of any control over our lives. We are but victims of our times, manipulated by the hands of fate, tossed and turned by the winds of fortune. People who subscribe to this point of view seldom want to take responsibility for their own actions. They have a tendency to blame others and the prevailing circumstances. My question then is: Are they building their life upon a reasonable assumption?
Others believe that humans weld the keys to their own future. Philosophers term such people “humanists”. Rather than bowing to the circumstances they are placed in, they seek ways to conquer it. These people seem to believe in the infallibility of men—are men infallible?
Though the above two examples may be too simplistic in explaining complex human behavior, I’d like to suggest that both these belief systems and resultant behavioral patterns might be built on the same roots: assumptions that we have not thoroughly evaluated. Worse, we may even be holding on to two contradicting assumptions at the same time, and depending on circumstances, we will act one way or another. This makes us people without principles who operate based on our carnal instinct of self-preservation and convenience. We subscribe to whichever belief that best serves our interests at a particular moment.
Perhaps it is time for us to heed the advice of Jonathan Edwards, widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian: “See that your chief study be about your heart; that there God’s image may be planted; that there His interests be advanced; that there the world and flesh subdues; that there the love of every sin is cast out; that there the love of holiness grows.”
Let’s examine what and why we believe, for belief shapes behavior. And one of the best ways to check our beliefs is to examine our actions and ask ourselves: why do I do or say that? And more importantly, does my behavior reflect God’s image and His interest? Am I growing in holiness or worldliness?