Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Craig Groeschel's recent book, The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn't Exist, (Zondervan, 2010).
Sure, you believe in God. But does the way you live reflect that belief? Too often, Christians seem more like atheists because they live as if God doesn't really exist - despite saying that they believe in Him. God wants more from you than just belief. He wants you to act on your faith by living it out in every part of your life. That's the only way you can grow closer to God and let others know that your faith is real, so they'll be inspired to seek God themselves.
So stop living like an atheist and start living like a Christian. Here's how you can deal with different obstacles that can prevent you from fully living out your faith.
When you believe in God but don't really know Him: God wants a close relationship with you - one in which you get to know Him well. He promises in the Bible that those who seek Him will find Him. So make it your top priority to pursue a closer relationship with God. As you get to know God better, you'll change into a better person throughout the process. Tell God that you want to know Him more, and invite Him to transform you and your life.
When you believe in God but are ashamed of your past: Shame will give you an inaccurate view of yourself and keep you from embracing the truth that God loves you no matter what. You have great value as someone He has made in His image. So, reject what your shame says about you, so you can hear what God says about you and start living with confidence. Confess your sins, repent of them, and pursue healing, however God leads you, such as through counseling. Ask God to help you use your experiences from past mistakes to minister to other people who are struggling in similar ways.
When you believe in God but aren't sure He loves you: Don't waste time and energy worrying about whether you're good or important enough to deserve God's love, or trying to earn His love - that's all futile. Instead, realize that God, in His essence, is love. Since God's nature is to love, He loves you completely and unconditionally. God's love for you will always be bigger than your sins and failures.
When you believe in God but not in prayer: If you don't pray much, ask yourself honestly why you don't. Is it because you don't expect prayer to lead to real change? Give prayer a try and you'll start to experience its power to change both people and situations. Is it because prayer is just a boring ritual to you? Pour out your deepest thoughts and feelings to God, listen to His responses, and you'll discover that prayer can be exciting. Is it because you're not sure that you know how to pray the right way? Rest assured that there's no formula for prayer; God will hear whatever you pray, however you pray it.
When you believe in God but don't think He's fair: Bad things do happen to good people in our fallen world, but you can count on God to bring about justice ultimately in the eternal realm. Remember that whenever God does allow you to suffer, He has a purpose for your pain that will ultimately lead to something good. Also, considering how often people sin, it's good that God doesn't give us all exactly what we deserve in this world, because that would mean not receiving the good grace that He constantly gives.
When you believe in God but won't forgive: Remember that God has forgiven you freely and completely for everything you've ever done wrong, so let your gratitude motivate you to obey His call to forgive other people who have hurt or offended you. If you just make the choice to forgive - despite your feelings - God will help you through the process and empower you to forgive anyone for anything.
When you believe in God but don't think you can change: No matter what problems you're dealing with, you can overcome them if you rely on God's help to do so. Eliminate any excuses you may have for not trying to change. Replace every wrong thought that enters your mind with biblical truth. Cut ties with people who are holding you back from changing in the ways you hope to change and surround yourself with people who will encourage and help you. Trust in God's promise that with Him, all things are possible.
When you believe in God but still worry all the time: Recognize that worry is actually the opposite of faith, because by worrying you're telling God that you don't really trust Him to handle the situations you face. Rather than worrying about your problems, do all you can to solve them and trust God to do what you can't do. Invite God to work on each problem in His way and in His time. Whenever you catch yourself worrying, take that as a signal to start praying about your concern instead.
When you believe in God but pursue happiness at any cost: It's a mistake to believe that God wants you to be happy above all else. God isn't obligated to make you happy if you're faithful to Him. In fact, He may often allow pain to enter your life to help you grow in ways you couldn't otherwise. But God, from His unlimited perspective, knows what is best for you. Chasing after what our culture tells you can make you happy may make you feel good temporarily, but it will eventually disappoint you. Only God's blessings - which transcend happiness - will truly fulfill you in lasting ways.
When you believe in God but trust more in money: You can't devote yourself to both God and money, because your heart will be divided and a love for money will end up pushing you into sin. Realize that money is just a tool for living, and decide to control it well - according to the principles God has outlined in the Bible - so it won't end up controlling you. Ask God to teach you how to give sacrificially to thank Him for making the ultimate sacrifice through Jesus on the Cross to save you.
When you believe in God but don't share your faith: If you're not sharing your faith, you're not responding to an important call from God. Evangelism is part of God's plan for all believers. Ask Him to help you share your faith through your conversations with the people you relate to every day. Pray for people, serve them, and invite them to both your church and your home regularly.
When you believe in God but not in His church: You can't grow closer to God, build strong relationships with other believers, or represent God well to the world if you're not participating in a local church. So believe in God enough to truly give your life to it, which being active in church will help you do.
Adapted from The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn't Exist, copyright 2010 by Craig Groeschel. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com.