Q: When the church is full of pomposity and secularism to the point it makes me weep during the worship service; when I walk away half-filled because I don’t feel His presence in the house of worship, I wonder, is God real? You are the president and a servant of God. Tell me the truth and why I should not give up. — Lydia, from Kenya
A: Lydia, you have asked a very important question. It’s a question that has been asked down the centuries, and it is one of the most important, life-changing questions that a person can ask, because the answer makes all the difference.
Yes, I believe God is real, as do millions of others around the world. However, He is not real to everyone — not because He doesn’t want to be, but because they are not open to Him. Often, seeds of doubt have been planted that have grown up and blocked God from their view and experience.
There are many ways to know that God is real — through answered prayer, experiences, worship, etc., but the most important (and reliable) way we can know God is real is through His Word, the Bible.
Jesus is our example. He based the faith of the disciples regarding who He is on fulfilled prophecy, rather than on experience, or even a personal encounter with Him. You can read about this in Luke 24, where, on the road to Emmaus, He gave His followers a Bible study, rather than immediately revealing Himself.
This method supports what the Bible tells us in Romans 10:17 — “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
As you have indicated, it can be discouraging to see secularism and other serious challenges affecting the church, and this is one of several reasons why our faith must not be based upon what we see or how we feel. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
While feelings contribute to our relationship with God, faith must not be based on feelings alone.
Here is some inspired counsel: “Many do not exercise that faith which it is their privilege and duty to exercise, often waiting for that feeling which faith alone can bring. Feeling is not faith; the two are distinct. Faith is ours to exercise, but joyful feeling and the blessing are God’s to give. The grace of God comes to the soul through the channel of living faith, and that faith it is in our power to exercise” (“Christian Experience and Teachings,” p. 126).
So, is God real? Yes. By faith, as you study the Bible with prayer, He will most certainly reveal Himself to you if you are open to His leading. Look to Jesus, not to others, for your faith. I also highly recommend reading (or re-reading) the marvelous little book, “Steps to Christ,” to grow your faith in a living, real God. And, of course, the classic, The Desire of Ages, speaks volumes about the reality of God. You may download these and many other inspired books by Ellen White from this website: egwwritings.org.
Regarding the state of the Seventh-day Adventist Church today, and why you should not give up, I highly recommend watching the sermon, “Every Wind of Doctrine,” that Pastor Mark Finley gave during the 2018 Spring Meeting at the world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. I believe you, and many others, will find it very encouraging! You may watch it on YouTube.