We live in a hurting world, where people aren’t sure what they believe anymore.
My social media feed is full of friends who are embracing disillusionment and deconstruction. Conversations I overhear drip with cynicism and woundedness. While many of us spent over a year staying home and away from other people, many of us have kept those habits going, becoming lonelier and lonelier each day.
My heart breaks for those who are less and less hopeful about the future. Having battled cynicism and bitterness myself for many years, I warn my friends that the path they’re walking may keep them from being hurt again, but it won’t make them whole and healed people.
With this awareness of emotional angst in mind, I was intrigued when I heard @Phil Wickham recently describe the origin story of his song, "I Believe." In an interview with Joy FM, Wickham mentioned that "I Believe" was the final song written on the album. He’d sensed the album wasn’t done and the title hadn’t been decided.
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“There are so many people in a state of crisis of their faith. The people I know closely (are asking) - what is real? What do I believe? Then, you look outside of the church and outside the faith, obviously looking for hope. In a crazy world that seems like it’s shifting every week, they’re looking for some solid rock to stand on, that’s not shifting underneath their feet. And I believe I’ve found it - with all my heart - in the person of Jesus.”
Wickham went on to describe how experiences like this led to a sense of clarity. “I know I’m supposed to write a modern creed, but I don’t want to make it somber. I want to make it a joy-bomb for people to get behind…I went home and the song just flowed out once I knew what it was supposed to be.”
The lyrics of “I Believe” echo the tone of the early creeds like the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed with their simple focus on the nature of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
“All praise to God the Father, all praise to Christ thе Son
All praise to the Holy Spirit, our God has overcomе
The King who was and is and evermore will be
In Jesus' mighty name, I believe”
The essentials of the faith, present in the creed and the words of this song, are what Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 15 when he referenced how faith was passed on within the Roman Empire and early church.
“I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.”
The faith we hold did not originate with us. The language of 1 Corinthians and the words of those creeds which inspired “I Believe” connect us to the eyewitnesses to the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The impact of those events can bring great joy to our lives!
As Wickham mentioned in his interview above, the mixture of simple language conveying the essentials of the faith with a tone that is bright and joyful sets “I Believe” apart from other creed-type songs. Wickham reminds us that holding onto our faith doesn’t have to make us somber or overly serious. As he sings in the opening verse, trusting in Jesus can brighten our dark world.
“I believe there is one salvation
One doorway that leads to life
One redemption, one confession
I believe in the name of Jesus Christ”
Wickham has clearly shared what he believes in “I Believe.” But, even more than inviting us to sing with him, I think we are being invited to wrestle in the same way he did.
It’s not enough to believe something because of your historical association with it. The struggle of facing doubts and wrestling through them is essential to faith. I heartily agree with what the late Tim Keller wrote in his book, The Reason for God.
“Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts… It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them.”
Wickham can genuinely sing the words of this song because he’s owned his own faith and asked the same questions he’s watching others wrestle through today. Watching those he loves struggle with what they believe led Wickham to put into words the things he knows to be true and sing about them with incredible passion.
So, whether you have some doubts to wrestle through, or you have some friends to encourage today in their own journey with faith, I encourage you to rejoice in those things of which you are sure. Use "I Believe" as a model to celebrate what you know to be true and hold on to a hope that can sustain you through your discouragement and doubts.
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer with the best last name in the world. Scott’s writing helps you laugh, challenges you to think, and invites you to grow. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani, an award-winning attorney, and they are the parents of three growing savages. You can learn more about Scott’s newest resource, The Start-Over Guide, at scottsavagelive.com.