Believing in Vain

1 Corinthians 15 : 2
By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

One night my junior year of college I was in bed, but my mind was racing. I had been doubting a lot. Was God who I thought He was? Was He even real? Part of me wanted to give up this whole Christian thing. Fed up with questions, I declared, “God, I don’t believe in you!”

I believe; help my unbelief!
— Mark 9:24

When we doubt, we may wonder if we are even Christians. That’s why the Bible is littered with warnings to help us evaluate where we are with Jesus as well as reminders of God’s promises. They help us persevere in repentance and faith. They focus us on Jesus and help us to find security in Him instead of trusting the doubts of our ever-wandering hearts. So does this one:

1 Corinthians 15 : 1-2
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 

These verses should cause us to examine our hearts. Obviously, we do not want to be people who have believed in vain. We want to be in the first group Paul describes – those who have received the gospel, are standing in it, are being saved by it, and are holding fast to it. 

James 2 : 19
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

This verse shows that we can believe in God and still rebel against Him. Demons know theology better than we do, but they do not embrace those truths. It is possible for us to only know things about Jesus but not love Him or follow Him. Yikes! Add this verse to the bit about believing in vain, and we can start to feel hopeless.

But look at how Paul begins 1 Corinthians 15 – reminding us of the gospel. Thank God for this reminder! The gospel reminds us that Jesus has secured a place for us with Him, even when our faith is weak and we stray away from God. We sing a song at our church that has this line that I love:

The hold of God is stronger than we dare to hope or dream.
— God Undefeatable

We may often look for assurance of our salvation in other things – a prayer we prayed, how often we read our Bible, or how well we serve others. While the Bible does tell us that such things are helpful in determining where we are with Jesus, none of them actually accomplishes the work of our salvation. Rather they are the fruit of the work of Jesus being applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Thankfully, God did not let that night my junior year of college be the end for us. By His grace, I still have faith in Jesus, though it is far from perfect. If you are in Christ but are experiencing doubt and worrying that you may have believed in vain, do not despair. Instead, honestly cry out to God. Yes, He has given us His Word so that we might see and confess our lack of faith, but He has also given us Jesus and the reminder that His people may never be snatched from His hand (John 10:28).