Imani MCC of Durham

a church where, through faith, all can experience and express God's irresistible love through worship, word, oneness, wonder and witness.

Knowing Versus Believing

knowing-god“You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139:1-6 (NIV)

“The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him,“Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:43-51 (NIV)

“Knowing Versus Believing”

Of the 150 psalms the psalmist wrote, for me, this one ranks up there in the top 10! It’s an amazing and powerful psalm that speaks poignantly of our relationship with God. If you ever wonder about that relationship this is a good place to come and gain clarity.

In this particular psalm our relationship with our Creator is summed up in a word: “yada’.” Yada' is a rich word in biblical Hebrew, covering a whole range of meanings - from simple recognition to intimate sexual relationship. In Genesis 4, we read that Adam "knew (yada') his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain" (Genesis 4:1).

The close relationship between the psalmist and God is not only emphasized in the language of "I" and "thou" in Psalm 139, but also in the repetition of the verbal root yada' (to know), which occurs seven times (1, 2, 4, 6, 14, and twice in 23).

Some form of this word occurs sixty times in the Psalter, emphasizing that the concept of "knowledge" is a critical element of meaningful relationship. We are to know God, just as God knows us. As the psalmist says, "It was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb" (13).

From the words of this psalm it is clear that God knows us inside & out. God knows “where we live” because God is our life! The question for us is “How well do we know God?”

Our gospel lesson helps us answer this question. Like Nathanael, we hold beliefs about God (and other things) without really knowing God. What’s the difference in “believing” and “knowing?” For help with answering this question we’ve called in my friend and teacher, Wayne Dyer.” Here’s what Dr. Dyer has to say about the distinctions between these two ideas:

“1. Beliefs are handed to you. Knowings come from within. This means that a belief has doubt attached to it. A knowing has no doubt because it comes from within, from your direct experience.

2. A second characteristic that distinguishes a belief from a knowing is that beliefs will let you down in a crisis. Knowings never let you down. The reason that a belief is something that you cannot rely upon in a crisis is because of the doubt that is attached to it. And so it isn't reliable, whereas anything that you absolutely know—for example, how to ride a bicycle or how to swim—when a crisis comes along you will not be let down.

3. A third characteristic that distinguishes beliefs from knowings is that your beliefs are mental exercises. Your knowings are physical exercises. Your beliefs are located in the mental realm as thoughts that you constantly reinforce. These are strictly mental exercises that you constantly practice until they become your reality. That is, a reality based upon the doubt that is attached to these beliefs.

You may believe that people shouldn't wear jewelry in their nose. These kinds of beliefs will influence your conduct and cause you to judge others, until you change your belief and perhaps search out a nose piercer.

knowings are located in the physical domain, even though they originated in the mental. When you know something, it is a part of your total being, originating in the mental and residing in your complete being. That which you absolutely known with certainty—such as how to dance the mambo or ice skate or swim or ride a bicycle—is a part of your cellular being. It resides so deeply within you that it is in the cells of your humanity. That which you once only believed because it was given to you by some external person has now been transformed into a knowing. You may also have some beliefs within you that you actually treat as knowings. These include those beliefs that are so strongly ingrained that they act like knowings within you. Some of these entrenched beliefs may be judged by you to be knowings, but they really are not.

For example, you may believe that you have no talent for art, but somewhere deep inside of your consciousness there exists a tiny smidgen of doubt about whether it is really true were you to actually apply yourself in a new way. When you know something, it becomes your physical reality, and you act on this knowing at all times. When you merely believe something, whether it be a negative or a positive, you have a tiny, tiny bit of doubt connected to it, and that doubt becomes your reality. Beliefs are mental. Knowings are physical, though they originate as mental beliefs.

4. The fourth distinction between a belief and a knowing is that a belief will restrict you, while a knowing will empower you. The reason a belief restricts you is that there is doubt attached to it, and, therefore, when you go to act upon it, you do so sort of tenuously, and so there's a restriction, whereas a knowing, something that you absolutely know that you can rely upon, will empower you. It's the difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Knowing about God is a belief. Knowing God is a knowing. And knowing about God usually means that you have some reservations—I'm not quite sure about all of this higher power stuff and I'm not quite sure about whether I do have a higher self. Whereas when you've learned to experience it—and that's what these keys to higher awareness are designed to do—then you absolutely know God, not just know about God.

5. The fifth and final characteristic that distinguishes a belief from a knowing is that your beliefs are all transitory, while your knowings are eternal. Just think about some of the beliefs that you have today and how they've shifted over the years. Remember how many people were shocked to see men wearing long hair and earrings? I can remember working in a high school in the inner city of Detroit, and a young man came in with his hair real long and with earrings on, and they expelled him from the school and told him to go home and get a haircut and to stop dressing like a sissy.

Today, the very same people who suspended him are wearing those same kinds of jewelry and have their hair quite a bit longer than they did in those days. And now you watch on Sunday afternoons the National Football League, and, in the interviews, you see these big, burly mastodons of masculinity with their long hair and their earrings protruding from their helmets.

So our beliefs about things are very transitory and they're shifting all the time. But what you know is there with you forever.”

(This is an excerpt from Dr. Dyer’s program,”Freedom Through Higher Awareness.”)

In our Gospel lesson from John we see clearly that Nathanael came to Jesus with a belief (“can anything good come from Nazareth?” He followed Jesus with a knowing “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” May this be the path of faith we all follow as we follow Jesus … moving from “believing” to truly “knowing” the depth and breadth of our relationship with God and with each other.

Hear God’s promise from the prophets of old and from the writer of the Book of Hebrews:

“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” Jer. 24:7

“No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” Heb. 8:11

Living Faith: We come to really “know” God one step at a time, one breath at a time, one day at a time, one tear at a time, one miracle at a time. As Christians we also come to know God through our relationship with Jesus. This week, or over the next couple of weeks, take time to read the Gospel of Mark this week and see how much it transforms your knowledge of God.


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