The Struggle With Unbelief…

Isaiah 43:11-12 (NIV)

I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.

When we reach the point in the history of Israel that the Prophet Isaiah is born, and he is called to fulfill his role in the Kingdom of God, we are several centuries past the exodus of the people from the land of Egypt under the appointed leadership of Moses. And in our passage, we find God still pleading with His people to believe in Him … to trust Him … to place their faith in Him – the “I AM”. God revealed Himself to His people through mighty and miraculous events; signs and wonders; judges, kings, and prophets; and yet, there is a continual call from the Spirit of God to “see” Him and to “know” Him.  And as I reflect on this message this morning, I recognize that our current generation seems to struggle with the same issue: Faith!  How many millennia have come and gone that multitudes of human beings have resisted to acknowledge or believe in our Creator?

Moses struggled with the unbelief of God’s people even after the great parting of the Red Sea and their supernatural deliverance (salvation) from the pursuing armies of Pharaoh. We find the same issue of unbelief under the leadership of Joshua after crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land. It continued under their Judges, under Samuel, and during the reign of the Davidic Kings.  Restoration leaders like Ezra and Nehemiah urged the people returning from the judgment of exile to believe and to restore their faith and worship toward God. The major and minor Prophets spoke as the mouth of God – “I AM Here!” “I AM He!” “I AM!” Indeed, this apparent veil of unbelief was the very reason that Jesus, the Son of God, was sent into the world. We are commanded to believe in Jesus for redemption and eternal salvation; and yet, Jesus had to rebuke even His disciples for their unbelief at times. What gives? Why are humans so resistant to believe … so rebellious against the knowledge of God?

There are so many Scriptures that come to mind regarding unbelief:

Deuteronomy 1:30-33 (NKJV)

30 The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet, for all that, you did not believe the Lord your God33 who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.

Psalm 78:52-58 (ESV)
52 Then He led out His people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. 53 He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid, but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. 54 And He brought them to His holy land, to the mountain which His right hand had won. 55 He drove out nations before them; He apportioned them for a possession and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents. 56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most-High God and did not keep His testimonies, 57 but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow. 58 For they provoked Him to anger with their high places; they moved Him to jealousy with their idols.

Matthew 21:28-32 (ESV)

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the Kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

John 12:37-50 (ESV)

37 But although Jesus had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Cf. Isaiah 53:1) 39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” (Cf. Isaiah 6:10) 41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. 42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. 44 Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not only in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”

John 14:5-11 (ESV)

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does His works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Hebrews 3:1-19 (NIV)

1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are His house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’

11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

So, I think the point has been made here regarding the seriousness of unbelief.  And I think it stems from our own human pride … that somehow we think that we know more than God on how things are supposed to be … how He is supposed to govern His Kingdom … how He should do things the way we think He ought to do them.  Rather than believe what God has revealed, we want to question Him regarding what He has not revealed. In my observation, I believe God has revealed Himself sufficiently for humans to believe in Him.  We just tend to be stubborn and resist because of our human will … the inclinations of the thoughts of our hearts … and the inability to trust Him with the “unseen”.  Well did the inspired writer of Hebrews define the concept of faith: “Now faith is the substance (confidence) of things hoped for, the evidence (assurance) of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 – NKJV)  And Paul asserts that what may be known about God is plain to see because God has made it plain to us.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen; being understood from what has been made so that people are without excuse. (Cf. Romans 1:19-20)

I think about what Jesus said to Thomas after His resurrection: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Cf. John 20:29) Thomas had been with Jesus for three years.  He saw the miracles.  He heard the sermons.  He knew Jesus personally.  Yet, he did not believe the testimony of his fellow disciples concerning the resurrection.  I find that interesting … knowing that we can exhibit the same behaviors when fellow Christians share their testimonies about what God is doing in their lives.  It is not just a matter of a skeptical attitude; rather, I think it becomes a manifestation of a hardened heart … calloused by our own paradigms of who we think God should be. But God said: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Cf. Isaiah 55:8-9) Instead of trying to out maneuver God, perhaps we should just simply believe Him based on what He has already shown us. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known.” (Cf. John 1:18)

So what is the application? Well, here is what my heart is telling me:

Deuteronomy 13:4 (NIV)

It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him.

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

1 John 3:23-24 (NIV)

And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.

Isaiah 43:10 (NIV)

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.”

Acts 1:8 (NIV)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The issue for each generation is FAITH!  And so we are called to be witnesses … to give our testimony of FAITH.  To me, the issue is what you believe based on who you believe? Isaiah prophesied, “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1) Paul responded: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17) And so, if we want to reach our generation with the hope of salvation, it will require us to not only believe the message about Jesus Christ but to share His message with others. If necessary, we should use words; but otherwise, we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, as the testimonies of our faith. This means to love others as Christ has loved us … just as He commanded us. (Cf. John 13:34) And so, the genuineness of our faith shall be revealed through love….  We need to stop doubting and believe Jesus! Those are my thoughts.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

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