Help My Unbelief
Matthew 13:54-58 (NKJV) 54 And when He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” 57 So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” 58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
So, we have been talking about miracles for the past two weeks, seeking to understand what Jesus meant when He said we would do the things He did and we would do greater things because He was going to the Father when His earthly work was accomplished. We have also taken a look at what is involved in the making of a miracle in terms of our obedience and our need to expand our capacity to receive what God has to give us.
Faith, of course, plays a part in the receiving of a miracle, and we see in our text today that unbelief plays a role in the blocking of miracles. Unbelief can block a miracle.
As I am growing in my understanding of the workings of miracles, I have come to believe that
God wants us to live in the realm of impossible possibilities.
If we, as believers, only experience that which are possible possibilities, how does that distinguish the people of God from the unbelieving world. I believe that our faith in God involves more than the hope of Heaven, but it involves a daily preoccupation with the spiritual realm and the realm of impossible possibilities. Our God can do anything. He is without limitation. Do we exercise belief in that reality? What is the difference between people of faith and people of unbelief?
The Israelite people wavered between faith and unbelief all throughout the Old Testament passages which is interesting because they had so much personal experience with the workings of miracles. The plagues that were sent to convince Pharaoh to free God’s people from slavery were miracles for sure. One miracle after another miracle. They weren’t “tiny” miracles. They were nothing anyone could point to as coincidence or anything anyone could explain as something that just naturally worked out. I mean, they were EPIC, monumental workings that displayed the almighty power of God. No one could question if there was a God or if He had any power.
The parting of the Red Sea was no small thing. The pillar of cloud and pillar of fire that accompanied them, the staff of Moses that was used to do miracles, all were convincing evidence that the people of God had the favor of the God who did miracles. If a ball of fire appeared above our heads and slowly went from the front of the platform to the back of the room and back again, none of us would have the nerve to say, “That didn’t happen, right?” I mean the Israelites knew God worked miracles. And yet they wavered constantly between faith and unbelief. What is that about?
I asked on Facebook a few weeks back if people believed in miracles. So many people shared their personal miracle-working stories, many of them being just astounding. We hear about miracles from time to time on the national news. The 12 boys and their soccer coach, who were rescued from the caves in Thailand after having been trapped for 18 days? Friends, that is a modern day miracle. How about these modern day miracles? September 2014, in Boca Raton, Florida, a 40-year old woman came back to life after being dead for 45 minutes during an emergency c-section operation. March 2015, in Mifflinburg, PA, a 22 month-old boy who had fallen into an icy stream was resuscitated after 100 minutes of continuous CPR. March 2015, in Spanish Fork River Utah, an 18-month old child who was submerged in a car for 14 hours was discovered only when a “mysterious voice” calls to rescuers. We know miracles happen today. We hear newscasters call things miracles. We hear doctors call things miracles. But why aren’t we hearing about them more often? Does unbelief play a role in keeping us from experiencing what God desires for us to experience?
In Numbers 13 and 14 God promised the Israelites that He would lead them into the Promised Land. He asked Moses to send some people ahead to spy out the land and see for themselves the amazing quality of the land He was giving to them. So, Moses sent one person from each of the 12 tribes out. Two of those 12 were Joshua and Caleb. Forty days later, the spies came back and 10 of the 12 spies came back with a negative report about the land. They were full of unbelief. They saw the land which was awesome and the crops growing in the land which were awesome, but they focused on some tall people they saw as powerful that they called giants who were living in the land. They came back and told the people, “There is NO WAY we can take the land” even though God said He was giving it to them.
Pick up the story with me in Numbers 14: Numbers 14:1-12 1 That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” 5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” 10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them.
Look at what unbelief led to! It created chaos. The people were wishing themselves dead. They turned on their leader. They wouldn’t listen to Joshua and Caleb. They couldn’t be persuaded to think God’s way. They wanted to stone the only positive people in the group. Unbelief won’t only block your miracle, but it has the potential to create mayhem in your life!
Well, they missed out on their miracle. God punished them by telling them that none of that unbelieving older generation except Joshua and Caleb would step foot into the Promised Land. They would wander for 40 years in the wilderness; one year for each of the forty days they had spent spying out the land. Listen, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get to the edge of my miracle and then miss it!
What can we learn and apply to our own lives about faith and unbelief from the Israelites missed Promised Land?
People of faith take God at His Word. People of unbelief allow other people and circumstances to speak in place of God.
God had repeatedly told His people He was taking them somewhere. He wasn’t and isn’t a God of the random. He is a God of plan and purpose. If He gives you a Word it is a promise that will be kept. What happened in the story of the missed Promised Land was that the people listened to people instead of God. Listen, if God’s Word tells you that you can conquer, don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances look like. Giants or roadblocks or complications don’t and won’t matter.
God’s Word tells us that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). Do we believe that? It is either true or it isn’t. We cannot give other people time and attention and authority in our lives who are going to undermine or destroy our faith. If there are people in your life that are speaking negatively about your walk with God, about your pursuit of faith, about your desire to grow as a Christian, about your faith to believe for miracles, don’t give them authority over your Promised Land.
I’m not saying you have to cut negative or unbelieving people out of your life, but you may have to if it keeps you from the miracles that await in the Promised Land. Psalm 1 talks about not hanging out with or keeping company with the wicked or chillin’ with people who mock God. Your friends become your influences, and that is why you need to choose your friends carefully because when you choose friends you are choosing influencers! Don’t let anyone sabotage your miracle. We need to seek out Joshuas and Calebs. We need to be Joshuas and Calebs for one another! Let people full of faith build you up, and give minimal time to the doubters.
Regarding the circumstances you face, you cannot let them speak louder to you than the voice of truth, than the voice of God. The greatest miracle of all-time, the Resurrection of Jesus, was the overcoming of the worst possible circumstance. If you were to analyze the situation as Jesus was on the cross only and watch Him die, you would conclude there was no hope. If you saw them pierce His side and witness the blood and water flowing and only allowed that to inform your faith, you would be convinced that it was over. If you followed the entourage to the borrowed tomb and watched them seal the tomb with the stone and then saw guards take their posts and made your decision about the validity of Jesus’ Messiahship in that moment you wouldn’t conclude He was worth following.
But what about His Word? What about what He had said of Himself? What about the promise to rise again in three days? What about the promise of Jesus going to prepare a place for His followers? The Word of God can be trusted. Everything Jesus said about Himself and His mission unfolded exactly as He said it would. The Word of God can be trusted in the darkest of days and in the most daunting of circumstances.
Trust the Word of God over negative people. Trust the Word of God over negative circumstances. It cannot fail.
People of faith have a positive report. People of unbelief have a pattern of murmuring and complaining.
So, I just mentioned that people and circumstances can get in the way of our miracle, but what about us? Can we become that which stops a miracle from flowing into our lives because of the way we talk about what we are facing? Words have power. How was it that God created all that has been created? God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, right? It was through the power of words that the miracle of creation took place.
I am not suggesting that you have the power to speak a miracle or create a miracle because only God can create a miracle, but I do believe your words can help you encounter the miracle God has for you or your words can cause you to miss it. We are to be “can-do,” positive people. We are to be people who say things that are in agreement with God’s abilities. When the doctor says there is nothing more that can be done, we need to be confessing, “With God all things are possible.” While I understand reality is reality, reality isn’t always what we perceive it to be. Reality is what God has in mind. And if God can do the impossible then just because I am told nothing more can be done doesn’t mean it is true. Nothing more may be able to be done using modern medicine, but anything is possible in and through the miracle-working power of God! Speaking the negative will cause us to focus on the negative and to retreat. It happened with the Israelites. Speaking the positive will help us focus on God and not miss the miracle He might be leading us to.
God has given us authority to speak life and to speak with authority. Jesus told His disciples in Mark 11:23 to speak to mountains and see them be hurled into the sea! If the miracle you need is a miracle of healing, take the healing promises of God and speak them out loud over your life. Mountains will move at the Word of God! If the miracle you need is a financial miracle, take the Scriptures about God providing for His people and speak them out loud over your life. If the miracle you need is freedom from addiction, take the Scriptures about deliverance and tearing down strongholds and speak them out loud over your life. If the miracle you need is freedom from anxiety or depression, take the verses about God’s peace and speak them over your life. Caleb and Joshua got to go into the Promised Land because they spoke positively and in agreement with what God had said and with what God could do.
Praying involves words. When we talk to God, we need to approach Him as the God who is Mighty to save, Mighty to heal, Mighty to deliver. We don’t come to Him with words like, “I’m sorry to bother You” or “If You have time to help me, God, I need a little hand.” No! We are to speak words of boldness. We are to come boldly before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).
The Israelites were whiners and complainers. It wasn’t just that they were having a bad day, but this was a pattern for them. It was a way of life. Negativity and murmuring, no matter what the topic is, will shut down the flow of miracles into your life. It could be constant negativity about politics, it could be constant negativity about your boss, it could be constant negativity about your family, it could be constant negativity about where you think you are in life. If your focus is on the negative you are going to miss the positive as it is walking by, and you may also cause other people to miss their Promised Land miracle as well. Who wants the weight of that situation? Ten negative people influenced an entire nation to miss God’s best for them. I don’t want to be the reason someone else doesn’t get their miracle!
Proverbs 18:21 tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. James 3:7-10 talk about blessing and cursing that comes from our own lips. I wonder if we have been guilty of cursing our own miracle. Maybe today we need to repent of negative communication as we have been speaking against ourselves and speaking against our miracles.
People of faith trust the heart and character of God. People of unbelief question God’s heart and motives.
Look back at Numbers 14:3-4-Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
The Israelites questioned God’s agenda for them. They assumed the worst. They alleged God was toying with them and that He wasn’t a Promise Keeper. They assumed He couldn’t be trusted. They presumed God no longer cared if they were up against a challenge. They believed He had forsaken them. They were wrong on every level.
I think the very presence of giants in the lands indicated that God wanted to continue to do miracles for His people and wanted His people to continue to walk by faith in a relationship with Him. He wanted to help them learn how to conquer giants. Correct me if I am wrong, but one only learns to conquer giants when there are giants! Does God love to see us struggle? Is He thrilled when we are suffering? No! He is the God who wants to walk with us, care for us, and provide for us in the midst of life’s trials. The Israelites saw the presence of giants as a lack of love and care. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
God is love. I John 4:8 If you can settle that, you can live settled even in an unsettling circumstance.
If you live always questioning the character of God, it will diminish your faith. Faith plays a role in your ability to receive a miracle. Do you know it takes faith to ask for a miracle? If you are suspicious of God or living with an accusatory attitude or thinking you would be better off in some kind of bondage or better off without Him, you won’t experience the miracles He wants to give you.
God loves you and is for you. He sees your need and is working on your behalf. He isn’t uncaring or indifferent. That is what Satan wants you to think. Do you remember the story of when the disciples were in a boat and a great storm arose? It’s in Mark 4:38. Jesus was actually asleep and the disciples woke Him up shouting, “Don’t you care that we are going to drown?” They were questioning Jesus’ interest in their well-being. We’ve all been there, right? “God, if you love me and have a plan for my life, why am I sick?” “God, if you love me and want me to conquer, why am I struggling?” “God, if you are with me, why have I been abused and hurt, and why do I feel broken?”
Here is the heart of God. Picture Him saying this to you: I don’t want sickness or pain or suffering to be part of the human experience. Sin has ushered these things into the world. I have come to reverse the curse. I have come to rescue you from sin and to comfort you in sorrow and to heal and restore life to you. I have come to ensure that one day everything can be as I have planned for it to be as we spend eternity together in Heaven.
Does He care? More than we could know. We have to trust Him and rest in His love.
People of faith move forward with courage and strength. People of unbelief allow fear to control them.
Look back at verse 9 where Joshua and Caleb talked to the people about their fears:9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
I could almost read that last sentence as Joshua and Caleb saying, “Stop being afraid!” Notice in this verse that fear and rebellion go together. We can’t rebel and walk by faith at the same time. The ten negative spies were afraid of the giants. They let that fear become bigger than the very presence of God, bigger than the incredible and spacious land the Lord was taking them to. They let all of the “what-if’s” dominate them. They let their emotions create doubt and unbelief.
Fear can cause people to make really bad decisions. You must not make decisions based on fear if you are a child of God. Their fear was the real giant in this story. They were so afraid they talked about wishing they could be slaves again in Egypt. What?! After all God had delivered them from? After all God had said was possible? I wonder how many of us forfeit miracles because of fear?
As one minister said, “Fear will keep you from the promises of God—even if you know what they are.” (Kenneth Copeland) The only antidote to fear is faith. When fear starts to creep in, you need to start to speak out in faith. Satan wants you to live troubled and afraid. When the slightest fear comes to your mind, when a bad report comes, when something unexpected and unwanted happens, you need to rebuke Satan and say, “I refuse to fear. I won’t be ruled by fear. I will live in faith and be kept safe by my Savior and God.”
Hebrews 3:12 says, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
The danger of unbelief goes beyond us missing a miracle. It involves us missing Heaven. This verse in Hebrews calls unbelief a sin. Wow.
Matthew 13:58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
Perhaps the answer to our question about why we aren’t doing the things Jesus did more often and why we aren’t experiencing the greater works He talked about in John 14:12 is because of unbelief.
God wants us to live in the realm of impossible possibilities.
Perhaps it is time we start living like we believe it.