If you struggle with unbelief and doubt, it’s important to take a closer look in order to understand it. In fact, it’s of eternal importance. What is the nature of unbelief? And what are the consequences of unbelief?
Unbelief is often the result of unbelief.
“But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 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?’ Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: ‘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’” (John 10:37-40).
There is a point along the line of willful unbelief when it becomes impossible to believe.
A while back, I had a prayer breakfast to attend. I woke up early (perhaps because of a guilty conscience) and remember thinking I have an extra hour this morning so I can take my time. Do you know what happened? I was late.
We have a tendency to procrastinate and shilly-shally when we have lots of time. Don’t procrastinate with God. You don’t have lots of time. If God calls, go to him quickly.
Unbelief is often the result of fear.
“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him” (John 10:42).
In John’s Gospel, he sometimes separates unbelievers into two groups. The first group is simply hard in their unbelief, while the second group is affected, drawn and enamored, but not saved. In other words, their belief is not saving belief. It is unbelief.
In this case, fear kept a mild sort of belief from becoming saving, life-changing belief. Fear of what? It is the fear that the consequences of belief will be just too much to bear, in this particular instance, excommunication.
In walking with God, every day of my life, I’m confronted with decisions, most of them clear-cut. God says, “It’s either me…or your anger, your lust, your pride, your temptation.” I used to think of a day as a whole; but instead, it’s really a series of little decisions for or against God. The little decisions in which we choose between God and something else make up the big picture. Those small decisions are very important.
In the big decision for Christ, there comes a time in your life when Christ says, “you must choose me and come to me, no matter what the circumstances.” Remember that Jesus will accept no preconditions for belief. “If I follow you,” Peter could have said, “will you insure that I will get a greater number of fish?” We ask, “If I follow you, will you promise that I will be happy?” “If I follow you, will you promise me that I will get married?” “If I follow you, will you promise me that my family problems will work out?” The answer is “No.”
You may have heard the law: “The first law of wing-walking on a plane is this—Never leave hold of what you’ve got until you’ve got hold of something better.” In order to follow Christ, you may just need to break that law in faith. Jesus said it this way: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). I don’t know what your fear is, but cast it to the wind and follow God. Sometimes you have to choose, so choose.
Unbelief is often the result of improper need.
“For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). There were people who would have been followers of Jesus if it had not been for other people.
One time I had an opportunity to attend the President’s State of the Union address. It was an interesting evening. While I don’t remember much about what the President said, I do remember a very prominent Senator who became so excited that he rose from his seat in a standing ovation. The Senator then looked behind him and noticed that he was the only one standing. He blushed and sat back down.
Many people are like that about belonging to Christ. As long as it is in, acceptable and proper, then they are willing to follow Christ. Let the wind change and then it is another story altogether. The best followers of Christ are those who follow him in both the famine and the feast.
What prevents you from following Christ? Maybe your friends will turn away. Maybe you won’t be accepted. Maybe it will hurt your business. Do it anyway.
Unbelief is often the result of secrecy.
“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him” (John 12:42). The principle is this: belief will destroy secrecy or secrecy will destroy belief.
The very nature of the Christian faith is that, except under very extraordinary circumstances, it is a public kind of thing. “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).
Unbelief is often the result of a refusal to recognize authority.
“Then Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me…For I have not spoken of My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak…Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak’” (John 12:44-45, 49-50).
The most important decision you will ever make is the decision about the nature of Jesus. If he is a good man with some nice things to say about love, you don’t have to bother with him. If he is only “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” then you can ignore him. But if he is an absolute accurate reflection of God, then you had better pay attention. Many people are not believers simply because they have never faced the issue of Jesus’ authority.
Jesus was the authority of God—the proof is the empty tomb. Jesus was the authority of God—the proof is the church. If you haven’t checked out Christ’s authority, then the most important thing you can do is to check it out. It is open to investigation.
Unbelief is often the result of missing the point.
“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness…And I know that His command is everlasting life…” (John 12:46,50). These words were spoken in the context of unbelief.
Jesus’ business in your life is so wonderful that it can only be described in terms of light. And his ultimate destination for you is eternal life.
Light here—life there. In other words, when you go to God, you don’t have to be afraid. God won’t make any deals with you, but he will make some covenant promises. He will never let you go. He will forgive you. He will give your life meaning. He will grant you peace. He will give you abundant life…so abundant that it will never end.
Many people are afraid to trust God because he may betray that trust. Many people are afraid to follow God because he might lead them to places and call them in directions they simply don’t want to go.
One time, when she was just a little girl, I went in to wake up my daughter Jennifer. When I touched her arm, she screamed, “No!” thinking that I was a monster in her nightmare. Then my daughter opened her eyes, realized that she was dreaming, and recognized me as her father. She smiled and said, “Good morning, Daddy.”
It’s that way with us. God is not your enemy; he is your friend. God is not against you; he is for you. God won’t make deals, but he won’t turn you away either.
Jesus came into the world that the world might be saved…not judged.
Time to Draw Away
Read John 3:16-17 / Romans 8 / Revelation 3:20
Do you struggle with unbelief? Do you feel like you’re not good enough? God loves sinners and strugglers. So take a closer look. Ask questions. Set aside your fear. And then run to Jesus. He is waiting for you with open arms…and in those arms you’ll find acceptance, forgiveness, love and never-ending life.