As I meditated on this next topic to write about, I asked the Lord for a picture because I wanted to have artwork to include with the writing. And He replied with an image of His Bride running in a three-legged race with Jesus.
The topic is Unbelief, and so I thought how perfect a way to show how right believing keeps us in step with Jesus. When our stride is in sync with Him, we are sure to win the race. When we fall out of sync, mainly by doing things in our own effort, we fall and the rewards at the finish line take longer to get to. We get frustrated! The distance is the same, but the timing becomes longer. Trying to get back up again is harder than just remaining in stride with Jesus.
Think about all the training you’ve had all your life to believe a certain way, be it according to the way the world believes, political views, your family values, or as religion has taught us, etc. We are called to “not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. In order to run this three-legged race with Jesus, one’s mind must be renewed by training it to come into agreement with him and his finished work. We need to intentionally renew our minds, and then the heart will follow. It is my prayer and my hope that this message touches you and challenges you in a way that will stretch your heart to a bigger capacity to receive from God whatever it is you need in order to run the three-legged race with Jesus.
I Do Believe! Help My Unbelief!
We’re all probably familiar with these words of the helpless father from Mark 9:24 “I do believe. Help my unbelief!” I used to think that what this was saying is this: “I do have faith! But not enough faith for________! So help me have more faith Jesus!” I would hear people say “I’m believing for __________“ as if they are having faith for it, so naturally, I assumed the two were the same. But I have found differently. Belief and faith are not necessarily one in the same. Let’s look at the story more closely.
In Mark 9:22-24, when the father of the possessed son came to Jesus he desperately begged and said “But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” and Jesus responded “If You can? All things are possible to him who believes.” Then in verse 24 the father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” How does this man say two contradicting statements in one breath? To answer that, we need to define this word: unbelief.
Thayer’s defines Unbelief as this: Withholding belief in a Divine Power; or in the power and promises of God; in the divine mission of Jesus; by opposition to the Gospel; with the added notion of obstinacy; weakness of faith. Strong’s definition uses the word unfaithfulness and also disobedience, which I will also expand on in a little bit.
Unbelief is pretty serious. Unbelief is false belief, or simply put, LIES, and lies do not line up with the True Word of God. It is possible to have right beliefs at the same time you have false beliefs. The problem with false beliefs, or unbelief, when it comes to the walk of a Christian, is that they reflect a false image of what we are believing about God, and this impacts the way we approach Him, the way we see ourselves, and the way we live out life. Unbelief makes it difficult to have faith in God’s promises or to approach Him in Truth, not as we believe He is, but as He says He is. Unbelief causes us to put our trust in ourselves, while Faith causes us to put our trust in God. It doesn’t matter what our belief is. If it doesn’t line up with God’s Word, God will never change so that we can find comfort in our wrong believing, which means you will continue to struggle and be frustrated until YOU change to be in agreement with God. You will fall in the three-legged race. It’s very frustrating living this way. But as they say, the first step to fixing a problem is identifying that there is one!
So in this story of the father with the possessed son, he probably had a false belief that sometimes God heals, sometimes He doesn’t, or no one really knows the mysteries of God because He’s so unpredictable! Maybe He only heals if you’ve been good enough, or have proven that you take good care of your body by eating all the right foods and exercising, or maybe you haven’t prayed enough or begged enough. I’m guessing the father had seen the miracles Jesus had done for other people which would explain why he says to Jesus “I do believe!” He believed with his mind because he saw with his eyes, but his heart responded differently. Have you ever finished the father’s sentence in your own mind, or even dare to speak it out loud – “I do believe you CAN heal, Jesus” but then like the father, finish with “BUT WILL YOU HEAL ME?” This Jesus who is God right in front of his eyes, in the flesh, does not match the image of God he has in his heart. Like many Christians, he may view God as a condemning God, or that God caused this demonic possession because of generational sin or to teach him a lesson, or God is holding judgment against him, or he’s not worthy, not good enough or acceptable enough. Maybe when he gets his act together, God will bless him then. We have so many erroneous ideas about God, mainly because of what we’ve been exposed to in our youth, and what we’ve been taught according to other peoples’ wrong belief systems, not excluding church. We lack the true knowledge of God and therefore we perish. We remain sick, we fear God and stand at a distance and never really get to know that we are loved, accepted, and are everything that Jesus is because we are in Him. We miss out on the experience of a true relationship with God and don’t get to know Him for who He really is.
Unbelief and the Hardened Heart
False beliefs can be hard to change because they are guarded and protected by a hardened heart. We may have a false belief that is so ingrained in us that we can’t even consider anything new. Take a look at the disciples. Immediately after they finished feeding the 5000, they got in a boat and landed in a storm. They see Jesus walking on the water, approaching the boat he gets in, speaks to the storm and the winds stop! They are “utterly astonished, amazed” and the scripture says in Mark 6:52 that “they had not gained any insight [or they considered not] from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” How, after seeing Jesus feed 5000 people from so little food, they can’t believe the same Jesus can calm a storm or walk on water. This no different than the father with the possessed son.
When our hearts are hardened, we are unable to receive or consider new information, even if it’s scripturally proven, because it doesn’t match what we believe and so we reject it. Our false belief trumps Truth in many cases. Our belief system is the filter we experience life through. And if our hearts are hardened and unwilling to consider that possibly what we are believing is false, we will hold tightly to that false belief and suffer because it causes us to lack intimacy with our heavenly Father. And it also causes us to live less than victorious lives.
Unbelief Produces Disobedience and Unrest
In Hebrews 3:18, regarding the Israelites in the wilderness, scripture says “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” While the Israelites didn’t have Jesus, we do! And our rest is immediately available at the very moment we put our faith in Jesus. But it’s possible to believe in Jesus, be saved for eternity, and at the same time have a distorted version of Jesus, or a distorted version of God, rooted in false beliefs or lies that keeps us from entering the rest that has been promised to us. We stay wandering in the wilderness. We strive and struggle and live in our own strength and abilities, putting our trust in ourselves. Did you know that one of the definitions of the word “disobedient” is “unbelief”? When we have wrong believing about God, it produces disobedience by default. How can you obey the One you can’t trust? So when you find yourself unable to obey, you need to stop and ask “What am I believing about God that keeps me from obeying Him?”
Something else that I think is quite interesting is in 2 Cor 10:4-5: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” Even here, we are instructed to pull down STRONGHOLDS – LIES, FALSE BELIEFS – because they exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. And what do we do with those lies? We take them captive, which is basically actively thinking about what you’re thinking about, and then bring those thoughts to the cross. Jesus was obedient to death on a cross …. And for what? So you could be free. It is important to know all that he died for, what he accomplished at the cross, what was actually “finished”, so that you can compare your thoughts and beliefs to that work and see if you are in agreement with God or not. We must replace the lies we believe with Truth. (I have every intention of discussing this in more detail, but first I must lay this ground work.)
Anytime I have read this scripture, I would always leave off verse 6 because I didn’t understand it…until now. It says “and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” I thought this was referring to behavior. But now, because I just defined “disobedience”, I see it’s talking about Unbelief, or again, false belief. Once you believe correctly, you can discern good and evil, and punish every false belief, and every false doctrine that negates the finished work of the cross. Your obedience is fulfilled when you believe right. Think about it: when you believe right, you can trust God. When you can trust God, you have no trouble obeying Him.
Unbelief Produces Double-Mindedness and Doubt
A false belief also attributes to doubt. Jas 1:6-8 says “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” To doubt is to be double minded. It invokes fear, question, and hesitation and causes us to waver in opinion, to choose between two things, to be uncertain and of two minds. It also means dubious, which means vacillating, moving two ways, fluctuating, wavering in opinion and undecided between two things: our false belief and God’s Word. Not a good recipe for a three-legged race, is it?
If the foundation is built on false beliefs, the materials we use to build the building do not hold up. If you believe God gives sickness and disease, then you cannot build upwards saying “By His stripes I am healed”. That is what double-mindedness looks like. How can you speak words of prosperity over your life and believe for financial breakthroughs when your foundation is set up for you to be on welfare or that the only way to get ahead is to work really hard or to marry someone to take care of you?
Unbelief can be so subtle…and sooooo familiar. You may be certain that what you’re believing is true, but as soon as you notice doubt creeping in, that is a tell-tale sign that unbelief is hiding in the shadows. Don’t ignore it, or you could continue living a life of subtraction instead of addition! Or a life of sickness instead wellness! Poverty instead of prosperity! Fear instead of peace of mind! Curse instead of blessing
Unbelief is Spiritual Adultery
When I was researching the word Unbelief, I was surprised to find another word that also has Unbelief listed in its definitions. That word is Infidelity. Such a profound finding! And so true!
Infidelity is a strong word, but watch this: Infidelity is disloyalty to a lover or spouse. Sound familiar? Infidelity comes from the root word infidel, which means “not to be trusted.” In my own words, it also means “not evenly yoked or walking in step with the one you are married to.” If we are married to Jesus, and can’t trust him, or believe falsely about his character and promises, or are unwilling to allow our hardened hearts to be softened and changed in order to come into agreement with Him, we commit spiritual adultery! We find a lover in the Law, man’s works, or self-reliance. If Jesus isn’t our answer, then the only thing left is our own works.
So when Jesus says “ALL things are possible to him who BELIEVES.” Or when he says “But he must ask in faith without any doubting,” or “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him,” He really means that you can get what you ask for!!! But it’s our wrong beliefs about him that keep us from trusting our Husband and send us searching elsewhere in our own abilities to get the job done. We don’t trust, because we have a false-belief foundation!
Have a B-Attitude!
So how do you uncover your false beliefs? I find the answer to this in the Beatitudes (read Matt 5:3-11). Have humility. Be humble. Be teachable. Be willing to be wrong. Seek God’s righteousness, not your own. Be lowly. Don’t say what the prideful Pharisees would say: “I know”, but instead, trust in the Lord with all your heart; Don’t rely on your own understanding – you’re mind! And position your heart to receive.
God has good intentions toward you. He loves you! He desires closeness with you. Eradicating the false beliefs we have about Him only brings us closer to Him, so of course He will not hold back when you ask Him for His Truth. He is waiting and longing for you. He has rest for your soul. If you are willing, He will give you everything you need in order to know Him intimately and in Truth. If you are willing. Come to him with a Spirit of Sonship – He is your Father who wants to teach you. Picture Him as the Dad who is running alongside you as you learn to ride a bike without training wheels. Come to Him with a teachable heart. Trust Him. Allow Him to challenge your beliefs, whatever that might look like, however much it hurts, and know that God has only good things for you! Be willing to be undone so you can be built up with an unbreakable, unmovable, sound foundation so you will stand firmly and not stumble and fall as life happens. You will find yourself running that three-legged race with ease.
When I look where I started compared to where I am now, I am amazed at how much God has changed me. But I still have a ways to go. I’m still learning and being changed into the likeness of Jesus. And the more I know about his character, and what his death on the cross means for me, and the more clearly I see myself in Him, the easier it is to run in agreement with him and receive from Him all the promises of God. His way is much better!