Christians Who Don’t Believe
Recently I was reading in Mark 6 the story of Jesus walking on the water, which happened right after he miraculously fed five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fish. Two unusual and jaw dropping occurrences. But then as Jesus entered the boat in verse 52 we read, “They still didn’t understand the miracle of the multiplied loaves, for their hearts were hard and they did not believe”. Did not believe! These are the twelve disciples who months earlier gave up everything to follow this Jesus. How can they not believe in what they just witnessed with their own eyes?
This got me thinking about other Biblical stories of believers not believing. In Exodus 14, the children of Israel witnessed the parting of the Red Sea, one of the most astonishing miracles from the Bible. Moses clearly told them that it was their God, Yahweh, who was providing an escape and ultimately their freedom. Yet, shortly after they arrived at Mt. Sinai and Moses went up to receive the Law from God, the people grew restless and asked Aaron to make them a god that would lead them.
Here is another example that makes you scratch your head. In Matthew 16:13-17 Jesus has a discussion with his disciples about who people think he is. After a brief response he asks a more probing question. “Who do you say I am?” Peter’s response is “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus commends Peter and tells him that the Father in heaven revealed that to him and he didn’t learn it from any human being. Essentially Jesus gives him a grade of an A+ for giving the correct answer.
In Matthew 16:21-23, which is the very next story, Jesus explains to his disciples how he must go to Jerusalem, suffer under the religious leaders, be killed, and then raise on the third day. Peter takes him aside (are you ready for this?) to correct him! Peter actually tells Jesus that this will never happen to him.
Jesus response to Peter is “get away from me Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, and not from God’s.”
Now obviously Peter wasn’t the Devil, but Jesus saw that Peter’s response was inspired not from revelation of the Heavenly Father, but from the enemy of our souls. Essentially Peter goes from an A+ to an F because of his unbelief.
How could the same person go from such a deep spiritual understanding one minute, to such deep spiritual ignorance or unbelief the next? I don’t know exactly, but these two examples show that if we are not constantly in touch with God’s Spirit and faithfully seeking Him, then our flesh and biases can take over.
This truth is clearly seen in Jesus’ comments in Mark 4:23-25. “Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand! And be sure to pay attention to what you hear. The more you do this, the more you will understand – and even more, besides. To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But to those who are not listening, even what they have will be taken away from them.”
So why is it that we can understand so clearly one minute and be so blind the next? Our lack of belief is based on our willingness to really listen to what Jesus (the Holy Spirit) is saying. This is more challenging than we realize because of our humanity. We must invite the Lord to show us His will and give us revelation in the Scriptures about who He is and what he desires from us, daily.
For many years, I conducted a Contemplative Prayer Retreat where people took time from their daily lives to commune with God over a 24 hour period. Many of the participants came with an agenda of what they wanted to talk with the Lord about. Interestingly, about 70% of the time, the participants said that God revealed things totally unrelated to the list of items they wanted to address. Being open to God and spending time to genuinely hear from Him resulted in new revelations from God.
But God could have said things to these seekers, and they could have said, “No I can’t see God saying that to me.” That is why God is God and we are not. The Lord constantly is challenging us to believe him and to cause us to see things from his perspective.
So brothers and sisters, where are you on your walk? Do you believe when God shows you something different than what you thought true? Are you willing to be open about your unbelief? Will you be like the man with the epileptic son who immediately cried out to Jesus with tears in his eyes, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24).