(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 3)
THE UNBELIEF OF ZACHARIAS, THE PRIEST
When an angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias the priest in his old age, told him that his prayers had been heard, that his wife Elizabeth (who was also very old) would conceive and bear a son who was to be called John, that that child would be great in the sight of the Lord and would turn many of the Israelites to God, Zacharias doubted. He found this difficult to believe because of how old he and his wife were at that point in time and so he asked the angel, “Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man and my wife well stricken in years.” (Luke 1:18).
Zacharias heard what had been spoken but instead of believing in faith, he saw all of the realities of the situation, that in his view, made what had been said, impossible. He therefore saw the need to ask for a sign, to enable him to believe.
He may for example, have considered the fact that at that age, he and his wife maybe had no more drive for physical intimacy and that he himself lacked the power in his body to perform the physical function of a man to his wife, as he used to be able to do, in his younger days.
He may have also considered that his wife maybe already entered into menopause and was no longer menstruating as she maybe used to do in her younger days, that her ovaries, based on nature’s laws, had long dried up and were now non-functional and that even if she were to conceive due to miracles occurring in all these areas, that she still did not have the physical strength to carry a baby to full term and then to push it out.
In response, the angel who gave his name as Gabriel, reminded Zacharias that he (Gabriel) was standing in the presence of God and was sent by him as a representative, to speak what he had said to Zacharias. In other words, in my view, the angel was saying, you want a sign in order to believe but the mere fact that I am speaking on behalf of God is enough. His word is enough. Whatever he says will happen is a guarantee in itself that it will happen, as he is omnipotent.
The angel did not leave it there. Due to Zacharias’ unbelief at God’s authoritative word, he further stated:
- “And behold, thou shalt be dumb and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou BELIEVEST not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.”
Sure enough because the angel was speaking on God’s behalf, Zacharias became dumb in that moment. This was not the sign that he had hoped for but it was what God decided to do due to his unbelief, maybe so that he would remember, never to doubt God again.
The Bible states that his speech only returned to him again, AFTER his son John had been born.
THE UNBELIEF OF THE PHARISEES AND THE SADDUCEES
In Matthew 16: 1-4, the Pharisees and the Sadducees desired that Jesus would show them a sign from heaven, so as to authenticate, in their minds, that he was truly the Son of God. They did not ask this sincerely because they did not believe that he was the Son of God and therefore did not believe that he had the power to do so.
They could not have been anymore wrong but because Jesus was under no obligation to act according to the whims and fancies of anyone and did not have to prove himself to anyone, he did not give them the sign that they asked for.
Instead, the Bible states that:
- “He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them and departed.”
THE UNBELIEF OF MARTHA, A SISTER OF LAZARUS
In John 11:17-27 and 39-40, after Jesus have arrived in the town of Bethany where Lazarus had died, the Bible states that Lazarus had been lying in the grave for “…four days already”.
Martha, one of his sisters, lamented the fact that Jesus had not come earlier when she and her sister Mary had sent him word that Lazarus was sick. She stated however, that even at that point after all seemed lost, she knew that whatever Jesus asked of God, that he would give it to him.
In response, Jesus informed her that her brother would rise again, which Martha took to mean, that he would rise in the last day with everybody else who had died, when God was ready to judge the world of sin.
Jesus informed Martha that He was the resurrection and the life, meaning that he was the Creator and had power over life and death. He was therefore not limited by time and did not have to wait until the last day of Judgment to demonstrate his power over same. He also informed her that the resurrection power he had would be operational in the life of whoever believed on him and asked Martha whether she believed this.
Martha stated that she believed, yet it was clear, that while she believed that Jesus was the Son of God and had the power to heal the sick, she doubted the full extent of his power while he abode on earth. It was clear that she did not believe that Jesus could raise her brother from the dead and instead believed, that his death was at that point in time, irreversible.
This was evident when Jesus instructed that the stone blocking the cave where Lazarus’s dead body lay, be removed. Martha, confused as to why Jesus would even consider giving such an instruction was quick to interject: “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.”
In other words, she attempted to be the voice of reason over a situation that made absolutely no sense. It was her way of saying to Jesus, why would you want to remove the stone when you know that the stench would be really bad? He has already died. You can’t do anything about it. Why not just leave the stone alone?
She allowed the reality of the situation (which seemed utterly hopeless because Jesus had taken too long to come and heal her brother) to cloud her judgment, to make her doubt and to make her forget what Jesus had just told her. Before Jesus prayed to God the Father and worked an astounding miracle by raising Lazarus back from the dead therefore, he told Martha: “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest BELIEVE, thou shouldest see the glory of God?”
THE UNBELIEF OF THOMAS, ONE OF THE DISCIPLES
Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus was not among the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them after he had died and risen again. They therefore informed him that they had seen Jesus but despite knowing that these were men that did not have a reputation of lying and that they all could not be delusional, he did not believe.
He even informed them that he would not believe unless he saw with his own eyes, the print of the nails and put his finger into the print and thrust his hand into his side where Jesus had been pierced with a sword on the cross.
He was therefore saying, that even if he were to see a figure looking like Jesus and standing before him, he needed a sign, in that if he did not get to see and put his finger through the print of his hand where Jesus had been nailed to the cross and his hand through his side where he knew he had been pierced with a sword by a soldier while on the cross, he would not believe that it was really Jesus but maybe, that it was some kind of apparition or spirit that the other disciples had seen.
Although Jesus did not have to, in mercy and grace, he appeared again to the disciples, this time, when Thomas was present. For, unless Thomas believed without doubting, that he had risen again, his soul could not be saved.
When he made his grand appearance, his words used to Thomas, demonstrated to Thomas, that as God the Son, he was all knowing and had heard what he had said. Also, in appearing in the midst of them although the doors were shut, he demonstrated his power to do anything, even when it defied human understanding.
Seeing all this caused Thomas to believe completely, that Jesus, who was dead, had risen again. Fully persuaded, he therefore confessed that he was not just his Lord but also God.
The Lord Jesus stated though, that because Thomas had seen him, this was why he had believed. He further stated though, that those, who, unlike Thomas, would believe on Him, in faith, although they had never seen him and had only heard of him, would be blessed.
By this, he was referring to all genuine Christians today, who, although they never saw Jesus with their eyes, believe without doubting, that the Bible is true and believe that he rose again.
The Bible states in verses 26-29:
- “And after eight days again his disciples were within and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast BELIEVED: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have BELIEVED.”
The Bible goes further to state that this true story was recorded, so that we today, would believe, that Jesus Christ, who came to earth, died at the hands of wicked men but rose again on the third day is the Son of God and not just that but that all that believe this, would have everlasting life and not see spiritual death in hell.
Verse 31 reads: “But these are written, that ye might BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that BELIEVING ye might have life through his name.”
SUMMARY OF THE ABOVE EXAMPLES
In most of the illustrations cited above, the persons who doubted, wanted a sign in order to believe. They needed to see to believe but God calls us to believe to see, in faith, especially if he has given us a promise, like he did Zacharias.
That’s the difference between Zacharias and Abraham. Abraham believed God when he promised him that he would have a child from his loins, although he was in his old age. The Bible states that this faith he had in God was counted unto him for righteousness. Zacharias on the other hand, doubted. He was like: God, you are asking me to dream something so big, when this is my reality. I am old and my wife is old.
Well, in 2013, I believe that God asked me to dream something ‘big’, when my reality screamed that what he had told me was impossible and could never happen. Yet, I believed, against all odds, although my situation seemed to be saying the exact opposite. In fact, today, although it is January, 2017, I am still trusting God to bring it to pass, in his own timing, although I see no evidence of what I believe God promised, any where. Yet, I don’t need to see because I am operating by faith in a big God.
If you want to see God’s hand in your life doing many mighty works and even miracles, whether he has made a promise to you or it is a petition that you have prayed for as a submitting Christian or it is simply a case where you need to be fully persuaded that Jesus being Lord means that he is all powerful and operates without limitation, remember this: Doubt is like a lump of dirt that clogs the passage through which faith needs to pass, in order for a miracle to be manifested.
God operates through faith and doubt stymies the extent to which he can work in situations.
In Matthew 13:58, it says that when Jesus visited his own country where he had grown up because they were familiar with his humble upbringing, they were offended in him, so much so that “…he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”
In simple words: Familiarity bred contempt. They did not believe that he was the Christ because they did not think that there was anything spectacular about him.
Hebrews 11:6 states: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must BELIEVE that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
James 1: 5-8 also speaks about the faith a person needs to have when approaching God with a request for wisdom. The principle therefore applies to all petitions. It reads:
- “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
2 Corinthians 5:7 further states that for those who have accepted Jesus as Lord, we walk by faith and not by sight.
Don’t follow therefore, the example of Zacharias, the Pharisees and Sadducees, Martha and Thomas, all of whom allowed what they saw or did not see, to make them doubt. You don’t need to see in order to believe. Believe to see and God will take care of the rest.
(Written on January, 2017)