Sunday, November 9, 2014

Let Go of Unbelief

 (begin with video clip from Frozen Elsa and Ana in the palace discussing it becoming like it was, ends with Ana being struck.)

You ever find it difficult to believe?  In the clip that we just watched Ana is trying to convince her sister the queen that everything will be all right and they can return to what was.  She sees the future for what it could be and perhaps what it should be, her sister on the other hand just can’t believe that things can ever be right again.  There are times that you see that Elisa wants to believe but there is just something in the way.

In the story that was read earlier we read of a different type of unbelief.  This story happens right after Jesus returns from what is often referred to as the Mount of Transfiguration along with Peter, James and John and they discover the other apostles in a fairly heated dispute with a crowd that has gathered.  It seems that one of the men had brought his child to the disciples to be healed, because he heard that’s what Christ followers did.  Specifically according to the boy’s father the child had been under the influence of an evil spirit since his birth.  Not sure what we would call it today but that’s what they called it two thousand years ago, sound a little bit like epilepsy.     Whatever or whoever was causing the young man’s problems the disciples were unable to heal him.    

And the family was disappointed and the religious leaders seemed a little testy.  And it is here that Jesus steps back into the story and asks what’s going on.  And it is from the boy’s father that we get the narrative. 

And it is from his account that we get the details.  His son had been like this from birth, and so he brought the boy for Jesus to heal and when he discovers that Jesus wasn’t with the group he asks the remaining disciples to perform a miracle for him, but apparently they weren’t up to the task. 

It’s interesting that man doesn’t say that he came looking for a heavenly miracle, a touch of the divine.  He wasn’t looking for a touch from God, he just saw Jesus as someone who could fix his son.  And when Jesus wasn’t there he went to the B team and asked that they heal his son. 

I think the most telling part of the story was when he gets done bringing Jesus up to speed he says Mark 9:22 . . .Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”   How often do we pray that way, even if we don’t verbalize it?  God help me, if you can.  God heal me, if you can.  God forgive me, if you can.
And Jesus looks at him and says “Let Go of Your Unbelief”.  Well not in so many words but close.  What he says is Mark 9:23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”
Through the years one of my lines has been “Faith will never ask more than that you believe.”  And while most of the world will tell you that they won’t believe it unless they can see it Jesus reminds us that we won’t see it unless we can believe it.
And the father responds with this awesome statement of complete honesty.  Mark 9:24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

How often have you felt like that father?  You know, your prayer is “I believe, help my unbelief.”  We say we believe but deep in our hearts we aren’t entirely sure that we do.  This morning I would challenge you to “Let Go of Your Unbelief”.  And in letting go of our unbelief there are things that we will by default have to believe in.

We Must Believe in God The rest of the message hinges on this one.  It there is no God there is no reason to believe.  And we are given the very essence of belief in Hebrews 11:6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. And what is faith?  Well that same chapter in the bible begins with a definition of faith, Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.   I can’t make you believe in God.  If you don’t see God in the wonder of creation you won’t see God in my messages or my arguments.  (barber video)
And for some folks that is enough, to believe in God.  But there are more things that we need to believe in.

We Must Believe in Ourselves We all believe something about ourselves, I would challenge you to believe the very best.  I was telling a story to a group of folks the other day, because that’s what I do I’m a story teller.  In this case I was talking about how different words mean different things to different people and in some cases to different cultures. 

When we first moved to Australia our son, Stephen, was in grade 1, now he’s thirty.  He hadn’t been in school very long when he arrived home one day and told us that the teacher called him stupid.  Stupid, there are many words that you could use to describe Stephen, stupid isn’t one of them.  So being good parents with a sense of outrage we made an appointment and confronted the teacher.  And she told us that she didn’t call Stephen stupid, she told him to stop acting stupid. Which seemed to me to be the same thing.  It was only after some more back and forth that we discovered that in that context in Australia that to act stupid meant to act silly.  Wow, did we feel stupid. 

One of the folks I told the story to said that she is always after her mother to stop calling herself stupid.   Do you do that?  I’m so stupid, I’m so clumsy, I’m so awkward. I’ll never be able to do this, I will never be more than. . .  

Here are a couple of quotes to chew on Claude M. Bristol said “Every person is the creation of himself, the image of his own thinking and believing. As individuals think and believe, so they are.”  And to add to that are the words of Dr. Robert Anthony who wrote “If you don't change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news?” 

In War and Peach Leo Tolstoy wrote “We lost because we told ourselves we lost.”  How often do we lose the battle before we even begin to fight it?

David wrote in Psalm 139:14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.   Can you echo that?  Do you believe in yourself? 
God believes in you.  He believed in you enough that he created you the way you are. He believes in you enough that he made the ultimate sacrifice for you.  Remember John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.   I mean we believe that in the big sense, for God loved the world so much but do we believe it in the personal sense, for God loved me so much.  Let’s try that John 3:16 “For God loved me so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that when I believe in him I will not perish but have eternal life.”
Let’s go back to David’s words in Psalm 139:17-18 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!
I understand that we don’t always win, that life can be hard and sometimes we blow it. 
But in life, when you fail is your default “I knew I couldn’t do that”?  Or are you surprised?  I don’t think I have an unhealthy ego, but maybe that’s because I’m delusional as well as egotistical.  But I really think I can do anything, if I try hard enough.  And when I can’t I’m surprised.  “Wow, I really thought I could do that, who would have thought brain surgery could be so hard?”
Do you believe in yourself?  Because nobody else will if you don’t.  Wayne Dyer wrote “You are always a valuable, worthwhile human being -- not because anybody says so, not because you're successful, not because you make a lot of money -- but because you decide to believe it and for no other reason.”
So not only do you need to believe in yourself you need to believe the very best about yourself.  I think it was in the 2006 Winter Olympics that I heard a Canadian athlete say “I don’t really expect to win a medal but if I can place eleventh or twelfth I’ll be happy”  I wonder what she placed?
Along with believing in ourselves We Must Believe in Others What do we believe about people?  Are we happy to believe the worst? Or do we consciously seek to believe the best? Are we surprised when people do good things or are we surprised when people do bad things? 

Throughout the gospels it seemed that Jesus always assumed that people would do the right thing and make the right decision.  Do you believe in our kids?  Do you believe in our spouse?  In your friends?  Those are easy, do you believe in your government? 

For those close to you, your belief might be what they need to fulfil their potential.  I don’t mean the mamby pamby, “you can do anything you set your mind to belief”. 

Because that’s not always reality.  When you tell the kid who is getting a c in math and wants to be a theoretical physicist or an astronaut that they can be whatever they want to be, you may be setting them up for disappointment. 

But if you affirm their talents and abilities and tell them how much you believe in them and that you believe they will do the right thing in life then you are doing for them what God does for you.

Sometimes those we love simply fulfill how we see them, “You will never amount to anything, you’re rude, you’re lazy, you’re stupid.” 
It was Goethe who said “Treat a man as he is, he will remain so. Treat a man the way he can be and ought to be, and he will become as he can be and should be.”
Jesus summed it up when he told his followers in Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
And We Must Believe God  Now maybe you are thinking “Denn You already covered this in your first point.”  Nope, the first point was that “We must Believe in God”, this point is that “We Must Believe God.”  Big difference.  I would suspect that most people here today believe in God.  But do you believe the promises of God?  Do you believe that not only that God can do what is good but that what God does do is good?

Do you trust him with your family, your finances and your future? If we go back to the story the boy’s father said he believed, but even he acknowledged that he was struggling with it.   Remember what he told Jesus “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief”. 

We say we pray in faith but we really aren’t surprised when our prayer isn’t answered.  But is that praying in faith?  And by the way praying as Jesus taught us that God’s will be done is not a cop out.  If we truly believe that God wants the very best for us and for those we love we would have no problem praying “But your will be done.”

Sometimes we are fervent as we pray that a loved one will live, but would that really be the best?  If they lived another 10 years as a pain filled invalid?  Is that really what you want?  

Can you believe enough in the goodness and wisdom of God that you can pray as Jesus did in the Garden before he was arrested, Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Now let’s take a few minutes and look at The Cost of our Unbelief  In the case of the Elsa her unbelief meant that we had to watch another half an hour of the movie.  The fact that she refused to believe that she could make a difference almost killed her sister and destroyed the Kingdom of Arendelle. 

If you don't Believe in Yourself you will never be all you could be.  Who knows what could have been done if only the person with the ability had of believed in themselves instead of convincing themselves that they couldn’t do it.

If you don’t Believe in Others you will go through life becoming more and more bitter and cynical.  Even when someone does something good you’ll doubt their motives.

But when we don’t Believe in God, the consequences can be eternal, and when we don’t Believe God then we will miss out on his very best for our lives.

In the story that we started with the unbelief of the apostles and the boy’s father meant that the boy wasn’t healed. 

A bit of a tangent here, the boy’s own faith was never questioned.  I believe that God can heal people and I believe that God does heal people, but I also believe that God doesn’t always heal people.  And if you have problems with that we can chat.  When I first began pastoring churches held special meetings.  Usually in the fall and spring they would bring in a speaker and maybe a singer and they would have services every evening for a week. 

For our fall special meetings in 1989 at Truro Wesleyan our speaker was a man some of you know named Ollie Kent.  Ollie was a Wesleyan pastor who had been in a horrific car accident, and people across the district began to pray.  And after the accident they said he wouldn’t live, and he did.  And then they said he’d never wake up, and he did.  And then they said he would never recover mentally, and he did.  And then they said he would never walk, and he did. 

And a year a half after the accident he was the speaker at our fall “Special meetings”.  It was truly a story of what God could do if we only believed. 

Our special music for those meetings was a man in his twenties named Rod Lewis.  And Rod had always been in a wheelchair.  It was a sad story, his mother had gone into labour and was rushed to a small hospital and a doctor was called to perform an emergency C section.  But the doctor made a mistake and nicked Rod’s spinal cord with the scalpel and he was left paralyzed. 

And Rod’s parents were devote followers of Christ, and Rod grew up to be a Christ Follower, but he remained in his wheelchair.  And he said that through the years he had been prayed over countless times, and after he wasn’t healed in many cases those praying would decide that Rod just didn’t have enough faith.  Seriously? If Rod wasn’t healed because of a lack of faith, I would suspect it lay with those who were praying for him and not with Rod.

And sometimes there are even larger ramifications to our unbelief.

There is a story in the Old Testament that you may be familiar with.  God had promised to make Abraham the father of a great nation, and yet Abraham and, his wife, Sarah couldn’t seem to have a child.  They were told they would, but Sarah didn’t believe it would happen, as a matter of fact she cracked up when she heard the prediction.
And who could blame her, she was old and they had never been able to have a child.  So Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands and set her husband up with her maid, a gal named Hagar, who became pregnant with a son.  The boy’s name was Ishmael, and this is what the Bible predicted about Ishmael Genesis 16:12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”

Later Sarah and Abraham had a son named Isaac who would eventually have a son named Jacob who would eventually be called Israel. And the descendants of Israel are the people we call the Jews.  We know that.  It was from Jacob’s descendants that a young lady named Mary was born, who would go on to be the mother of Jesus.  That was the promise made to Sarah and Abraham. 

The promise she didn’t believe.  And you are thinking so what?    Remember Ishmael?  Well his descendants lived in that same area and more than 2,500 years after his birth a descendent of Ishmael’s was born, and his parents named him Mohammed, and almost 1,500 years after that another descendent of Ishmael’s was born and his name was Osama Bin Laden and the rest as they say is history.  How would the history of the Middle East be different if 4,000 years ago Sarah had of simply believed the promise of God?

How could your life be different if you Believed in God, Believed in Yourself, Believed in Others and Believed God?

And here is a great promise that I want to leave you with, from the Pen of John the friend of Jesus, 1 John 5:13 I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.

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