|Volume 17 Number 2 February 2015||
Mark 9:14-29 records the account of Jesus healing a mute. He came to the disciples and saw a huge crowd around them and the scribes disputing with the disciples. Jesus asked the scribes what they were discussing with them. A father in the crowd had brought his son to the Lord’s disciples for healing. He was suffering with a mute spirit, but they could not heal him.
Jesus instructed that he be brought to Him. Jesus asked his father how long had this been happening to him; the father said to Him from childhood. The father explained the spirit had often thrown him into fire and water to destroy him. Then, he made a statement that would tug at the heartstrings of any parents who have experienced their child suffering from a serious sickness or disease. “But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (Mark 9:22b). Imagine saying that to the firstborn over all creation!
Jesus simply said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). The father’s response is heart wrenching. “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!’”
W. Elmo Mercer wrote the song, familiar to many of us, Each Step I Take. The words of the second verse echo the feelings so many of us have had or may be currently having about any number of life’s circumstances. “At times I feel my faith begin to waver, when up ahead I see a chasm wide, it’s then I turn and look up to my Savior I am strong when He is by my side.” Just typing the words stirs emotions of assurance in Him!
Philippians 4:6 records, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Wayne Jackson wrote, The Book of Philippians—A Grammatical and Practical Study. He makes these selected comments on that verse. “Though we may, and should, be concerned about people, we must never be anxious regarding material things. In contrast to anxiety, we should cast our care upon God. Of course God knows our needs before we even ask, but asking is a test of faith, and until we ask, we will not receive.” Jesus said in Mark 11:24, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them and you will have them.”
Even Abraham whose faith was enviable had his moments of unbelief. He told a certain king that Sarah was his sister. When Abraham was called out on this he said, “Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife.” God had already told Abraham that He would make him a father of many nations and exceedingly fruitful. How was this to happen if Abraham was killed? How soon we forget—God’s promises cannot be broken!
Isaac’s unbelief was evident when several decades later he told a king by the same name (perhaps a family or dynasty name) that Rebekah was his sister. He was afraid to say she was his wife because he thought he would be killed because Rebekah was beautiful (Genesis 26:7). After they had been there a long time, the king saw Isaac showing endearment to Rebekah. Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Quite obviously she is your wife; so how could you say, ‘She is my sister?’ Isaac said to him, ‘Because I said, lest I die on account of her’” (Genesis 26:9).
God had told Isaac to stay in the land of Gerar and not to go to Egypt. He told him that He would be with him and bless him and that in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed because of his father Abraham’s faithfulness (Genesis 26:1-5). Isaac believed God’s assurance of blessing by remaining in the land of Gerar. His unbelief weakened when he thought he would lose his life over his wife.
Luke 1:5 records that Zacharias, a certain priest, was married to one of Aaron’s daughters named Elizabeth. Verses 6-7 read, “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.”
While he was serving as priest, an angel appeared to Zacharias and told him that his prayer had been heard and that his wife would bear a son, and they would call his name John (Luke 1:13). Zacharias asked the angel how he could know this since he was an old man and Elizabeth was well advanced in years. How could they not have known or remembered Abraham and Sarah having Isaac in their very old age?
Luke 1:19-20 says, “And the angel answered and said to him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” How would our lives be changed if we were unable to speak for several months because of unbelief?
The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and declared in Luke 1:28, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” He further told her in verses 30-31, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.”
After Gabriel told her about the child to whom she was to give birth, she has just one question. “How can this be, since I do not know a man” (Luke 1:34)? Gabriel explained to her, and then declared, “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). Mary’s response in verse 38 is noteworthy. “Then Mary said, ‘Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’” What an unwavering, trusting and expectant example of belief!
The belief demonstrated by virtually countless Bible figures is staggering. We are also told of the astounding unbelief of many others. Some of the enemies of belief are guilt, fear, doubt, dread, suspicion and worry. In her book, On the Road Home, on pages 65-66, Wanda Jo Pence writes; “Worry is a thief. Surely there can be no worse kind, for this thief steals the precious commodity of time away from us. Most tragic of all, the loss can never be recuperated. Worry is, of course, useless. It will not change anything. Further, it shows a lack of faith in God.” Is her last statement pointed enough for us?
“Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” As Christians, what are some of the things we believe and no one would ever be able to shake our belief in these eternal truths? Just a sprinkling:
• God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit constitute the Godhead.
• Jesus Christ died on the cross to make salvation possible for the whole world.
• A life of faithful obedience will be rewarded with a crown of righteousness.
• The Bible is the all-inspired Word of God.
• We are all going to die.
• We will all be judged by Christ when He returns.
What is the answer to our unbelief? It is quite simple. The answer to unbelief is faith. Spiritual Sword is a quarterly publication by the Getwell Church of Christ in Memphis, Tennessee. The theme of the October 2013 issue was The Addiction of Sin in which Hugh Fulford wrote the article, “Failure to Study: A Famine of the Word.” Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” This writer was deeply convicted by brother Fulford’s comments on the passage. Three of his numerous points were:
(1) Failure to study results in a weak faith, and eventually, a complete loss of faith.
(2) Faith is not miraculously infused into a person’s mind and heart by some alleged direct operation of the Holy Spirit; faith does not come through a process of spiritual osmosis.
(3) Faith comes only from the regular, faithful, consistent study and hearing of God’s divinely inspired Word set forth in the Bible!
May we all with lowly hearts be willing to plead as the father of long ago, and say, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!”
Same Name, Different Results
The Book of Acts tells of two men who have the same name. One of the men tried to make others think he was a great servant of the Lord. In reality, he was a liar. The other man answered the call of the Lord even though he was afraid. Who are these men? Both are named Ananias, but their lives demonstrated very different priorities.
First, consider the Ananias of Acts 5:1-11.
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
The last six verses of Acts 4 explain how the infant church was growing. Many Jews came to Jerusalem intending to spend a specific amount of time to celebrate Pentecost. With the birth of the church, the new Christians remained in Jerusalem longer than planned so they could learn from the apostles. Funds and provisions were depleted while they remained. Christians from the Jerusalem area sold possessions and gave the money to the apostles, who made sure every Christian’s needs were met. One individual, Barnabas, is specifically mentioned by name as contributing to the needs of others.
Ananias could have done great things for the church, but he instead chose to seek the world’s glory. As a possessor of land, Ananias had some wealth. Seeing the praise given to those who sacrificed for the church, Ananias wanted a piece of that praise. He sold some land and claimed to give all of the proceeds to the apostles. There was no sin in keeping part of the money for himself. The sin came from claiming all the money from the sale was turned over to the apostles. He also led his wife to sin in this matter. Ananias wanted the praise of men more than he wanted the praise of God. His reward was immediate, divine punishment—death.
Now consider the Ananias of Acts 9:10-19.
Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.
Saul (Hebrew name), later called Paul (Greek name), spent a great deal of time and effort persecuting Christians. His actions appeared to be well known throughout the region. Understandably, when Ananias received a message from God to go to Saul, Ananias expressed some fear. However, Ananias did not let that fear stop him from obeying God. He demonstrated faith in God when he accepted God’s word on the matter and immediately went to Saul. As a result, Saul was baptized and became a great leader and proclaimer of the Word.
Ironically, both men named Ananias helped the church grow. The death of the first Ananias caused great fear among those who heard about what happened, both inside and outside the church. Acts 5:12-14 says that many listened to the apostles after hearing about Ananias, and “believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (5:14). The second Ananias led Saul to become a Christian, a man who later traveled the world leading both Jews and Gentiles to Christ. Though the actions of both men led to church growth, only one left an example we should follow. Which Ananias are you—the liar who wanted the world’s praise or the man who in humble obedience let faith in God overcome fear?