WILL ANYONE TRUST GOD’S SERVANT?*
The Scriptures contain many accounts of unbelievers, those who would not trust in God or His messengers. The Israelites, although God’s chosen people and having experienced His miraculous provisions and protection, were the greatest offenders in exhibiting their lack of faith and unbelief of God’s word; and much is recorded about their lack of trust. . Jesus Christ was hindered in His ministry by the lack of trust or unbelief of His countrymen, especially the political and religious leaders of the Jews; and in many instances by His disciples. Although such lack of trust did not cause Him to forego His mission, it was a sad account of His closest friends, and this unbelief continued until the end of His earthly mission . As we read the many accounts of unbelief and unbelievers in the Bible we may attempt to pass judgment on these people, ignoring the fact that we as disciples today are no better than they were, as we too are guilty of lack of faith in God’s word.
UNBELIEF: Let us consider the subject of unbelief in respect to the relationship between God and mankind. Unbelief is simply a “lack of belief, or a lack of trust or faith in God and His provision”. While unbelief does not hinder God’s faithfulness it does affect the individual’s capacity to receive the benefits of that faithfulness . The unbelief of many Israelites, for example, kept them from seeing the Promised Land . The unbelief of the Nazarenes prevented them from witnessing Christ’s miracles . What are some reasons for unbelief? Why is there a lack of trust in others, in an individual, or in certain professions? Reasons for such unbelief could be expressed as: nothing has changed for so long a time ; hearing the same statements continuously; familiarity with the situation or circumstance. (causes some to believe it cannot happen); sounds too good to be true. (I will not be fooled into believing); too easy to be genuine. (it must be counterfeit); get nothing worthwhile for free. (anything worthwhile costs a lot); seeing is believing; show me first. (“give us a sign”); no confidence that the person/thing can deliver. (will I get what is promised?).
In the gospel of Mark there is a great deal of unbelief in what Jesus is able to do personally or through His disciples. This unbelief is displayed by His acquaintances, His enemies and His disciples .
THE UNBELIEF OF HIS ACQUAINTANCES “Is this not the Carpenter? Is this not Mary’s son? Is this not the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? How could such an ordinary person teach with such confidence and authority? What are his qualifications? Society grades men and women according to their academic status. A graduate of a leading or recognized university or college will always be given precedence over someone who has no formal education: or putting it bluntly; those who are mean and prejudiced will always judge others by their education or apparent lack of education. In other words; if they cannot explain the confidence of the person, they reject the person on the grounds of a lack of a formal education. This was the situation in which Jesus found Himself, in that His own countrymen rejected Him because of their unbelief. They insulted Him, referring to Him as “Mary’s son” instead of Joseph’s son: they scorned Him because of His profession; and they were offended by Him because they could not accept Him, attempting to restrict Him to their pre-conceived ideas of what His ability should be as a mere carpenter. He became “a stone of stumbling” to them because of their unbelief .
THE UNBELIEF OF HIS ENEMIES The Jews would not accept the fact that this was Jesus the Messiah, but considered him to be Elijah, one of the prophets from “long ago”, and some claimed that John the Baptist was raised from the dead. The Jews appeared to give more honor or precedence to Elijah and the prophets than to Jesus the Messiah, because of their unbelief; even though Jesus gave all the signs to prove that He was the long expected Messiah. King Herod heard about the success that Jesus was having as He and His disciples went from village to village performing many miracles, Herod also displayed his unbelief in the fact that he had heard the message of the kingdom many times from the mouth of John the Baptist <Mk. 6:20>. Herod enjoyed hearing John’s message, yet he refused to believe the message. Jesus came preaching the same message as John and neither the Jews nor Herod would believe. They believed in the Prophets, Elijah and John the Baptist, but not Jesus.
THE UNBELIEF OF HIS DISCIPLES Jesus sent His disciples to preach the gospel to the people and gave them specific instructions on what they should take and not to take with them. They were to take what they already owned, and not to go and buy any special equipment for their work or travels. Jesus wanted them to be adequately supplied, but not to the point of ceasing to live by their faith. In their ministry they were to encounter both hospitality and hostility; and He gave them the apostolic authority and the divine ability to do the job He sent them to do. God’s commands always include His enabling, and was the intended lesson for the disciples as well as Christ’s followers today . They went out and accomplished great things…beyond their expectations, and then they returned to report their success to Jesus, and to rest from their travels.On their return, Jesus takes them away to a “quiet place” to have a rest from their ministry; for the disciples, it was their “time-out”, their retreat, their special time with Jesus away from the crowds and the noise of the city. But their peace is interrupted. Why did these people have to come? Why did they come bringing nothing to eat? To them, the crowds were a problem, perhaps even a nuisance. The peoples’ need was greater than food and Jesus saw this and had compassion on the people . Jesus satisfied their spiritual need first and then instructed the disciples to feed them .
The typical response to Jesus’ command is expressed in the words of the disciples: “…Are we to go and spend that much?” (v37) Where are we to get that much money? Should we take it from the regular offering or from the missionary offering? We just cannot afford it right now, let us spend some time in prayer seeking God’s will on the matter. Like the disciples, we fail to understand and recognize God’s explicit command, and the fact that when He “sends” or “instructs”, “or interrupts our regular routine” He gives the ability to perform. We must never measure our resources, we must determine God’s will and trust Him to meet the need! Somehow they forgot, or maybe did not learn, the lesson that God’s commands always include His enabling! . They went with the bare essentials, they lacked nothing, they wanted nothing, they accomplished everything: yet they doubted the present challenge failing to understand the intended lesson. Spiritual blessings must be balanced with burdens and battles, and so Jesus, wishing to keep His disciples humble after their successful ministry and to teach them something new, He sends them into the storm . Worldly ways are always contrary to the spiritual life. Satan puts every obstacle in the way of the disciple so as to make progress extremely difficult and at times the battle can be fierce, and we are fearful to make any decisions or take any further steps of faith. Our Lord constantly whispers to us: “Take courage!….Don’t be afraid.” ; but to us such words seem to be of no encouragement. But the Lord waits until we are desperate and not able to fight any longer, and then He “enters the boat” and calms our fears (if we allow Him). We, like the disciples, become “absolutely terrified” and are sometimes “scared out of our wits” as each new experience of testing demands of us more faith and courage. God does not always accompany us through the “storm” but He never abandons us to the “storm” . The disciples had failed their test because they lacked spiritual insight and receptive hearts; and today, we too can develop a hard heart if we fail to respond to the spiritual lessons that must be learned in the course of our lives and our ministry .
Unbelief is rampant in the hearts and minds of people today. Our young children find it easier to believe that dinosaurs existed, rather than to understand and believe that God exists. Christians find it easier to put their trust in people and temporal things rather than to take God at His word. The passage in Hebrews 3 referred to God’s anger for His own people because of their unbelief; and we can be sure that in our time God is angry with His spiritual people (the members of His Church) because of our unbelief in His word. God has opened doors for us; He has said; Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” <Isa 30:21 NIV> and we have failed to obey. We can all look back in time to a period in our lives when we were faithful and eager in our service, being effective with the little resources and time that we had; and today when God gives us bigger opportunities for service we fail Him. We say our resources are not enough so God gets less and the project gets less funding. We say we do not have the time, so God gets less of our time and fewer and fewer people have to devote more of their time and less work gets done.
The devil has caused us to be so self-centered we regard our resources and our gifts to be so personal that the work of God suffers for lack of willing help due to our unbelief, and we wonder why our churches are empty and there are no blessings. The storms are sure to come but we forget who is in control and we refuse to surrender our wills and our efforts to Him. We blame others for our failures and continue in our unbelief and the work of God is hindered. How much longer is God to be angry with His people, you and I? “everyone born of God overcomes the world……the victory……our faith”; are you born of God?; do you profess to be a child of God?; are you overcoming the sin of unbelief through a strong faith in God’s word? WILL ANYONE TRUST GOD’S SERVANT?
WHY NOT BELIEVE? “I began to develop my own system of morality without God. Arrogantly I assumed that my intelligence and understanding were enough to conquer almost anything. But in spite of my supposed confidence, I felt hollow” (Decision Magazine, May 1998)This was the expression of a young man that was “without God and far from the truth”. After many years of living without God, and blaming God for all his failures, he finally said to himself one day; “why not believe”, and this was the beginning of a new life for him. Such unbelief is, unfortunately, the experience of many people today; the allurement of sin has so blinded their eyes that they fail to understand that faith in God is essential to fulfillment in their lives. God has created us to worship and serve Him, and when we fail to put our trust in Him we can never experience true happiness and peace.
CAN I TRUST GOD EVEN WHEN IT HURTS? A lost job: food and clothing are at a bare minimum: a fast depleting bank account: a sick child that cannot understand the situation: a deep fear that no one, not even family members, can help. “I lowered my forehead…..and prayed, ‘God, where are you?’ I strained to hear something, anything, from the Lord. But I heard no answer. ‘Don’t You see what is happening to us? Help us!’ My prayers seemed to be ignored” (Decision Magazine May 1998) An earthquake destroys all that we possess: a tidal wave destroys the village and kills half the people: a terrible accident takes our loved-one away. At such times can anyone trust God? Is anyone willing to trust God? God seems so far away and not concerned by our sufferings. Has God opened a door for service and has asked you to do your part? Has God put someone in your path for you to be help to? Are you fearful because of the storm you are passing through? Remember, God is there and He is able. He never abandons us, He tests us to see what we are made of. Our faith in Him helps us to be “Overcomers”. TRUST GOD’S SERVANT TODAY!
(* NOTE: Mark’s gospel depicts Christ as “The Servant”)