A LACK OF FAITH

What is the difference between unbelief and a lack of faith? Does God require you to have faith in order for you to be healed? Is God obligated to perform according to your faith?

I think most everyone has heard the phrase “health and wealth gospel.”

In a nutshell, the basic idea of the health and wealth gospel is that God wants us to be wealthy and healthy.

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The downside of that preaching is the condemnation that occurs for those who do not experience wealth or health. And there are many who occupy that camp.

It is an especially American gospel, but it has been picked up by others in foreign lands.

While there is just enough truth in the things that are taught to make it sound legitimate, there is enough leaven in it to know that it should be avoided.

The condemnation I mentioned comes as a result of not measuring up to the promises of this particular gospel.

If you are lacking in either health or wealth, you are often told it is because of your lack of faith.

That is not very encouraging.

There is, though, a scriptural basis for that kind of negative thinking found in the NIV translation.

And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
Mat 13:58 NIV

The problem here is that the translators have taken the word “unbelief”—which is how it is translated in every other translation including the KJV—and made it into a lack of faith.

You may ask what is the difference between unbelief and a lack of faith?

Good question.

A lack of faith is just that—non-existent—there is no faith present.

Unbelief is an active resistance to believing.

Compare how the NIV translates Mk 16:14 with the ESV

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
Mar 16:14 NIV

Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.
Mar 16:14 ESV

Can you see the “refusal to believe?” It is an active resistance.

That is quite different from just a lack of faith—of not having faith.

However, for the sake of argument, let’s consider the concept of a simple lack of faith instead of an active resistance.

What happens for those who have no faith?

In the realm of the health and wealth gospel, if one is healed from a sickness, they are told it is because of the great faith and power of the minister.

If they are not healed, they are told it is because of the sick person’s lack of faith.

However, there is an often overlooked portion of scripture about Jesus’ ministry that we should consider from the Gospel of John.

In these lay a multitude of invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
John 5:3-8

This is the story of the Healing at the Pool of Bethesda.

There are a few things about this story that we should take note of as we consider the faith we need in order to be healed.

First thing is that there was a multitude of sick people in this place.

I have heard many people say that if they could be given the gift of faith, they would go into the hospital and get everybody healed.

However, I would offer that Jesus probably had more faith than all of us put together could ever muster.

Yet He only healed one person out of that multitude.

One.

Not everyone. Not two or three.

Just one.

Jesus approached that one man and asked him if he wanted to be healed.

What a question!!

Why do people go to the hospital?

To get healed.

Why were so many sick people lying around the pool of Bethesda?

They were hoping to be healed.

And Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed.

But what was the man’s answer?

Jesus asked him a plain question to which a yes or a no would have been the proper response.

But, as is so often the case, the man could not answer such a direct question.

He offered an excuse, a reason why he had not yet been healed.

I experience that on a regular basis.

I will ask a closed ended question for a yes or no response, but instead I get an explanation as to why something is the way it is.

The man said he didn’t have anyone to help him be healed.

What did Jesus do? How did Jesus respond?

He healed the man.

Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
John 5:8

QUESTION—Where was the man’s faith?

Jesus did not ask him if he believed.

He did not ask him if he thought he could be healed.

Jesus simply took the matter into His own hands and healed the man who had no faith.

Jesus supplied what the man was lacking.

He met him where he was and gave him what he needed in order to believe.

The last time I was with you, I told you that God would meet anyone wherever they are with whatever they need.

This is just one more example of that.

We have here an example of someone being healed who had no faith in the Lord or faith to be healed.

He was destitute and only able to live with a negative mentality, but the Lord met his need.

Now, yes, I know this may be construed as an exception to the rule; but it is just that.

It shows that any hard and fast formula for healing is probably not a good idea.

The Story of Mr. Bloom

Mr. Bloom was dying of kidney failure when his daughter-in-law asked me to go pray for him.

He hadn’t eaten in a few days, and had not gone upstairs in weeks.

I went out of a sense of duty. I was not operating with any kind of faith other than obedience to the scriptures.

The man was not a believer as far as I knew. I had never met him.

He had never attended the church I pastored.

But, I went to his home, laid my hands on him and prayed that God would heal him.

That night he asked for supper and after he ate, he went upstairs, got cleaned up and went to bed.

He lived for 6 weeks waiting for his kidney transplant, which extended his life for many years after that.

I was supposed to be the great man of faith and power for the hour, but I had none.

God operated in spite of me, in spite of my lack of faith.

So. What’s the point of all this?

Why do we need to know these stories?

What can we learn from them?

We learn that there are no rules that we must follow in order to get something from God.

Too many people believe that if we just do the right things, say the right words, believe the right things, then God is obligated to perform what we desire.

God is not a puppet on a string being made to dance according to the whims of the people.

He is not a genie in a bottle which must be rubbed a certain way.

He is the God of the universe doing all according to His plan and purpose.

We do the best we can with whatever level of faith we have or don’t have.

But, in the end, whether we get what we wanted or not, we should rest our confidence and our faith on Rom. 8:28

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Let us be like the man who came to Jesus and asked that his son be healed of what appeared to be epilepsy.

Jesus told him anything is possible for the one who believes, and the man cried out “I believe! Help me in the areas I don’t believe.”

Let us not be afraid to admit when our faith is weak or non-existent.

May the lord help our unbelief.

GOD’S GUARANTEE

What is a guarantee actually worth? It usually costs us time to gain the satisfaction that was promised if the product fails.

There are few things in life besides death and taxes for which there is an absolute guarantee.

We are given some sort of a guarantee on almost everything we purchase, but that guarantee is only for the replacement of the product should the one you purchase be defective in some way.

There is no guarantee that whatever you purchase will do exactly as it was described. The manufacturer only guarantees that they will satisfy you.

Sometimes that may mean more than one exchange, or a long drawn out time of working through the gatekeepers at customer service.

We have become so accustomed to this, that when we are given a guarantee we usually think, “Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard all that before. We’ll see.”

We unwittingly take that same thinking to the word that God speaks.

We give mental assent to its veracity, but we’ve got one foot out the door just in case we get disappointed.

Guarantees just don’t mean much to us anymore.

However, we should not take that attitude with God’s word. When God gives us a guarantee we should be able to trust in, cling to, and rely on that word without question.

Let’s see if we can discover a reason why we may not always do that.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
(Isa 55:10-11)

God puts a guarantee on the process of His word accomplishing that which He purposed with such a word.

He says that it shall accomplish what He wants and succeed in its purpose.

Sometimes we may miss the purpose of something simply because of how we may view it.

For instance, in this passage the word is compared to rain and snow watering the earth. Is that how we normally view precipitation?

Are we not more prone to seeing the negative aspects, the inconvenience of precipitation?

Awww, man. It’s gonna be slick. It’s gonna be muddy. It’s gonna be nasty.

That is certainly one way to look at it.

Why not instead of looking at how it may be an inconvenience, think of how beneficial it may be?

If we could get our grass seed out just before a good snow, how much better would our lawn be?

Rain and snow are quite beneficial to the earth and that is beneficial for us. But it is not an immediate benefit. It takes time.

It is this aspect of a process that we have grown to dislike. We want everything NOW!

Sure. We are okay with the things we KNOW take time, like planting and harvesting; but there are other things to which we may not apply the same thinking.

I believe one of those areas is the effectual working of the word of God.

We want to see immediate results whenever the word of God is shared.

If we are talking with a friend who is a pre-believer, we want them to change their mind right now while we are talking with them. But they seldom do.

Jesus used the analogy of a seed in more than one instance as He tried to show the inner workings of the kingdom of God.

One of the most famous is the parable of the sower and the seed.

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. …Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
(Mat 13:3-8)

We know the story. Seed was scattered everywhere—some on rocky ground, some on thorny ground, some off to the side, and some on good ground.

The disciples asked Jesus to explain the parable to them, so He did.

He said the seed is the word of the kingdom; that is, the word concerning the kingdom.

Whenever we talk with someone about what we know and believe about the Lord, we are sowing words concerning the kingdom. They are seeds that are being planted in their heart.

There is no need for us to try to convince them through any sort of reasoning process, any sort of logic, or whatever.

We just speak truth and let the seed fall where it may.

That is one of the important points of the parable that many miss. Preachers often tell us that we are to go out and prepare the soil in some manner before we can sow the seed.

That makes sense from our perspective of looking on the natural world; but that is not what Jesus said. He said to scatter the seed. Some of what you do will find a good place to rest. Other seed may not.

He said nothing about our being concerned with our sowing. Just sow. Just spread the word, the seed. Scatter it everywhere you can and let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest.

Doing it this way takes away any attachment to outcome you may have. What will be will be; and the sooner you can reconcile yourself to that fact, the easier it becomes to spread the seed of the word.

Sometimes we are not able to tell if the seed is even growing, which is also something to which Jesus alluded.

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.
(Mar 4:26-27)

As humans, we have learned enough in our short time here on earth that we are not to dig up the seed to see how it is doing.

You probably did a project in grade school of putting a lima bean in a glass of water to watch the sprouting process. It only takes about three days for the bean to break open and begin to sprout.

Kids learn about planting and growing from this little exercise. It takes time.

Do we know HOW it happens? Not necessarily. We could find out if we really wanted to know, but most of us just want to see a bean plant come up out of the ground.

Most of us just want to see our friends come into the things of the kingdom like we have.

Give it time.

Some plants may take only three days to germination, but others can take weeks—some even years.

Kingdom growth is no different. Give it time.

There is one other very important aspect of seed growth that Jesus mentioned. This is probably the hardest one for us to accept.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
(Jhn 12:24)

When you put a seed into the ground, as the process of germination begins, the seed looks like it is dying. It gets wrinkled and crumbles and falls apart.

We often see this with someone after we have shared the truths of God’s word with them.

Their life falls apart.

We may see them become mean, angry; or they may become addicted to some life-altering substance. Any number of things which to all outward appearances would indicate everything we tried to do is lost, wasted.

Where is our faith when something like this happens? Are we only able to believe when we see results?

Jesus spoke to this when He showed Himself to Thomas. Thomas wasn’t in the room the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection.

He told them he would not believe unless he could see and touch the risen savior. When Jesus came the next time, He showed Himself specifically to Thomas and said,

“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(Jn 20:29)

Believing without seeing is an important part of an active faith.

In fact, that is the very definition of faith given in Hebrews.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
(Heb 11:1)

Therefore, whenever we share some truth we may understand concerning the kingdom of God, we should not automatically begin looking for results.

That’s what is meant when by the phrase “attachment to outcome.” We are not to have an attachment to any sort of outcome.

Faith believes in the process. In fact, faith KNOWS that the process has begun and there will be a positive outcome.

God says that His word will not fail to accomplish His purposes. It will do the very thing for which it was purposed.

It may take time, which for us may seem interminable, but not so with God.

The Lord told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations before he ever had a child. I’m sure Abraham did what was necessary, but it took Sarah 25 years to conceive Isaac.

God put it on the heart of Moses to set Israel free from Egyptian bondage, but it took 40 years for Moses to give up his attachment to outcome and method for that to take place.

God took 4,000 years to get the earth ready to receive Jesus.

Time is our problem, NOT GOD’S. He inhabits eternity where there is no concept of time. It is always an eternal NOW.

The seed that you may plant in someone’s life could very possibly sprout overnight, but that is not the usual pattern.

Allow for the working of the Holy Spirit to bring forth the fruit in the proper season.

We can operate with the guarantee of God’s word that what you plant will bring forth.

Your ONLY responsibility is to scatter the seed.

You do that every time you make some comment about what you believe.

May the Lord make you aware of your opportunities to send forth the seed He has given you to spread around.