Once, while taking a “prayer walk” and talking to God about my concerns over the health of several family members, a Scripture passage became very real to me: “But with whom was he grieved forty years? . . . And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?” (Hebrews 3:17-18). I found myself praying through tears: “Lord, those people made You cry! Have I also made You cry because of my unbelief? I’ve had precious times with You for over fifty years, Jesus. I love You and I know You love me, but lately I’ve harbored some doubts. I’ve wondered why some prayers have not yet been answered.”
Since then, I have heard His sweet, still voice, saying, “I will always love you, David. I will keep you from falling, and I will be faithful to present you faultless before the Father. But, yes, I am wounded by your times of unbelief and wavering faith.”
So, dear saint, are you in the middle of an overwhelming trial right now? Have you prayed, wept and pleaded for help, yet things look hopeless? Maybe your situation has gone beyond all human possibility, and you’re thinking, “It’s too late.”
I tell you, you have been entrusted with your crisis. God could have moved in at any time, but this is His opportunity to produce in you an unwavering faith that you need. He’s looking for trust in Him not just for what you’re facing now, but for every impossible problem from now until you go home to be with Him. Make no mistake: He rejoices over you. Yet He also loves you enough to build a faith in you that will see you through it all.
Pray with me: “Forgive me, Lord, for making You weep. Help my unbelief now.” Then make this verse your own: “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” (Hebrews 11:6).
Think about the challenge Joshua faced by asking Israel to take a step of faith and cross the Jordan into the land God had promised them. There were well over one million Israelites, not including children and babies. Think of the effort that had to be expended, with planning, all the workloads, and the many responsibilities.
Here is where many Christians get hung up. They tell themselves, "If it's going to be that difficult, it can't be of the Lord. Can it?"
Following God's calling isn't always easy. But it is grace–filled. Peter tells us the finished work of the cross has accomplished everything we need in order to live for Him. "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3, NIV).
You don't have to live by your own strength; the Holy Spirit lives in you with power. He will provide you with all the energy you need to do what God says. You'll never burn out if you live and walk in the Spirit, drawing your strength from Him.
Whenever you seek to cross over the Jordan, you will encounter people who don't agree with you; in fact, you may make some of them angry. And if their voices become overpowering, you may wonder whether you should risk going forward at all.
Think of the pressure Joshua faced. He had provided strong leadership to that point and had earned a great deal of trust from people. That was important for a leader whose nation was continually at risk from the surrounding dangers.
Maybe you can identify with Joshua's dilemma. If you're going to cross over your Jordan, be prepared for skeptical responses from your family, your friends, your coworkers:
"You want to start a business—in this economy?"
"You want that kind of ministry? Why?"
"You want to do what with your life? I can't support you. I don't think God is in this."
Now, let me add this: A bold move of faith won't just draw skeptics, it will also draw an army of God's people around you. You'll find prayer, support and energy from faithful sources you never expected.
The world is full of books about God the Father who created the universe, and more books are written about Jesus the Son of God than anyone who ever walked on this planet. But isn’t it interesting that far fewer books have been written about God the Holy Spirit?
When teaching on prayer, Jesus declared; “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13, emphasis added). You would think that promise would create a huge desire to know more about this promised Helper—who He is and what He does. And it would be even better if we were to experience Him as a living reality the way the early believers did.
The Holy Spirit is God’s only agent on earth. He is the only experience we can have of God Almighty, the only way we can have the work of Jesus Christ applied to our lives, and the only way we can understand God’s Word. Without the Holy Spirit, we are like the disciples before Pentecost—sincere but struggling with confusion and defeat.
More than a hundred years ago, Samuel Chadwick, a great Methodist preacher in England, said: “The Christian religion is hopeless without the Holy Ghost.”
The early church provides the perfect illustration of that hopelessness. It was made up of simple men and women. The leaders were former fishermen and tax collectors who fled in fear when Jesus was arrested and needed them most. They weren’t courageous and faithful. In fact, they lacked faith and courage. They were the least likely to be put in charge of any Christian enterprise.
Yet, after the events in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit was poured out, those same nobodies were suddenly transformed. With courage and faith, they turned their community, and eventually the world, upside down. That wasn’t due to their seminary training, because they didn’t have any training. But one thing they did possess was the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told them to rely on Him for everything. The early believers knew all too well that Christianity was hopeless without the Holy Spirit.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
“We see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19). Only one sin kept Israel out of the Promised Land.
Canaan represents a place of rest, peace, fruitfulness, assurance, fullness, satisfaction, everything a true believer longs for. It is also a place where the Lord speaks clearly to His people, directing them, “This is the way, walk in it.” But Israel could not enter the Promised Land because of one sin.
That sin was not adultery (and Scripture calls these Israelites an adulterous generation). It wasn’t their rampant divorcing (Jesus said Moses granted divorces to that generation because they were so hardhearted). It wasn’t rage, jealousy, sloth or backbiting. It wasn’t even their secret idolatry.
The sin of unbelief prevented God’s people from entering Canaan. Therefore, Hebrews urges us today, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 4:11).
I have known many Christians who decided to get serious about their walk with the Lord. They determined to become more studious in His Word, and they fasted and prayed with renewed conviction. They set their hearts to cling to God through every situation in life, and as I observed their lives, I thought, “Surely all their devotion will bring a glow of joy. They can’t help but reflect God’s peace and rest.”
But all too often, the opposite was true. Many never did enter into God’s promised rest. They were still unsure, restless, questioning God’s leading, worried about their future. Why? They had a habitual leaven of unbelief and all their devotion and activity had been rendered ineffective because of it.
The believing servant clings to God’s New Covenant promise: “I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27). He also clings to this Word: “I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me. . . . I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble” (Jeremiah 30:21 and 31:9).
Luke 1 includes one of the most revealing cases of the seriousness of unbelief. You remember the story of godly Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. Zacharias was a devoted priest who suffered because of a single episode of unbelief. His story illustrates just how seriously God takes this sin.
Scripture says Zacharias was “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6). Here was a pious man who wore the robes of his respected position. He ministered before the altar of incense, which represented prayer and supplication, acts of pure worship. In short, Zacharias was faithful and obedient, a servant who longed for the Messiah’s coming.
One day as Zacharias was ministering, God sent the angel Gabriel to tell him his wife would have a son. Gabriel said the son’s birth would be a cause for rejoicing for many in Israel, and he gave Zacharias detailed instructions on how to raise the boy. Yet, as the angel spoke, Zacharias trembled in fear. Suddenly, this devout man’s mind was filled with doubt, and he gave in to terrible unbelief. He asked the angel, “How do I know you’re telling me the truth? After all, my wife and I are old” (see Luke 1:18).
God didn’t take kindly to Zacharias’ doubt, and he passed this sentence on the priest: “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” (Luke 1:20, my italics).
What does this episode tell us? It says unbelief shuts our ears to God, even when He is speaking clearly to us. It shuts us off from fresh revelation and it keeps us from intimate communion with the Lord. Suddenly, because we no longer hear from God, we have nothing to preach or testify. It doesn’t matter how faithful or diligent we may be; like Zacharias, we bring on ourselves a paralysis of both our ears and tongue.