by, Stasie Tillman
I believe God. It was something I said. I said it often enough that there was no doubt in my mind if I actually meant it. Was it true for me? In some ways, yes, and in others, I’d fallen into unbelief without realizing it.
People say a lot of things. We act like parrots repeating what we’ve heard others say or what the internet broadcasts, never stopping to question if the statement is accurate and sensible. Or is the statement even morally right? The statement ‘I believe God,’ was a default in my system of beliefs. I am a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ, so clearly I believe God. But what I’d really said in my heart was ‘I believe in God’ (ie I believe God exists) and after that my faith petered out.
How did that look on an everyday basis? It didn’t pan out to a very good existence. I had no power in my daily life, especially none like that promised in the bible. I couldn’t move mountains, whether figurative or literal. My daily life was a struggle. My relationships, even my marriage that I once thought stable, soon started to crumble. Was I under attack or was the Lord sending me a wake-up call?
All things in this life are fleeting. I’d thought to establish a foundation built on people and circumstances I’d believed were constants in my life. But over the last few years, God revealed to me that everything in this life is subject to change. He showed me the only true constant and security in this life was to trust in God and to live life by His word (The Bible).
The funny part is that I truly believed I was living a life that was based on my faith in God and being obedient to His laws and His ways. Therein lies the conflict. During the last few months, I’ve been hit with one difficult situation after another. I’ve faced financial deficits, marital problems, health issues, legal battles, family turmoil, and even lack of growth in my business. One thing after another that could lead to depression, anxiety, and discouragement. At the root of it was unbelief.
Is Unbelief the Same as Disbelief?
It helps to get technical sometimes. Let’s start with dictionary definitions of each word.
Unbelief is defined as incredulity or skepticism especially in matters of religious faith.
The definitions are fairly similar. Now let’s deconstruct. Disbelief is often applied to rejecting a statement someone has made or written. She disbelieved the tale her brother told her about the missing dog. While unbelief is not just a one-off occurrence. Unbelief can become a way of life, as seen above it mentions skepticism. There are many people, and you may know of few of them, that are labeled skeptics because they frequently distrust people, institutions, and commonly accepted and/or proven truths or norms.
Unbelief is broken down in the International Bible Encyclopedia as it looks at it from the definitions of the original Greek words provided in scriptures. Bible Study tool’s site provides a brief explanation of unbelief by stating, “[t]he word (the King James Version) represents two Greek words, apeitheia, “disobedience” … and apistia, “distrust,” the antithesis to”faith'”.
Examples of Unbelief in the Bible
In Matthew 13 Jesus was touring all over Israel performing miracles such as healing people from all kinds of infirmities. He performed deliverance from demons and saved souls. But when he came to his hometown of Nazareth Jesus could not operate in the miraculous in the same way he had in other locations because of the unbelief of the people. The primary reason they could not believe was due to the people knowing Jesus’ past. They knew him when he was a child and so kept referring to him as the carpenter Joseph’s son. Because of that perspective, they could not see the divinity in Him. The city of Nazareth missed their hour of visitation (Matthew 13:58).
This story speaks of a father bringing his young son who was possessed by an evil spirit. The father had brought his son to be healed and delivered by Jesus’ disciples but they could not help him. So when the father finally brought his son to Jesus his unbelief was evident in his request for help. The father said to Jesus, “have mercy on us and help us if you can.” He asked Jesus for help not really believing his son could be delivered anymore. After years of seeking help and finding none, hopelessness had set in. Jesus corrected the man in Mark 9:23, ‘[what do you mean] if I can? Anything is possible if a person believes.”
In verse 24, the father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” The man received Jesus’ correction and recognized that although he sought help for his son he doubted in his heart. Jesus revealed to him that some unbelief and hopelessness had crept in. He even recognized that this flaw of wavering unbelief could be helped by surrendering it to Jesus too! Jesus had mercy on both father and son. He delivered a powerful healing to the young boy, restoring the child’s health and wellbeing as well as restoring and increasing the father’s faith.
Hebrews chapter 3 in its entirety talks about unbelief and gave the example of the Israelites. God delivered them out of Egypt. They were privy to see miracles, signs, and wonders repeatedly from God’s hand for their benefit and still, they disobeyed God. God told them and showed them His faithfulness in keeping His word. He promised that He had good plans for them, plans to bring them to a good place they could call their own (the Promised Land). It would be a place far better than the land of slavery they’d left behind in Egypt. Yet time and time again they refused to listen. God was angry and grew frustrated with the Israelites. He led them a difficult way through the wilderness to build their mettle and remove from them any unbelief. This journey ended up taking the Israelites 40 years and allowed for an entire generation of them to pass away before the people were finally able to enter the Promised Land.
Hebrews 3:19 – So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. God swore that because of their unbelief that disobedient generation was not able to enter the Promised land or the rest God promised due to their unbelief. Don’t let that be your story. Learn from their mistakes and from others including my own. Trust God at His word.
Consequences of Unbelief
And so I was provoked (displeased and sorely grieved) with that generation, and said, They always err and are led astray in their hearts, and they have not perceived or recognized my ways and become progressively better and more experimentally and intimately acquainted with them. Accordingly, I swore in my wrath and indignation, they shall not enter into my rest.
So we see that they were not able to enter [into His rest] because of their unwillingness to adhere to and trust in and rely on God [unbelief had shut them out].
Here are the primary consequences of unbelief:
- NO REST – not solely meaning sleep (although that is likely affected as well). But this rest speaks of a soul rest. A place of confident trust in God that allows us to live life with soul peace (peace despite enduring difficulty and seemingly impossible life circumstances).
- Disobedience which leads to sin. When we are disobedient to God it leads us astray. It causes us to miss out on our Promise Land, our individual destinies, that place of blessing in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 3:18 explains that God swore they would not enter His rest because they constantly disobeyed [refused to be compliant or be persuaded].
- Allows Sin and It’s consequences in our lives. When defiant, unrepentant sin is present in a person’s life it acts as an open door that allows the enemy to attack and torment the individual. Common mental tormentors are rebellion, pride, lusts, perversion, a hardness of heart, shame, and guilt.
- Emotional and Physical Tormentors are evident such as anxiety, fear, diseases. Daily afflictions will overtake the person’s life like that described in Deuteronomy 28:67. In the morning you shall say, would that it were evening! And at evening you shall say, would that it were morning! That’s a miserable place to be in when you wake up and want to go back to bed, and when you’re in bed you want to get up. This speaks of not having any peace.
Defy Fear & Unbelief By Faith Building Exercises
Thankfully God does not leave us in ignorance and without help. No, He is faithful and therefore always provides some way out. Here are the tools and practices that helped redirect my course when I’d wandered into unbelief:
- If God has given you an assignment that seems too large to be believable, pray for direction and grace to obey. And start with a small action. Rome was not built in a day, but brick by brick. We grow in faith when we start doing. Take the first step. This allows us to realize that the goal isn’t as impossible as we once thought because after taking that first step we are now one step closer to achieving the impossible. We climb the highest mountains step by step, and skyscrapers are built brick by brick.
- Read, pray, and meditate on Psalm 119. It discusses the importance of obeying God and even asks God to give us the good sense to obey His word (Psalm 119:73).
- Pray Specific Prayers
- Ask the Lord to show you any areas of unbelief in your life.
- Are there any ways you’ve been disobedient?
- Just as the father requested ‘help my unbelief.’ We may be blind to our own errors and so always require God to help us identify and redirect us when we’ve gone off course.
- Find Scriptures On The Topic In Question
- Do a keyword search in the Bible on any areas of concern is a good practice to develop as it leads you directly to what God says on the matter. Search the bible app or website for the words: disobedience, fear or unbelief. It’ll return all verses containing those keywords.
- Focus on the verses that lead you to faith. For example, any of the promises of God. Such as Deuteronomy 28, speaks of the many blessings God promises to bestow on those who obey. Or Psalm 119 that talks about the laws of God being a light on the path and how we need the Lord to teach us his decrees and cause us to obey. Mark 11 talks about speaking to mountains and doing the impossible if we believe even as small as a mustard seed. 1 Timothy 1:9 speaks of denouncing fear because it is not of God and in its place realizing that God gave us power, love, and a sound mind.
- Once you have the scriptures that resonate with you and lead you to faith then read, recite, and repeat…over and over and over again. Until you believe it.
- Try to pinpoint the feeling in your body that signals you are thinking fearful thoughts (such as tightness in your jaws or shoulders, tingling in your skin, or any constricting in your muscles). Touch that area and speak aloud faithful declarations or scriptures.
- Become acquainted with God’s Promises. Make them into ‘I AM’ statements and say them every time a negative thought crops up that leads you to unbelief, fear, and doubt. Declare out loud repeatedly the promises of God concerning you.
- Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
- Listen to motivational speakers and pastors as they talk about faith. Some good speakers are T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, Priscilla Shirer, Les Brown, and Oprah. Here’s a good place to start!
Let’s not be afraid of correction. Correction is good. I am grateful I received God’s correction this year and can be certain I’m heading in the right direction because I am following His direction. Have you received a personal revelation that caused you to change your course? Has God convicted you of something you didn’t realize about yourself or your behavior? Share in the comments below and let’s encourage each other to keep growing in God’s grace.