GOD’S FAITHFULNESS IN OUR UNBELIEF
“If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” ( 2 Timothy 2:13)
“When nothing whereon to lean remains,
When strongholds crumble to dust,
When nothing seems sure but that God still lives,
This is the time to trust.”
But, what if the heart can’t trust? What if the heart is filled with unbelief and the promises of God seem empty and meaningless? What if we cannot find it in our poor wretched hearts to believe God, claim His promise and rest in His faithfulness? What then? Who shall deliver us? Thank God, He will!
May I share with you this personal experience? A few years ago, during a serious illness, I passed through some troubled waters that were new to me. For the first time in my Christian experience, I could not pray, for no words came and worst of all, there seemed to be no desire in my heart toward God. I tried to read God’s Word and the promises were empty and there seemed to be not a word of personal hope for me. My wife could not comfort me, the counsel of brethren was meaningless, and I felt myself slipping lower and lower into a bottomless pit of spiritual despondency. For days I was sure that this was the end of my ministry. I was sure that I could never teach or preach again. To add to my sorrow, my wicked heart convinced me that if I couldn’t pray, read God’s Word, teach or preach, then my blessing, joy and fellowship in the Lord would be denied me. I cannot explain to you how He did it; but in spite of this cesspool of unbelief, He restored my soul, comforted me with His rod and staff, anointed my head with oil until my cup ran over, for the faithful Shepherd could not deny Himself. Had He not promised me: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee”? [Heb. 13:50]
Now, hear the testimony of His Word on this subject. Israel murmured in unbelief against the Lord. Certain that the Lord meant to kill them in the wilderness, they would have gladly returned to Egypt if they could have found a leader. But, the faithful God, who could not deny Himself, rained manna from heaven every morning, and brought water from the flinty rock, watched over them at night by a pillar of fire, and led them by day in the cloud. He destroyed their enemies, bore them up on eagle’s wings, and brought them unto Himself, and all of it in spite of their unbelief.
Read the thrilling story of the Emmaus disciples. Here were two disciples who could not find it in their hearts to believe the Word of God. Jesus called them “fools and slow of heart” because of their unbelief. See them going down the road of life sad, trying comfort one another, not conscious of the Lord’s presence, and wrongly accusing Him of being a stranger to their problems, and ignorant of the things that so burdened them. If restored fellowship depends upon their faithfulness, they are destined to walk the lonely road to Emmaus forever without the joy of His presence; but the faithful Shepherd, who cannot deny Himself, meets them in their need and in their unbelief; He ministers the precious Word of God until faith is kindled anew, and they are brought into new communion with Jesus in the breaking of bread. See them now! With eyes opened that they might know Him, and hearts burning within, they rise up the same hour and go out to tell others that they have seen Him and that He has made Himself known to them [Luke 24:13-35]. They had not prayed, read the Word, nor confessed their sins; but the faithful God, who called them into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ, delivered them from the blindness of unbelief by the faithful ministry of the Lord Jesus in their lives. Were it not for this in our times of doubt and unbelief, we would never trust Him again.
We often testify to the deliverance of God in our lives in response to our prayers. I often wonder if God is really glorified, or our faith instead? It is true, thank God, that He has often heard my supplication and answered out of heaven in response to my cry for help; but it is also true, bless God, that He has more often answered in response to my unbelief. When I could not cry, He has answered. When I could not believe, He has been faithful. Let me show this principle from the scriptures. In Mark 4:35-41, we have the account of the storm that endangered the ship in which the disciples and the Lord Jesus were sailing. The original text hints at a hurricane that arose; the waves beat against the ship and soon began to fill it with water. The disciples, seeing this danger, awakened the Lord Jesus, who had been sleeping on a pillow, to accuse Him of not caring whether they perish or not. What bitter, black unbelief!
Had not His word been, “Let us pass over unto the other side”? Here, under the spell of unbelief, these disciples are afraid, not aware of His presence with them, and boldly slandering His love for them by accusing Him of caring not whether they or die. Dear reader, you and I have done as much against the blessed Lord and, thank God, He has done as much for us as He did for them. I call your attention to the fact that He was awakened and stirred to undertake for them in response, not to their prayer of faith, but to their cry of unbelief!! He plainly said they had no faith and were fearful, yet He delivered them by rebuking the hurricane, muzzling the sea, bringing a great calm into their hearts and lives, and demonstrating for us His faithfulness in meeting the unbelief of our hearts with His grace.
My heart has been blessed by the story, in John 21, of the unsuccessful night of fishing engaged in by Peter and six others, including John. The original language of this account leads us to believe that their intention was to desert the Lord and return to the fishing business permanently. Only a few days away from Calvary and here they were, ready to return to the old life in unbelief and discouragement. They went fishing in the flesh and accomplished just what the flesh can accomplish … nothing! As they approached the shore the next morning, an apparent stranger directed them to cast their net on the right side of the ship. They did and were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. They soon recognized the Lord and came to shore to find … what? Jesus, ready to deny them of their needs in punishment for their unbelief and disobedience? No, miracle of grace that it was, they found a fire of coals to warm them in their coldness … the dear Lord Jesus fixing breakfast to meet their hunger and standing ready with His fellowship to restore their wayward hearts!!
“Come and dine,” the faithful God cries, and withholds not a single blessing from His erring children, for He is faithful and cannot deny Himself. Only eternity will fully tell this blessed story; for, when we are come to Zion’s shore to meet the Lord Jesus in the morning, we will not only find that He waits to warm us, feed us, and to fellowship with us forever, but like the disciples of old, we will also find that we have brought fruit with us that we did not catch ourselves, but was placed in our nets by the faithful hand of the Shepherd. With Peter, we will be forced to say, “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee”!
One day, dear reader, heaven will be opened and the Lord Jesus Christ will be revealed to the world in all the glory of His Father. His eyes will be as a flame of fire, and on His head will be many crowns. His vesture will be dipped in His own blood, now on heaven’s mercy seat, and out of His mouth will go a sharp two-edged sword, as He rides triumphantly upon His white horse. His name is called the Word of God; but Revelation 19:11 assures us that some will call Him “Faithful and True.” Those who call Him by this precious name will be the armies of heaven that follow Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen white and clean; for their very presence will testify to the faithfulness of God that brought them to such a high and holy calling. Surely the word of the Psalmist was prophetic, when he wrote: “Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds” (Psalm 36:5).
In that day, His faithfulness shall be fully known; for we shall realize for the first time that throughout all our days here below, it was He who met our every want, made us to lie down in green pastures, led us by the still waters, restored our souls, led us in paths of righteousness, took our fear away in the valley of the shadow of death by His presence, comforted us by His rod and staff, prepared a table before us in the presence of our enemies, anointed our heads with the oil of His Spirit, caused our cups to overflow with His joy, followed us all the days of our life with His mercy and goodness, brought us into the house of the LORD to dwell forever, and did it all for His name’s sake! Surely heaven shall resound with the doxology of the saints, as they shout, “Great is thy faithfulness”!
part 3 of 3