Unbelief can kill you

Hindrances to successful prayer

Living here and now, believers in Christ have God the Holy Spirit living inside of them, interested in their daily activities, their thoughts and wishes. Instructing, explaining, giving out assignments and directions, including what to pray.

If we are inhabited by God himself, and if we are praying what God desires for us to pray, then what might hinder us from getting those prayers answered?

Unbelief, which can come from (1) a willful refusal to believe, or (2) ignorance of who God is, his character, his love, his grace, and his will. The result is the same, a lack of active, energized faith. Faith and belief are from the same Greek word, pistis.

  • Matthew 13:58, Mark 6:5-6 – Jesus could do no mighty works in Nazareth because of unbelief.
  • Matthew 9:25, Mark 5:40 – Jesus put unbelievers out of the room (case of the ruler’s daughter).
  • Acts 9:40 – Peter also put unbelievers out of the room (case of Tabitha/Dorcas). Read the passage about Aeneas first, then this passage.

Peter put the unbelievers out of the room first, before praying. He prayed not for the dead woman, but to get God’s instructions on what to do about her. Then he turned and just spoke to her, as he had done to Aeneas, telling her to do something she could not do. And she did it. There was a good reason to put the unbelievers out, unbelief can kill you.

  • In Mark 9:23-24, the father of a demon-oppressed boy came to Jesus after the disciples couldn’t help him. “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

Honoring the small faith the boy’s father did have, Jesus helped his unbelief – he healed and delivered the boy. (Jesus told the disciples, this kind comes only by prayer and fasting.)

Misbelief, a mistaken belief, believing the wrong thing, such as:

  • Miracles ceased with the apostles, not for today – yet more miracles occur today than ever.
  • Healing is not in the atonement, it’s not always God’s will – but Jesus healed ALL that came to him. The word for healing is the same Greek word for salvation. You can’t parse this word, it’s the same, single word: Greek sozo, soteria.
  • “Whatever will be, will be” – but that’s from Eastern religion, it’s not a Christian principle.
  • You can’t really know God’s will for sure – but He wants you to know his will more than you want to know it. See Colossians 1:9.
  • You don’t deserve answers to prayer because of past sins, or not being good enough. But salvation is by grace, it’s not deserved, it is by accepted faith. So are answers to prayer.

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Current sinful practices may hinder answers, but it’s not because you don’t deserve answers. You put up a barricade to receiving answers by believing the wrong things.

Doubt. Doubt may come before faith, and frequently does. Doubt simply means trying to decide between two things; the choice and decision is yours. This is usually from the Greek word diakrino, to examine in order to make a determination; to judge, discern, contend, waver, determine; doubt.

  • In Matthew 21:21, “Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.”
  • In Mark 11:23, he said “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”
  • James 1:6 translates this word as wavering, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”

Doubt is not bad unless you remain there, never coming to a decision.

Note: Sometimes you have plenty of time, but sometimes you have to decide quickly. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God can you make the right decision when you don’t have much time…

  • In Matthew 14:26-32, Peter was headed to Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. As the wind arose he looked at two things, Jesus and the boisterous waves. Doubting his own ability (and perhaps his survival), Peter had to make a quick decision. He made the right one. “Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Belief problems can be solved. Hindrances to successful prayer, God-directed prayer, can be removed. Studying the scriptures and getting to know God’s character is essential to that, because active faith – belief – comes by hearing, present tense, the word of God (Romans 10:17).

(Notes adapted Class Notes, Principles of Intercessory Prayer.)

A little learning is a dangerous thing!

What you don’t know will kill you.

    You know?
    What do you know?
    Who do you know?
    How do you know?

Everyday phrases like those seem to abound about knowing something. But what about NOT knowing something?

“If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know.” (I Cor. 8:2 NASB)

Knowledge is defined as facts, truth, information, data; skills acquired through experience. Are those things important? Sure. More important than intuition? More essential than gut feelings? Yes and no.

When authentic (God-defined), knowledge has to be the foundation of our faith, set firmly in place before intuition or gut feelings can be depended on. The Holy Spirit can and does inform, lead and guide by what we might call intuition or gut feelings, but his advice relies completely on God’s word.

If you were to look over text books from a few hundred years ago, you’d see that some “facts” aren’t always factual, scientific “truth” isn’t always correct, and certain “data” sets have changed over the years.

Hecataeus of Miletus believed the Earth was flat and surrounded by water. He ridiculed the belief that water encircled the world, yet most classicists agree he still believed the Earth was flat because of his descriptions of literal “ends” or “edges” of the Earth. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth)

Even skills acquired through experience can be changed by further experience. Those funds of knowledge have been adjusted, adapted, even edited over the years.

But God’s word is unchanging. It’s actually alive, dependable, trustworthy and faithful. (I Peter 1:25; Hebrews 4:12)

God places a high value on a certain fund of knowledge: his word. Not just bits and pieces of his word, but the whole, the complete, taken in context, meditated on, digested, lived by. Everything we need to succeed as his children is contained in it. (II Peter 1:2-8)

There’s one problem; assumptions sometimes take the place of actual knowledge of the scriptures. Partial knowledge takes the place of whole understanding. Here’s one example:

I Corinthians 2:9 says, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

That verse is often quoted. It sounds really deep, really holy, really true, doesn’t it?

However, verse 10 says, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

Here’s another example:

John 8:32 says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” That’s another frequently quoted verse, spoken by Christian and secular people alike. But it’s only the last half of a sentence.

The first half reads, “Then said Jesus to those Jews who believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;” Without the first half, the last half isn’t really true.

Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” And Isaiah 5:13 says, “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge…”

That helps explain why many believers live beneath God’s best for them. Something critically important is missing in their life.

Missing with many believers is the knowledge and understanding of who we are in Christ, and the authority we have been given through the indwelling Holy Spirit. If you don’t know you have it, you certainly won’t exercise it.

Then too, believing the wrong thing, trusting on faulty or false knowledge will also lead to not exercising the authority and power God has delegated to us. (That’s especially true in our speech.)

Some critical truths for believers to learn, to know, and to act on:

1. Greater things than Jesus did will we do.
2. As he is in the world, so are we.
3. Prayer is not begging God to do something he has told US to do, he has told us plainly to do certain things. Prayer is finding out what God wants prayed and praying that: his will.
4. Words are destructive or creative, therefore speak creatively. Speak life: command, declare, decree what God wants in the circumstances.
5. If you keep saying what you’ve got, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got.
6. You have an enemy stalking you, using stealth weapons. He disguises himself, of course.
7. Those include ignorance, doubt, unbelief, half-truths; believing lies about your identity, your ability, your assignment.

Scripture references:

1. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12 KJV)

2. “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” (I John 4:17)

3 (a). “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph. 5:17)

“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;” (Col. 1:9)

3 (b). “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:8)

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:20)

“And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:20)

Note: The Lord can’t confirm something that isn’t preached…

4. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Prov. 18:21)

“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:10)

5. See Number 4!

6. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (I Peter 5:8-9)

“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (II Cor. 2:11)

“And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” (II Cor. 11:14)

7. “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” (Mark 11:23)