Believe it or Not

Praying til Pentecost Day 17

"And they went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either." Mark 16: 13 (Luke 24:33-35)

When we moved to Long Island, New York in 1960 my father made sure we got off "The Island" drove often into Manhattan to see the sights of "The City." This is what the people in the area called New York City. You didn't have to be any more specific than that. Everyone knew what you meant when you said you were going to "The City."

I went to school with friends on Long Island who had lived in the metropolitian New York area all their lives, and still had not been to "The City." I will always be grateful that Dad wouldn't let us cocoon up and hide from one of the more intimidating cities of the world. He generated in us a spirit of adventure that still remains in me today.

We hit the hot spots on our first few trips to New York City. This included the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Trinity Church, Battery Park, Broadway, Time Square, Macy's, Central Park, Grand Central Station, Madison Square Garden, and many other tourist destinations. One of the visits that appealed to me the most as a young boy was one that took us to "Ripley's Believe it or Not" Museum. WOW! I could have stayed there for days. It was an incredible menagerie of man made cons and unusual natural discoveries. It was sensory overload. Even seeing these things with my own eyes, I struggled with unbelief. I had never seen anything like it. It was way out of my range of reference and personal experience. The proof was set before me, and I had a choice. Just like Ripley said, "Believe it or Not!"

Mark's Gospel account is a fast read. He writes with the heart of a breathless sprinter gasping and grasping for the finish line. He is intent on cutting out the non-essentials and one of his favorite words is "IMMEDIATELY."

With this in mind it is important to notice that Mark places huge importance on the issue of belief. This is the keystone to citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Every person must hear the Word of God, and make a personal response to it. Christianity is just one generation away from extinction, if the story of salvation is not passed down from one generation to another. Each person who hears the story of Jesus must choose to accept or reject His message. Those who hear it regularly and reject Him often do not deserve another chance to hear it while there remain so many around the world who have never heard the story once.

One of the most stunning passages of Scripture is reported by him. He quotes Jesus after he encountered unbelief from the people in his boyhood home of Nazareth. "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.' And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief." (Mark 6:4-6)

Both Mark and Luke report that "The Eleven" were guilty of unbelief...TWICE. They had heard from the women who had met with Jesus at the empty tomb, and they had received a report from the couple who had been met by Him on the road to Emmaus. Jesus had given them two direct command s from reliable messengers to get their show on the road and meet Him in Galilee. He promised them that He would meet them there, but they were going to have to get moving if they wanted to get in touch with Him again. Their response had been unbelief on both occasions.

From Mark's earlier account (Mark 6:4-6) it is clear that Jesus does not consider healing people to be a great work. The King James Version uses this term for miracle, and goes on to remark that Jesus "marveled" at their unbelief. What a statement! The people had no problem accepting His healing power over their sickness. They just could not believe that a carpenter's son could be The Messiah. They had seen with their own eyes what Jesus could do. They just would not give Him their hearts.

The same remains true today. Very few people in this world will turn down prayers to God on their behalf. They are more than willing to receive the benefits that might come their way. This is called having their bases covered. There may be a God. There may not be a God. So why not give the "Man Upstairs" a chance to throw a little something their way. Prayers of healing are answered all the time, for those who are believers and those who are not. This is a phenomenon of God's grace that He has set in place and is an expression of His Sovereignty. The healing is just not considered to be a great work or a miracle by God. It is belief that is the greatest work that is done in the life of a person.

Initial belief in Jesus is a life-saving event. Continuing to place trust and belief in Jesus with a daily walk with Him is a life-changing process. One of my heroes of faith is "Wild Bill" Stafford from Chattanooga, Tennessee. He always puts this idea of belief down on the bottom shelf where I can reach it. Here is one of my favorite quotes from this great man of God.

  • "A glance at Jesus will save you, but a gaze at Jesus will sanctify you." Bill Stafford.

When the Risen Christ walked on earth among His disciples for 40 days after the resurrection, He was teaching them about the Kingdom of heaven. His Presence would be provided to them with the gift of The Promise. To get in on what God had for them they were going to have to learn to obey the first time they heard God speak to to them. Unbelief always hinders the greatest work the Spirit of God can do in the life of a believer.

Quote of the Day: "Is Jesus Christ saying to you, 'My child, when will you believe what I say?' Is there a particular problem in your life that has made you become slow of heart to believe? Do not let the stupidity grow. Seek what the Word of God has to say about it. Oh, there is such a need for people who will search the Bible and learn what God is saying to them!" Oswald Chambers