October 13, 2019

I Believe, Help My Unbelief

Pastor:
Passage: Ephesians 6:10
Service Type:
Well as we learned from our opening studies in the book of Ephesians, that the city of Ephesus was dominated by the worship of the false goddess Artemis and the cultic rituals associated with that worship. Now, I point that out to say this that the original readers of Paul's letter wouldn't have doubted for even a second the reality of spiritual warfare. They had been saved out of spiritual darkness that pervaded the city. And they would need absolutely no convincing of the reality of the cosmic powers and the spiritual forces of evil that Paul refers to here in Ephesians chapter six. Now if you notice, Paul does not try and convince them of the existence of these cosmic powers and the spiritual forces of evil. Read the text closely and you'll see he doesn't even spend a single word trying to convince them of the reality that, I'm afraid, many Christians today totally discount. And they discount that to their own detriment to their own harm.

So I asked myself, why didn't he try and convince them? Why didn't he try and build the case that spiritual warfare is a reality and that these evil powers exist. Why didn't he do that? You know why he didn't do that? He simply didn't have to because they lived in an atmosphere where they understood that these things were absolutely real. They were familiar with the reality behind his words. All the believers in Ephesus had been rescued out of the spiritual darkness that surrounded them by the Lord Jesus. And by the way, the same is true for every believer regardless of where they live or when they live, all believers, all Christians have been rescued from a state of spiritual darkness and spiritual death.

And as difficult as some of our studies in Daniel 10 were from the standpoint of the horrors that scripture exposed us to, albeit in a less visual way than what Daniel understood them. I hope that we look, learn from that, we've taken away from that, that we are convinced of the reality of spiritual warfare. And here's what I find interesting. The Bible doesn't shy away from this subject. Does it? It addresses it in a rather straightforward manner and not in a sensational manner at all. But it informs us that spiritual warfare is indeed a reality. And once we are made aware of it, and once we are made aware of God's provision for it, we have nothing to fear. Many times spiritual warfare and demonic activity is presented in such a way that I think some some people are trying to scare Christians, trying to scare believers. Should we have a healthy respect for those spiritual forces, those dark forces? Yes, but do not fear them. Why? "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." Do you believe that? We have nothing to fear.

The Bible makes it clear that we're engaged in a struggle not with flesh and blood, but with a powerful enemy who seeks to destroy. He can't destroy our souls. He can't drag you to hell. Okay? But you know what he can do? And many times what he is very effective at doing. He can ruin our effectiveness for Christ. The question is, do you believe that? Do you believe that? Do you believe that you have an enemy who would like nothing better than to destroy your effectiveness for Christ? He can't rob you of your salvation. He can't take your salvation away from you. You are safe in the hands of Christ. You're safe in the arms of Christ. But I say what he can do, he can ruin your effectiveness for Christ. And there are millions of believers who would give testimony to that very fact.

So that's kind of alarming news in one sense, but as God's children we have this assurance. The assurances that God has made provision for every one of his children to be protected from their enemy. And in order to protect us from the enemy and to live in the victory, not our victory. If you go out and try to win the fight on your own, you'll lose every time. But in order for us to live in the victory, won by the Lord Jesus Christ, we are commanded to be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Yet, even as we read Paul's words, we struggle to believe them. Don't we? Sounds good. Make a good poster. Maybe a motivational saying. Sounds wonderful, but much harder to live out.

We struggle with believing a couple of things I think. One, we struggle with believing sometimes that it's necessary for us to be strong in the Lord. And why is that? Because we overestimate ourselves, we overestimate our abilities, we overestimate our strength. We think way too highly of ourselves. We think we are much stronger than we are. We struggle to believe that we need to look the Lord strength because if we would admit that, it would also mean that we're admitting that we are what? We're weak. We're weak. We're not as strong as we think that we are. And weakness for many is seen to be a flaw. It seen to be a character defect that we don't like to admit. But the truth of the Bible is this: that the Bible teaches as a result of Adam and Eve's sin, we are weak and we are flawed. And we all need help in order to, as Paul teaches us later in this passage, to be able to stand in the evil day. What's the evil day? It's the day and age that we live in.

Or how about this: we struggle, we struggle with believing that God's power is available to us. Now, I don't mean that we doubt the totality of God's Word. We believe that God's Word is true. But what we struggle with is believing God meant those words for us. You know, the ordinary Christian. Those of us who are not famous, those of us who don't have 20,000 followers on Instagram or anywhere. Sure that power's available for people like John MacArthur or John Piper, Alistair Begg or Sinclair Ferguson or name the popular guy. Sure. I'm sure God's power is available for them. But when we read that God's power is available to us nobodies who live out here in the middle of the country we have some serious doubts about that. But know this: your doubt is robbing you of being strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. I said this last week, I will say it multiple times today, I'll probably say it again next week. You have to believe this is available to you. You have to believe that this is God's resource made available for you.

Perhaps you read Paul's words, and you have this overwhelming desire to experience their reality. But yet, what do we know from our daily experience? We know that we are indeed weak. We know that we are indeed flawed and you're sick and tired of your spiritual failures and you would do you do anything to be rid of that sinful habit that relentlessly clings to you. Have you been there? Are you there? But internally, externally you read Paul's words but internally you have this ongoing conversation, it goes something like this: who do you think you are? What makes you think for even a second, that a failure like you could be strong in the Lord? Listen, you've failed so many times if you actually believe this, you're going to set yourself up for perhaps your greatest failure yet. And are you sure you can live with that? So that voice says, Why don't you just move on? Do the best that you can. And God's a nice guy, he'll understand.

Sadly, many believers listen more to that voice of failure than they do to the voice of God revealed in the Word of God. And so they sacrifice, they live out their lives discouraged, distressed and defeated. And again, many believers can identify with the man who cried out to Jesus, "I believe, but help my unbelief." Beloved, I want you to know this and I want you to be encouraged by the knowledge that many, many of God's children have at one time or another struggled with unbelief. It is not the unforgivable sin. God does not write us off. When we struggle with unbelief. Say sounds good, sounds like preacher speak. Well, let me give you some Scriptures speak. Think of Thomas. You know, one of the Lord's twelve hand-picked apostles. Jesus chose him knowing beforehand that he would do what? Struggle with unbelief and do so in a very public way. How about Peter? Peter denied the Lord yet Jesus chose him as his disciple knowing what Peter would do.

But let's go back to Thomas for a moment. Do you remember what Thomas said when the other disciples told him that they had seen Jesus and that Jesus was alive? Remember what his response was? Well in John chapter 20 the other disciples said to Thomas, we have seen the Lord. But he said to them, unless I see in his hands, the mark of the nails, and placed my finger into the mark the nails and placed my hand into his side, I will never believe. So here we have the testimony of a man who was obviously discouraged. His world had come crashing down around him when the man that he had put his faith in had been crucified. But thankfully that's not the end of the story for Thomas. Eight days later the Scriptures tell us the disciples are gathered and Jesus appears to them. He greets them all and then he turns and he directly addresses Thomas. Jesus said to Thomas, "put your finger here and see my hands and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." What happened at that point? Thomas answered him "My Lord and my God." And Jesus said to him, now mark this, Jesus said to him "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Let's pay close attention to the last line there in verse 29. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." So what's your point? The point is this. Jesus makes it crystal clear that it is is possible to have faith in him, to believe in him without ever seeing him or without ever touching him. And for that person who says "well I believe in Jesus if I could see him, or if I could touch him", you know what? There is never enough proof or unbelief. Jesus says, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." There were those who had not seen him but yet they believed in him. There are those in this room who have not seen him but what? They have, you have believed in him. See? This is incredible news for us isn't it because Jesus returned back to heaven 2000 years ago. Therefore, it's possible for you to believe in Jesus and to receive the blessings of your belief in Jesus. And one of those blessings is this: you can be strong In the Lord and in the power of his might. I'll say it again. Do you believe it? You have a choice to make. You have a choice to make. Will you prepare yourself to live in the victory that Christ has won for you through the armor that Christ has proved for you or will you say nope, that's not for me, I'd rather be discouraged, I'd rather be depressed, I'd rather live a defeated life. The choice is up to you.

And I asked this question last week, how do you strengthen weak faith? Because that's really what we're dealing with here. How do we strengthen weak faith? How is this possible? As I said last week, faith comes by hearing and hearing by what? Seeing Jesus, touching Jesus? Not according to Jesus. Faith comes by the word of God, hearing the Word of God. Peter reminds us a very important truth. He wrote in 2 Peter 1 "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His Majesty." That almost sounds like Peters bragging but stick with him here. "For when we received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was born to him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I'm well pleased.' we ourselves heard this very voice born from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."

So what's the point here? The point is Peter writes to people like us who never laid eyes on Jesus. He writes to people like us who never touched Jesus like Peter had. He writes to people just like us who never shared a meal with Jesus like Peter did. He writes to people who've never saw the majesty of Jesus the way that Peter did. But what does he do? He assures us that none of those things are necessary in order for us to believe in Jesus. Why? Because in his own words he says that "we have the prophetic word." What is the prophetic word? Is it some guy on late night TV? Is it at a tent meeting? No, we have the prophetic word it's the scriptures. You have the prophetic word. It says "more fully confirmed, to which you would do well to" ignore. Is that what it says? "To pay attention."

So how can you be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might? By having faith that those words were not only written to you, but they were written for you. You can be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might by believing that Paul's words  are for you, the ordinary Christian, whose battles are anything but ordinary. By the way, you're not alone in your doubts or in your episodes of weak faith. The Bible provides us with numerous examples. Let me give you just one this morning. How about a man named Gideon? Gideon, for me, lays claim to the title of one of the all time great doubters in Scripture. Not Gideon, not of the Bible in the hotel room fame, but the one chosen by God to deliver his people from under the thumb of the Midianites. Talking Gideon of wet and dry fleece fame. And as soon as the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon he demonstrated his doubt, he demonstrated his unbelief.

The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, "The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor." It's an interesting greeting, isn't it? Well, here's how Gideon responded. He said, "Please, sir," just listen to what he says, "Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us?" Now I ask you are those words of a confident man or a doubting man? He doesn't seem to be too confident, does he? If, why, where. That's us isn't it? If, why, where. But then in verse 14, we read this "And the Lord turned to him [to Gideon] and said, 'Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?" On fact turn to Judges chapter six and look at verse 14 because I, I want you to see this I want you to make a note in your Bibles for this.

It's easy to read verse 14 of Judges 6 and misead it. What I mean by that is we can read it and completely missed the point. It is very possible for us to read that verse and think that the Lord is telling him to go and get the job done in your own strength. Gideon, strap on your sword and with your skill and with your courage, you go out there and you deliver the people of Israel from under the thumb of the Midianites. Well, after all he says "this might have yours", right? But Gideon was a farmer, he wasn't a fighter. Gideon, if Gideon would have interpreted these words the way that many people interpret he had be thinking whoa, I'm gonna die. Well, notice what the end of the verse says: "do not I send you?" See Gideon was commissioned by God and God sent him out with his might and with his power. That's the meaning behind the words "do not I send you".

Now let's think this through. Todd mentioned the spies. They came back and they gave that negative report and God gave them a negative report right? And we saw other times where Israel regretted some of their actions and said hey, let's go up and Moses warned them don't go up, God's not with you. God's not with you. See, we have to make sure that whatever we are attempting for God that we've been sent by God to do. How many people have crashed and burned because they took it upon themselves. They thought that God wanted them to do this, and God wasn't in it. But if God is in it, he goes with you. Okay.

Gideon, ever the doubter, continued to try and convince the Lord that He had the wrong guy. Getting said how can I save Israel? By the way, Gideon was asking the wrong question. Gideon wasn't going to save Israel. God was going to save Israel. Through Gideon. Gideon says the clan I come from is the weakest in our tribe, and guess what? I'm the weakest in my father's house. This guy had no self confidence at all did he? I wonder, was it just an excuse? I don't know. Let's go back this. He says the tribe I come from is the weakest, the clan I come from is the weakest in our tribe and I'm the weakest in my father's house. You know what? That's exactly why God picked him. Exactly why I God picked him. See, God is not looking for Goliaths to fight his battles. God does not need a Goliath to fight his battles. He needs Gideons. Why? So when the battle is fought and the battle is won, the glory goes to God and not to Goliath and not to us. God responds back "But I will be with you and you shall strike as one man." You'd think Gideon would be ready to go but no. He finally does assemble a band of soldiers and it's 32,000 strong. Now to put this in perspective, many commentators believe that the Midianites had 135,000 men that were available to them to fight against Israel. And Gideon comes up with 32,000. I don't know about you, but I don't like the odds. Okay? But God says to Gideon "the people with you," now notice what he says, "the people with you are too many for me." And what did God tell Gideon to do? I want you to send 22,000 of them home. He says go talk to them, if anybody's afraid to fight, send them back. Well, 22,000 of the 32,000 said I'm out of here. Well, God again tells Gideon, hey Gideon 10,000 is way too many. This time 9700 of the 10,000 are sent home. Gideon's left with only 300 men against 135,000. The odds are not getting in his favor, are they? Getting probably thought to himself, man, we're going to get slaughtered. I better make sure all my affairs are in order, because I'm probably not coming back. This is going to be my first battle and my last.

But guess what? The Midianites were defeated by only 300 men, not at the hand of Gideon, but at the hand of God. Say why or how? Because, despite the doubts of Gideon, despite the weakness of his faith in the end, he trusted God, which led him to obey God. He trusted in the strength of the Lord and in the strength of his might and God used Gideon despite his unbelief. And God has used a host of other believers despite a faith that many times was weak. God still used them and God work through them. See, Gideon learned what every child of God needs to learn: the battle belongs to the Lord. It's not our battle. And time and time again, the Scripture teaches us this very important truth that the battle belongs to the Lord.

Now, I doubt that there's anybody in the room that's not familiar with the account of David and Goliath. Believer and unbeliever alike we know the story. And we find the details in 1 Samuel 17. Let me just read you a few verses here. "And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David 'Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks?' And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, 'Come to me and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.'" Sounds pretty serious to me. And anybody that's somewhere between 9-11 feet tall, you better take serious.

"Then David said to the Philistine 'You come to me with a sword and with a spirit with a javelin but I come to you'" with the same? No. "but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. And this day the Lord will deliver you into my hand and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth." You see what David's saying there? Listen pal, not only are you going to meet your doom so are your buddies. Strong talk from a shepherd. Why? "That all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear." Here it is: "for the battle is the Lord's and He will give you into our hand." When I was reading through this last night, I couldn't help but think of the words of Lucky Ned Pepper saying to Rooster Cogburn in the movie "True Grit", the original the best one not that one with that Bridges character, the good one with John Wayne, Lucky Ned Pepper said to Rooster Cogburn, "I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man." You gotta go see the movie, maybe one of the best movies ever made. I think Goliath probably thought something similar. That's bold talk for a little shepherd boy. Big talk from a little feller.

But David's words came from his conviction. They came from his understanding that the battle belongs to the Lord. And so what did he do? He slung the sling. He let the rock fly and the stone slung by the little shepherd sunk into the giant's forehead and the giant dropped like the proverbial rock. What gave David such confidence? Was it the arrogance of youth? You know, one of the things that comes with age is a little bit of wisdom. Such as you don't climb a ladder 30 or 40 feet off the ground and think nothing's going to happen. It may happen. It's not the arrogance of youth it's not the brightness of youth. You know what it was? You know, David never mentioned in here the fact that he's killed a lion and he killed a bear. Oh man, if he lived today, it'd been Instagram'd, it'd been all over Facebook, social media. I killed a lion. I killed the bear. Look at me. He never mentions that does he? They tried to outfit him with Saul's armor and he said no way, I can't move in this stuff.

See, his confidence was in the God of Israel, not in himself. Do you honestly think that he thought that he was up to the challenge of taking on Goliath by himself? I don't know any young person who's that confident. See, he understood that the battle always belongs to the Lord. And therefore the Lord will supply the strength for every battle at which, now mark this, at which God's glory and reputation is at stake. Mark this: scripture says the battle belongs to the Lord. You know what that means? Since it's God's battle, he owns it. He's not looking for mercenaries to fight his battle. He owns it. It belongs to him. And guess what? He will not lose any battle that belongs to him. He will not lose a battle in which his glory is at stake. Since it is his battle, he cannot fail. He will not fail and all God's people said Amen.

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