The How of Believing
How often did GOD choose a man with natural leadership ability to accomplish HIS purpose? Occasionally, but usually HE chose those least likely to succeed. Why? Simply to show HIS own omnipotent power.
1 CORINTHIANS 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.
Too often GOD's people don't look to see GOD at work in their lives because they think that they lack some special ability. Perhaps they've been taught that GOD only works with specially gifted people or those that have developed some special prowess. They never really arrive at believing GOD because their approach is all wrong. More than not they strive to arrive at some spiritual plateau where they think GOD works. Often is the case in scripture, and in life, where GOD is simply teaching us that it is HE and HIS will that determines events, not man nor his abilities.
ROMANS 9:16-17 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
Not understanding the will or GOD, we have been anemic in our efforts to believe the word of GOD. The most important thing to understand about believing is that it is a reaction, not an action, as is normally taught. We have tried to imitate the power associated with believing, thinking that somehow by our own thoughts or words we could cause things to happen. Frustration and discontent is usually the fruit of our labor.
Logically, in order for us to believe, we must first have something to believe. Then we react by either believing or not believing. Here is a simple illustration:
Suppose I told you a piano was falling out of the sky straight for your head. If you believed me, your corresponding reaction to my words would be to move. If the piano missed you, you would receive the benefit of believing. On the other hand let's say I told you a piano was falling straight for your head but you did not believe me. In this case you would react by not moving. If I were indeed right and it did land on your head, that would be your consequence for not believing what I had told you.
This all seems simple enough and yet we find many who think that if they just don't believe the piano is going to hit them, it won't. Or they think that maybe they can just believe the piano will land on my head instead! We hear them saying things like, "I'm believing for this or for that". I respond by asking, "Who or what are you believing?" It is extremely important to understand that before you can believe you must first have something to believe.
Let's take the example where someone tells us that they are believing for a new car. So we ask them, "Who or what are you believing? Did someone tell you that you were going to get a new car?" And they respond by declaring, "No, I'm just believing for it". Then they go to verses like 3 JOHN 2, and exclaim with some sense of reassurance; "See, GOD wants me to prosper. Having a new car is definitely prospering so I'm believing for a new car. I've already picked it out. Got the picture on my refrigerator cause that helps. Believing images, you know". They think that everything in life is theirs if they will just think about it long enough, hard enough or often enough.
Although they may come up with portions of scripture that seem to support this concept, it's not only non-scriptural, but in truth unscriptural!
We cannot believe until we first have something to believe! That simple formula for believing is patterned throughout the Bible, as well as all of life. It's really the only sensible formula that can work. The idea that we grow to some point or place where we can make things happen or not happen by our thoughts is no more than wishful imagination.
The simple reason people don't get results from their so-called believing is because they never had anything to believe in the first place. They pull scripture out of context and claim such and such is the will of GOD for their lives and all they have to do to get it is believe. As they haven't yet got it, they think they must not be believing, so they go to the ends of the earth to be able to develop some mystical power called Believing. They change what they eat, what they say, what they think, where they live. They don't realize that the problem doesn't lie in their believing but in that they don't understand the How of Believing.
Pick almost any incident of believing in the Bible and you will see simple obedience to GOD's command. They are not in some weird state of meditation, thinking to cause something to happen. They are simply believing by obeying GOD's instructions.
Let's briefly look at a few here. Check out others for yourself and this truth will be obvious.
ROMANS 4:20-21 He [Abram] staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith [believing], giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he [GOD] had promised, he was able also to perform.
GOD had told Abram (so was his name then), when he was about 86 years old that he would finally have a son to be his heir. Yet he was 100 years old before that heir was born. Even so, as we just read in ROMANS, he "staggered not at the promise of GOD", was "strong in believing", and was "fully persuaded"! Did it take Abram 10 to 15 years to get his believing together? Did Abram have to do something to make himself a great believer so that this heir could be born?
I think GOD is pretty explicit on what kind of believer Abram already was. He was "strong in believing"! It didn't take him 10 or 15 years to be able to believe GOD. At the very time of the original promise in GENESIS 15 the Bible says, "and he Abram believed in the LORD and HE counted it to him for righteousness" (GENESIS 16:6).
Again, the simple truth that will so beautifully unfold to us as we study this record is that before one can believe he must first have something to believe. GOD was not waiting for Abraham or his wife Sarah to get their act together. They did not have to "raise the temperature of their believing" for this heir to be born. The child would be born when and by whom GOD had already determined.
We know from GENESIS 12 that the LORD had told Abram to leave his father's house and go to the Promised Land. In verses 2 and 3 of that chapter, GOD indicates that Abram will have a family where now at age 75 he doesn't. We have no reason to believe that GOD has thus far promised this man any more, only that someday he will have progeny and that progeny will become a great blessing.
So, in verse 4 he departed, "As the LORD had spoken unto him". Abram first heard, then believing what he had heard he reacted by departing. That is the simple formula for believing which is repeated throughout scripture.
Then in GENESIS 13, Abram is promised his seed will be multiplied and that he should walk through the land. So, he "removed his tent", and moved out. Again, having heard additional promises from GOD, he reacted by believing.
Now, in GENESIS 15 GOD tells Abram that "out of thine own bowels" thy son shall come forth. When? GOD doesn't say and Abram doesn't know. But Sarai his wife persuades him to get her servant girl pregnant, so he does. Now think about it. Is there any reason that Abram should not think that this son whom his servant Hagar bare to him, from his own bowels, is not the heir GOD had promised? None at all! This son, Ishmael, was qualified to be the promised heir in every revealed category. So far, everything which GOD had promised Abram that his heir was to be, Ishmael filled the bill. Every point except the next one, the final one. But thus far, Abram seems to be doing a pretty good job of believing God, don't you think? There is no hint, no indication he needs to grow in his believing.
Then at last, in chapter 17, GOD brings Abraham's wife Sarai into the picture, changing her name to Sarah. Here, for the first time, GOD reveals to Abraham that it is indeed his wife Sarah who shall bare the promised son, not Hagar. And now GOD speaks of when:
GENESIS 17:21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
Now Abram has heard, so he can believe. And does he?
GENESIS 21:1-5 And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him. And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.
The fulfillment of GOD's promise did not hinge upon the mental powers of this man, for no mention is made of it! Rather, it was "as the LORD had spoken", "as the LORD had willed".
Pick any record where someone believed and you will see that they first had something to believe. Sure, along with the record we may find them in other activities, like Elisha pacing the floor in 2 KINGS 4:35. But before we conjure up some fable that they were focusing their mental powers or such, we had better be able to document it, not between the lines, but rather word for word from the Bible. But neither they nor we can! Believe me, I've tried!
How about the popular record in MARK 3, where Yeshua is healing the man with the withered hand? Is there any indication that this man, in need of healing, has been building his believing in any way? None! Does our Lord tell him to focus on the thing desired? Nothing like it! Did Yeshua tell this man to just believe the word? No, our Lord simply and specifically gives this man GOD's will in the situation, "stretch forth thine hand"! This man will now react by believing what Yeshua told him and stretch it forth, or not believe and remain a cripple. The simple key once again is that he had something to believe.
As we look at ACTS 3 we find a cripple who had been setting at the temple awaiting healing for perhaps many years.
ACTS 3:2 And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;
Why had he not been healed all those years? We can't know for sure, but today, this day, a door was going to open for him and he was going to get up and walk through it.
ACTS 3:3-8 …[the lame man] seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and anklebones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.
He praised GOD! He was on that side of the door, the faith side; the side wherein is deliverance, the side from which there is peace, the side from which true praise is given!
ACTS 3:9-10 And all the people saw him walking and praising God: And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.
I wouldn't be surprised if the onlookers took great interest in exactly which gate it was. Perhaps they supposed that there was some special power in that gate. And no doubt they wanted the details of precisely what was said, thinking that the exact words of Peter must carry some special power. Perhaps it was in the way Peter held out his hand that healed this man? Was his palm up to GOD or down on Satan? Silly questions all of them, and yet not so unlike the ones we so often hear from would be believers today. But to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, a further lesson is here being taught.
ACTS 3:11-13, 16 And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering.
And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham . . .hath made this man strong…
"The GOD of Abraham!" He wasn't healed because Peter or John were so spiritual or tapped in. All this cripple needed was a specific promise from GOD so that he could have something to believe. He got it from the apostle Peter, "rise up and walk!" In order to believe we must first have something to believe.
One of the greatest records of believing we have is Moses parting the Red Sea. Remember, GOD's will is always good, and acceptable, and perfect, but often times it's only acceptable to those who walk by faith. When GOD told Moses where to lead the children of Israel, only faith would hear it! With a wilderness on one side, a wall of cliffs on another, Pharaoh bearing down on another, and the Red Sea on the fourth, this place would surely be their doom. But when the LORD directs, HIS purposes are always perfect!
EXODUS 14:1-4 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.
And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.
"And they did so!" Moses, Pharaoh, the children of Israel and the Egyptians, all did as the LORD had spoken. Some may have thought they were working out their own will, but the LORD was working out HIS, "according to HIS OWN purpose"!
EXODUS 14:10-12 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.
And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
Not much faith here! They were blown about like autumn leaves. Only one thing could surely be said of those Israelites, they understood not the will of the LORD. But Moses did, and Moses believed!
EXODUS 14:13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
"Fear not!" Let's not be captivated by the cloud of fear that sometimes descends upon us. It was once proclaimed that "We have nothing to fear but fear itself". Many times we just have to steel our minds and then wait for GOD's timing by standing still in GOD's will.
ISAIAH 40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
It's impossible to wait on the Lord when we're running from (or to) the world. However, if we "wait on the LORD", only then we will see the "salvation of the LORD"!
Moses attempted to calm the terrified crowd:
EXODUS 14:14-16 The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: but lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
Now again Moses had something to believe! He could have stood over that sea for a thousand years and it never would have parted, regardless of how he pictured it, thought about it, or spoke to it. There is no power in the mind, only in the word of GOD. But finally Moses had heard it, and now he could believe it. GOD did not tell him to stay his mind, or think positive, but simply "stretch out thine hand" and divide it.
EXODUS 14:21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
Sometimes GOD can be pretty dramatic. We would do well to remember GOD as the Creator of all. What kind of an imagination does it take to make a beautiful sunset? How about making an eagle to soar above the clouds; or what kind of mind does GOD have in order to make an infant laugh as it does; or a kitten play? Look around you and you will see a Creator with incomprehensible abilities. Look into the Bible and you will begin to understand HIM.
So Moses believed GOD and all Israel was saved. Howbeit, HE had made no such promise unto Pharaoh. HE never told Pharaoh to go across like HE had told Moses. That didn't stop this mighty Pharaoh though. He had great confidence, he was totally committed to his cause. He no doubt thought he could accomplish anything if he just put his mind to it.
EXODUS 14:23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
Unfortunately for Pharaoh he didn't have GOD's promise; consequently he was walking by his senses when he commanded his armies to cross the Red Sea after the Israelites. The result was fatal to him and his men. We should never take the will of GOD for another person, and assume that it's the will of GOD for us. Instead, "wait for the promise of the Father".
EXODUS 14:30-31; 15:1 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore. And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses…Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
Only then can we truly sing! Only after by faith, we have waited, obeyed, and seen the salvation of the LORD can we truly sing.
GOD would have us on the faith side of the sea, the side where there is peace, joy and fulfillment. Sometimes it may appear to the senses that we are in the most frustrating and hopeless situation, as were the entangled children of Israel. However, the will of GOD is good and acceptable and perfect. As we walk by faith and not by sight, GOD's goodness will come to pass in our lives (ROMANS 8:28).
HEBREWS 11 gives us record after record where men, women, and nations believed according to that which was spoken. How wonderfully already in the first verse, GOD is spelling out the essence of faith.
HEBREWS 11:1 Now faith is the substance [foundation] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
We hope for many things, but what foundation do we have for these hopes? The foundation for Abram's hope was "according to that which was spoken" by GOD (ROMANS 4:18). He hoped for what GOD had promised him. That was his believing. Likewise, that was the hope of these believers listed in HEBREWS 11.
And what is our hope? When someone tells us that happiness and fulfillment come with winning the lottery, do we react by buying his ticket and hope to win? When another tells us that if we want the good life, all we need to do is believe in ourselves, do we? Or do we as Paul did:
COLOSSIANS 3:1 …seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Or even as our Lord Himself taught?
MATTHEW 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.