The Power of Unbelief

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Matthew 13:53-58
53 When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. 54 He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? 55 “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 “And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

We encounter a very important issue here regarding our very own upbringing, experiences, and culture. In trying to understand the spiritual realm and more specifically the Kingdom of God, we first must recognize that at least some of it is going to challenge our belief system. Everything we have experienced and heard throughout our life colors our perspective of what should be so when we encounter what truly is, we are confronted with challenging our own beliefs or rejecting what we are experiencing.

I grew up in a very conservative church that never really talked about the spiritual realm. As I continue to study the scriptures and read about praying in tongues, the demonic, visions of angels, and more, I question, “Why didn’t I hear about this stuff as a kid?” Not too long ago I challenged my dad on these things and he simply told me, “Well, none of us have ever experienced anything like that.” I think this could be a reasonable excuse, except that the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

And after explaining the different gifts and their purposes he tells them:

31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.

We might not have experienced the power of God in our lives, but we certainly weren’t seeking it out, either.  As Christians, the majority of us at least say we believe everything the bible says to be true. A smaller majority actually does and a yet smaller (hopefully majority) lives as if they do believe what it says. Yet, we filter it through the lens of our upbringing instead of filtering it through the lens of just reading the Book for what it says and acting upon it. The people in Jesus’ hometown struggled with this. We know that even as a boy He was strong in the Scriptures and full of wisdom. Even though the snapshot we get of this is His teaching to the scholars in a synagogue in Jerusalem, it’s unlikely that He kept His mouth shut in His hometown. After all, He had to be “about His Father’s business.”

For the first 30 years of His life, Jesus was surrounded by the people of His hometown and they watched Him grow. They knew His family well; He was a son of the carpenter. He might have been seen as an exceptional kid but He wasn’t going house-to-house turning water into wine as a fundraiser for the school baseball team. When He returns empowered by the Holy Spirit, people simply cannot believe what He is doing. They clearly see the miracles He was performing, but they chose to view it through their past experiences instead of accepting a new experience. As adults, we struggle with this not just in the spiritual realm, but many aspects of our lives. A buddy of mine was just telling me how he started working for a company as the main tech guy and it amazed him how many people continue to do things the hard way just because, “this is how we have always done it.” We chuckle and sneer at printing documents to put in storage for record or doing math in our heads instead of on an excel spreadsheet, but this is exactly what Jesus’ hometown did and it is what we do. We continue coasting along doing what we have always done because we don’t know any better. When a better system comes around, we struggle not to change because we feel comfortable doing it the old way, even if it is more difficult and even detrimental.

Jesus was a revolutionary. He rocked the boat, broke out of the box, and unleashed heaven on earth. We are called to do the same, but we cannot do so if we are stuck in the “same-old, same-old.” While our background and experience gives us a great foundation by which we can relate to the world, we must be careful that it doesn’t skew our perception of God’s Kingdom.

I read a great book a few years ago that addresses this problem of how we read and interpret God’s Word. If you want to begin to view God’s Kingdom the way it really is instead of how you think it should be, I encourage you to read The Blue Parakeet. It will challenge you to break free from your culture and experience to read God’s Word on a whole different level. You might not like some of what it has to say, but it is necessary to help us grow and walk in the Kingdom.

The reason this is an important concept to understand and a problem to break free from is because of what we read in verse 58. If we constantly reject God’s truths because of what we think is the truth or because it doesn’t fit into our preconceived notions of how God’s Kingdom should operate, then we will never get to really experience the fullness of God’s power in our lives. Some people might wonder, “If God is so powerful, then how can we limit His power in our lives?” We see here the power of belief in performing miracles. It isn’t that we are limiting God, it is that we are limiting our experience of God in our lives.

He can do whatever He wants. We can see many times that regardless of the surrounding faith (or lack thereof) he did what He wanted to do for His glory. He wants to unleash heaven on earth through us; this is how He has chosen to save the world. He set the stage through Jesus and now He is calling us to follow Him. Are you struggling with believing the power of God? Ask Him to help your unbelief, just like the man in Mark 9 whose faith was lacking. Once we begin to believe God for what He says in His word, we will begin to see His Kingdom in our lives.

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