Prayer, Doubt, and Unbelief- What’s the Difference and WHY?

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Wow, THAT post title sounds encouraging, huh? What I want to talk about is the DIFFERENCE between doubt and unbelief- and WHY it matters.

I’d like to share a story about doubt and one about unbelief. Then I’d like to challenge you to a special prayer…

Read the story in Matthew 14 of Peter walking on the water (thanks to Biblegateway.com):

23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.

25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.

26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.

27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

In this story, Peter had the awesome opportunity to participate in the supernatural. I mean, how many folks get to walk on water? He was doing fine while he was going to Jesus (as in, steering himself in that direction by looking toward Jesus). Then he looked around and saw the wind boisterous- and became afraid. He doubted when he remembered how bad the weather actually was. The DOUBT came from outside him.

Doubt comes from outside. (Remember the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. The serpent sowed doubt by saying, “Hath God truly said…”. It wasn’t Adam and Eve’s idea- it came from an enemy…). The word doubt here is distazo– which literally means dividing your sight- taking your eyes off the thing you should be looking at. It is the result of an enemy from the outside trying to distract you!

When Peter doubted, Jesus fussed at him. Peter was not rejected for his doubt but he certainly was chastised.

Want to see a DIFFERENT reaction from Jesus? Let’s read the story about unbelief in Mark 9 (thanks to Biblegateway.com, again):

And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.

21 And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.

22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.

23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.

26 And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.

27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.

Jesus didn’t chastise the poor father at all- He just casted out the evil spirit and healed the boy. The father was trying- he believed but his belief was apistia- incomplete faith. The father’s belief was immature.

I think most of us probably fit in the UNBELIEF category at times. In this we are compassed by a great cloud of witnesses (there’s also one of those for the times our faith is spot-on, see Hebrews 11). Take a look at  Psalms 10, 22, and 74- and the whole book of Job for examples of WHY GOD- incomplete faith. God doesn’t fuss at us in these times- it is our job to turn to Him with our honest emotions (anxiety, anger, sadness, fear) and ask for His help and mercy.

So, WHY am I bringing this up?

I ran into the writings of a post-modern so-called theologian, Peter Rollins, who states it is his job to sow doubt into people’s faith. In fact, he says his “Omega Group” will help people loose their Christian faith in just 12 sessions. Ugh. Why would that be pleasing to God? (Well, what does it matter to him, if as he says in one of his stories, there is no God?)

On the other, there are honest wrestlers with faith. You could say that wrestling with faith is unbelief because it is incomplete faith that is longing for answers. That is a good thing. God gave us wrestling minds. So keep wrestling and keep seeking God’s answers. The key is the seeking God and His answers. (Here’s a blog that, in my opinion does some honest wrestling.)

Here’s the prayer project. Ask God to help you grow in your faith, to give you wisdom and understanding, to help your unbelief. Ask Him to protect you from the wiles of the evil one and to help you keep your eyes on Him at all times.

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