Lord, I Believe ... But
It’s the twentieth anniversary of my home team favorite Arizona Diamondbacks’ inaugural season, and it has made me relive the glory-filled season when they won the World Series. It was October of 2001, and the nation was still reeling from the terrible terrorist attacks that shook our country. The series seemed to be about a lot more than just baseball. It represented American resilience and perseverance. Most in the nation found themselves rooting for the New York Yankees to win what would surely be one of the most meaningful World Series in the city’s history. More than that, they were a team stacked with talented and high-caliber players like Derek Jeter and Roger Clemons, among many others.
The series came down to an exciting game-seven showdown in Phoenix. Curt Shilling and Randy Johnson, both Cy Young award-winning aces, each pitched for Arizona in the effort. Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, Arizona was down 2-1. Worse yet for Arizona fans, Yankees star reliever, Mariano Rivera would take the mound to attempt the save. Rivera had racked up 50 saves for the season, and five in the post-season. It was all but over for the D-backs.
And then, the unthinkable happened. Veteran Mark Grace gets a leadoff single to start the ninth. Then, a muffed bunt play puts two men on first and second with nobody out. Following a force out at third on the next play, Tony Womack singled to right field and moves across the tying run. It’s 2-2 with one out in the bottom of the ninth! Two batters later, Luis Gonzales singles to shallow left center, scoring the third and winning run for the Diamondbacks. The crowd explodes as Arizona notches its first national championship in a major professional sport. To get one, much less two runs, against arguably the greatest reliever of all time was unexpected and, for many, unbelievable. But, as they say, “seeing is believing.”
There are so many things in this life that we just can’t see unless and until they come to pass. We become so convinced that we know, based on our own understanding and assessment, what will or will not happen. We view circumstances in our finite understanding and figure that we will not believe the unexpected will happen . . . unless of course, it happens. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” we implicitly tell ourselves, even as we profess to belong to the God of miracles.
This isn’t anything new, however. Even in Jesus’s day, they struggled with believing. Indeed, even those closest to Jesus, who had spent lots of quality time with Him, had notable lapses in believing for a particular unexpected outcome. On a boat in a terrifying windstorm, Jesus’s disciples couldn’t believe that they were in no danger at all. That was because the One who commands the forces of nature hadn’t gone anywhere; He was right there with them—in the boat. And the storm that raged so severely, instilling fear in each of them, was no match for Jesus. A mere few words from the Master, and the storm was no more. (Mark 4:35-41.)
One of the clearest examples of a lack of faith took place immediately after Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. We sometimes refer to it as “the story of ‘doubting Thomas.’” Thomas hadn’t been with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to them after His resurrection. When the disciples tried to tell Thomas that Jesus had risen from the dead, he famously said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25.) Thomas’s words came back to convict him when, a week later, he found himself face to face with a risen Jesus.
It’s easy to read this account of Thomas’s lapse of faith and conclude that Thomas is not us and that we would never have doubted the resurrection. How could he have doubted anyway? After all, he was right there for nearly all of Jesus’s miracles. He saw Jesus’s power and perceived His divinity up close and personal. If that had been us, we insist, we would never have doubted. Our faith would’ve been perfect.
In reality, many of us walk far too often on the side of the doubting Thomas than the believing Thomas. We don’t believe that God will do an unexpected or miraculous thing in our situation because we just can’t envision it. We have so much knowledge and experience bricked up in our minds that we are able to “know” that God will not move in our particular circumstances. Some circumstances are just too out of the realm of God’s miraculous power, we think. In other words, we would have to see it in order to believe otherwise. We know that God is able but we tell ourselves that He won’t change our circumstances because, well . . . God just won’t do some things for us.
This, friends is not the God we serve. And this is not His word. We cannot know God’s divine plan in each specific situation affecting our lives, or how He will act. But we can know that He will act. He will act for His glory. And He will act on our behalf. Throughout His word, He tells us that we must have faith: “But without faith it is impossible to please [God]. . . [T]he just shall live by faith. . . . ‘[I]f you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’ . . . [T]he prayer of faith shall save the sick.” (Heb. 11:6(a), Hab. 2:4(b), Matt. 17:20, James 5:15.) God wouldn’t care about us having faith in Him if He didn’t intend to respond to that faith.
Perhaps there is one thing in your life, one troubling area, where you’ve asked God to intervene and haven’t seen any results. You’ve come to a place where you just can’t believe God for a breakthrough unless and until you’ve seen it. For Thomas, despite all the time with Jesus, the personal conversations, the seeing of miracles for others, he couldn’t have faith that Jesus had risen from the dead unless he saw it with his own eyes and experienced it with his own senses.
What one thing do you have to see with your own eyes before you will believe God for all things in your life?
What one thing do you have to see with your own eyes before you will believe God for all things in your life? Maybe it’s a loved one that you want so much to know Christ. Maybe it’s a physical infirmity or disease that you or a loved one has carried for too long. Maybe it’s a dream that has been in your heart for years and it seems no closer to becoming a reality than it did when you first had it. Each of us possesses those painful longings in our hearts that have driven us to conclude that unless we see it happen, it probably won’t and we probably shouldn’t have faith that God will answer us.
In those times, it should encourage us to remember that we can have faith not in a particular result or outcome—but in our God Himself. We can put our faith in Him, and at the same time, we can trust that He has our total good and best interest at heart. He wants the very best for us—He’s already proven that by sending Jesus to rescue us. We can be assured that He will always be true to His word. (Num. 23:19.) And He can be trusted with what He knows is the very best for us.
Finally, we can learn from the concerned father who brought his demon-possessed son to Christ to be healed. (See Mark 9.) After listening to the man explain the desperate condition of his son, Jesus told him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23.) At that point, the man tearfully answered, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24.) What did Jesus do in response? He cast out the demon from the young boy. What a loving and gracious Heavenly Father we serve! He recognizes our unbelief but is nonetheless willing to respond to the faith that we do have and that we do exercise in Him. Let’s start there. Let’s begin to exercise the measure of faith that we have presently, all the while seeking greater faith for our lives. Lord, we do believe, but help our unbelief!