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Do I Really Believe?

What does it mean to really believe? What does it mean to you to be a believer? Webster says that a believer is a person who professes absolute belief in something or a zealous supporter of a particular cause. Does that describe your walk with Jesus? Could someone who knows you describe you as one who professes absolute belief in Jesus or as one that is a zealous supporter of Him? To be zealous is to be marked by fervent partisanship for a person, a cause, or an ideal. Is that how someone looking in from the outside would describe you and your relationship to Christ? Let's look at what it really means to believe and how that should look in our daily lives.

Webster says to believe is to have a firm religious faith, to accept as true, genuine or real, to hold an opinion, to consider to be true or honest, to accept the word or evidence of, or to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something. Efficacy is the power to produce an effect. Efficacy is the most important word in the definition or at least the one that applies the best to what we are talking about here. Do we really believe that God has the power to produce the effect that He says He can produce? Do I really have a conviction that He is good and that He has the ability to do what He says He can do? That is what this all boils down to. Do I believe, do you believe, that God has the ability and the goodness to produce the effect that He says He can produce?

The word believe or believed is used 259 times in the Bible. 230 of these times are in the New Testament. That tells us that the New Testament is all about believing but I want us to look at the first time that the word is used.

When you search for believe in the Bible the first mention of the word is in.......

 Gen 15:6 (NLT)

6 And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.

The word in Hebrew there is .....aman (aw-man) which means to properly build up or support, to foster as a parent or nurse, to be firm or faithful, to trust or believe, to be true, to be certain, to be faithful of long continuance, to be steadfast, to be sure, to be verified, to be carried. It also means the support pillars around a door or to go to the right or to be at the right hand. That is very interesting to me. That word, aman, is translated once in the entire Old Testament as right. It is in this verse....

Isa 30:20-21 (NLT)

20 Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes.

21 Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.

What is the significance of going of going to the right or being at the right hand? It is always the place of honor. It is always the place of favor and of power. To be on the left is apostasy. To be on the left is to be in total unbelief. No one wanted to be seated at the left hand. The Bible tell us that Jesus is where right now? Of course, He's at the right hand of the Father. This translation as right in this verse is deeper that simply the right side. There is great significance that this word for absolute belief and confidence is in this verse and translated as going to the right. This speaks of the fact that we must have the confidence in the Lord to go whichever way He shows to go but to seek the way of honor, to seek the way of belief and not the way of unbelief. It is so interesting to me that this is the only time that this word is translated this way.

David Guzik's commentary on these verses says this..."When Judah was prosperous and comfortable, they wouldn't listen to God. Now, God has given them the bread of adversity and water of affliction, but they can hear God and be guided by Him again. It's always better to be uncomfortable and in tune with the Lord than to be comfortable and out of step with God."

How firm is your faith when you are uncomfortable? It's so easy to say, "Oh yes, I'm firm in my faith, I absolutely believe that God is able to do what He says He can do" when things are going well but how about when they are not? That is when the true believers shine. What the world sees when you are under pressure is what they will remember. I want to be all those things that we described a believer as being when times are tough. That is a witness that those around you will remember. Let's go back to the verses in Genesis...

In Gen 15:6 we see that Abram believed God. He has confidence that God can produce the effect that He had promised He would produce.

We haven't really talked much about verb tenses when we have studied these words but it is important that we do that here. I'm just scratching the surface of all these verb tenses in my own study of Hebrew and there are several tenses that are used and they are somewhat complicated. I'll try to explain the use of the tense in this case as best I understand it. The verb tense used in this instance is one of a completed action. It was not that Abram was believing or that he was going to believe or that he was thinking about believing or that he was about to believe, it is that he has already completed the believing. What does the verse say again?

 

And Abram BELIEVED the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.

 

It was not something that he intended to do or was thinking about doing that the Lord credited to him a righteousness. It was the completed action. Abram believed. Abram trusted, he was certain, he was steadfast, he was faithful of long continuance. It was a completed action.

 

If you remember where we are in Genesis 15, Abram and God are having a discussion about Abram's decedents. The descendants that Abram wants so badly and that God had already promised him, but have not shown up yet. Way back in chapter 12, God told Abram that he was going to make him into a great nation.

Gen 12:1-3 (NIV)

The Call of Abram

1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.

2 "I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you."

God again promises Abram he will have many children in Gen 13 .....

 Gen 13:14-16 (NIV)

14 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring F64 forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you."

So now here in chapter 15 when God says... 

 Gen 15:2-3 (NIV)

2 But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD , what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."

About 11 years have passed from the time that God first spoke about this to Abram in Gen 12 and where we are now in Gen 15. Has God ever promised you something that you haven't seen yet? Can you think of a time that you feel like God let you down? Has there been a time that your absolute belief seems to fade? Has there been a time that you weren't so sure that God was able to produce the effect that He said He could produce? Sure there has. So what do we do when that happens? We do what Abram did, we go to God.

There is something worth noting here about how Abram speaks to God. Abram was human. He was tired of waiting for what had been promised and he wasn't afraid to be bold and honest before the Lord. Instead of trying to hide his true feelings, he simply lays them out before the Lord. Is he in unbelief or is he doubting God? Look at the passage again. Is this a case of Abram not believing God or is a case of him having doubt? He is having doubt but is that always a bad thing to doubt God? It all depends on the root of the doubt. There is a huge difference between doubt that denies God's promises and a doubt which desires God's promises. There is a difference between doubt and unbelief. He is not unbelieving; he is desiring what God has promised him in his heart.

Webster says doubt is a state of affairs giving rise to uncertainty, hesitation or suspense, a lack of confidence or to have uncertainty that interferes with decision making. Do you have uncertainty that is interfering with your decision making today? Take it to God.

Webster says that unbelief is incredulity or skepticism especially in matters of religious faith. Incredulity is the very act of being unwilling to admit or accept what is offered as true.

Let's look back at our definition of believe... to have a firm religious faith, to accept as true, genuine or real, to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something, to hold an opinion, to consider to be true or honest, to accept the word or evidence of. Can you doubt and still believe? I didn't ask should you, that is an entirely different lesson. Can you doubt and still believe? Can you doubt and still have a firm faith? What's the first verse that pops into your head when I say the word faith?

Heb 11:1-2 (NIV)

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for.

This is what Abram got credit for. He simply believed through his doubt. He never stopped believing. Abram's belief was a completed action. Abram believed and now he's looking to God to strengthen his faith so he can continue in the completed action and he goes boldly before the throne of God and says what he means. He says what is on his heart. God already knows your heart. Did you know that? You can't hide your feelings from Him so why even try? Over and over again we fool ourselves by lying to ourselves and to God. Matter of fact, I'd put forth the premise that lying to yourself is lying to God. Be real with God!!! He understands and He expects it. He expects it because we are in covenant with Him. Being honest with your covenant partner is what is expected. Being honest with your covenant partner is part of what the covenant is built on. It's required.

It is OK to doubt but it is not OK to be in unbelief. See the difference? God knows where you are. He knows how you feel. You can not fool God. You can only fool yourself or some other person around you. You can not fool God. Neither doubt nor unbelief would be something that I would recommend to you but one is much better than the other. Search yourself today and truly find out what those feelings are. Is it doubt or is it unbelief? Trust me on this point, God already knows.

Heb 4:13-16 (NLT)

13Nothing in all creation can hide from him. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes. This is the God to whom we must explain all that we have done.  14That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him. 15This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. 16So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.

This is what God expects from us. This is an integral part of that covenant relationship. We can go to our covenant partner boldly without shame, without guilt, without worry for He already knows what is in our heart before we speak a word. Anything less is a lie. Anything else is a lie!!!

So in chapter Gen 12, God gives Abram a promise. He reminds him of that promise in Gen 13 and then here we are in Gen 15 and the promise is still hanging out there unfulfilled. Abram's issue here is the same as ours is most of the time. God has promised us something with such certainty that to us it means that it is going to happen right now. But as it was with Abram, the promise might be a while coming. Matter of fact, the promise might actually be in the waiting. It was 15 years from the time that God promised Abram he would have a son until he actually had one. Are you willing to wait? That breaks my heart sometimes. I hate to wait. I hate it! God doesn't care. God has a plan in the waiting. Are you willing to wait?

The Lord had already told Abram exactly what was going to happen. Abram was not going to have to give everything to a servant in his house. He was going to be the father of many nations but obviously Abram has forgotten.

Gen 15:2-3 (NIV)

2 But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD , what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."

You ever forget what God told you only a couple of chapters back? Me too! God not only tells Abram here what He has already told him twice but He gives him an example that Abram surely can not forget...

Gen 15:4-5 (NIV)

4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." 5 He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars-if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." 7 He also said to him, "I am the LORD , who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it."

Wouldn't that make an impression on you? Is that not a fantastic analogy? Is that not the supreme example? It obviously has a great affect on Abram because...

Gen 15:6 (NIV)

6 Abram believed the LORD , and he credited it to him as righteousness.

If you believe, if you TRULY believe, if your believing is a completed action, if you have truly believed, then God will do the same for you. It will be credited to you just the way it was credited to Abram. But do you believe? Abram obviously did. There can be no debate about that. The verse doesn't say, "If Abram had ONLY believed then God would have credited it to him as righteousness." It says Abram believed and it was credited to him as righteousness.

Let's look at....

Romans 4:1-5 (NLT)

1Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What were his experiences concerning this question of being saved by faith? 2Was it because of his good deeds that God accepted him? If so, he would have had something to boast about. But from God's point of view Abraham had no basis at all for pride. 3For the Scriptures tell us, "Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous." 4When people work, their wages are not a gift. Workers earn what they receive. 5But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work.

Romans 4:18-24 (NLT)

18When God promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations, Abraham believed him. God had also said, "Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars," even though such a promise seemed utterly impossible! 19And Abraham's faith did not weaken, even though he knew that he was too old to be a father at the age of one hundred and that Sarah, his wife, had never been able to have children. 20Abraham never wavered in believing God's promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21He was absolutely convinced that God was able to do anything he promised. 22And because of Abraham's faith, God declared him to be righteous. 23Now this wonderful truth—that God declared him to be righteous—wasn't just for Abraham's benefit. 24It was for us, too, assuring us that God will also declare us to be righteous if we believe in God, who brought Jesus our Lord back from the dead.

Do any of these verses say that Abram ever stopped believing? No! But then what are we to do with the next verse in Genesis directly following Abram believing?

Gen 15:8 (NIV)

8 But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD , how can I know that I will gain possession of it?"

He's forgotten again and this time he didn't forget in a couple of chapters, he forgot in 30 seconds!!! This is not unbelief. This is doubt. Abram is still a man that has doubts. He still has questions. Just like us sometimes, the absolute belief wears off in an instant and it's really easy for us to stand back and look at this and say, "God is right there with him. They are carrying on a conversation just like you and I are right now. How can he even think about doubting something that the Lord is telling him?" Well, do we not do the same thing? Sure we do. God is right here, right now. God is speaking to us right here, right now. Are we going to believe and have it credited to us or are we not? It's OK to doubt. It is not OK to be in unbelief. What got credited, what God honored was that he believed. The action of believing was complete. Where are you today? Are you sure of what you cannot see or are you doubting or unbelieving?

Heb 11:1-2 (MSG)

1The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. 2The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

So I ask you again...are you trusting in what you cannot see or are you in doubt or unbelief? Are you walking through life with a completed action or are you still rolling it around in your head? Is Christ worth believing or is He not? Is God's Word worth believing or is it not?

In Do I REally Believe Part 2, we will explore beliving in the New Testament and see how those verses apply to our very lives.

 

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