As Jesus left the house, he was followed by two blind men crying out, “Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us!” When Jesus got home, the blind men went in with him. Jesus said to them, “Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why, yes, Master!”  He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” It happened.Matthew 9:27-29 MSG
When I was in middle school, my friend Rick and I loved watching the NBA. Our favorite player was Dr. J of the Philadelphia 76ers. Dr. J had a move where he took the ball in one hand and went under the backboard in the air, laying the ball in the basket on the other side. It was so smooth, it was like watching a ballet.
My friend Rick and I went out to my basketball hoop in my driveway one day to master that shot. After a few attempts, Rick had it down. (It wasn’t quite like the Dr., but close enough for us). I, on the other hand, kept missing – clanging the ball against the rim, and falling on the grass in a heap. In frustration I asked Rick, “How are you doing that?”
He said, “You just gotta believe, man!”
That story poignantly illustrates a level of frustration I have felt my whole life. I can practice, try to do everything right, and work hard – only to fall in a heap.
I believe Jesus asks me the same question he asks the blind men in the Scripture above, “Do you really believe I can do this?”
Christianity is not meant to be lived humanistically but spiritually. It is very exasperating to try to live a Christian life without faith in God doing the supernatural. Even quiet time spent reading the Bible and praying will fail to satisfy our soul’s thirst if we don’t have faith in God. The Scriptures describe this as having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5 NIV).
Maybe you, like me, need to overcome unbelief.
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Has unbelief corrupted your heart?
Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted.  Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good.Titus 1:15-16 NLT
I have not always seen the destructiveness of unbelief nor considered it a sin. It is easier to think of it just as an area in which I need to improve. But the apostle Paul, in his letter to Titus, warns us that there is a link between corruption and unbelief.
Titus 1:15-16 teaches us that unbelief corrupts our minds and consciences and will ultimately render us worthless in our efforts and endeavors. Unbelief is dangerous to my life because it makes me skeptical, cynical, and fatalistic. I think things like, “Why try? It is not going to work anyway.”
Unbelief makes me think God is not capable or doesn’t care. It also affects my relationships with family and friends. Instead of having vision for and inspiring those around me, I become a downer and a faith-stealer, sucking others into my hole of negativity.
Without faith in God, I end up relying on other humanistic “solutions” to life. Here are my top 3, and the effect each one has on my life.
I can see ways humanism and unbelief has corrupted me, shrinking my vision. For years, I have said I wanted to change the world. I’ve been surrounded by friends who also shared that vision. But then life happened to all of us. And, because our faith took hits, we have been left disappointed, discouraged, and disillusioned.
Consequently, our vision of changing the world has become a theory, and for many of us the desire to retire comfortably has taken its place. The truth is, our faith has been shipwrecked (1 Timothy 1:19 NIV), and we need to learn how to rebuild it.
3 steps to help you overcome unbelief
“How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy.  The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”  “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”  The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”Mark 9:21-24 NLT
In the Scripture above, Jesus wants to help a father with his son. However, the father has taught himself to cope, manage, and survive for so long with only humanistic means that though he wants to believe, he is struggling to have faith in the power of God. I can relate to this man, and also need help to overcome my unbelief. Here are 3 steps the Bible gives for those who are trying to rely on the power of faith over unbelief:
- Exercise (spiritually) daily
- Do things that intimidate you
- Stop retreating and start fighting
Step 1: Exercise (spiritually) daily
Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally. We’re banking on the living God, Savior of all men and women, especially believers.1 Timothy 4:7-10 MSG
The first step to overcoming unbelief is to exercise daily in our relationship with God. Faith is so difficult for us because it is spiritual. Changing things we can see is often much easier than changing spiritually.
When we work out physically, we can see the progress in muscle gain or weight loss. Exercising spiritually does not always show itself right away, but eventually it takes the form of us developing things like resilience, vision, discipline, or determination.
God tells us to spiritually exercise every day. That is why it is so important for me to pray, read my Bible, confess my sin, and live transparently no matter how I feel emotionally. The more I work on developing these spiritual tools the more my faith grows.
Step 2: Do things that intimidate you
Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?James 2:14 MSG
Since I grew up religious and have been a Christian for some time now, I can talk a good game. But, just talking about faith does not mean I have faith. Knowing about faith and having faith are two very different things.
The second chapter of the book of James clearly states that faith and actions have to go together. I have learned that the only way I can overcome unbelief is if I make decisions to do the things that scare, intimidate, and challenge me.
When I am unbelieving, I play it safe, don’t take risks, and seek the most comfortable way possible. If you and I want to grow in our faith, we have to challenge each other to take risks, do the hard things, and seek greatness rather than ease.
Step 3: Stop retreating and start fighting
Take, for example, the sons of Ephraim. Though they were all equipped warriors, each with weapons, when the battle began they retreated and ran away in fear.  They didn’t really believe the promises of God; they refused to trust him and move forward in faith.Psalm 78:9-10 TPT
What fight are you retreating from? As the sons of Ephraim in the scripture above illustrate, we can be equipped with all of the talents, technology, resources, and education the world has to offer, but if we retreat in fear instead of fighting, we will never win a battle.
My fear shows me how strong my faith really is. When my fear keeps me from making bold decisions, loving my family, and fighting for my friends, it is because I don’t really believe the promises of God.
I think all of us have battles in our lives that we would rather avoid. Avoiding our battles keeps our lives from moving forward in faith. The only way to overcome unbelief is to stop retreating and start fighting. Only when I start fighting, do I realize God’s promises in the Bible are true and reliable. And that no matter what the outcome of the fight, God is moving my life forward in faith.
A tiny amount of faith can change everything
When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, “Why couldn’t we throw it out?”  “Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.”Matthew 17:19-20 MSG
My quiet time with God cannot be measured by time spent or chapters read. Faith in God is what I am after. Faith is so potent, that just a tiny amount can change everything and enable us to tackle anything. So, we end as we began with Jesus’ question to us: “Do you really believe I can do this?”