When the LORD sent you from Kadesh Barnea, he said, “Go and take possession of the land I’m giving you.” But you rebelled against the word of the LORD your God. You didn’t believe him or obey him.  You’ve rebelled against the LORD as long as I’ve known you.
Deuteronomy 9:23-24 GW
Rebellion is what happens when we choose not to believe God. Deuteronomy 9:23-24 explains the principle. God fulfills a promise. Israel doesn’t believe him. Israel rebels against God.
Those last three sentences describe a recurring pattern of unbelief found in every book from Exodus to Numbers. Time and again, God fulfills a promise. Israel doesn’t believe him. Israel rebels against God.
What can we learn? When God fulfills a promise, and we don’t believe him, we rebel. In short, all rebellion against God is born from unbelief.
From Exodus to Numbers the Scriptures tell the story of Israel’s journey of faith. While many see the obvious sin and failure of Israel in these pages, those who look more deeply will learn a simple yet important lesson: Faith might seem easy, but in reality faith is hard.
Faith is hard because when we believe, we enter the spiritual world where the most consequential battles are fought. Progress here is even more difficult than progress in the physical world.
Israel faced this difficulty as they journeyed to the promised land. As they traveled, they found it physically demanding, which made believing hard. How could a great God be on their side, when things were so hard? Maybe God wasn’t so great after all?
Like many of us, the people of Israel wanted their promise fulfilled quickly and easily. Their problem and ours is that faith is neither quick nor easy, but requires focus (Hebrews 12:1-7 Voice), resilience (James 1:1-8 Voice), listening to the Word (Romans 10:17 NIV), and the conviction that what we see physically is not the ultimate reality (Hebrews 11:1 NAS).
Focus, resilience, listening, and conviction are the spiritual tools we need to grow our faith. Utilizing these tools is what makes faith hard. If we refuse to do this work, our faith will fail, we will stop believing God, and the end result will be rebellion.
So, the next time you experience persistent doubt, chronic unbelief, or a distrust of God that simmers below the surface of your heart, consider this spiritual condition to be dangerous. Over time it will choke out your capacity to see with the eyes of faith, be bold, or take risks.
Eventually, dreams about what could be will be replaced by fears of what might happen. Then in your final condition, the disappointment of living a Christian life without faith will result in cynicism, bitterness, and in your final state, rebellion.
Instead of allowing this pattern of unbelief to consume and possibly destroy your spiritual life, take time to do the hard work of building or even rebuilding your faith. Then you will be able to continue your faith journey and experience the promises God longs to give you.
This study is part three in a study series called “Believe.” View the others in the series:
- Believe: A Fascinating Journey
- Ya Gotta See Him Move
- What’s So Hard About Faith?
- The Limits of Unbelief