Jesus said to him, “All things are possible to him who believes." Mark 9:23
Jesus had just healed a young man who was possessed by a spirit that had made him mute, and when the spirit laid hold of him he was thrown to the ground and foamed at the mouth.
A common teaching proclaims that believers in Christ have the power to create miracles by simply believing hard enough. After all, “all things are possible to him who believes.” However, if a miracle does not occur, such as a fervent prayer to be healed from a painful disease, the result may be a weakening, or even the loss of, faith in God and the son whom He has sent.
The author of Ephesians seems to reinforce these words of Jesus.
What is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe? Ephesians 1:6
I once worked with an associate who thought he could make money at a casino by operating the power of believing. He argued, and rightfully so, I suggest that God had given him the gift of the Holy Spirit, which was dormant until he activated this precious gift by his faith in Christ. So, what was his error, and why did he not become rich overnight?
I suggest that we must believe in what is acceptable to God. Did God want him to gain wealth by gambling? I don’t think so.
Why, then, didn’t a woman with terminal cancer be healed of this gruesome disease when she prayed fervently to the Lord? Certainly, God wants His people to be whole and healthy. However, she continued to weaken until she died. I suggest she may not have understood the power of believing, and that is what I would like to discuss now.
We need to go to the Hebrew Scriptures to understand the biblical concept of believing. After all, Yeshua was a Jew, and all the authors of the New Testament were Jews who knew the Hebrew Scriptures intimately because the New Testament had not yet been written. The one exception was Luke, but he was a disciple of Paul (Phil 1:24) and he would have been approaching the knowledge of God from a Hebraic perspective.
One thing is certain. The Hebrew concept of believing does not involve the power of the mind, which is common in our western way of thinking. So, what is the Hebraic understanding of believing?
Three times we find in the New Testament a quotation from Genesis 15:6, so this Old Testament passage was certainly important to the Jewish New Testament authors. The direct quotation is identified by capital letters.
What does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Rom 4:3 citing Gen 15:6 (cf. Gal 3:6; James 2:23)
Do you know what Abraham was believing that made him righteous in God’s eyes? One thing is certain. It was not God’s promise of a Messiah, nor was it God’s promise of eternal life. Do you know what Abraham believed? Read the following passage carefully for the answer.
The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:1-6
Now it is your turn to ponder this passage before considering my thoughts that follow.
In what did Abraham believe?
When would God’s promise become a reality? (Caution: there are two answers)
How did Abraham experience the result of his believing?
Would God’s promise occur even if Abraham did not believe?
How did Abraham’s belief affect God’s promise?
I trust you have given these questions some serious thought. Abraham first believed God’s promise that his wife would bear him a son even though she was past the age of childbearing, which he was able to experience when Isaac was born. However, Abraham also believed God’s promise that he would have an abundance of descendants because God had told him to “look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them, so shall your descendants be” (Gen 15:5). Those descendants would come through Isaac because God had promised that “through Isaac your descendants shall be named” (Gen 21:12).
So, what is the relevance of Abraham’s believing something far beyond his lifetime (descendants too numerous to count)? The answer to this question is the key to understanding the Hebraic concept of believing, which will take us to the near sacrifice of Abraham’s son, Isaac, where God gave Abraham the following instructions.
Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering. Genesis 22:2
I once spoke with a woman, a Jew, who shared her agony with me over these words. How could a loving Father order the sacrifice of an innocent young man, which was, after all, a form of murder? Even more unsettling, why did Abraham willingly accept God’s commandment to kill his son?
What would be your answer to these heartbreaking questions asked by a kind woman who belonged to the community of God?
Now, stop and ask yourself, “What does Abraham’s willingness to obey God and sacrifice his son Isaac have to do with believing?” Do your best to answer this question before considering my thoughts that follow.
The Hebrew word for “believe” is אָמַן (aman). What is important is that this is an ACTION word. One does not believe in one’s mind but takes action that demonstrates the belief.
God had told Abraham that he would have a son whose descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and Abraham believed that promise, even when he was told to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham must have been fully convinced that what God had promised, an abundance of descendants, would somehow happen. One possibility is that Abraham believed in resurrection.
What, then, have we learned about “believing”?
We only believe if we are willing to demonstrate that belief.
We cannot believe anything we want to believe (such as healing, wealth, or deliverance). That would make us gods.
We can only believe in something that God has revealed, either in His Word or as the Holy Spirit “guides you into all the truth” (John 16:13). Whose truth? The truths that God reveals to His people.
Let me give you an example. When I was coming down with what appeared to be a serious case of the flu (before covid 19 raised its ugly head), I did not pray and ask for healing. Instead, I began by concentrating on the wonderful nature of God because I was humbled that He had allowed me to penetrate such a depth of meaning in Scripture. Then, as I continued to communicate in prayer, I explained to God that I was working on a biblical project (which He certainly would have known), and I asked Him if it was His will to make me whole so I could give my entire energy to the project that would benefit God’s people. Perhaps God simply wanted to hear my commitment, but my emerging flu symptoms disappeared.
This happened again over a period of several years. What I sensed as the beginning of a flu disappeared. However, once during this time, I came down with a bad case of the flu that disrupted my work for a couple of weeks. My response was to ponder the reason that God allowed this to happen, something that led to later blessings in my work, because I used this time of illness to ponder questions that I wanted to research.
How does this example demonstrate believing as an action word?
I did not expect God to make me whole, but I knew that was a possibility.
I revealed my heart that sincerely wanted to serve God through a specific biblical research and teaching project.
When the flu blossomed into a serious illness, I was not disappointed.
Instead, I found a way to turn my illness into a blessing.
Let me leave you with some important points for you to consider.
Do you know God’s promises in His Word that can affect your life today, and can you continue to believe in those promises even if times become very difficult?
How well do you know what is going to happen in God’s plans for mankind, even after the Great Tribulation and the Millennial Kingdom? Can you continue to stand on that understanding even if times become very difficult?
To learn more about God’s future promises, you may want to purchase on Amazon the 4-part series I have written on my research about the “remnant”. It is available from Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and Audible. The Kindle and Audible versions are synchronized. You can search on Amazon for “Anne Davis the Remnant” or click on the links below: