Overcoming Unbelief, Part 1
Since the beginning of 2020, I (and many others) believe God is accelerating His Church for mission and harvest. The Holy Spirit is igniting fresh vision and passion in the hearts of God’s people for revival and awakening. The Holy Spirit, who is our guarantee of the inheritance that we have in Christ, is affirming our yes and amen in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20-22). All of God’s promises are yes and amen in and through Christ!
This means some of the promises in God’s Word and prophecies God has spoken to you will challenge and provoke you to greater levels of risk and faith. Prophecy invites you to run and become what God has declared. God’s intent from the beginning was that His Church, through the precious blood and resurrection of Jesus, would be an overcoming bride formed in His image and likeness to evangelize the world.
Just this week, friend and prophet Dr. Kim Maas challenged me and a couple of other pastors to consider ways to raise up and train church planters and pastors. After she read a recent prophecy from prophet Bob Hazlett, she felt strongly this was a now word to act on, that God was shifting the body of Christ from just revival into new levels of evangelism and discipleship centered around the local church and church planting. Here is a summary of the word from Kim and Bob:
Hi there. I just read a prophetic word from Bob Hazlett about the church. He gives some details that I think are important for the three of you to see and consider. I believe you are to be instrumental in raising up church planters/pastors…that with revival comes the need for raising up new churches and pastors. But we need them to be solid in their character, understanding of what that entails, filled with the Spirit and the Word, etc.
Here is what Hazlett says:
- The revival culture that has centered around conference gatherings is going to shift into a revival culture that centers around community-building and city transformation.
- The next revival is going to restore the beauty of the local church to the city and the power of the pastoral office to its rightful place.
- There is a new “hybrid leader” emerging. The last 20 years prophetic evangelists emerged as a tool for harvest. The next 20 years we will see apostolic-shepherding builders. That will build sustainable revival centers.
- God is going to merge the church growth movement with the revival movement. Revival movements will become church planting movements and church growth movements will experience revival.
So I’m asking you…what are you prepared to do about this? I feel God is asking….
This prophetic word challenges and provokes me—positively and negatively. It’s positive in the sense I agree with the word and the shift God is bringing to His Church; it is needed. But I also feel the weight, responsibility, and workload associated with acting on a word like this.
My mind, or human reasoning, begins to try and work out all the details. If I’m not careful, my human reasoning could pull me into doubt and unbelief, instead of embracing the word with childlike faith and optimism, “… all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23 NKJV)
In fact, every major invitation God has given me in life and ministry has required some level of risky faith to see it fulfilled. However, I’ve learned that my human reasoning, apart from Holy-Spirit-inspired thinking, is contrary to God’s reasoning and will. Consider what the prophet Isaiah wrote, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.” (Isa. 55:8 NKJV)
So, this week and next, I want to discuss the negative consequences of unbelief and then give practical steps on how to overcome it and move into confident faith.
Unbelief in Nazareth
Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.” Mark 6:1-6 NKJV
After the miracle accounts in Mark 5, Jesus traveled about 25 miles southwest from the western shore of the Sea of Galilee to his childhood hometown of Nazareth. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue (vs. 2).
Luke’s gospel provides a more detailed account of what He taught in the synagogue that day (Luke 4:14-30). Mark did not record what Jesus taught; it seems his primary interest was the negative response of the people toward Jesus and His ministry. Mark writes that the “people were astonished at His teaching,” and then asked, “Where did this man get these things?”
It wasn’t Jesus’ wisdom, or depth of His teaching, or miracles that troubled them; rather, it was His heritage! After all, He is just “one of the guys!” His humble beginnings did not point to His greatness. They watched Him grow up in town, mistakes and all, and could only see Him as one of the “town’s kids.”
“Is He not the carpenter, the son of Mary…?” The crowd’s human knowledge and reasoning caused them to stumble over the real identity of Jesus.
After all, he is only a carpenter by trade and He is “Mary’s son.” The fact that there is no mention of Joseph could mean that Joseph, the stepfather, had already passed away. The statement, “Mary’s son,” could have been a reference to her conception of Jesus before she married Joseph. No doubt, Jesus was viewed by many in Nazareth as the “illegitimate son of Mary.” Bottom line, the people of Nazareth would not accept Jesus as a man of God, much less the “Son of God!”
A carpenter (tektron) was a builder who worked with stone, wood, etc. Carpenters occupied the lower echelons in society. In the first century, there was no such thing as upward mobility; Jesus was expected to remain a carpenter and take over the family trade. It was scandalous to think that God would come to humanity through such a lowly family and ordinary trade.
Sadly, those who should have known Him best did not know Him at all. As a result, “they were offended at Him.”
The English word offended comes from the Greek word skandalizomai, meaning, “to stumble over an obstacle.” The idea that Jesus, their hometown carpenter, could be inaugurating the kingdom of God was outrageous; it did not conform to their preconceived ideas about how God would and could act.
Sadly, their preconceived ideas became an obstacle to faith. Like the “outsiders” described earlier in Mark 4:12, they “look and see but do not perceive, and hear and listen but do not understand.” The people of Nazareth were blinded by their own judgments of God and Jesus.
Our carnal nature and human reasoning can easily be offended with God and with others. Often, our preconceived ideas of how God will or should act become stumbling blocks to our faith and relationship with the Lord. We judge (predetermine) how something should be, and become offended when God or others take a different course than what we expect.
During seasons of change, the transition may be challenging. Unbelief can overtake us which can lead to offense toward God. During the transition into your prophetic future, guard your heart not to be offended at God or others when you don’t understand the details or the delay—it will bring you into lukewarm living for Christ. Offense toward God will delay or derail your prophetic purpose! Human reasoning is often viewed as faith, but faith lives from God’s word and perspective (Deut. 8:3).
God is merciful, gracious, and always good. But, God moves, answers prayer, and breaks into our world unpredictably at times. God does not conform to our preconceptions about Him! Don’t be offended at God when He does not act or respond as you believe He should.
Your radical commitment to follow Jesus often offends those on the outside of the Church, and frequently, those on the inside of the Church. Your biggest critics can come from close friends and family—those who know you well.
Jesus replies to their outburst with a proverbial statement relevant in their time,
Jesus, linking Himself to Old Testament prophets before Him, indicates the rejection or violence is because of the unpopularity of their (His) message. He is held without HONOR!
God often sends “messengers,” even prophets, but their message, or even the person, is rejected by many—both in society and in the Church. We frequently lack honor towards the gift. Honor releases life and the grace that gift carries. Honor of others builds unity, helping to release God’s presence in our midst.
The Apostle Paul discussed with the Ephesians the importance of the ascension, or office gifts Jesus gave the Church,
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” (Eph. 4:11-13 NKJV).
These office gifts help build and mature the body of Christ for ministry—they are active and needed today, just as they were in the first century. When we devalue the office gift a member of the body of Christ operates in, we rob ourselves of the grace and power of God that gift can bring into the Church and society. This often happens because we “know” the person—we see them according to the flesh and not by the Spirit. Healthy honor toward the office gifts are needed to release greater grace in our midst!
Jesus was unable to perform any miracles and was amazed at their lack of faith (Mark 6:5-6)
Nazareth experienced no miracles, only a few sick healed through the laying on of hands. In Mark 5, we observe faith making a demand on Jesus; the result, miracles occur as normal.
Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not soften or omit this statement that seems to limit the power of the Son of God. Mark desires to highlight the necessity of faith—at least a basic receptivity to God’s power at work in Jesus—as a factor for healings & miracles.
Few things seem to cause as strong a human reaction in Jesus as a lack of faith, or conversely, great faith.
For example, the centurion in Matthew’s gospel was commended for his great faith, as well as the woman from Tyre with a demonized daughter (see Matt. 8:10; 15:28). While Jesus can and does heal or answer prayer for those weak in faith, great faith also invites God to grant our request. Learning how to grow in faith, as well as receive the gift of faith is needed by all of us.
Nazareth could have had a revival; instead, they rejected the move of God because they could only see Jesus from a human perspective.
Miracles, signs, and wonders in and of themselves do not guarantee that people will “hear” and believe the message of Jesus. In fact, miracles often drive people away! Nazareth could have been a revival center, an apostolic hub like Antioch became for the early church. Instead, it is remembered as Jesus’ hometown that rejected Him and His ministry. God’s power was limited because of corporate unbelief.
Paul directs the Corinthians, “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” (2 Cor. 5:16) The people of Nazareth blocked what Jesus wanted to do for them because they only saw Him according to the flesh. Jesus won’t force Himself on anyone, nor does He force His messengers and gifts He sends upon us!
If you are struggling with unbelief, ask Him to forgive you of your unbelief and then ask Him to replace that unbelief with faith. Commit yourself to walk with Him closely and position yourself for an increase of faith. Next week I’ll discuss more practical ways to overcome unbelief and increase our faith.
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message, “Overcoming Unbelief, Part 1”