Unbelief is surely at the root of all sin, and obviously there is much unbelief in the world today. While this is understandable regarding those who do not know God, it is not understandable among those who supposedly know him. For instance it is unbelievable that the Hebrew children could fall into unbelief after God had miraculously delivered them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. Yet they did.
Unbelief manifests itself in many strange ways, even among us Christians. Let us think about a few of these ways.
The Hebrew children were overcome with fear. They heard reports of giant-sized enemies with cities walled up to heaven and they were terrified. They whimpered and whined and wanted to go back to Egypt. Somehow they forgot that they were serving a miracle-working God, the same God who had just drowned Pharaoh’s whole army in the sea. In Hebrews 3:19, we have this sad commentary concerning Israel: “So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.”
When we express fear before our enemies they sense it immediately. The enemy is like a mean dog. As long as we walk toward that dog with confidence he will grudgingly move out of our path and slink away. But God help us if we show fear and begin to retreat. That same dog will eat us up.
David was a man of great spiritual strength and holy boldness. However, on one occasion, fear got hold of him. He wrote a description of this episode for us in Psalm 55:4-5: “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.” How did the great David get into such a state? He gives us the answer in the second and third verse of this Psalm: “…My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught at the voice of the enemy…” David had been listening to the voice of the enemy and it almost destroyed him.
When we realize who our heavenly Father is, and how much he loves and cares for us, we cannot go on fearing. The Bible says in 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Pride is unbelief pure and simple. We seek to lift ourselves up before others because we do not believe that God can or will lift us up. There is so much wasted effort among Christians today as we try vainly to impress each other. We seek to climb up the “ladder of success” even in Christian ranks by stepping on the heads of those below us. We promote ourselves, albeit it so secretly. We lie to keep from losing face. We are hypocritical, deceiving others lest they find out the real truth about us.
All this could be avoided if we only had faith. After all, the Bible tells us that God has maintained both our right and our cause (Psa. 9:4). By having faith we can run the risk of seating ourselves in the lowest chair, as Christ bade us do (Luke 14:8-11). By having faith we can simply admit what we really are. We can fearlessly confess our sins one to another as the Bible says (Jas. 5:16), and expose ourselves to the light. Such bold moves would greatly enhance the quality of our fellowship with one another and with God (1 Jn. 1:7).
The Bible has a fool-proof prescription for pride. Here it is in simple words: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Remember that God always resists the proud, but he gives grace to humble people.
In 1 Timothy 6:9 we read, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” Greed, the lust for money and things, is merely unbelief that God can and will provide for each of us. If we only realized it, we are like little children in a nursery school. Each of us is given a few toys by the teacher. The toys are not important at all, for the teacher has plenty of them. What is important is our reaction to these toys. When we snatch away what is not ours by deception or violence, the teacher then comes and takes away what we have snatched. We may end up sitting in the “naughty chair” and it may be a while before we even have our own toys returned.
In this world, things are of little significance. God can give them in abundance or take them away if it is for our good. Everything is controlled by God. When we realize this all-important fact it will change the way we live. We often hear someone say, “I got a job!” The truth is that none of us ever got jobs in our lives. Listen to what the Bible says in Psalm 75:6-7: “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south but God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another” (KJV). Since God is in control of our lives, we can relax and expect him to give us what we need in the way of jobs, money and whatever else. Here is the biblical pill against greed: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Tim. 6:6-8).
Of course, we need a word of caution here. God never desires that we sit down and lazily expect him to give us every morsel of our food. We must remember the biblical principle that we are laborers together with God (1 Cor. 3:9). Also, we need to remember the biblical admonition that when a person does not work, that same person shall not eat (2 Thess. 3:10). To this end God may give us jobs, opportunities, work, even hard work, so that our needs can be met. It is nevertheless God who supplies all our needs.
ALL SIN IS UNBELIEF
Well, we can take any sin, and if we consider it carefully we will realize that at the root of that particular sin is unbelief. The Bible tells us, “…everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). On the other hand, whatever is sin is not from faith. No doubt because of this, the pathway of righteousness begins with belief. We first believe in God, as Abraham did long ago. In Hebrews 11:6 it is stated: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” We not only believe in God but we also believe in his word. As believers we come to know that, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa. 40:8).
We do not just believe in God and in his word. We also believe in the Son whom he has sent into the world as our Savior. In John 20:31 we read, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
So we see that the life of faith is quite the opposite of unbelief. Yet, unbelief will be so rampant in the end times that the Lord himself sighs when thinking of these days. he says in Luke 18:8, “…However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
As we approach the end-days may we not stumble in unbelief, but may we be clothed with the whole armor of God. In our hand may we skillfully wield the “shield of faith” against all the sharp arrows of the enemy. After we have done all to stand, may we stand firm.