Sometimes I feel like the psalmist when he writes, ‘When I consider your heavens and the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is the son of man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?’ Psalm 8:4. Creation is just so amazing and so awesome, so complex and wonderful, it does indeed seem incredible that God should be mindful of me, and more than that, actually care for me, answer my prayers and allow me to carry His glory in this world. John 17:20-23.
My incredulity comes from seeing the complexity and working of my own body, or the facts that are now being revealed about the billions of stars in the cosmos, down to recognising the staggering facts about our own earth and the exact positioning from the sun that enables life, in all its varied forms, to be sustained. It causes me to say with the song writer William How, ‘it is a thing most wonderful, almost too wonderful to be, that God’s own Son should come from heaven and die to save a child like me’.
In the face of all that we now know about the wonders of creation, and God’s love demonstrated on the cross, I can still sometimes feel a level of unbelief in the Lord’s willingness to answer prayer, or in my ability to see the miraculous happen in my life and circumstances. I felt that the Lord was saying, ‘This is not ‘unbelief’, it’s incredulity and it’s O.K to be incredulous, because I can help you with that’. So what is the difference between incredulity and unbelief, well not a great deal, according to the dictionary, but I think it is actually a thing of the heart.
The incredulous man maybe wants to believe, like the boy’s Father who said, ‘Lord I believe, help my unbelief’ Mark 9:24. He believed that Jesus could heal his boy, but was finding it hard to believe that Jesus would. This was very different to the Pharisees who were aggressively unbelieving. They tried to goad Jesus into ‘performing’ for them. They were not really wanting His help, just wanting to catch Him out and expose Him to ridicule. Matthew 12:38,39.
May be because of Jesus response to those particular leaders, which was, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none shall be given…..”, we are sometimes told that we shouldn’t ask for a sign, as it shows a lack of faith and trust; but what about Gideon? Gideon didn’t doubt that God existed. He’d had an amazing encounter with the Lord. As a result he had taken down His Father’s asherah pole and, as the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, he had called the men to arms in order to fight the Midianites, Amelakites and others. Judges 6:11-35.
In the following verses (36-40) Gideon asks twice for the, now famous, ‘fleece’ signs. Gideon didn’t need God to give him a sign to show him that He could defeat all these armies, but he was incredulous that it could be ‘by my hand, as you said’. He was incredulous that the victory would come through him leading the army of Manassah, Asher , Zebulun and Naphtali. And God gave Him two signs and didn’t tell him off.
This is a bit like Zechariah, who inspite of having had an angel visitation to tell him that Elizabeth would have a baby, still needed more reassurance, so he asks the angel !!! “How can I be sure of this?” Both Gideon and Zechariah did not doubt that God was present and active, but doubted that they were up to being the channel of the Lord’s intervention in the history of their nation. Sometimes we can think ‘well if I saw an angle all my doubts would vanish and I would do and believe whatever the Lord said’, but may be our incredulity would still be apparent.
I believe that if we can keep our heart full of thanksgiving for all that the Lord has said and done for us in the past, we will be more full of faith and less incredulous when He speaks to us prophetically, like He did to Gideon, or when we speak to Him in prayer, like the sick boy’s Father. A heart full of thanks giving predisposes us to hear the Lord’s encouragements and confirmatory ‘signs’, (that He is willing to give as encouragement). It will keep us tuned into God’s heart towards us which is always full of goodness, so that rather than saying to Him “How can these things be?” we will respond with “Thank you Lord, I do believe, but now please increase my faith.”