Believing Is Seeing
Galatians 6:7-10 / Mark 8:11-26
New Year’s celebrations are the most universal of all holidays. Every religion and culture has its version. The Babylonians started this tradition 4,000 years ago. Their new year’s party lasted for 11 days, if you can imagine. Their most popular new year’s resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment. If I have borrowed your tractor, I resolve to return it this week.
Have you made any new year’s resolutions? Has God made any for you? Is there anything you know he wants you to do as 2008 begins?
Is there a person you know you should forgive? Someone’s forgiveness you know you should seek? Sin you know you should confess and stop?
Do you know a non-believer you should try to bring to Christ or church? Is God asking you to make a new time commitment to his service? A new financial commitment to his Kingdom?
My problem with God’s will is seldom that I don’t know what to do–it’s usually that I don’t want to do what I know I should. Mark Twain spoke for me: it’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that bother me–it’s the parts of the Bible I do. I always know more than I do. I suspect you’re the same way.
Paul assured the Galatians that if they would “sow to please the Spirit,” living in the Spirit’s guidance according to God’s will, then “at the proper time, you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.” If we do what God wants, we’ll be glad we did. We can trust God’s will even when it’s hard. We can believe that God knows and wants what is best for us, even when he asks more than we want to give.
I’ve heard that all my Christian life, and so have you. If someone could help me believe it when it’s hard, I’d be grateful. When my faith is tested this year and I don’t want to do what I know God wants–when I don’t want to give or forgive, to refuse sin or submit to his will. Why should I pay a price to follow Jesus? Why should I believe that I’ll reap a harvest if I do not give up? Why should you?
Why to trust God today
This episode in Mark 8 was so important to Jesus’ work that it was recorded in all four gospels. It begins: “The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven” (v. 11). The word translated “sign” means a miracle which proves that a prophet is from God.
The Pharisees wanted Jesus to make specific predictions for the future and then fulfill them, thus proving that he was who he said he was. This he would not do for them. He knew that such signs would do nothing to convince those who will not be convinced. They would not be persuaded, because they had already decided not to believe.
Why is this story in all four gospels? As a warning to us. If we ask God to prove himself before we will trust and serve him, we’ll never trust and serve him. If we wait for him to prove that his will is best for us before we’ll follow it, we’ll never follow it.
What more can he do than he has done to convince us of his reality and character? He created the world, then gave us his law and prophets to show us how he wants us to live. But we refused them, so he sent his Son to become one of us that we might be one with him. But we rejected and crucified him. He raised him from the dead and exalted him to heaven, but we can’t prove that today. What more would we like God to do before we’ll follow him unconditionally?
He could appear to us today in this Sanctuary, but would you trust your senses? Would you believe tomorrow what you saw today? Would anyone else believe your story? Let’s say I told you that God appeared to me yesterday and revealed to me that he wants us to start a Sunday morning worship service in the Cotton Bowl. What is your first reaction? What about the weather? Who will come? How much will it cost? How can we be sure God is in this? My testimony to God’s miraculous vision wouldn’t be enough for you, would it? If you reported such a vision this morning, I’d be just as skeptical. How can you use natural means to prove a supernatural experience?
There is only one way God could prove his reality and power to every person in the human race, and that would be to return to this planet in unmistakable power and divine glory. This he will do on the day when he ends history. When he does, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). On that day, seeing is believing.
Until he returns, believing is seeing. The only way to prove that God’s will is best for our lives is to follow that will. The only way to know we can trust a person is to trust them; the only way to be sure that a job is right for us is to take the job; the only way to prove that we’re ready to have children is to have them. The only way to be sure that we should do whatever God asks of us this year is to decide that we’ll do what he asks of us.
In the meanwhile, it helps to remember that what God has done in the past, he can do again in the present.
When the disciples got into the boat they worried over the fact that they had only one loaf of bread. This even though Jesus had already fed 5,000 families with five loaves and two fish, and 4,000 families with seven loaves. Now they were repeating the doubts of the Pharisees, when the very Bread of Life was in the boat with them. What he had done in the past, he could do again. If he fed the crowds, he could feed his disciples. He still can.