We Christians often speak about how BIG our God is — how powerful, how awesome, and how mighty he is. And because he is that, we can dream about doing great things for him, and we are assured that no matter what kind of troubles we might find ourselves in, he is able to defeat our enemies for us. We proudly speak that with him, with our powerful God, nothing is impossible if we believe.
All of these are true, of course, with this one caveat that anything is possible with God only if it is according to his will. (Because God is not our personal genie.) And yet… how many of us Christians truly live our lives in the light of this magnificence and almightiness of God? How many of us do attempt to accomplish seemingly impossible things? Not many I would say. Because here is the catch: For God to be powerful in your own life, you have got to have faith in him. In his perfect character. In his sovereignty. In his very nature as God. The faith to follow him in his difficult ways, and to obey his Word. The faith to risk everything in exchange for his blessings.
The irony is, we boast so much of our God, and yet we expect so little from him. And we risk so little. We pray to him about our needs and desires, and yet we dare not ask too much lest we be disappointed if he said no. And we keep a tight grip on our comforts, fighting for the status quo — fearing change, suffering, hardships, and the slander of others — and yet we still have the audacity to call ourselves people of faith.
And the sad thing is, when God’s wonderful answer to our prayers does come — beyond anything we could have ever imagined, we say — we often doubt it, thinking it’s too good to be true (or not what it’s supposed to be at all). We doubt, we second-guess, we waver, so that in the end we forfeit the blessing — failing to give back what God demands in return. To believe it. And to do something about it.
Zacharias’s blunder is the prime example of these things I’m talking about, and it shows that being in the ministry, and even long years of service, are not guarantees that we will have the necessary faith when it matters the most.
Here was a matured man of God, and a priest no less, performing the sacred duties in the temple. Childless and already old, he had been praying for a child for years, and when God’s answer finally come, and in the most wondrous of ways — a message delivered by an angel! — and the promised child, what a great man he would become! — what did Zacharias do? He doubted it. He asked for signs, so he could believe.
Zacharias said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God. I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. Behold, you will be silent and not able to speak until the day that these things will happen, because you didn’t believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”Luke 1:18-20 WEB
Fortunately, God dealt graciously with Zacharias, and did not take back the blessing of the promised child. Still, he had to face the consequences of his unbelief.
Here is an important lesson to learn: Let’s not be conceited, my friends, just because we are an elder or a pastor in a church, or something. Faith in God has no direct correlation to our achievements or status.
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Is asking for signs from God wrong? No, not by itself. After all, God does give signs to guide us in his will, and the Christian is told to be discerning in all things, and to find the will of God in his life. And so, when does asking for signs become wrong? When does it become a sin? It is when our faith in these signs replaces our faith in God. That is, it is when these signs become our idol.
Remember what Jesus called the people who were asking for signs from him when he was already among them, the Son of God made flesh, and performing miracles after miracles? An evil and adulterous generation.
As I see it, the root cause of all these “signs problems” is that, as human beings, we tend to believe more in the things we can see with our own eyes and have physical evidences for, than in things we cannot see and only have faith in — in this case, the nature and character of God.
When Zacharias asked for signs from the angel, how did the angel respond? By giving his credentials. “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God. I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news” (v.19). In other words, Gabriel was saying to Zacharias that he should have believed him by virtue of who and what he is. The personal messenger of God Almighty.
In the same way, when we receive word from God — a command, an answered prayer, an encouragement, a piece of wisdom — we should believe it by virtue of who and what God is, and not because of any outward confirming signs. Appearances, after all, are sometimes deceiving, and God sees much more of people and of circumstances than we ever could.
And how do we know that the word we got really comes from God? Well, angels are a rare sight, but we do have God’s Word and godly people to guide us in our way. We also have our prayers, where we not only speak but also listen. There are no formulas, no set procedures, only guidelines (and woe to those who try to confine God and how he works on a set of rules!), but there comes a time when we do have to make a choice: to believe and to act, or to doubt and to keep on asking for signs.
To believe by virtue of God’s character and nature alone. This is the highest pinnacle of faith. Of course, new believers who are still getting to know God personally are not expected to display this kind of faith. And that is because they simply don’t have yet that foundational knowledge of God. Matured Christians, however, especially those who are in the ministry, and especially those who are deeply intimate with their Lord, are expected to act better. Much, much better. In fact, they are expected to glorify God by their steadfast, conquering, and amazing faith. For there is just no excuse to believe more in outward appearances than in what God says, when you already know personally how good, how faithful, and how mighty he is.
Now, on a personal note:
I’ve always wanted to write for God, and for many years I’ve waited and prepared for that. When God finally gave me his answer — calling me to full-time ministry and work for him as a blogger — I was overjoyed. Thus, my blogging ministry, Swordsman of the Word, was born. It was and will always be my dream job. To serve God and to work for my livelihood doing what I do and love best.
Unlike Zacharias, and despite the unlikeliness of that calling — because I didn’t have the resources, nor the contacts, nor the training and the experience — I didn’t doubt God. I believed, I acted, and I fought for it.
Yes, I didn’t doubt. Not God. And not the works I was called to do. The problem was, the people around me did. And still do.
Do you want to know how you can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ? Do you want to be sure that you can spend eternity with him? Then please read this: God’s Plan of Salvation
For news about this ministry, and for more of my writings, please follow the Swordsman Network blog.