The Power of Believing

Feb 18, 2024 506

The Power of Believing

I have been asked more than once about things like positive affirmations and positive thinking. My response is that anything that improves our mindset about ourselves and the world around us has to be good. And we certainly know that the state of our minds directly influences not only how we see the world and relate to others, but our health as well.

However, there are limitations to simply “believing” in an abstract sense of the word.

Imagine that you believe that you are going to be rich. Simply believing it isn’t going to do you any good whatsoever. If you believe that you are going to be rich and that translates into a mindset that results in you working hard, saving, and investing wisely, then that might be helpful.

But in many cases, it won’t in itself make you rich. If you are an impoverished farmer in India, “believing” and acting accordingly might help you be “less poor” than others around you. However, if you are an elderly widow in India with no family support, believing you are going to be rich isn’t going to help you in the end.

So, you can see that there are some limitations to “believing.” Positive thinking and “believing” something in itself can focus the mind in positive ways and result in some positive actions, but it doesn’t in itself bring about what you want. There’s a lot to be said for positive thinking. It can directly change your own attitudes, which is a very important thing, but it can’t necessarily directly change your external reality.

There are limitations to simply “believing” in an abstract sense of the word.

There’s a story in the gospels that illustrates this. Jesus had taken Peter, James, and John up to a high mountain with him, and there he had been gloriously transfigured. He had left the other nine disciples down in the valley at the foot of the mountain, where a huge crowd had also gathered.

When Jesus came down from the mountain with the three disciples, they were met with a huge commotion in the crowd. What had happened was that a man had brought his son, who had an evil spirit, to Jesus to be made well. Because Jesus wasn’t there, he had asked Jesus’ disciples to heal him instead.

In that religious culture if a teacher was a holy man and could do something, his disciples should be able to do it as well. The nine disciples had every reason to believe that they could heal this boy, because they had just recently come back from a lengthy missionary trip in which they had cast the evil spirits out and healed the sick. 

But they couldn’t do it. No matter how much they believed they could, they couldn’t.

The disciples had a lot of faith in themselves, but not in Christ as the source of all.

When the father saw that Jesus had come down from the mountain, he called out to Jesus,

“Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child.A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.” (Luke 9:38–40).

I wonder to whom Jesus addressed his next words, “You unbelieving and perverse generation”. Was it to the distraught father? That seems unlikely. Was it to the crowd of people in general because of their contention over the matter? That’s possible. However, it’s also possible that Jesus spoke these words about the disciples themselves.

The disciples had recently returned from an exceptionally successful trip throughout Galilee, and they had driven out demons and cured diseases (Luke 9:1). I’m sure they would have been extremely confident in their ability to drive out the spirit who tormented this child. Yet, despite their confidence and belief that they could, they could not.

Faith is knowing that you can’t do it, but God can.

You see, faith is not being confident in yourself. Those in the Bible whom Jesus commended for their faith were those who were the least confident in themselves. Faith is not believing that they can do it. Faith is knowing that you can’t do it, but God can.

The disciples had a lot of faith in themselves, but not in Christ as the source of all. The people were looking to the disciples to heal the boy, but not Jesus. And the religious leaders wanted the people to look at them. That’s why Jesus called them faithless (Luke 9:41) and he went on to powerfully and dramatically heal the boy (vv.41–43).

We live in a “faithless” time. It’s a time in which everyone talks a lot about believe, but no one really knows what it means to truly believe. The world needs to know that there is real power in believing, but not in yourself or any other person: only in Jesus.

Eliezer Gonzalez

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