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Mark 6:1-6 

"And He went out from there, and He came into His home town; and His disciples followed Him. [2] And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, 'Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? [3] Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?' And they took offense at Him. [4] And Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his home town and among his own relatives and in his own household.' [5] And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands upon a few sick people and healed them. [6] And He wondered at their unbelief."

This passage of scripture has troubled me for years. I believe the words Jesus spoke in John 12:45 with all my heart. He said, "And he who beholds Me beholds the One who sent Me." (NASB) More to the point, He said in John 10:30 "I and the Father are one." (NASB) I affirm the doctrine of the Divinity of Jesus and believe He is fully God. Then why does verse 5 says He could do no miracle there? My understanding of God is that He is all powerful and can do anything. I agree with Job's words, "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:2 NIV)

What could be so powerful that it kept Jesus from performing miracles? Verse six gives us a clue-it was their unbelief. If faith can have such an impact to do positive things is the opposite true? Can the lack of faith make just as many negative things happen?

Think about the power of faith for a moment. The scripture paints faith as a powerful force that can do amazing things. The author of Hebrews put it this way: "And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, [33] who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, [34] quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight." (Hebrews 11:32-34 NASB)

Faith is more than the power of positive thinking. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (KJV) It is the substance of hope-the things that we have divine assurance of, but it is more than that, it is the evidence of unseen realities. 

If faith is more than positive thinking, then unbelief is more than negative thinking. It is denying the substance of the things we have divine assurance of and it is living without evidence of unseen realities. God has chosen to work though faith and not to work in the atmosphere of unbelief.

Even with that explanation, this passage still troubles me. Not for theological reasons, because I know that an all powerful God can choose how to exercise His power, and can choose to work through faith, not unbelief. I'm troubled by this passage for practical reasons, because I know that God will not work through my unbelief. Think about it-God is not obligated to work through me, or you for that matter. Take Elijah for example. In his lifetime, God worked through him in magnificent ways, but in my opinion, he did not finish well. After a great spiritual battle against the prophets of Baal, Elijah went on a 40-day journey to escape from Jezebel. When at last he arrived at the mountain where God revealed his glory to Moses, he drifted into despair and displayed his anger toward God because He had not destroyed his enemies. God ignored his complaints and told Elijah to go and stand on the mountain, for a time, God revealed His glory to Elijah with a gentle breeze. A voice asks Elijah what he is doing there and Elijah responds with the same stuff-he is the only one left that is doing God's work and God isn't rewarding his efforts by destroying his enemies.

What was God's response? God sent Elijah from the mountain and told him to pass his mantle on to Elisha. God was through with Elijah-His blessing moved on to another. Just as God will remove his candlestick from among a church, He will remove His blessing from His servants. Is God using you? Is His blessing flowing through you?

Now I'm not asking you are you doing church work. Please don't confuse doing something and God doing something through you! One is grounded in your confidence in yourself and your talents-the other grows out your faith that God can do great things through you. Do you believe He will? Do you believe He can?

In his book, Your God is Too Small, J. B. Phillips writes, "There are, for example, those who are considerably worried by the thought of God simultaneously hearing and answering the prayers and aspirations of people all over the world. That may be because their mental picture is of a harassed telephone operator answering callers at a switchboard of superhuman size. It is really better to say frankly, 'I can imagine how it can be done' (which is the literal truth), than to confuse the mind with the picture of an enlarged man performing the impossible." (Phillips, p. 42-43)

Do you serve a God that can? He is the God that walked with the Three Hebrew Children in the fiery furnace and rescued them out of Nebuchaneezer's evil hands. He is the God of Daniel who quieted the mouths of the Lions and was able to deliver him from their grasp. He is the God of Moses who parted the Red Sea and drowned the Egyptian army that pursued God's people. He is the God of David that guided the single stone from David's slingshot to Goliath's head. He is the God that raised Jesus from the dead and defeated death, hell and the grave on the first Easter Sunday. He is a God that is greater than my understanding or ability to explain who He is. He is the Lord God almighty.

Ephes. 3:20 says, "Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us," (NASB)

How big is your God? Is He a God that can?

Now I have another question; how big is your faith? It is one thing to believe that God can do something and another thing to believe He will do something. In Mark 9:24 a father honestly responded to Jesus statement, "Anything is possible if a person believes." (Mark 9:23 NLT) by saying, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (KJV)

The man's declaration resonates in my soul-Yes Lord, I believe you can, but I don't always believe that you will. Do you expect God to work through you to do great work that will change the world? I'm not asking the question theoretically-I'm not asking you do you think He CAN use you-I'm asking do you think He WILL use you. 

It is easy for us to lower our expectations so that we don't have to put the validity of our belief system on the line. Because we don't want to believe that He can't do something, we settle with thinking that He won't do it. And that lack of faith-that presence of unbelief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Remember verse 5 & 6 of our text, "And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands upon a few sick people and healed them. [6] And He wondered at their unbelief."

Tonight we'll explore how we can fan the flames of our faith and become the type of people that God works through, but for now, let's follow the example of the man who confessed that he believed and asked Jesus to help him with his unbelief. Remember the words of Paul Ephes. 2:8 (KJV) "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" 

Faith comes from God-it is His gift to us, let's ask Him to give us a measure of faith that we can use to provide fertile ground for Him to work through us.

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