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The Great Hindrance

I believe one of the biggest stumbling-blocks to people coming to Christ is their failure to understand the difference between belief in God and having faith in God. Most think they are synonymous—when they’re not. Believing in God is like believing in gravity. I believe that gravity exists even though I can’t hear it, see it, touch it, taste it, or smell it. Even though it’s beyond my natural senses, I believe in it because I can see its effects. Gravity keeps everything on the earth. Without it we couldn’t exist. And I believe in the existence of God—even though I can’t see, hear, touch, taste or smell Him, because I can see the effects of God. Everywhere I look (from the atom to the universe) I see wonderful order in creation, and it yells at me that there is a Creator. That’s what it means to believe in God.

To have faith in God means to trust in His integrity. It means to trust in the exceeding and great precious promises given to us in the Word of God. There are many things in life that we trust. We trust doctors and dentists. We even let dentists drill our teeth and cause terrible pain because we trust that they know what they are doing. Notice the difference between the two faiths in this famous verse:

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

No one can please God if he doesn’t believe that He is. Such a person is a fool (see Psalm 14:1). To please Him we must believe that He is, and trust that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Do you trust in God and His promises—as opposed to simply believing in His existence? I hope you do, because your life depends on it. Trust is oxygen to the Christian. Without it we will wither and die.

Years ago, when nasal strips became popular with sporting heroes because they opened the nasal passages, I, like millions of others, purchased them. For years they opened my breathing passages and gave me a good night’s sleep. But when I found a low-cost alternative that didn’t have to be tossed away each morning, I immediately purchased it.  It was a small plastic nasal dilator; it widened the passages and made breathing easy.

But one night that easy breathing suddenly stopped. Even though I was wearing it, I began to get shortness of breath during the night. Not being able to get my breath convinced me that I had some sort of heart condition. My life was drawing to an end. This panicked feeling of not being able to breathe, went on for two whole weeks. But one morning, as I ran the dilator under hot water, I noticed something very strange. Two weeks earlier I had rubbed it onto soap to make sure it was extra clean (something I’d not done before). The soap, which was the same color as the plastic device, hadn’t washed out. Instead, unbeknownst to me, it remained camouflaged inside the device and during the day hardened, blocking about seventy percent of the air that was trying to get through. When I saw that my own hand had caused the problem, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

There is something that is self-inflicted—that is caused by your own hand—that will greatly restrict the oxygen of trust in God. It will hinder you from being a Daniel. It is so camouflaged and subtle, it may be hindering you right now and you’re unaware of the problem. It’s something I call “analytical perfectionism.” Beware of it, because it’s a slow and quiet killer. It will harden you, and then it will slowly suck the life out of your soul. Scripture often warns of it, but we can still miss the warning. For example, a favorite Bible verse of many is Proverbs 3:5:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

We see the promise but miss the warning. “God will direct our paths” is the wonderful promise. We clearly see that. But here’s the warning: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. And lean not on your own understanding.” Don’t try and figure things. Don’t analyze. Just trust. Trust God like a little child trusts his father. Such a thought is the antithesis of the world’s so-called intellectualism. They think that unquestioning childlike faith is naiveté at best, and dangerous at worst. When I did an hour-long video interview with atheists (who said that they wanted to know what made me tick), they used Proverbs 3:5 as their opening introduction on their video. They began by highlighting the problem with the naïve simpletons who have faith in God. They believe that we don’t think for ourselves; that we live by a blind faith in the invisible, and that’s very dangerous.

I had a dear friend who self-destructed because of his continual analyzing perfectionism. If I had said to him, “How do you know for certain your mother is actually your mother?” it would probably have sent him into a tailspin of an in-depth, never ending, analytical systematic investigative study. Was the woman he thought was his mother a secret deceiver? Did this woman he had grown to trust, kidnap him when he was a baby—and then lie to him for his whole life about her identity? How could he really know that she was his birth mother? He could check with the doctor who delivered him, but he could be lying, paid off by this woman. The so-called birth certificate could be a fake. His father could have conspired with this woman… and so it goes on.

Somewhere there has to be the exercising of simple trust, when it comes to our mother being our birth mother. We have to trust what she told us. We have to trust a government document or the word of your father or a doctor or another person from the past. Most of us do that, without a second thought (until now, for some in whom these futile thoughts may have stirred analytical perfection).

My friend’s continual leaning to his own understanding rather than trusting the Lord with all his heart eventually deprived him of oxygen, and he tragically fell away from the faith. He maintained that the cause of his fall was that he couldn’t find compelling evidence that Jesus was the Christ. The first time he shared that secret, I was aghast. It was insane. It was like someone telling me that they couldn’t find compelling evidence that the sun was hot or that water is wet. There has to be a lid put on unbridled over-thinking, and self-discipline will do that. If my friend was here at the moment, no doubt he would ask me, “But how do you know that Jesus is the Christ?”

“Notice that this promise is to all: ‘If anyone is in Christ.’”

Let me show you some of the compelling, undeniable evidence that I have that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Christ: it is the mountain of my sin. It stands forever as a gigantic testimony to the truth that is in Jesus. I do daily battle against that for which I once fought to obtain. Because of Jesus I no longer love the darkness and hate the light. When I came to faith in the Savior, I became a new person—I was born again. This wasn’t the mere turning over of a new leaf, neither was it just branching out into new things in life. It was the becoming of a brand-new tree. I was made a new creature “in Christ,” and the fruit of that was a burning love for righteousness that I neither had, nor desired. While we may look at the dramatic conversion of Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus and feel short-changed, the result is the same. I am a completely different person after Jesus came to me.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Notice that this promise is to all: “If anyone is in Christ.” That’s not just the bright light, voice-from-Heaven, Road-to-Damascus converts. Notice the dramatic nature of being in Christ. We are a new creation. Old things have passed away, all things have become new. All things.

While there are many other compelling reasons to believe that Jesus is the Christ—from His unprecedented words and life laid out for us in the gospels, to the cross which dealt with our sin problem—my greatest evidence is that I love because He first loved me, and saved me from death.

“…Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:7-9)

“Yet believing, you rejoice.” Trust produces joy and peace. If we don’t have trust, we won’t have joy or peace. That’s what my friend lacked, because he insisted on leaning to his own fallible understanding. That reveals a subtle and hidden pride. Again, trust is our oxygen. Every so-called compelling reason to believe goes out the door if I prefer my own understanding, and refuse to believe God.

“Take care, brothers and sisters, that there not be in any one of you a wicked, unbelieving heart [which refuses to trust and rely on the Lord, a heart] that turns away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12, Amplified Bible)

Unbelief (a lack of trust) is such a quietly subtle sin. It had Israel circling the wilderness for 40 years. It brought God’s wrath onto Jerusalem. Zechariah was appropriately struck dumb for his unbelief—and doubting God is really dumb in the insane sense of the word. Before Jesus opened the Scriptures to two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, He began by saying, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25). We are fools not to believe what the Scriptures say.

May I pluck out my right eye before I deem God untrustworthy. Just the thought of not trusting Him makes me feel sick. I wouldn’t do that to my wife: “Sweetheart, I want to trust you, but I can’t. There’s no compelling reason to trust you.”

Unbelief not only undoes belief, it gives opportunity for sin to make entrance. Why do you think Adam sinned? It was because he didn’t believe that God would hold him accountable for his disobedience. His unbelief opened the door to death, disease, pain, and endless suffering for the human race. Don’t follow in his foolish footsteps.

“Unbelief not only undoes belief, it gives opportunity for sin to make entrance”

King David only felt at liberty to take another man’s wife, and then his life, because of unbelief. His insane unbelief pushed aside the fear of God—he doubted that He would hold him accountable. But He did. Judas betrayed Jesus for a mere 30 pieces of silver because he didn’t believe that there would be any real consequences for his sin. Unbelief put a noose around his faithless neck, and it will put one around ours and choke us to death if we let it. It not only starves us of oxygen, it creates a vacuum. It closes one door and opens another. Those who don’t believe the promises of God will get sucked in by the deceit of the devil. If we don’t stand on the truths of the Scriptures, we will fall for the lies of the enemy. Jesus commanded, “Have faith in God,” because there are terrifying consequences for a refusal to do so.

If the enemy can’t get you from without, he will get you from within. He will send in a trojan horse of doubting demons who whisper, “Has God said…?” Seeds of doubt will, in time, become cursed weeds that choke our faith. Unbelief is a tiny hole in a balloon that slowly deflates our trust in God.

The essence of the Christian faith is to love the Lord Jesus Christ with all of our heart. Without Him we have no hope in our death. We live for Him, and we live because of Him. He is our wonderful Savior and glorious coming King.

“If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22)

Without Jesus, we are still in our sins and awaiting God’s just wrath. Listen to Spurgeon speak on “The wrath to come.” (Matthew 3:7):

“It is pleasant to pass over a country after a storm has spent itself; to smell the freshness of the herbs after the rain has passed away, and to note the drops while they glisten like purest diamonds in the sunlight. That is the position of a Christian. He is going through a land where the storm has spent itself upon his Savior’s head, and if there be a few drops of sorrow falling, they distill from clouds of mercy, and Jesus cheers him by the assurance that they are not for his destruction. But how terrible is it to witness the approach of a tempest: to note the forewarnings of the storm; to mark the birds of heaven as they droop their wings; to see the cattle as they lay their heads low in terror; to discern the face of the sky as it grows black, and look to the sun which shines not, and the heavens which are angry and frowning! How terrible to await the dread advance of a hurricane—such as occurs, sometimes, in the tropics—to wait in terrible apprehension till the wind shall rush forth in fury, tearing up trees from their roots, forcing rocks from their pedestals, and hurling down all the dwelling-places of man! And yet, sinner, this is your present position. No hot drops have as yet fallen, but a shower of fire is coming. No terrible winds howl around you, but God’s tempest is gathering its dread artillery. As yet the water-floods are dammed up by mercy, but the floodgates shall soon be opened: the thunderbolts of God are yet in his storehouse, but lo! the tempest hastens, and how awful shall that moment be when God, robed in vengeance, shall march forth in fury! Where, where, where, O sinner, will you hide your head, or where will you flee? O that the hand of mercy may now lead you to Christ! He is freely set before you in the gospel: his riven side is the rock of shelter. You know your need of him; believe in him, cast yourself upon him, and then the fury shall be overpast forever.”

May I keep the terror of the Lord provoking me to continue to persuade men. And may I spit out any unbelief as quickly as I would thoughts of adultery.  Adultery is a blatant sin. Unbelief is a subtle soap in the nasal dilator. It’s not so evident, but the consequence of its presence is frightening.

Ray Comfort

Ray Comfort is the Founder and CEO of Living Waters and the bestselling author of more than 90 books, including God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life, How to Know God Exists, and The Evidence Bible. He cohosts the award-winning television program Way of the Master, airing in every country in the world, and is an Executive Producer of “180,” “Evolution vs. God,” “Audacity,” and other films. He is married to Sue and has three grown children, and hasn’t left the house without gospel tracts for decades.

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