"The Tragedy Of Unbelief - For Saved Or Unsaved"
by Missionary James H. Dearmore, B.S., Th.B., Th.D.
Preached At One Of Our Missions In Africa (vrp)
© June 7, 1981, James H. Dearmore
Transcribed By Stenographer
(Edited To Limit Africa Illustrations)
I want to ask you to remember in your prayers throughout the week, a special prayer request which was just given to me by Alta Whiting. Remember that special prayer request, and then we'll pray, of course, again together at our Wednesday night service, for this special prayer request. But throughout the week, those of you in your individual prayers, pray in connection with this special prayer request that I won't designate at this moment, except just that it was a special prayer request made by Alta Whiting. So, you pray about it throughout the week and in the coming weeks in your own private prayers and then, of course, we'll put it on our prayer list on our Wednesday night prayers that we have together as well.
Let's turn to the Bible now for a message on the thought, a title that I've used before. About two years ago, if I recall correctly, I preached a message to you, those few of this crowd who were here then, on the title, "The Tragedy of Unbelief." At that time, however, the entire emphasis of the message was from the viewpoint of the tragedy of one unsaved, refusing to believe in Christ, refusing to trust Him, and thus rejecting salvation. Today, we want to take the same title and use a completely different approach.
We want to think first about what a tragedy unbelief is for the Christian. You say, "Well, how could a Christian have the tragedy of unbelief bearing down on him?" Well, I think you'll see that in a few minutes as we begin to go through the Scriptures with you today. There are many Bible examples of God's people not truly believing and fully obeying the Lord. They believe Him and believe in Him in the sense of trusting Him for salvation. And when one does that, one is saved. When one truly trusts the Lord for salvation, one is saved.
However, there are many other ways in which Christians experience the tragedy of unbelief, even after they've been saved, after they've trusted the Lord. They've believed in the Lord for salvation, they've trusted Him, they've been saved and yet, they still experience the tragedy of unbelief in other ways. That's what we want to think about primarily today. Then, of course, in the close of the message, we'll bring out a few things also about the tragedy of unbelief, in the sense of refusing to receive Christ as Savior.
Let's think for a few minutes about some of these Bible examples of God's own people not fully believing and obeying the Lord. You know, that always causes trouble. That's the reason we can call it a tragedy, isn't it? A great tragedy when God's people do not fully believe and obey Him.
We could think first about Abraham's doubts. Abraham had various doubts, but one of his early doubts, of course, that we could mention as an example would be his doubts about his inheritance of Canaan. Here we have a man who had great faith in God. He was a great man of faith. And he's spoken of very lavishly in the faith chapter in Hebrews as being a great man of faith. And yet, we find that he had doubts about his inheritance of Canaan, even after God had promised it to him, he still had doubts. Over in Genesis 15:8, we really should read much more than that one verse, but we won't because of time today. Reading that verse: "And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?" Now, here he has doubt, doesn't he, in his mind? Has doubt in his heart that he's going to inherit Canaan.
And, there was reason, from the purely human viewpoint, for his doubt, wasn't there? Here he is an old man, and his wife is an old woman and barren all her life. And now they are both up in what we would call ancient age today, and even in those days it was quite old. And they haven't a single child. Yet, God has promised that he will inherit Canaan through his descendants. But how can he do that when he doesn't have any descendants? And he's quite an old man and married to an old wife who is barren. And so, he asks this question, "Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?" Of course, he got into a lot of trouble because of this doubt that he had. This became a tragedy of unbelief in his own life. Not just on one occasion, but several different occasions. This tragedy of unbelief struck him.
Because of his weak faith, or in other words, not fully believing and trusting what God had promised him would come to pass, he did a lot of things that got him into big trouble. One thing that he did, he wandered into Egypt. Got into a lot of trouble down there. And delayed for thirteen years the one blessing he desired above all other things, a son of his own by his beloved wife. It was delayed for thirteen years, probably because of his unbelief. What could be a greater tragedy than that, to be promised a great blessing, the greatest desire of his whole life, a son of his own by his own wife? And he delayed it himself by his own unbelief for a period of thirteen years. It was finally fulfilled, as you know.
But during this time, he wavered in his unbelief in God's promise and he got involved, as we do sometimes, in trying to "Help God." You know, we decide God's not going to make it and we decide we'll help Him a little bit. And, as you may know, that always makes a terrible mess when we do that! We decide we're going to help God fulfill His promises to us! He doesn't need any help to fulfill His promises. He can do it without any help from you or from me or from anybody else that He makes a promise to. He can and will fulfill it in His own good time, in His own way.
So, he got involved in trying to help God fulfill His promise. And if you've studied the story, you know he had a son by Hagar, the Egyptian woman. And the tragedy of this --- you talk about a tragedy of unbelief, the tragedy of this still follows all the way down to today for the Jews that are living now. Did you know that most of these people that the Jews are having trouble with in modern times, most of these people that are butchering Jews every time they get a chance, are descendants of Ishmael?
Yes, they are descendants of Ishmael, the son that Abraham had in an illicit fashion from this Egyptian handmaid, Hagar. He was just trying to help God. Oh, the tragedy of unbelief, before or after salvation! Most of the trouble coming on the Jews even today, thousands of years later, came from this. This tragedy of unbelief is still going on today, and even the bad results of this unbelief in the time of Abraham is still going on.
The tragedy of unbelief among God's own children is shown again many other places in the Bible. We want to notice for just a minute how it is shown in the Exodus from Egypt. One could point up this tragedy of unbelief in the Exodus very simply by saying that it took them about forty years to make a journey that could have been made in eleven days according to scholars who've studied it. Yes, their 40 years journey from Egypt to the Promised Land ould have been made in eleven days --- what a tragedy!
Forty years wandering and suffering in the wilderness, all of it an example of the tragedy of unbelief. They didn't have the faith to really go ahead and do what God had promised them He was going to do for them if they'd just follow Him. So, it took them forty years for an eleven day journey. And all of the adult doubters had to wander and die during the wilderness wandering before the others could be brought into the land of promise. All of these adult doubters missed the great blessing of entering into the Promised Land.
Then as we go on a little further to another tragedy of unbelief among God's children. This in one of the great men of the Bible. We often think of him as an outstanding example of faith and yet, we find that Gideon, yes, even Gideon, had doubts as to victory over the Midianite hosts, didn't he? Now, this was a real tragedy, because every bit of delay that he made in truly believing what God had told him meant that many more days, weeks, or months, or whatever amount of time was involved, of suffering under the oppression of the Midianites. This waqs not only upon Gideon, but upon all the children of Israel. What a tragedy! They could have been delivered sooner. They could have been delivered much quicker and yet, because of this tragedy of unbelief, they had to stay under this oppression longer than was otherwise necessary.
Look at Judges 6:17. Before we read that together, in case you've forgotten the situation, the situation was so bad at this time, that the Jews couldn't even grow crops and harvest them and thresh them. Because when they did so, the Midianites would pounce on them and loot the crop and take it away. So, they had to hide out little patches here and there in the bush as we'd call it today. They had to hide little patches for food, and then harvest it secretly. Then they had to thresh it and mill it secretly, in order to keep the Midianites from stealing it all. And yet, here in Judges 6:17, we see, he IGideon) says this: "And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in they sight, then show me a sign that thou talkest with me."
So, here he's carrying on the tragedy of unbelief by waiting for further signs from God instead of going ahead immediately and delivering the children of Israel from this terrible Midianite oppression.
Another example of the tragedy of unbelief, even among God's own people, one that I've mentioned to you in other messages at other times, is from Thomas, as seen in the New Testament. He had doubts, or weak faith, and this was quite a tragedy too. He had doubts as to Christ's resurrection at first, didn't he? One time when Christ had appeared to the other disciples and Thomas was not present --- they had all been in mourning no doubt, until Christ appeared to them. And then, of course, their joy was unbounded. But Thomas had not been there when Christ appeared to them. And when they came to him with this joyous story, "Oh, the Lord is living. We saw Him. He spoke to us. We know He's living."
When they told Thomas about that, listen to what he said. It's recorded in John 20:25. Remember, the others have all come to him with this joyous report of seeing the Lord alive. "The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."
Oh, the tragedy of unbelief. And this was a saved man. This was a disciple. But what a tragedy here. You say, "Well, where's the tragedy involved?" If we go ahead and study the story a little further, we find that Thomas had eight tragic and completely unnecessary days of mourning and sadness. Eight whole days, still believing that the Lord was dead. What could be a greater tragedy than that? Eight whole days of sadness and mourning, still believing that the Lord was not risen.
But I like what happened when he did see the Lord eight days later. After eight days, the Lord appeared to them again, and Thomas was with them. And he didn't run over there and put his finger in the nail scars in the Lord's hand. He didn't go over there and put his hand into the big scar on the side. But what did he say? He said, "My Lord and my God." The tragedy of unbelief, even for a saved man and a follower of Christ like Thomas, eight days wasted in sadness and mourning, when he could have been joyous and happy all during that eight days, like the other disciples were.
Christians today also suffer from the tragedy of unbelief. You say, "That still sounds like a contradiction to me, this business of saying the tragedy of unbelief and yet, they're believers in the sense that they've trusted the Lord and been saved." Well, it's not a contradiction, it's true. Christians today still suffer from the tragedy of unbelief. We worry, worry, worry! Isn't that a pretty good description of the average Christian? Worry, worry, worry! "Oh, how am I going to do this? How am I going to do that? How am I going to do something else? Oh, this. Oh, that. Oh, something else." Now, isn't that a pretty good description of most people today, including a many Christians?
Deuteronomy 7:9 is a good verse to read when we start worrying about things in general. It goes like this: "Know therefore," --- (that's Deuteronomy 7:9) --- "Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments" --- "until yesterday and then He quits." Is that what it says? "Or until tomorrow and then He gets tired and drops you in the middle of a mess?" Is that what it says? No, it doesn't say that, does it? What does it say? "Which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations." There's no need for this tragedy of unbelief in Christians, is there? "He keeps covenant and mercy with those that believe him to a thousand generations," He says. That's certainly going to take it far enough that we don't need to worry about anything beyond that time! He's going to take care of us. He always will take care of us.
You know, we worry a lot about the necessities of life. We often do that and yet, God said to us through David in Psalms 37:25, these words. "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." That's true then in the time that David wrote it, and it's still true today! We miss many blessings. Even as Christians we miss so many blessings, both material and spiritual because of this tragic unbelief, a lack of total commitment of our lives and our all to God.
Malachi 3:8-10, has something to say about God's blessings materially on His children, where it says this --- now the setting is here, how God had been punishing the children of Israel, His own children, who believed in and followed Him up to a point. And this is one of the reasons given here in these verses why He said He'd been withholding His blessings from them.
Malachi chapter 3:8: "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts," --- now listen to this, if they bring the tithes into the storehouse, what does He say is going to happen? "Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." Oh, the tragedy of unbelief!
There are many people today, good Christian people, who suffer constantly in a material way, when there's no need for it at all. They suffer from a lack of God's blessings upon them materially because they refuse to follow His plan in supporting His work. And you say, "Well, I don't know whether that really means us or not." Well, it's repeated several times in the New Testament, the same type of thing. Even Jesus Himself, speaking about the Pharisees, when He spoke about their tithing, He said, "You ought to have done this," but He also says, "You ought have done a lot of other things too, besides tithing."
Tithing is not enough by itself. We need to live like a Christian should. We need to try to win others. We need to be a witness for Him. We need to be kind. We need to be loving to other people. So, tithing alone wasn't enough. But that's the only thing in the Scripture that Jesus ever commended about the Pharisees, as far as I know. He said, "That was a good thing. You did that. You paid your tithe and you should do that. But," He said, "You should have done a lot of other things that you did not do."
Many Christian people today suffer through this tragedy of unbelief. They believe that 100 percent of their material wealth will go a lot further than 90 percent or 88 percent of their material wealth. And I can tell you, it won't. Not if you're a Christian. Eighty-eight percent will go a whole lot further than a hundred percent, if you're a Christian. If you give it to the Lord in a loving spirit, in His church for the winning of souls, He'll pour out blessings on you as He said here in Malachi that I read to you. "Prove me now . . . I will open the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing that there won't even be room to receive it."
You know, we worry a lot about the bond (mortgage) payment. We do, don't we? And, of course, I worry about the one here at the church too! We worry about the bond (mortgage) payment. We worry about the car payment. We worry about the furniture payment. We worry about the future. And if there's not anything to worry about, we worry about the fact that we don't know what we should be worrying about right then, don't we? It's really almost that bad!
It shouldn't be that way at all, should it? Not for a Christian. The tragedy of unbelief. It's a real tragedy, being robbed of happiness and joy and peace and blessings, even material blessings, from God that we could have if we really believed what He says. And practice what He teaches, He'll bless us.
All of these things that we worry about are a tragic result of not truly and completely trusting God and committing ourselves to Him and to His service on Earth. You say, "Oh, but I've got to make a living." Well, as long as you keep that attitude, you do have to make a living. And God won't help you much either. You're going to have to make it. But when you take the other attitude of trusting Him and dedicating yourself to His service and to doing what He teaches in His Word that you should do, then He's going to help you make it. He's going to bless you and help you make it. But as long as you take the other attitude of refusing to believe His promises as a Christian, then you're going to have to make every bit of it the hard way yourself. And, as I already said, He won't help you much either.
Matthew 6:33 says this, and this is Jesus speaking:, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." The point under discussion there was about the material things, the necessities of life. And Jesus Himself answered them and said these words, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." This has always been true for a Christian, and it's still true today.
Just in closing now, we want to think for just a few minutes about the tragedy of unbelief for an unsaved person. The tragedy of unbelief for an unsaved person. First place we want to look is in Psalms 78:32-33. This ties in with one of the examples that I've already given you of the Israelites, speaking of them in this reference, "For all this they sinned still, and believed not in his wondrous works. Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble." Now, this is true not only of saved people who have a lack of proper and sufficient faith and trust in God to take care of them, but it's also true of unsaved people. They spend their lifetime in vanity. The prodigal son over in Luke 15, (we won't read that parable), but it tells us he wasted his time and substance in riotous living and yet, he hungered and finally, he returned to God, didn't he? He returned to the Father.
Another thing about this tragedy of unbelief relative to unbelievers, and that is, that they are already condemned to death and waiting execution of the sentence. That's the hardest thing in the world to make an unsaved man understand --- that he's not going to be lost, not going to be condemned, but he's already condemned, if he's not saved. That's perhaps the hardest single thing to get a man to understand. Yet it is true. He's just like a man in death row at the penitentiary, waiting at the prison> He is already condemned and waiting to be executed, waiting to be hung for some terrible crime that he's committed. That's the position of every unsaved person. "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." People like this who refuse to accept and believe, the Scripture teaches that they're going to die in their sins. They'll die in their sins. And that means eternity in hell without God.
They're going to be judged by God's Word, we see in John 12:48. And we find one reason that partly explains why unsaved people are so hard to reach sometimes with the Word. In II Corinthians 4:4 it says that they're blinded by the god of this world. He puts the blinkers on them and just leads them around like a horse with blinkers on. That's what Satan does. II Corinthians 4:4 says: "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
And in the last days, these unbelievers who experience this tragedy of unbelief, these unsaved people, are going to be classed with the most wicked and despicable sinners in eternity. We find that in Revelation 21:8, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." Oh, the tragedy of unbelief, both for a saved man --- the tragedy of unbelief in the promises of God and in securing the blessings of God on his life --- and for the unsaved person, the tragedy of unbelief in that it's leading him down to hell, with no hope in this life or in the life to come.
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