Have you ever asked God to prove himself to you? Have you ever demanded a sign that He might reveal Himself to you in a way that was tangible, not just invisible, so that you might have moreor anyfaith?
I have. Perhaps “demanded” is too strong a word, but I’ve definitely strongly suggested He do so. If you’re anything like me (or nothing like me, for that matter), you’ve likely prayed at one time or another for God to help you believe more, or at all.
Before I became a believer, I just didn’t get it. I learned about God and Jesus when I was younger, but it just never seemed real. And I didn’t really see what difference it made in the lives of those I knew who said they were Christians either. So what, exactly, was there to believe in?
Over time, everything I heard and saw about Christianity seemed self-defeatingmore of a joke than anythingand it was really difficult to take it seriously. It all seemed like such foolishness, and so I simply side-stepped anyone or anything involved in it.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:14
But from time to time, I discovered myself asking the God I never knew if He really was real. And if so, to please reveal Himself to me so that I might believe. In those days, when I realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere on my own, I started looking for helpand for answers. Prior to that, however, as long as things seemed to be going the same direction I was headed, I didn’t feel the pull to ask that question.
Have you asked that question? Do you feel like you’re moving against the wind, or with it?
What’s interesting, though, is that God never revealed Himself to me in any physical or tangible way. Instead, He revealed Himself to me through His Spirit, which drew me to Himwhere He opened my eyes so that I could see the truth of the evidence that was already available to me. His “revealing” came through the removing of the scales from my eyes that were preventing me from seeing what I already knew to be true.
Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized.
“One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
Now, as one who believes wholeheartedly, the question of doubt remains. But if I believe, why should I ever doubt? Well, because we are human, in the midst of discomfort (to whatever extreme) we have doubts. We feel the heat of the fire we’re walking through, and it hurts. Because we are not yet in a constant, unbroken communion with God, our tiny minds just can’t ever see the bigger picture. We are not Jesus, and we just can’t believe like He did.
In the Gospel of Mark
The man had brought his son to them because he’d heard the work they were doing in Jesus’ name. Imagine his disappointment when they couldn’t do it. Now, where he only once hoped, he had even greater doubt.
[The man said to Jesus] “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Perhaps, as is often translated in other versions of the text, Jesus says “Everything is possible for the one who believes,” referring to Himself. (We note that Jesus hasn’t healed the boy yet, but upon hearing the Voice of Truth, the man’s doubts were shattered.)
As we all very much know, faith alone does not transform us into Jesus! We can obviously have enough faith to believe in Him at some point, but not enough to become Him. No, indeed we start only with the faith of a mustard seed (which may grow one day into a mighty tree), but that faith still contains a lot of unbelief. As the man stated, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
But when the going gets tough, we frequently just want God to pick us up and make it stop hurting. And when He doesn’t, we doubt His faithfulness, because we forget who God is.
And so, at those times, our request for more faith comes with the requirement that God provide more convincing evidence to us that He hasn’t forgotten or abandoned us. Perhaps that He might even step again into this world so that others could witness His glory, and turn their hearts to Him too. We raise our eyes (or fists) to God and say, “Remind me again who You are, if you can.”
Now, after Jesus was baptized by his cousin John in the Jordan River, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He had some intense interaction with Satan for the next 40 days. There we see Satan trying to break Jesus down with words like these
“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
“I will give you all their authority and splendor [all the kingdoms of the world]; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.”
In these passages, we see Satan tempting Jesus to sin, by telling Him to put confidence in His own abilities, rather than God’s. Satan was imploring Jesus to prove Himself, and show that He was more than just a slave to God’s will. But Jesus refused to do what others asked or commanded of it was not in line with His Mission.
Throughout His ministry, however, Jesus performed countless signs and wonders that proved His authority and His words. Time and again, He proved who He was and where He came from. Ironically, it was these same wonders that He performed that set many against Him. But it is because of these very things we find documented in the Bible that we might believe:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written [the previous 20 chapters] that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Yet here we are, time and again, having already received and believed what others have testified to be true, now contemplating doubt and concerns that maybe God is a liar, and that everything He promised isn’t true at all. So we continually ask God to reassure us that the lies Satan feeds into our minds are not true.
We want to believe, but because we have the expectation that God should fix or remove whatever predicament of which we are in the midst, and because we’re still going through it, we begin to lose hope. So we ask God to reveal Himself in a way that would renew our hope.
The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.”
“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
But have we ever stopped to consider what kind of sign might actually satisfy us? What exactly would He need to do to dispel all of our doubts and suffering faith? Would such requirements be any different than those who don’t believe in Jesus at all? What exactly are we looking for?
The apostle Thomas (remember him?) didn’t believe all the rumors about Jesus rising from the dead, and he needed to see for himself. So Jesus appeared to him and showed Himself to him.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
But what about years later, while Thomas is being persecuted for his faith? What about any of the disciples who knew and walked with Jesus during His ministry and after the Resurrection? Did any of them demand signs from God to renew their faith every time they got into trouble?
What about Jesus? We see Him in the Garden of Gethsemane praying earnestly to God
Instead, God was silent.
Indeed, it was only Jesus’ active process of prayer itself that brought Him to the peace necessary to satisfy His spirit and allow Him the strength to carry on with His Mission.
If I didn’t believe in God because I was not satisfied with the signs and wonders He performed long ago amidst the testimony of hundreds of eyewitnesses, what exactly might He do to convince me of the truth today? There were those who lived and watched as Jesus performed miracles right in front of them, yet they chose not to believe in Him then.
Am I, then, really interested in a convincing sign, and would it really make a difference? Or would I prefer He not show Himself to me so that I might continue with my excuse of unbelief?
And if I do believe, what exactly am I looking for? And does it look any different than for everyone else? Aren’t I really just saying, “Jesus, if you really are God, prove it!” ?
I’m reminded of the popular poem, “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson Zangare. It climaxes at the end when Jesus says, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, that is when I carried you.”
But is this the pinnacle of faith? Where we only desire for God to bless us, expand our territories, or to “rapture” us away when things get really tough? It seems we just want to be carried away, one way or another, to that special place at Jesus’ feet where we think everything will be better.
Maybe we don’t want to go home, where our spouse doesn’t love us anymore, and our children show us contempt. Maybe we don’t want to go to work, where our boss treats us like we’re worthless, and our income reflects it. Maybe we don’t want to meet new people, for we’re confident we’ll be rejected, or worse, humiliated. Maybe we lock ourselves in our castles and hope nobody comes a-knockin’, because everything we touch seems to break, and we get tired of trying to fix it, or pretending it’s not as bad as it seems.
But when we look at Jesus’ feet, where we may hope to find sanctuarya place where whatever we’ve done or whatever we’re going through can be let go, placed there where “the yoke is easy and the burden is light” (Matthew 11:29)we must also remember that at His feet was also the place to where all His blood flowed down; where it dripped and pooled at the foot of the Cross.
But still, we ask Him for a sign, some abstract and unknown expectation we believe may give us the strength in hope to carry on. But let’s remember,
He’s already given us a sign, and He has nothing left to prove.
I’m declaring to you that I must stop asking God to prove Himself to me, for any reason. He’s already done everything I could ever hope for or expect of Him. He doesn’t need to keep repeating Himself, because He’s already given me everything I need to be eternally confident in His unfailing love for and in me.
So, next time I get ready to ask Jesus to carry me through the burning fire, perhaps I will instead just pick up my mat and start walking