There are two kinds of unbelief. First, there is the kind of unbelief that is based on a lack of knowledge.
The Bible says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Those who have not heard cannot have knowledge; therefore, they can’t believe. Many don’t believe in spiritual things because they don’t know what the Word of God teaches on the subject. For example, a great number are totally ignorant about the infilling with the Holy Spirit simply because they don’t know the Word. The cure for this kind of unbelief, of course, is knowledge of God’s Word.
The other kind of unbelief is mentioned in Hebrews 4:6, “… they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief.” This refers to the children of Israel. They could not plead innocence due to ignorance, because God had told them to go in and possess the land of Canaan. In addition, they had sent spies into Canaan, and the spies had returned with the report that it was a land flowing with milk and honey, just as God had said it was.
Another translation of this Scripture reads, “They entered not in because of disobedience.” Still another translation says, “They entered not in because of unper-suadableness.”
Hebrews 4:11 warns, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” The children of Israel knew what God said, but they couldn’t be persuaded to act upon it. They were guilty of “unpersuadableness,” which is also called unbelief in the Bible. They had the knowledge of God’s Word, but they couldn’t be persuaded to act upon it; they were unwill¬ing to allow the Word to govern them.
There is much of this kind of unbelief among Christians today: an unwillingness to allow the Word of God to govern their lives; a refusal to act upon knowledge. Many know what the Word teaches but refuse to act upon it.
Believing is an act of the will. We can act on the Word if we will. Disobedience is an unpersuadable attitude toward the Word. Thus, unbelief is either: (1) ignorance of the Word, or (2) unpersuadableness to act upon the Word. The cure for the first is knowledge, and the cure for the second is obedience.
In dealing with the subject of unbelief, we also should take a look at something quite similar to it: mental agreement. The mental agreer believes only what he sees or feels. In my opinion, mental agreement is one of the most subtle enemies there is to faith. It sounds so “religious.” The mental agreer will go so far as to say, “I believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible.” He will say, “I am contending for the faith that was once delivered unto the saints,” yet he refuses to act on the Word.
How can you tell whether a person is really believing from his heart or is just mentally agreeing? The mental agreer will say the Bible is true, but he will not act upon it.
Faith is acting upon God’s Word.
To declare that God’s Word is true — to say that God cannot and will not fail to help us in the time of crisis — and then to turn to the world for help is a serious matter. It opens the door to deception and defeat by the enemy, for the Bible says Satan is the god of this world.
The mental agreer is in the gravest danger. He is where God cannot reach him, but Satan can enter into his inner counsel, and he therefore can fail to benefit from his rights and privileges in Christ.
It is easy to declare that God’s Word is true when everything is running smoothly. But what about when the crisis comes? What about when the storms of life rage? Isn’t God’s Word just as true then as it was when the sun was shining brightly and everything was running smoothly? The mental agreer may say, “God cannot fail; His Word is true” when things are going well. But he is just agreeing; he doesn’t truly believe it. He thinks he does, but he doesn’t.
If we really believe God’s Word, we will be just as steady when the clouds have overcast our lives as we were when the sun was breaking through. In fact, we can laugh about it. If the cupboard is bare, we can laugh about it. When our pocketbook is empty, we can laugh about it. We are not disturbed, because we know the Word.
When you have $100 in your billfold and a good bank account it is easy to say, “Praise the Lord, He meets every need. I feel as if I could believe Him for anything.” But when the bank account is wiped out, the billfold is empty, and the bills are facing you, it’s a different matter.
At such times, the mental agreer drops back into this Thomas kind of faith, going by what he can see. He can see that needs exist, and he walks by what he sees.
Second Corinthians 5:7 says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” I say as Smith Wigglesworth said, “I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe. I believe God’s Word.”
God’s Word says, “But my God shall supply all your need …” (Phil. 4:19). God’s Word says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1). I like to read it, “I do not want.” I believe God.
The same thing is true when it comes to healing. You can get by easily with some symptoms, but it isn’t so easy when you’re in pain. But isn’t God’s Word just as true one time as it is another? Isn’t it just as true when you have distress in your body as when you are well?
If I walk by sight — by what my physical senses tell me — I would have to say, “I’m not well. I’m not healed.” But walking by faith, I know I am healed in Jesus’ Name. So we see that the kind of faith Thomas had and mental agreement are twins.
When Paul was shipwrecked on the way to Rome and all hope was gone that the men on that ship would be saved, in the midst of those seemingly hopeless circum-stances Paul said, “There stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve” (Acts 27:23).
He went on to tell what the angel had said to him — that every man’s life would be saved if they would listen to him. He concluded by saying, “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me” (v. 25). That was a word the angel brought from God. Our Bible is just as sure as that word. So I use the same statement, referring to what has been told me in the Bible. I say, “Wherefore, sirs, I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”
That is exactly what Abraham did: He believed accord-ing to that which was spoken. In other words, he could have echoed Paul, saying, “Wherefore, sirs, I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”
Thomas, on the other hand, didn’t believe what was told him. The disciples said, “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas said, in effect, “I don’t believe it.” He said, ‘ ‘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” (John 20:25).
Our faith is like the faith of Abraham, because we are the seed of Abraham: “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:14). The Bible also states, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7). Our faith is based on what God says.
Often our lives seem to resemble the shipwreck experi-enced by Paul. In the midst of the storms of life that come our way, if we are walking by feelings, it might seem as if the Lord has forsaken us and all hope is gone. But we know He hasn’t, because He said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5).In the midst of the storms of life, we can say, “Where-fore, sirs, I believe God!”