Three Things that Weaken the Believer, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #54)


TEXT: Mark 16:9-14

9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

Three Things that Weaken the Believer, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #54)

Last week, we were introduced to a character from Pilgrim’s Progress known as Little-faith. This unfortunate pilgrim was attacked by Faint-heart, Mistrust, and Guilt, and he never recovered from their assault. As the character Christian tells us:

He was deeply distressed…. It is surprising that he did not die with grief, poor soul! I was told that, for the remainder of his journey, he chiefly spread abroad melancholy and bitter complaints concerning his misfortune. He would also explain in detail to other pilgrims encountered in the way where and how he was robbed, who they were who assaulted him, what he lost, the severity of his wounds, and the closeness of his brush with death.

One of the most disappointing things to see is a Christian who is supposed to have victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil, being distressed, depressed, and defeated. Yet, like Little-faith, that is what will happen to us if we don’t watch out for the things that can weaken us. We dealt with one of those things last week — the temptation to become faint-hearted, to become weary in well-doing. The Apostle Paul faced that temptation, and he showed us how to overcome it by doing these three things:

1. Focus on the results of what we are doing for the Lord.
2. Focus on the fact that God uses our trials to make us more like Christ.
3. Focus on the eternal rewards which are to come to those who remain faithful to God.

Today, let’s look at how to overcome a second issue which weakens believers, and that is the issue of mistrust or disbelief in God and what He says He will do.

Before Jesus Christ went to the cross, He told His disciples, directly and indirectly, that He would rise from the dead three days later. However, when the third day came, the disciples did not believe the reports they heard that Jesus was alive. It is almost as though they did not even have hope that He would be resurrected as He said he would.

The first thing we notice about these disciples is that they are mourning and weeping. When Mary Magdalene sees the risen Lord and runs to tell the disciples, the Bible informs us that “she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.” The disciples had pretty much given up on Jesus. They should have been sitting in anticipation, waiting for Him to show up, but because they did not believe, they were mourning and weeping. Their mistrust, their unbelief was so deep-seated that when Mary Magdalene came with some positive news, the Bible tells us that “when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, [they] believed not.”

How many times have we not believed something that God told us would happen? How many times have we doubted His promises? How many times have we been weeping and mourning when we should have been singing and dancing for joy — not because we have what we desire, what we need, or what God has promised us, but because we have placed our faith and confidence in God who cannot lie and who always keeps His promises.

The disciples’ first profession of unbelief might be excused seeing that it came from a woman, Mary Magdalene. Perhaps they thought she had seen an apparition or a hallucination. On top of that, during that time, the testimony of a woman was seen as unreliable. In a first century court, a woman’s witness was not accepted unless it was corroborated by a man. But the fact that the disciples first received the news of Jesus’ resurrection from a woman is not the matter here.

When two of the (male) disciples went walking on the road to Emmaus, they also saw Jesus. In fact, Jesus talked with them for some length of time. These two men returned to the rest of the disciples and reported what they had seen. Mark tells us, “They went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.”

Jesus told the disciples that He would rise from the dead. Mary Magdalene told them she had seen Jesus alive. Two of their own number told the rest of them that they, too, had seen Jesus. And, yet, they did not believe. Isn’t it amazing how willingly the disciples accepted what would have been the devil’s outcome for the crucifixion? Satan had spurred on Jesus’ crucifixion, but once he realized his mistake — that it was in fact by death that Jesus would pay for the sins of the world and break the devil’s stranglehold on mankind — he certainly didn’t want Jesus to return from the grave. Instead of believing God’s word and the testimony of their fellow believers, the disciples believed the total opposite.

Jesus, of course, was disappointed in His followers’ refusal to believe. In verse 14 we read, “Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.” The word “upbraided” is a strong Greek verb not used elsewhere of Jesus in the Bible. Of course, the disciples deserved such a rebuke. John Trapp said, “Unbelief is a bloody sin, a heavy sin, a most ungrateful, inexcusable sin which shuts up a man as a prisoner in a dark dungeon unto unavoidable destruction.”

If the disciples had remained in their unbelief, they never would have grown to be the great apostles and evangelists that we know them to be today. How could they share the message of a risen Christ if they were full of doubt and unbelief regarding it? By the same token, how can we preach the Gospel and tell a lost world that they should believe the Gospel if we are doubting it ourselves?

There will be times in our lives when we will be tempted to not believe God’s Word. If we do not overcome this tendency to doubt God, we will be crippled in our Christian walk and we will only live out a fraction of the life God intends for us to live. In commenting on our text, Rick Scott said, “Faith is a gift of the Spirit, but it is also a decision of the will. [The disciples] were so agitated with their own fears and doubts that they would not allow their faith to function. They had their eyes on the fearful actions of the religious leaders and the Romans, and that fear seemed bigger than the truth they had been taught and the power they had seen.”

We must overcome our fears and doubts and choose to believe God. Even if, like Little-faith in Pilgrim’s Progress, the devil got a few good licks in on us, we ought not to allow that to define the rest of our Christian life. We must choose not to focus on the negative possibilities that the devil constantly whispers in our ears. We must choose not to focus on our circumstances — what we can see. Rather, we must choose to trust God’s Word, what He has promised He will do for us, and the encouraging testimony of those who have seen Him work in the past.

Our Christian walk will be strengthened and sustained if we choose to trust rather than doubt. As Daniel Warner expressed in his hymn:

I will trust Thee, loving Savior,
For salvation all the time;
And I’m joyful in Thy favor,
Thy eternal glory mine.
I will trust Thee, mighty Jesus,
And my soul can never fall;
Oh, I’m hid in God’s pavilion,
Trusting Him, my all in all.

I will trust Thee, fearing never,
All my doubts have fled away;
In my Jesus trusting ever,
I abide in perfect day.
I will trust in every trial,
In Thy providence confide;
Thou art with me in the furnace,
Thou art ever by my side.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you briefly how you can be saved from your sins and be guaranteed a home in Heaven with God today.

First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.

But here is the good news. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.

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