By Basilea Schlink
"But the fearful, and unbelieving . . . shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone" (Rev. 21: 8 A.V.). That is the verdict God pronounces over this sin.
Why are the unbelievers struck by such a severe judgement? Why is disbelief, discouragement such a serious sin? Because, through their behaviour, they mistrust God. If a father loves his child and sacrifices everything to take care of him, can the child hurt him more than by being mistrustful and thinking, "My father doesn't intend to do anything good for me"? Jesus condemns such mistrust in the parable of the talents by replying to the servant who said, "Master, I knew you to be a hard man" (Matt. 25: 24): "Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth" (Matt. 25: 30).
So it is not a harmless sin to be discouraged and to open the door to disbelief and then to persist in it. It will have terrible consequences. The kingdom of heaven will be closed for us and the door to the kingdom of darkness will open to take us in.
Then it will be of no use to try to excuse our disbelief, as we perhaps try to do now, by saying that it is hard for us to believe or even pitying ourselves for "not being able to". No, as surely as Jesus exhorts us to believe, "Have faith in God" (Mark 11: 22), we can believe. If we do not believe, it is sin. It is our pride. Pride and arrogance cause us to criticize God, by saying, "Jesus cannot help me after all. Jesus cannot forgive me! No one, not even God Himself can help me out of my need, my hopeless situation, my temptations and sins. They are too strong." When we say such things, we think we know better than God's Word which says, "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you" (Ps. 50: 15), "I will never fail you nor forsake you" (Heb. 13: 5), "I, I am He who blots out your transgressions" (Isa. 43: 25).
It is really a symptom of great pride when we place ourselves above the Word of God with our own estimations, thoughts and judgements and think that they alone are right, arrogantly rejecting God's promises as invalid. That is why the servant, who said "Master, I knew you to be a hard man," is struck by Jesus' relentless words, which tell him that his place will be in hell, in the kingdom of Satan, who personifies hatred and mistrust.
And this judgement will strike us also, if we persist in our disbelief. We usually say so piously, "I am discouraged," instead of admitting that we are rebelling and thinking we know better than God. But if, in our pride, we act as though He cannot help us, we are insulting God, who made such a great sacrifice, delivering His Son to death on the cross to show us His love. How can we still refuse to trust His love? Because we are too proud to admit the fact that we are sinners before God and man and that we make mistakes again and again. We are also too proud to let ourselves be chastened for our sins by the fatherly love of God--just as earthly fathers chasten and discipline their children. We rebel against such discipline, although God is actually for us exactly at that moment to help us, to free us from what is causing us so much trouble: our sin. He acts in love like a Father, who chastens us so that He can give us more good things later.
Pride, mistrust and trying to evade carrying our cross are actually the reasons why we fall down. We rebel against chastening, against that which is difficult for us, and even if it is only our difficult personality and our many mistakes that humiliate us and make us ashamed. Yes, we rebel deep down in our hearts, even if we put on a different facade. We cloak our resentment when difficult things happen to us by saying, "I can no longer believe in God's love." Through such mistrust we not only prevent God from working in us, but we cannot give others a testimony of faith and we deprive our service in the Kingdom of God of its power. The disciples experienced the same thing. When they asked Jesus why they did not have enough power, He had to answer, "Because of your little faith!" (Matt. 17: 20).
That is why we must fight against disbelief to the point of shedding blood. It will make us unhappy here, and one day it will make us dwell in the kingdom of darkness. No matter what it costs, we must be freed from this sin of disbelief in order to reach the goal of glory for all eternity. The first "must" in fighting against disbelief and discouragement is to pay homage to the truth and admit that we ourselves are at fault if we do not experience God's love and help. For disbelief breaks our association with God, and erects a barrier against Him, which prevents His stream of love and help from flowing towards us.
With such an attitude we should not be surprised that God's love, and all the good things that He has thought out for us, cannot flow into our hearts and lives. In the Holy Scriptures we can read the example of His people in the desert, for whom God had promised the chosen land. But we see that they could not enter due to their unbelief. That is why the Holy Scriptures exhort us, "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Heb. 4: 11 A.V.).
In order not to fall, we have to let God show us the deepest reason for our disbelief: our pride. Our next goal of faith, in order to conquer disbelief and discouragement, must be to admit before God and man that pride makes us blind to the Father's love. Only the humble will have their eyes opened to see God the Father in His infinite love. The humble will receive help. The humble and the lowly cling to God's promises. Do so!
If it becomes difficult for us to believe and we are about to become discouraged, we should pray aloud, "My Father, I do not know how You will help me, but I do know that You will help me. That is certain, for You are Love! My Father, I thank You for having a way out of this problem, for You are Love. My Father, I thank You for being greater than everything, even greater than my troubles, and for always helping me. My Father, I thank You for answering prayer and intervening. Lord Jesus; I thank You for being my Redeemer and-as surely as You keep Your word--You will free me from my chains of sin."
If we say this in humility, as His child, we will exercise our faith and will conquer our disbelief and discouragement. We must go to Him who says, "I am lowly in heart", for He has offered His sacrifice on Calvary so that we can become like Him and trust the Father with a humble heart of love-even in the midst of night. He will give us humble faith. We have been redeemed by love, trusting in the Father's goodness and faithfulness, and in the Son's complete redemption in every situation, in every trial and temptation.