Luke 1:18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well on in years.”
When you come right down to it, Zechariah had a lot of gall, questioning Gabriel like that! However, you could say he was a typical Christian, looking at, and evaluating things by, himself and his circumstances rather than by what God was saying. He was devout, but had no faith for anything beyond what his own senses and intellect told him. We might laugh at him for having such an attitude in the middle of a personal visitation from Gabriel, but I doubt that we are much better. Believing that Jesus died for our sins and rose again is enough for salvation, but too often it leaves us short of victory in our daily lives. The Bible is filled with examples of God doing the seemingly impossible, as well as with statements like what God said to Jeremiah: “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27) All too often we act as though the answer to that were yes! It is interesting to me that in the somewhat esoteric area of physics called quantum mechanics, even atheistic scientists say essentially that nothing is impossible. Some have postulated that nothing is “real,” as we think of reality, so all bets are off. For someone who believes in the Creator, that particular attitude isn’t an option. However, the more we discover how much we don’t know about the universe and reality, the less difficulty we should have with God doing whatever He likes. Even ancient Greek philosophers realized that the physical world is no better than a reflection of something deeper. As Paul was quick to point out, that doesn’t mean the physical world, and our interactions with it, have no meaning, but it underlies his famous statement that “We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) Zechariah’s problem here was that he was depending on sight.
Looking back over what I have just written, it might seem that I am some giant of faith, always doing exactly what God says regardless of what the world or my mind might say. I wish! Just last night in prayer meeting we were wrestling with the perceived reality of Japan being so resistant to the Gospel. I know without question that God loves Japan and the Japanese, and yet I see the current state of affairs. One Japanese pastor who works with people of many nationalities said to me that Japanese are good illustrations of the first three kinds of soil in Jesus’ parable of the seed and the sower in Luke 8! He also has a congregation of Japanese, and he is amazed at the differences in ministering to them and to people of other nationalities. Growing up in a missionary family in Japan and ministering here myself since 1981, I have seen more than enough of the sort of thing that prompted that pastor’s statement. However, I must not be like Zechariah, personally pious but not believing God for anything more. I need a “faith transfusion,” so to speak, so that my eyes may be lifted above what my senses and my experience tell me and really expect great things of God.
Father, as You well know, this is exactly the sort of thing I tell people all the time, that they need to lift their eyes to the Lord and off of themselves and their circumstances, and yet here I realize that I need exactly the same message! Thank You for the reality check. Help me truly walk by faith and not by sight, in Your reality rather than the merely physical, so that all of Your plans involving me may be fulfilled, on Your schedule and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!