Tag Archives: Doubt

Doubtless

Swarms of vicious, rabid mice were attacking my son, nibbling at his legs.  Screaming in terror, he couldn’t hear my voice as I told him to remove his 3-D glasses.  He kept freaking out.  I shouted at him: “Take off your glasses!”  When he finally heard me, registered that it was my voice, believed me and then tentatively reached up to remove his glasses, the mice instantly retreated into the confines of the movie screen at the Walt Disney theater.  But for awhile there, he was too terrified to listen, much less obey.

The same principle is in play when we are stressed out or suffering and ask God for wisdom (See: Wise Up).  God gives wisdom, generously and without finding fault.  But if we are too distracted by our fears to listen, it does no good.  That’s why James added this next part to his teaching on asking for and receiving God’s wisdom:

“But when he asks [God for wisdom], he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (James 1:6-8 – with my added explanation in brackets)

We’ve all experienced the paralysis of indecision, when our minds resemble squirrels caught in the middle of the road.  Doubt can stop you dead in your tracks.  Satan’s first strategy in the Garden of Eden was to inject doubt between the humans and God.

” …He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”” (Genesis 3:1b)

When you ask Him for wisdom, you could doubt that God would answer, doubt His wisdom is true, or doubt that it is really God Who you have heard.  Any one of those doubts would interfere with your ability to hear His voice and apply His wisdom.  The solution for that is practice – practice before you really are in a desperate need.  If you get in the habit of asking God for wisdom, listening for His response, and following what He tells you, soon you will be able to recognize His voice and distinguish it from all the other voices.  With practice, you will learn to trust and follow what He tells you.

You will be very glad you practiced, the next time you get attacked by mice…

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

When You Doubt What You Believe

If Jesus is really the Son of God, why does He let me suffer?  Ever ask that question?  If so, you are in good company.  Even John the Baptist asked that question.  He had been called to prepare the way for Jesus and publicly identified Jesus as the Savior.  John must have imagined that he would be an important figure in Jesus’ band of brothers.  And yet, John was falsely arrested and stuck in prison.   John had doubts, and sent his disciples to double check on Jesus:

When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2-3)

Instead of answering John directly,

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”” (Matthew 11:4-6)

In effect, Jesus told John, “I cannot tell you the answer; you must evaluate the evidence and decide what you believe about Me.”  Jesus says the same thing to each of us.  Our relationship with Jesus is not about having the right answer for the quiz, it’s about what we truly believe.  Belief is not formed by someone telling us the answer.  Belief is our personal conviction about the truth of the answer.  And our belief is dynamic, it is challenged and strengthened by the ebb and flow of life.  It is normal for us to consider our doubts as we develop our belief.  Real belief is not afraid to consider doubt.  It is strengthened as we grapple with doubt.

Jesus knew that John believed.  But He also knew that suffering challenges belief.  And so, Jesus encouraged John to hang on: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”  In effect, “Hang in there, John, hold on to your faith.  Even though suffering challenges your faith, your faith is what will lead you through this suffering.”

Here’s how Peter explained the dynamics of suffering and faith:

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:6-7, NLT)

 If you are suffering and doubting, hang on; you will be blessed.  But maybe you are still wondering why Jesus left John in prison to die, or why He allows you to suffer what you are going through.  Stay tuned; we’ll take that up next…

No Doubt

I was halfway out to my car at the end of a long day.  I thought, “Did I lock the workshop?  Better go back and check.”  I knew it was locked, but I couldn’t get past the feeling of doubt that was seeping into my mind.  I went back and shook the door; it was locked (of course…).  Turned around and went back to the car.  But something inside my head was going, “Are you sure?  Maybe it just seemed locked…”  Did you ever find yourself doubting something you knew was true?  It’s okay; you don’t have to raise your hand.  I think most of us have had moments of doubt like that.

John was a man who had walked with Jesus, saw Him die, and who spoke with Him after his resurrection.  Now, perhaps as much as 40 years later, with the wisdom and perspective that only come to the elderly, he observes some troubling changes in the body of believers.  He could have scolded them, tried to lay down the law.  But John knew that if he could solidify some of the basic truths in their hearts, help them turn away from doubting things they knew to be true, that the Holy Spirit would keep them on track.  So he writes a kind of song to the believers – to the ones newest in the faith, to those who are in their most robust years of living out their faith, and to those who have grown old in the faith.

To the newest believers, he writes:

I write to you, dear children,

because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. (1 John 2:12)

When someone says, “I forgive you,” even though it is a relief, we more or less assume that they haven’t done so completely, or that if we did the same bad thing again they would “unforgive” us.  That’s why it is so hard for new believers to truly understand that God’s forgiveness doesn’t work that way.  When God forgives our sins, they have been forgiven, all of them.  It’s over!  John knows that doubting that can undermine our understanding and experience of everything else about our life in Jesus.  John knows Satan knows that, too, and loves to tempt us to doubt.  So he nails it down for the children in the faith.  You are forgiven.

A bit later, he addresses the newest Christians again:

I write to you, dear children,

because you have known the Father.  (1 John 2:13c)

John knows how essential it is for us to understand that God – Almighty God, Creator of the Universe –  is our Father.  Jesus taught us by His example to approach God as our “Abba,” our Papa, particularly in times of great distress (Mark 14:36).

John “sings” to the new believer, reminding him (or her) that God, Who is their loving Father, has completely and irrevocably forgiven them all their sins.  He has not done so capriciously, but rather has accepted full payment on their behalf in the blood of His Son, Jesus.  “…your sins have been forgiven on account of His Name.”  

Maybe you have had some doubts about those basic truths.  Let John’s “song” sing to you.

Held by Faith

When Jesus said to Peter,

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

He was warning Peter about the trial to come.  But more than that, He was encouraging him, informing Peter that He would keep him safe.   Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail!

So, here’s the question: When we suffer, when we are discouraged and confused, who is responsible for making sure our faith doesn’t fail?   After all, faith is our lifeline, our means of connecting to God.  Who protects it?  Whose job is it to keep our faith strong?  Our natural inclination is to believe that we must work harder to keep our faith strong.  We have to tell ourselves to believe.  But is that true?

In Peter’s situation, Jesus prayed that his faith would not fail.   Maybe you think that Peter was more important to Jesus than you are.  Is that true?  (Hint:  What did Jesus teach about “the least of these, my brothers”? – Matthew 25:40ff)  Do you think that Jesus, the One Who promised,

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:39-40)

… would somehow fail to pray for your faith?

And how did you get your faith?  Did you work it up?  Did you “squinch” up your face and ball your fists and hold your breath?  Or was your faith given to you by God?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

By the way, when God gives out gifts, batteries – rechargables – are included.

The toddler is going with his grandfather, down to the soda shop to get a cone of mint-chip.  As they get ready to cross Main, Grampa holds out his hand and says, “Hold onto my hand and don’t let go.”   Hand in hand, off they go, picking their way through a break in traffic.  Whose job is it to make sure the child is still holding on?

In my Father's Hand