Dealing With Doubt

Introduction

Have you ever come to a point where you doubted something that you have believed for a long time? Let’s take that a little further. Have you ever doubted something that you believe in regards to your Christian Faith. Here are some common doubts that many people have.

  1. Am I really going to heaven?
  2. How do I know that I am really a Christian?
  3. Has God abandoned me because of my “great” sin?
  4. Is God really going to deliver me?
  5. Does God really exist?

I could go on and on with this list because we all have doubts or questions about the things that we believe. Sometimes these doubts are spawned by self reflection and sometimes they arise as a result of a question by someone else that perhaps you really don’t know the answer for.

I have had many doubts or questions and continue to have them. I questioned the very existence of God at one point in my life for example. It wasn’t that I began to think that he didn’t exist. I simply questioned whether he did or not. After all, everything that I knew about God was from reading the Bible and from what I was told. What evidence was there? Simply believing by faith wasn’t enough for me anymore. For some people it is enough to simply believe by faith that God exists or whatever. However, there are some that need more. They don’t necessarily need proof, but they need something to go by or something to hold on to.

One could question whether God is really going to do such and such for him or her. We pray and pray, but the reality is that we don’t know even though we are told that God will never fail. Will he fail me this time?

I was laid off in January of 2003 from my Information Technology job. I had just moved into a brand new house 18 months prior. Our child was just three years old and I had only worked for that company for about 18 months. One of the things that I contemplated was of course “what would happen to us?” Would we lose the house? Would we have to move back into the city? All kinds of thoughts raced through my head.

Then I recalled a scripture that I knew very well, which indeed comforted me. I actually don’t remember exactly what the scripture was, but I think that I had recalled the scripture that says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things would be added to me.” However, I still wondered what would happen. Would we lose the house? Would God deliver us from this? Would I get a new job in time? What if those people are right and there is no God or that God really doesn’t care? What if the deists are correct in that God is not involved with the affairs of humans on earth? These were some of the doubts that would pop up in my mind repeatedly. One would expect that one would simply stand on faith and know that God would do this or that. However, I learned through that and during that ordeal that the only thing I could do was trust God regardless of what happened. I was determined to remain faithful even thought doubts bombarded my mind.

These doubts turned out to be very beneficial to me. Doubts in themselves are not necessarily a bad thing. We all question things that happen based on circumstances in our life. However I learned that true faith transcends these doubts and that our faith should not be based on circumstance.

Doubts are only harmful if you are I a cult or highly controlling religious organization (some would call that a cult too). Questioning, for example, a pastor about his teaching could spawn persecution in that particular church. Questioning the precepts of a religious organization could bring about persecution. Therefore, you will find that many people in religious organizations just keep quiet and go along with the flow in order to keep the peace in their lives.

In any case, doubts should not be suppressed, but rather dealt with. If you have doubts then that simply means that you have questions. The anchor of your faith is no longer holding you or is weakening. This doesn’t mean that you are losing faith in God or anything like that. It could mean however that the basis for that faith is not consistent with what you see or more information that you have gathered over the years of your life to that point.

We are going to look at the doubt of John the Baptist. He believed in the Messiah and he believed that Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph was indeed the Messiah. However, there came a time in his life while in prison that he questioned if Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

SCRIPTURE LESSON

(John 1:29-36) -- {29}The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! {30}This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ {31}I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” {32}And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. {33}I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ {34}And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” {35}Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. {36}And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

Here John the Baptist recognizes who Jesus Christ is. Obviously God told John how he would know the Messiah. John says that Jesus is the Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world. He then goes on to describe the prominence of Jesus Christ. John witnesses to the fact that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.

Now let us consider another scripture.

(John 3:30) -- {30}He must increase, but I must decrease.

Here we see again that John recognizes Jesus as the Messiah. John knows that his ministry must decline as Jesus’ ministry and purpose must grow.

In both of the above situations John is freely baptizing along the Jordan River. However, things change when he criticizes Herod about his wife situation. You see, Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, was married to Aretas who was the daughter of a Nabatean king. However, Herod became infatuated with his half-brother’s (Philip I) wife, Herodias. The two of them eloped though they were both still married. John condemned this marriage greatly as we find in Matthew 14:4; Mark 6:17; Luke 3:19). Herod Antipas later had John arrested.

After some time in prison John began to doubt whether Jesus was indeed the Messiah even though he had confessed earlier that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Consider the following Scripture.

(Matthew 11:2-3) -- {2}And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples {3}and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

John basically told his disciples to ask Jesus if he was indeed the Messiah or should we look for someone else who is the Messiah? What happened? How could John the Baptist doubt that Jesus was the Messiah when he already said that God would show him who the Messiah was? Now did he doubt God as well? Haven’t you been certain of something and then later are not so sure? This is the condition that John the Baptists appears to have been in. He doubted.

What brought on this doubt? I’d say being in prison would give one many doubts and uncertainties about the future. John did what God told him to do and now he is in prison and would eventually lose his life. Perhaps he should not have been so severe with Herod about his marriage. What difference would it have made? John may have thought that he should have kept his mouth closed and stay focused on his ministry of preparing the way for Jesus Christ. Was this indeed how his ministry would decrease? We could only imagine the doubts that went through his head. He didn’t doubt the Messiah would come, but that perhaps Jesus was not the Messiah they were waiting for. Perhaps he had made a mistake in identifying the Messiah. In that case, how would he know when God is speaking to him in the future?

The wonderful thing here is Jesus’ response to John’s question. Consider how Jesus responded.

(Matthew 11:4-6) -- {4}Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: {5}The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. {6}And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

Jesus in a round about way told John that he was indeed the Messiah. The things that Jesus described are those things that were attributed to the Messiah (See Isaiah 35:5-6, 61:1)

He then gives a discourse about John the Baptist, which is very interesting.

(Matthew 11:7-11) -- {7}As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? {8}But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. {9}But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. {10}For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ {11}“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Jesus acknowledged the greatness of John the Baptist. What is even more important in my opinion is that Jesus did not condemn John for asking such a question. He didn’t respond to his doubts at all, but merely to his question.

You see doubts are a normal part of life. We all have doubts about many things. We doubt that the decision that we made was indeed a good one even though they seemed to be at the time. We wonder if we should have pursued that instead of this. We question so many things in our live including the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

No one knows what God would do. We say we have faith, but at the same time we worry and are scared of what MIGHT happen. If you are so faithful then why are you worried and why is there a “might happen” when true faith is being sure of the outcome.

Doubt is not a bad thing, but only if it brings us closer to God. Our doubts do not in themselves take us away from God. In all cases of separation from God we have to actually deny what we are given. God has revealed himself to us through Christ and through His written word. We only need seek him and get the answers that we desire. Jesus said seek and you shall find in Matthew 7:7.

You might do well to read another account of Jesus dealing with the doubt of his disciple, Thomas in Matthew 20:24-29. Note here that Jesus also dealt with Thomas’ doubt in a similar manner as he did with John the Baptist.

Conclusion

It is much better to simply be honest with yourself and ask the questions that you want to ask. If you doubt then deal with it and ask questions. Resolve the doubt. We live in a world where we are very much affected by the situations of life and sometimes our situations cause us to doubt. Sometimes the act of simply contemplating things causes us to doubt.

It’s OK to come with honest questions to those that you think will answer them. Of course you should always come to God first because He will answer you questions, though not always in the way that we would expect.

Not all environments are conducive to doubts. For example, if the religious leaders in your particular church really want to control you for their own personal gain then questions in that environment would not be healthy. Questions and therefore doubts would be perceived as challenges to the authorities (religious leaders) in most cases. So it is important to discern who you should ask your questions to.

I believe doubts are a good thing in the proper context. My doubts draw me closer to God instead of away from him. My doubts have taught me that uncertainty is not necessary for a life of faith. My doubts have been instrumental in helping me stay on the proper path for my life.

Sometimes we may doubt and realize that we made a mistake. Deal with it and move on. You are still human and not some super person who is wired to God. We will doubt and we will make mistakes. The great thing is that God is always there to guide us. Our doubts are therefore a healthy part of our normal Christian life. I find it hard to believe that someone could go through their entire life and not question some of the things that he or she believes (save perhaps those who are in cults and controlling religious institutions).

So don’t be worried about your doubts. Deal with them and remain confident in God even thought he situation looks bleak. Stay faithful even though there is nothing to grab onto and what you thought you knew seems to be failing you. God will lead you and always draw you closer to him. Don’t reject him and don’t blame him, but feel free to ask Him all of the questions that you want. Amen! God bless you always.

 


Dealing with Doubt
By William R. Cunningham
May 29, 2005