SOMETIMES I DOUBT GOD   [The Bout With Doubt]

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimesi-doubt-god/

 

In the midst of daily life there are many opportunities to doubt God

      • When a baby dies we wonder “So, where is God when we need Him?”
      • With a world-wide epidemic taking thousands of lives a day we wonder. “Is God real?” And “If He is, is He good?” And, “If He is real and good – where is He?”
      • If God is all-powerful, then why doesn’t He just stop all the bad things going on in the world right now?

              • The pastor’s wife in Russia just diagnosed with cancer
              • The young man in Kazakhstan who needs $200 a month to live but…
              • A loved one dying unexpectedly of the Coronavirus 
              • Iranian pastor and his wife jailed for 15 years
              • Young Chinese believer jailed for sharing his faith

I have these times in my life when I sense doubt arising within my soul

I begin to ask questions that don’t seem to have answers

I hold what I believe up to the light of the reality I am living in and wonder

More than wonder – I doubt!

I call it my “Bout With Doubt”

So I ask myself – as I am sure some of you do occasionally as well…

Is it so unreasonable to expect God to do a few small things that help everyone believe in Him?

Do something so the unsaved can see the power of God working today

Do something so believers can renew their hope that things are not out of control

A modern day burning bush that’s never consumed would be cool

Parting the ocean

Allowing a whale to swallow a runaway prophet, only to puke him out on the shore would be impressive

Of course – caught by someone with a video and posted on Facebook

Move a mountain

Raise a dead guy to life

Anything dramatic would do the trick

Even though God can and has acted with such power – and much more – He doesn’t seem to do as much of that today

When I first felt called into the ministry …

Ancient history – 1966 while a 3rd year student at McGill University in Montreal 

I remember sitting week after week in this amazing gorgeous church where my family attended

Same row every week … next to a stain glass window (all the windows were stain glass) that had a panel that opened so fresh air would come in

In one of my daily “Bout with doubt” I asked God to allow a lightening bolt to strike the church and specifically come through that open window without damaging it or destroying me

I wanted Him to do something to show me it really was Him calling me to enter full-time ministry 

I prayed that and believed God could and would do it

I prayed … I believed … week after week

I waited patiently – and not so patiently

Nothing happened … Months passed

Except that my bout with doubt grew in intensity 

Then one night it happened … 

I was sitting next to the St. Lawrence River which separates Montreal from my home city and God spoke audibly to me

It was after midnight and I was the only one on the bank of the river and God spoke

His Words totally removed all doubt … 

I believed that He was truly calling me – and so I felt strong inside

unshakable, stedfast, forever

Well, that is until something else came along and rattled my faith…

And then, again, the bout with doubt would begin

Some days spiritually strong and confident

Other days inwardly unsure and insecure

I have come a long way over the last 40+ years of walking with Jesus

I am still not free from all doubts BUT I’ve climbed a long and difficult path

And, from where I stand now the view is a lot clearer, and my confidence in God is a lot more solid and lasting

One key lesson in these bouts with doubt:

There is a difference – a distinction – between believing in something and believing it

You can believe in airplanes – but be afraid to fly

You believe that airplanes are a good thing

But do not believe that they will carry you safely to your destination

In the same way, there is a big difference between believing in God and believing God

James reflected this truth when he wrote:

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19)

Demons know God is real, but obviously, they don’t serve Him

They believe in God but don’t believe God

For many people today they try hard to believe in God without fully believing God

I personally believe God … His character, His kindness, His care, His promise, His Word

Second key lesson in these bouts with doubt:

There are at least three types of faith on the spectrum between “believing in” and “believing”

I think that I have experienced them all!

1> The first kind of faith is held by the person I would call a casual believer

Such a person believes in God but has not fully surrendered to Him

He may be a church attender

He could be a very moral person

He most likely is kind and generous

BUT, even though this person believes in God, he lives his life as if God doesn’t really exist

A Christian atheist

These people – casual believers – appear to be Christians

They pray a polite prayer at Thanksgiving and Christmas family meals

They attend church on Christmas and Easter

They tell you they are “thinking about you” during difficult time

But these same people

Don’t let God affect their spending habits

Don’t take God into consideration regarding the movies they watch

He doesn’t keep them from swearing – using God’s name in vain

He not involved when they fudge on their expense reports

Gossiping, stretching the truth, telling a white lie

They believe in God, but they still do whatever they want

2> The second kind of faith is that of the convenient believer

This is the person who waves the Christian flag whenever it involves a potential benefit

This person is quick to talk God-talk if it might help seal a business deal or score a date

They will speak “Christianeze” if it helps them to get a promotion

This person uses God to leverage a situation for personal benefit

Their life is a mess as they do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it; and when it reaches crisis mode they call the pastor

They use God for their own benefit and only when it is convenient or absolutely necessary

It is all about “me” and not really ever about God

3> The third type of faith belongs to the committed believer 

This is the kind of faith Jesus calls us towards

The road to committed faith is paved with personal abandonment and self-denial

Life ceases to be about us – and it begins to be all about God

The committed believer doesn’t waver because of the crowd and what others might be doing

He isn’t moved by other people’s opinions

He is a Christ follower all the time

Complete obedience and faithfulness are his goals

A 99 percent commitment to Christ is not enough – They are always hungry for more

So, what kind of faith is yours?

Casual belief – you are a good person who believes in God, but doesn’t let your faith dominate your life?

Convenient belief – living right when someone’s watching, or when it might benefit you, but doing your own thing when you want?

Committed belief – wholly devoted to the One who’s wholly devoted to you

The deeper your faith the less you will battle bouts with doubts!

BUT, even committed believers have bouts with doubt

When I speak about this in various places and nations:

People come up to me and say: “I want to be committed, but I still struggle with so many doubts”

So, what do you do when you don’t fully believe?

Let’s take a few minutes and look at a real person – an honest hero – from the pages of the New Testament and answer that question….

I have found great comfort and a stronger faith in the story of a fellow doubter who also had serious bouts with doubts

His name is Thomas – you might know him as “Doubting Thomas”

Not really a fair appraisal of his character and commitment to the Lord

Earlier, Thomas was prepared to go into hostile territory and die with Jesus 

John 11:7-8, 16 “Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?’ … So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’”

So spiritually strong then and having a bout with doubt now

Like me, he was a guy who believed but didn’t fully believe

You’ve probably heard his story

And maybe seen some of yourself in him – even feeling guilty because of your continuing doubt at times

But you may be surprised to find that Thomas’s journey from doubt to total committed faith can strengthen your own belief

His journey from “believing in” to believing!

And if you look with fresh – non-religious – eyes, you may even find that for centuries Thomas has received a bad rap for his doubts

Thomas was most likely a fisherman, in charge of the family business

Upon meeting Thomas, Jesus offered him the chance of a lifetime

Instead of fishing for fish, he could change the world by fishing for men

So Thomas, like all of the disciples, left everything to follow Jesus 

Matthew 19:27 states: “We’ve given up everything to follow You…”

He walked away from family, from a profitable business, from whatever home he had built – everything – all because he believed in the One who called him

Thomas didn’t doubt – at least not at first

After three years teaching His disciples, the Son of Man gave His life on a cross

And Thomas’s world went dark

Three days later, the word on the street was Egerthe! 

In Greek, that means, “He is risen!”

According to some women who claimed to have seen Him, Jesus was alive!

I imagine that everything in Thomas wanted to believe that Jesus had returned from the grave and defeated sin

But like so many others – even today – Thomas doubted – Bout with doubt

You might not agree with me but I would like to suggest that Thomas’s doubts were one of his greatest assets

Sincere doubts, handled properly, can be a great asset and a real beneficial gift

This is as true for you as it was for Thomas

If you have occasional – or even regular – bouts with doubts, your sincere struggle to believe may leave your faith stronger than if you had never questioned it

What did Thomas do in his struggle to reach committed belief – a committed faith?

John 20:24-29 “One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

1> He acknowledged his doubts

As we look in on the story we hear the disciples telling Thomas that they had seen Jesus and that He was alive … resurrected from the dead after three days

Thomas responds…

John 20:25 “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

I find his honesty incredibly refreshing

In most churches doubting is frowned upon

Thomas doesn’t care what anyone thought

He put it all on the line and said, “God has to prove it to me.”

Instead of shaming him for his doubts, I want to hug him as a fellow traveller on this faith journey

I think that Thomas understood the significance of the event

Thomas knew that if Jesus had risen from the dead, everything would forever be different

He refused to take someone else’s word for it (too big an event for that)

Thomas had to experience it for himself

Thomas was unwilling to settle for second-hand when first-hand experience was a possibility

You can almost feel his passion and hear his thoughts:

“If Jesus is alive, then everything He said was true! Life won’t be about what we can see, but about what we can’t see. The Kingdom of God is here. I’m called to be a light in the world. If Jesus has risen, the gospel demands my entire life. I MUST know for myself!”

I use to say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it”

That sounds good – but I have yet to meet a believer that did not have some doubts

Believers have an unsettledness at times … when they have a bout with doubt

They are hesitant

They have questions – hard questions

They need to face their doubts honestly

Thomas wasn’t afraid to express his doubts and to ask the hard questions

We should not be, either

And remember, the world is asking the hard questions and are searching for answers

They too have bouts with doubts

2> Thomas pursued the answers to his questions

We pick up his story in John 20:26-27

It’s now a week later and Jesus’ disciples were in the house again – and Thomas was with them this time…

“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”

Thomas didn’t just stop at asking questions based in his doubts …

He used his doubts to move forward in his faith journey

He didn’t become stuck, circling in a holding pattern of skepticism

He leaned into his doubts and dealt with them

He continued exploring, and his honest pursuit of truth took him straight to the risen Saviour

Faith grows when we seek answers to the right questions

And, we find answers through passionately pursuing truth

Many people express doubt, ask questions … then go no further

There is a man named Mike

Mike believes in God, but doesn’t trust Him

When Mike was twelve he found his mom dead in the bathtub

She had drowned during an epileptic seizure

At that moment, Mike says, he lost his faith in God

How could a good God allow that to happen?

Why does God let bad things happen to good people?

Why doesn’t God seem fair?

Mike was asking the questions … but unlike Thomas, he did not pursue the answers

To note here:

Questions by themselves can become barriers to faith

But questions that spur us forward and lead us to seek answers are pathways to God Himself

Again, to note:

Your doubts do not scare God – He is big enough to handle them

Don’t ever be afraid to ask the hard questions and to express doubt

But then do your homework

Study Scripture

Seek answers

Talk to others who are further along in their faith

Your pursuit of the answers will prove your faith 

Let’s take one more look at our friend Thomas 

He asked the questions that expressed his doubt 

Then he sought the answers

The next part is the most exciting to me

Don’t miss this

Jesus could have been angry about Thomas’s doubt

When He appeared in that locked room to His disciples, Jesus could have chewed Thomas out

He could have publicly humiliated His so-called follower for his faith struggles

He could’ve put Thomas in a spiritual  time-out

Instead, Jesus, in His love and mercy, gave Thomas exactly what his faith needed: He invited Thomas to touch His risen body

Although we don’t see Thomas taking Jesus up on His invitation, I don’t think Jesus would have thought any less of Thomas if he did

I believe God will treat you with the same patient understanding

Express your doubts

Ask questions

Seek the truth (answers)

Then watch God give you what you need to help you believe in a deeper way

He might not give what you want – but He will give you what you need

1> Acknowledge that you are struggling with some doubt

2> Pursue answers to your questions – insights into your doubts

3> Jesus revealed Himself to Thomas in a way that was beneficial to him

The once-doubtful disciple responded, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)

Don’t miss the power of this statement

Thomas believed in Jesus before 

He followed Him

He gave up his business to follow Him

Afterward, he believed Jesus

100% committed and sold out

Acknowledging Jesus as his Lord and Saviour

He is saying to Jesus “You are who You say You are – I believe You!”

Let me explain:

For a Jew to proclaim that Jesus was God was blasphemous – punishable by death

But, Thomas didn’t care – because he believed!

Thomas no longer dabbled in casual or convenient faith

After he expressed his doubts, asked his questions, and sought the answers…

Jesus gave him exactly what he needed to believe

Thomas reached his journey’s goal – committed faith

Conclusion:

A bout with doubt is good if …

Take your doubts to God

He will provide what you need to take you to the place of seriously life-changing committed faith