Sunday, January 5, 2014

Is Doubt Okay?

Is it okay to doubt that God exists?  Is it okay to doubt in His faithfulness?  Is it okay to doubt His promises?  I heard this disturbing quote over the weekend, "Our faith is bipolar, we oscillate between faith and doubt and that's okay."  This hardly seems scriptural at all.  Not too say that there aren't doubters in the Bible, there are many of them.  Many of the heroes in the faith had moments of doubt.  Does that make doubt okay?  Where being okay with doubt means that it's a natural state for the believer and therefore requires no action and no repentance.

Be Real

One thing we can't do is deny that doubt is real.  It is real and when it exists, pretending that it doesn't only makes matters worse.  Ask the hard questions, pursue the answers, seek counsel, seek Him until the doubts are dissolved and what remains is faith.  "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)  Doubt like any other sin must be confronted and confessed.

Jesus didn't come to give sight to those who could see (or those who claimed to see), but those who were blind.  If we acknowledge that we are blind, Jesus will come and heal us.  If we acknowledge our unbelief and seek Him to deliver us, He will.  Use the faith you have to press in for the faith you don't.  He came so that we no longer have to live in doubt, but in faith.
"And Jesus said, 'For judgment I have come into the this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.' Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, 'Are we blind also?' Jesus said to them, 'If you were blind, you would have no sin, but now you say, 'We see.'  Therefore your guilt remains." - John 9:39-41
If we do not confess our doubts we are no different than the Pharisees and our guilt and doubt will remain.

Faith does not Lean on Understanding

When Jesus came, the entire region where He walked was turned from darkness into light.  People came to a new understanding of God and through Jesus the glory of God was manifest. Jesus confounded the wisdom of the wise and allowed the simple to enter the kingdom.  The unlearned, the tax collectors and prostitutes where entering the kingdom of heaven ahead of the learned.  Jesus declared that the kingdom was available to those who believe by faith.
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me." - Matthew 18:1-2
Succeeding in God's kingdom requires the humility and faith of a little child who accepts the word of God without questioning, without doubt.  A little child does not consider the consequences of what happens if this doesn't work.  What happens if I tithe on the first fruits of my income, will I have enough to pay my bills?
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.  By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." - Hebrews 11:1-3
Although it makes no scientific sense that God created the universe out of nothing, we believe by faith.  In the same way we do not need to understand how the prayer of faith brings healing, but only that it does.
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" - Hebrews 11:6
Smith Wigglesworth put it this way, "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it."

What Would Jesus Say?

When Jesus sees doubt in us today, what does He say?  What Jesus is saying today about doubt is the same thing He said 2000 years ago.
  • When the disciples could not heal the boy with epilepsy, Jesus said to them, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me." (Matthew 17:17:)
  • When Peter walked on the water and after looking at the waves began to doubt and sink, Jesus said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:31)
  • When Jesus appeared to the two on the road to Emmaus he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!" (Luke 24:25)
  • When Thomas refused to believe that Jesus was resurrected until he could place his finger in the nail prints and place his finger in Jesus side, Jesus appeared and said to him, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side.  Do not be unbelieving, but believing." And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:27-29)
All fear, doubt, unbelief and confusion are from the devil.  We reject these as we reject any other sin.  Jesus called that generation wicked and twisted because doubt is illogical in God's kingdom.  When we are transformed by the renewing of our mind we will see with a kingdom perspective where doubt just doesn't make any sense.  Jesus often asked the disciples why they doubted, because there is no logical reason to doubt if we have believed the Word of God more than our fears.

James writes concerning doubt,
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let no that man suppose he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." (James 1:5-8)
James' words to the doubter are harsh, but true.  Without faith it is impossible to please God and while doubt prevails we can be sure we will receive nothing from the Lord.

Our High Priest

While we cannot receive anything without faith, we also have a great High Priest who understands our weaknesses and makes intercession for us.  If we are real about our weaknesses and our doubts, He will help us.
"Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" - Hebrews 7:25
Just before Peter was about to face one of the biggest trials of his life where his own failures would cause him to doubt and leave Jesus, Jesus said to him,
"Simon, Simon! Indeed Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." - Luke 22:31-32
Here we see a wonderful example of Jesus the High Priest making intercession for Peter, praying for him that his faith would not fail.  Jesus knew doubt and unbelief would be the greatest assault of the enemy against Peter and so He intercedes for him.  Notice that Peter's success or failure was determined by his faith.  Jesus never said doubt was okay and He never said Peter could overcome despite his doubt, but that He would intercede so that His faith would be strong and by faith he would overcome.  Peter's faith would be an encouragement to the brethren so that they too could overcome by faith.
"let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12:1b-2
Jesus is the author and the completer of our faith, what He started He is faithful to finish.  His responsibility is to complete our faith, our responsibility is to seek Him so that He can complete our faith.  One of the ways we seek Him is by mediating on the Word because "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).  It can be very frustrating to try and complete your faith yourself, in fact it's impossible.  When you find doubt, confess it, seek Him and His word and faith will dispel the doubt.  Let Him replace your doubts, but don't find yourself absolving yourself of your responsibility.  Doubt is sin and an indication that things are not as they should be.  There is no excuse for doubt.

Jesus was on a mission to obliterate doubt, like He said to Thomas, "Do not be unbelieving, but believing."  There is a blessing for those who believe without seeing, who have the faith of a little child.

The Testing of Our Faith

Persecution comes on account of the Word received by faith.  When we decide to believe the word of God, perhaps for our miracle of healing, we can be assured that persecution will come.  The enemy of our faith will set things up so that it appears as though the word is not true, that God has forgotten about us, or that we're too sinful too receive from Him.  It's then when our faith is tested that when we continue to believe we receive the blessing of believing without seeing.  When we make it through the trials, our faith in that area is cemented in our spirit and we can receive in that area anytime.  It is important that we bring to our remembrance the miracles He has done.  The times we've stood on His word and seen His hand in our lives will ensure that we can believe for all the things we have in the past and will allow us to believe for far greater.
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." - James 1:2-3
Trials when handled correctly with joy produce patience which leads to perfection, a place where will be able to trust the Father for anything in Jesus name and therefore lack nothing.

Consider Abraham who had to wait 25 years for the promise of his son, or Joseph who had to wait 14 years to see his God-given dreams fulfilled. Many of the ancients waited for promises they never saw fulfilled in this life, but as part of the great cloud of witnesses are watching as the promises unfold.

Nevertheless at Your Word

Until we act in faith we cannot please God and we won't see the hand of God in our life, but we need not fear because our great High Priest makes intercession for us so that our faith will remain strong.  We need to have the humility of a little child and even although things don't make sense we believe.  Simon Peter exemplified this when he obeyed Jesus command to let down his net for a catch even although they had been fishing all night and caught nothing.
"When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, 'Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.'  But Simon answered and said to Him, 'Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.'  And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking." (Luke 5:5-6)
This is the faith we're looking for where we say, Jesus, it doesn't make much sense to me in the natural, but nevertheless at your word I will do what you command.  If you will believe you will see the hand of God. "Do not be afraid.  Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today." (Exodus 14:13)

Ask and you will Receive

"For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." - Matthew 7:8 
Jesus tells a parable of a woman who kept persisting with the judge to grant her justice.  He compares this to His people who continue before the thrown of God until He answers, saying,
"And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?  I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.  Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes will He really find faith on the earth?" - Luke 18:8
God wants to answer, God has promised to answer, but are we willing to push through in our prayers until He does answer?  Will we have the faith and patience required to inherit the promises?  As Jesus return draws near this kind of faith is going to be rare, but those who seek it will find it.  Let this be an encouragement in the same way that when Jesus encouraged the disciples concerning riches:
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished saying, "Who then can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." - Matthew 19:24-26
Acknowledge your doubts, but don't focus on them, hand them over to Him, seek Him and with God all things are possible.

Conclusion

Doubt is not okay, all fear, doubt and unbelief is from the devil.  Doubting that He exists will get us nowhere, because we must believe that He exists AND that he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.  If we doubt His promises we won't receive them.  Our responsibility is to seek Him and His word, being transformed by the renewing of our mind.  When we seek Him, our doubts will be dissolved and we will see the hand of God in our life.  We must imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

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