I’ve always felt sorry for Thomas – after all, ever since he doubted Jesus’ resurrection, he’s been hung out to dry! Yet, in actual fact he wasn’t the only one who doubted that the impossible had happened:
‘While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?’ (Luke 24:36-38)
‘When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.’ (Matthew 28:17)
We all have doubts at times – YES even the most faith filled Christians you know and YES even those pastors and great preachers who you and I hold in such high esteem.
But what do we do when doubts arise and how do we limit the impact of those doubts and increase our faith and belief in God?!
IT’S OK TO HAVE DOUBTS
‘Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.’ (Paul Tillich)
Tillich is correct – maybe we’re a little hard on ourselves at times. I meet so many Christians who doubt God, doubt His very existence at times, and in particular doubt He will answer prayer. I guess this is not really surprising when you consider the world we live in. Trust has been completely eroded in politicians, leaders, pastors and sadly in God too. Without realising some have become doubt filled, untrusting, cynical and their faith has slowly, almost without being noticed, drained away. We simply must not allow this cynical, lying, deceitful, sin filled world to mold us a moment longer!
‘Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.’ (Romans 12:2)
This cynical and deeply distrusting world which always fears the worst and expects little from anyone, never mind God, has shaped us enough. Surely it’s time to fight back?
For others, our doubts are based on bad experience. Many of us, if we’re honest, will have seen prayers go apparently unanswered and some of those disappointments have had a lasting impact. I guess most of us will have experienced unanswered prayers concerning finance, relationships, jobs, promotions, health and for some (myself included) even the death of those who died tragically or long before their time. All those things are likely to knock our faith and create doubts in our minds about God.
DOUBTING DAMAGES FAITH
It’s easy to underestimate the impact of doubts. James talked about its impact on asking God for things:
‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. ‘ (James 1:5-8)
We simply must not allow the world, the flesh or the devil to rob us of the strong and steady faith that God wants us to have. We must, somehow, get over these obstacles to faith. Can I suggest that if there are unanswered prayers or you’re disappointed with God in some kind of way, that you take this to God.
Talk to the one who understands it all. Tell Him how you feel and do business with Him and then, with renewed faith in The One who knows all things, and even more importantly knows what’s best for you….move forward. Do not allow ‘something that is behind you trip you up!’ (think about that)
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU DOUBT
So what should we do when doubts arise…
Focus on the truth
His Word is truth – He never breaks His promises. This is why it is so important to regularly read His Word. We must get into His Word and get His Word into us. During my early years in ministry I realised that I hadn’t actually read the whole Bible through from cover to cover. I decided to follow a reading plan for a year to complete it. I gained so much from it and it transformed my life and ministry so much that I haven’t stopped reading it every year. It has probably been one of the biggest influences in my life. Any doubts about God have disappeared and faith went to a whole new level!
Defeat The Doubt!
In addition to reading His Word regularly you should also discover what God says in His Word about you and your current situation. Identify the lies the enemy has tried to make you believe. Find the promises that you can apply to your doubt, make a note, then declare them each day out loud, stand on them and remember this:
‘The LORD always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does.’ (Psalm 145:13)
Whenever I have doubts or I’m going through a tough time or a challenging situation for which I cannot find an answer or a way forward I find it really helpful to remind myself what God has done in my life in the past. God is not a deserter. He has promised never to leave us as orphans and so we can be assured that the same God who rescued, provided, sustained and came through for us in the past is not about to withdraw right now!
Make A Choice!
‘For we live by faith, not by sight.’ (2 Cor. 5:7)
A real believing faith makes a choice not to focus on the circumstances and difficulties but upon the God who rules and reigns – the God of the Bible who changes darkness into light and the impossible into the possible. The one of whom Paul says:
‘What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ (Romans 8:31-32)
When we’re struggling the very best thing we can do is pray.
Prayer changes things! Prayer really does make a difference!
Little wonder the devil quakes when we start to pray!
My friend, the late and much missed healing evangelist William Lee, often told me that he would pray before meetings: ‘Lord make me a doubt free zone!’ If you’re struggling with doubts right now then that would be a really great little prayer to pray every time a doubt comes into your mind!
In my early years as a Christian there were many times of difficulty and trial and every time I had considerable doubts God proved Himself faithful. Even when we are faithless he remains faithful!
It’s a natural human response to have doubts – we all have them – YES even pastors! I wonder what doubts you have right now? The question is are you going to keep dwelling on the doubt or are you going to take some action and move forward. Remember Jesus’ encouraging words to Simon Peter (and to us!):
‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ (Luke 22:31-32)
Jesus is praying for you right now. You will come through this! And when you have come through – don’t forget to encourage others who are facing the same doubts and difficulties as you…