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Dealing with Doubts

John 20:25 - But Thomas said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in His hand and put my fingers where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."

Luke 7:20 - When the men came to Jesus they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, `Are you the one that was to come, or should we expect someone else?'"

Matthew 14:29-30 - Then Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

How do you deal with your doubts about the Christian faith? You say you don't have any? Never, ever?! Well, it's great if you can say that, but most of us growing Christians must confess that a few doubts do harass us every now and then. In fact, some Christians are so loaded down with doubts that they hardly ever get a chance to "rejoice in their salvation." Is there any solution to the problem of doubts in the life of a Christian? Yes! The Bible is sufficient for all we need to know in order to live a godly life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible gives the answers for dealing with doubts.

Basically, the Biblical solution to doubts is more faith. Ephesians 6:16 says that the shield of faith will "extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one." Doubts are one of those flaming missiles. They are part of the strategy of Satan to keep the Christian off balance and afraid and discouraged. Increased faith is the key to dealing with doubts--it is a protective shield which keeps doubts from getting to us. More faith does not mean trying to psych ourselves up, or kissing our brains goodbye, or some other type of subjective mental gymnastics. No, it means looking more to, trusting more in, and depending more on the Lord Jesus Christ. A little child on his first trip to the big city with his father may be bombarded with doubts and fears--his safety, his security, his insignificance, etc. His doubts are not dispelled by some kind of subjective thinking("I have no doubts, I have no doubts, I have no doubts"), but by placing his little hand in the firm grip of his father's big hand.

The Scriptures above are excerpts from three accounts in the Gospels where the Lord Jesus deals with doubts in the lives of His followers. Before proceeding further it would be helpful if you read the whole of each account. For the case of Thomas, read John 20:19-29. For the case of John the Baptist, read Luke 7:18-23. For the case of Peter, read Matthew 14:22-33. God has included these accounts in His Holy Word so that growing Christians may learn the lessons of what to do about doubts. In each case there is a principle given to us for dealing with doubts. When these principles are applied, faith will increase and doubts will decrease.

"Doubting Thomas" is an example of a Christian who has doubts because he doesn't have enough visible or tangible evidence of God. Unless I can "see and touch" (v25) is an unreasonable attitude for a Christian and does not bring the blessing of the Lord (v29). Notice the circumstances. Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus came (v24). We don't know whether it was because of fear or lack of interest or "business," but there may be a lesson here for us. If we don't get together for fellowship and study and prayer with other Christians, it won't be long before doubts come our way. We are not immune from doubts concerning the very fundamentals of the faith--Thomas doubted the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thomas had his doubts dispelled, but not before he was back where he belonged with the other Christians.

The principle of increasing faith and decreasing doubts that is given to us in this account is that we must stay in close fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. One of the great truths of the New Testament is embodied in our Lord's words in Matthew 18:20, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." There is nothing that will dispel our doubts more quickly than the living presence of the Lord. Although Thomas had the unique privilege of physically seeing the resurrected Christ "in their midst" (v26), the Lord assures us that this is unnecessary (v29). Jesus continues to dwell in the midst of His people by His Spirit today. (See Ephesians 2:22.) No wonder we are told in Hebrews 10:25 not to "give up meeting together." The Christian "hermit" is more prone toward doubts than the Christians who is enjoying the Lord's presence in the midst of his people.

In the case of John the Baptist we have an example of a Christian who has doubts because he can't quite figure out what God is doing. At this time John was in prison (Matthew 11:2) and he couldn't understand why Jesus (the Messiah whom he had announced) wasn't moving a little faster to set things straight. Why was that evil Herod still on the throne and ungodly Rome still in control of the land of Israel? Why was John sitting around in prison where he couldn't be effective? No wonder he sent to Jesus to ask, "Are you the one who is coming, or should we look for someone else?" Note that John was not denying the Lord or giving up the faith. He was questioning matters he couldn't understand. Remember that the word "doubt" does not necessarily imply denial; it can mean to question, or hold questionable. But intellectual questions should be approached in such a way that they will not make us "stumble" in our relationship with the Lord (verse 23).

The Scriptural approach to the hard questions is to bring them before the Lord and ask Him. To speculate and philosophize apart from prayer is toquestion God rather than ask God, and that is the wrong approach. Praying is not a cop-out; it is an acknowledgement of our dependence on the One who has all the answers. John the Baptist had some hard questions so he sent directly to the Lord and waited. The Lord answered John by pointing him to the Scriptures. You see, John the Baptist knew the Old Testament prophecies like the back of his hand. All Jesus did was to show John that the prophecies of Isaiah concerning the coming Messiah were being fulfilled. (See Isaiah 35:5-6.) John was not delivered from prison (he was beheaded there), but God's Word was sufficient to answer John's doubts. Often the Lord will use His Word to answer our intellectual doubts. Here then in another principle for dealing with doubts. Lay them out before the Lord in prayer and wait on Him for His answer from the Word.

In the case of Peter walking on the water we have an example of a Christian who had doubts because the situation seemed to be impossible, even for God. Throughout this whole account we have a picture of the walk of faith to which our Lord calls us (v29) across the troubled and contrary "sea of life." Peter began to sink because he took his eyes off the Lord to look at the storm. It was at this point that his faith ebbed and he began to doubt (v31). Looking at the contrary winds and crisis waves of this life will always bring discouragement and fear. The protective shield of faith is lowered, and doubts concerning the Lord's ability zero in. The only cure for these doubts is to get our eyes back on the Lord in complete dependence, as Peter was forced to do (v30).

The principle of dealing with doubts that comes to us from this account is not just "Keep your eyes on the Lord," but "Be in a position where you mustkeep your eyes on the Lord." You see, the other disciples were safe in the boat and not in a position to experience the removal of doubts in the same way as Peter. Although Peter experienced "sinking," he also experienced "walking on water." It is only as we take the "risk" of walking by faith rather than sight that doubts concerning the Lord's ability to handle the "impossible" situations are removed. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to cry out, "Lord, save me!" (v30)? To see and experience the Lord's power in those situations is to have doubts removed. Maybe the Lord wants you to serve Him this summer as a missionary helper or camp counselor or evangelistic team member. Are you holding back because you hold onto whatever "boat" you are clinging to? The outstretched hand of the living Lord is ready to take hold of you and increase your faith (v31).

We've seen from these Scriptures that doubts are not uncommon to the followers of the Lord Jesus. As growing Christians, let us not be surprised if occasionally we find ourselves in the company of Thomas and John the Baptist and Peter. However, the Lord does not exactly praise this position. In fact, in each case there is a mild rebuke directed at the doubter. (See Matthew 14;31. Luke 7:23 and John 20:29.) God does not want us to flounder in doubts but He expects us to deal with them according to the principles He has included in His Word.
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