by John Telgren
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THE NATURE OF DOUBT
“There is no way the Bible can be accurate!” Do you really expect me to believe that Jesus came back to life after he died? Give me a break!”
Comments such as these can cause one to doubt his faith. Doubt can lead someone to think he has become an unbeliever because he has lost his faith. There is nothing wrong with “honest” doubt. There are some things that doubt is not.
1) Doubt is not skepticism. While there is nothing wrong with honest doubt, there is much wrong with “dishonest doubt,” which is nothing more than skepticism. Skepticism is simply the willful decision to doubt everything deliberately, virtually rejecting what is highly probable.
2) Doubt is not unbelief. Unbelief is the decision not to have faith, which is a far cry from what doubt is. Doubt may amount to nothing more than difficulty in understanding something. There is no reason to feel guilty about honest doubt. Faith and doubt are not mutually exclusive. However, faith and unbelief are mutually exclusive.
Everyone has some sort of faith. Even a die-hard atheist has faith that there is no God. He may not think of it as faith, but the fact that no one has “proved” the non-existence of God means that he accepts his belief in no God by faith.
The Atheist would challenge our faith by saying ours is not a reasonable faith because there is nothing to substantiate it. We will look at evidence that demonstrates that not only is our faith reasonable, it is the most likely probability.
I do want to make a point before continuing. People rarely come to faith with resolved doubts. Francis Bacon said, “If you start with total certainty, you will end up with doubt, but if you start with doubt, you will end up with certainty.” Faith is not going to be faith solely because of the evidence we will be looking at. Notice the following passage:
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb 11:1).”
Our faith is not based on the ability to prove or disprove. If we could prove 100% that our belief is true, then our faith would no longer be faith. So when we engage in a defense of our faith, we are showing “evidence” that our faith is “reasonable.” However, the bottom line is that we accept our Lord by faith.
Our faith comes from hearing, not necessarily from proving (Rom 10:17). While proving can remove obstacles to faith and strengthen it, faith is ultimately a decision. The Greek word for faith carries the idea of trust and obedience. James discusses this in James 2:19. Real faith is not merely mental assent, or even acceptance of some facts. It is an active trust in our Lord.
Next, we will look at how to handle doubt, and then look at evidence for the reasonableness of our faith.
DEALING WITH DOUBT
“I’m not sure that I’m really a Christian.” “I don’t think God is close to me.” “How could God love someone like me?” “Does God really care?”
Doubts similar to these have probably surface in your life from time to time. Praise God! If you are still here and worshipping God, then Satan has not snatched you away!
Wrestling with doubt will not lead you away from God, but giving in or ignoring it will. Remember that our faith is strengthened by testing, but is not the result of it. Faith is the "assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen, (Heb 11:1)," not the conviction of things proven. Otherwise, faith would no longer be faith. “We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).” Yet, there will still be doubts to struggle with. So here are some suggestions for dealing with doubt:
1. Rely on the promises of God and not on your own feelings. God told Joshua to “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Josh 1:9).” “Cease striving and know that I am God (Psa 46:10).” When you experience doubts, remember that God has promised forgiveness of sins (1 Jno 1:9), to stand by us in our life (Jno 10:28; Mt 28:20), and an inheritance (1 Jno 2:25). As a matter in fact, God has given us a pledge, or “collateral” for it (Eph 1:13-14) and even put himself under oath (Heb 6:17)!
Another word about emotions. You may have felt very close to God when you became a Christian, but may not feel God is not close any more. Psalms 42 deals with the same problem. Notice how the Psalmist acknowledges God is still there even though he doesn’t feel like it. So do not trust in your emotions, they have a tendency to be very fickle. Trust in the promises of God (Heb 11:1 – 12:2)!
2. Realize that popular reaction has no bearing on right or wrong. Most who reject Christianity have not thought about it deeply or investigated it. Many people base their rejection on misunderstanding. Their rejection does not nullify the truth of the Gospel. Truth is truth whether people accept it or not. It is good to remember the Parable of the Soils in Mark 4. The seed did not always grow, but the problem was the soil, not the seed. Likewise, if God’s truth is not popular today, it is not because truth has ceased to be truth, but merely that people are not accepting it.
3. Don’t be preoccupied with your doubts. Preoccupation with doubt places your focus on yourself rather than God. It is like an attention-seeking child, demanding more and more attention as it grows. If you feed your doubt, it can become skepticism and unbelief. So don’t get preoccupied with it.
4. Learn to nourish and feed your faith, rather than your doubt. Read and meditate on God (Ps 119:148), keep a spiritual diary and a prayer journal. Read devotional classics and other material that will help stimulate your thinking. Your faith will become rock solid if you feed and nourish it with God’s word.
(Visit my web site at www.epreacher.org)
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