Just as we have problems in our physical lives we also experience problems in our spiritual lives. Facing and conquering difficulties cause us to grow and be strengthened. As we grow in our spiritual strength we bring glory to God. As we read in 2 Corinthians 2:9, His grace is sufficient for us, his power is made perfect in weakness. Some of the problems that are common in a Christian life are sin, temptation, suffering, knowing will of God and doubt.
In this article I would like to bring some aspects of a major and a common problem – DOUBT. What is Doubt? – Uncertainty of mind; uncertainty of belief or lack of confidence in something. When we apply this to a Christian life, doubt refers to the unbelief of God and His word that Christians occasionally display. To doubt the love and promises of God is a sin. It is the denial of the sovereign God.
In Old Testament we read about great men of God who at one stage doubted or disbelieved God. Abraham and his wife Sarah followed God faithfully through a lifetime of challenges. But they were unable to believe when God said to them that Sarah will bear a child in her old age. Abraham fell face down; he laughed and said to himself “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” We read this in Genesis 17:17-22, 18:10-15. However when Isaac was born, Abraham’s trust in God grew that he was even ready to sacrifice the promised child.
We then read about Gideon who stood back when God called him to lead Israelites army. He tested God few times before he was confident. However he realised the mightiness of God when Israelites won the battle.
Then we read about King David said in I Samuel 27:1 “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines..” David forgot for a moment that God has anointed him from a shepherd to a king, his hope was deferred and he forgot all the promises God gave him. But later on in Psalms 23, he says that Lord is his shepherd and he lacks nothing.
In New Testament we read in John 20:24-29 about Thomas, one of the disciple of Jesus, who witnessed miracles, travelled with Jesus and listened to his sermons, at the end, doubted about the resurrection of his Master. But when Jesus showed His hands Apostle Thomas broke and humbled himself by saying “My Lord and My God”.
So doubt or unbelief is a common and dangerous sin we face every day in our Christian life. A Christian is more likely to doubt his salvation after sinning or after a spiritual defeat. A misunderstanding of some verses as in 1 John 3:9 contributes to this doubt. It is critical to note that this verse speak of a life style of sin and not instances of sin.
A Christian may also doubt God’s sovereignty of goodness. In circumstances like sickness, suffering, injustice, opposition, economic problems, family issues, national disasters or could be an unanswered prayer. In all these we as a Christian may be tempted to doubt the goodness of God. One must remember that it’s not always possible to discern or understand God’s hand in every day affairs of life. The person of faith believes and trust God even when circumstances appear to be contrary. How can it be done? By the intimate relationship we have with God. When we learn the life of Job, he lost everything in his life and still he did not deny God. In Job 1:21 “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In fact he does mumble sometimes but never doubted God. That’s the assurance he had in his life and he believed that God is in control of everything. We will later learn how to get that sort of confidence in our life. All doubts may be traced ultimately to unbelief of the word of God, which affirms beyond question to the existence of God. To regard doubt as the sin of unbelief confess it to God as a sin and therefore it will be the first step toward conquering it.
Sources of Doubt
Let us read Habakkuk 1:2. Prophet is crying to God “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?” Also in Lamentations 3:8 we read “Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer”.
These are couple of verses where prophets or people like us crying out in anxiety which came out of doubting or forgetting God’s word. The first mention of doubt is in Genesis 3:1, where Satan himself who causes Eve to doubt God by questioning his word “He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”. Satan twisted the word of God and created a doubt in Eve’s mind.
In New Testament we read in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The same Satan whom we saw in Genesis wants to devour the Christian’s commitment to God and testimony before others.
The world system is another source of doubt. The world has its own set of values and objectives that are opposed to God. In I Corinthians 2, we read that Paul and other apostles does not speak the wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age, they speak the revelation that God has given to them through Holy Spirit. This wisdom stands directly opposite to this worldly wisdom. For example, we know about the evolution theory, big bang theory, cosmic theory etc. We won’t go into the details of any of these theories, but one thing I can assure is no science can explain the mysteries of the Bible unless it’s revealed by Holy Spirit. That’s why Paul gives a warning in 1 Timothy 6:20-21 “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith”.
Another important and significant source of doubt which I believe is simply our own spiritual immaturity. When we read James 1:1-8, he says that whenever we face trials which are given to test our faith, is to produce perseverance. We need to wait till perseverance finishes to its work so that we will be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If we are unable to understand this and if we lack wisdom, we should ask God who will give us generously. But there are some conditions how we ask God to give the heavenly wisdom. We must not be double-minded and unstable. We must believe and must not doubt. In James 4:8, he considers a double minded person as a sinner and calls to purify the hearts and get closer to God.
Also we must be careful with the false doctrines of the false prophets and preachers that may deceive the children of God by trickery. So Pauls warns in Ephesians 4:14 to be careful and make sure we conquer this kind of doubt by growing obedient and strong relationship with Jesus Christ.
Cure for doubt
The cure for doubt depends to some extent on the matter being doubted. In Mathew 6:24, we read that we cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve God and Mammon. In Joshua 24:15, we learn that Joshua and his family will serve the lord. Serving the Lord means that we give the full authority to Jesus. So it’s the shepherd’s responsibility to take care of his sheep and it’s the sheep’s responsibility to follow the shepherd. That’s what David says in Psalms 24 that our shepherd will take us to green pastures and calm water. We may have trials and tribulations in the journey, but our shepherd is in control.
1. Confess the doubt to God as sin.
Doubt is basically unbelief in God and therefore is a sin. In Mark 9:14-24, we read that a father with his son was trying to get a cure for his son. The disciples were unable to cure the child, however when Jesus asked the father about the disease, he says “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us”. Jesus said “If you can? Everything is possible for one who believes”. Immediately the boy’s father realised his sin and cries to Jesus “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief”. The father had a heart of confession. He cried and the first thing he asked Jesus was to help him to overcome his unbelief. This is what Jesus expects from each of us.
2. Faithfully study the word of God
In Romans 10:17, we read that faith comes from hearing Gods word. This is talking about the promise of salvation through Jesus. God will talk to us through scriptures and those words are very powerful. They are sharper than two edged sword. So when we read Bible and meditate on it, it goes down into our heart and touches us. Also our faith is strengthened and matured. Most especially, we must master the doctrines or basic teachings of the Bible if we want to be a stable and mature Christian. That’s what Paul says to Timothy to devote himself in reading of scripture, preaching and teaching in 1 Timothy 4:13.
3. Remember the faithfulness of God.
Remember the words of Jeremiah “Because of the steadfast love of the Lord we are not cut off”. It’s true. Were it not for God’s faithful mercy, we would have died for our sins long ago. Think about many situations we come across in our life so far where God was faithful. We may be lacking something, but think about other things God has given in our life which many does not have. God is faithful. Sometimes things may not happen the way we desire, but remember God is at work, perfecting us. He is caring for us every day. In Joshua 21:43-45 we read that the Lord gave Israel all the land promised to the forefathers. The Lord gave them rest and none of the enemies were against them. But when we closely look into the facts we see how God kept his promises – not quickly (it took seven years), not without struggle (there were many battles), not without some failure along the way (the sin of Achan in Joshua 7) and not without some loss of life. God could have settled them earlier, but because of their unbelief, it took a long time to reach to the promises.
The surest way to face doubt when they come is to have an extensive past history of answered prayer. The more a Christian prays with faith, the more that Christian sees God, God answer prayer, the more a person see God answer the prayer, the stronger that person’s faith becomes while the doubt becomes less. When we read Daniel 9:2-3, we read that when he understood about the disaster of Jerusalem, he turned to God and pleaded him in prayer and petition. Why should Daniel pray for what he knew would happen? Because he knows clearly that God will answer the prayer. God not only answers prayer, but whatever we ask in accordance with His will shall come to pass as per Luke 11:9-13. So when you feel that unbelief is creeping on us, immediately go to Gods presence and ask him to give more faith.
So my dear friends, take God’s word – His promises into your hearts today by faith and hope. So next time when you find yourself in a doubting situation admit your doubts to God and ask for his help. As we read in Bible, Noah built his ark without a drop of rain, Abraham left Ur without knowing where he is going, Moses marched through red sea without knowing when the waters are going to flow over, David faced Goliath with a single sling and five stones, Joshua marched around Jericho wall seven times, Daniel fell into lion’s den and Nehemiah built the wall in the midst of enemies, let you and me act on our faith and not on our doubts. None of the heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11 knew the outcome in advance. They took a deep breath and decided to trust God who they had an intimate relationship. So, let us look onto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
Just as I am, without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Just as I am, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt.
Fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Just as I am, thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Ms Charlotte Elliott, 1822.