When in Doubt
Many Christians occasionally and secretly entertain some doubt about various facets of their faith. Haven’t you ever questioned, “Is the Bible really the Word of God?”; I\”Is Christianity the only true religion?”; or “If the rapture occurred, would I be taken or would I be left behind? Don’t let these questions discourage you, for the Bible has good news for doubters. In fact, doubters are in good company!
John the Baptist once sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus. “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matt. 11:3). He was questioning the messiahship of Christ! This is a remarkable account for two reasons, both of which have special meaning for believers today.
First, this happening is noteworthy because of the person who is doing the questioning. This is not “doubting Thomas” or “Wavering Peter”; rather, this is the man described by Jesus as the greatest “among those born of women” (11:11). We might also more readily understand John’s questioning and doubts if this occurred at the beginning of his ministry. But this happened almost a year and a half after John had baptized Jesus and had heard the audible voice of God say, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (3:17). On that occasion, John had publicly testified, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me: ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God” (John 1:32-34).
This is the same fellow who said six months later, “The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete” (3:29).
Now John is questioning, “Are you the one?”
Now John is questioning, “Are you the one?”
What happened? Why the doubts now?
Already Jesus’ fame had spread through Israel. He had preached His famous Sermon on the Mount, healed many, raised the widow’'s son, and exorcised the demons from the wild man of Gadara. Yet, in spite of all this activity and publicity, John is dubious, Isn't that amazing?
Have you ever thought, If only I had lived in Bible times and had seen with my own eyes these things, I would never doubt?
Believing certainly would be easier then—or would it? Somehow, it wasn't for John.
Timing of Doubts
Second, this is a significant event because of the timing of this experience in John’s life. The Bible reveals that john began his questioning while he was in prison. Herod’s wife was furious because this bold prophet had personally denounced her marriage to the king and, in order to appease her, Herod ‘had him bound and put in prison” (Mark 6:17). Now sitting in jail and awaiting his impending execution, John begins to doubt. Perhaps he felt despondent and rejected. Once hundreds had flocked to hear his message, and now no one seemed to care. The announced kingdom had not materialized. And his two remaining disciples also apparently entertained the same questions. It was a dark moment in john’s Life.
Have you also noticed that most doubts come our way when the ways seems darkest? You've lost your job, or experienced some physical or financial reversal. Perhaps you've been betrayed or rejected by friends. Those are the times when doubts most often arise. What does that tell you?
Someone once said, “Never doubt in the darkness what God has told you in the light.” That is what John failed to do, and so many times we are just like John! We think our labor is in vain, we're wasting our time; or we've somehow missed the calling of God. So we say, “Move over John”; “Make room for me”; “I know just how you feel, brother.” If we are honest we must confess that this is true on occasion. Perhaps you feel that way just now. Keep reading—this is a message on solving those problems of doubt!
Today, we can take comfort by the company of doubters. John was a great man of God, and yet he questioned. Frankly, I’m encouraged by that fact and reminded that “no temptation has seized you except what is common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13). Doubts are, therefore, normal experiences—even for great Christians!
We can also receive encouragement by noting when doubts arise. As in John’s case, they usually appear in moments of stress, in times of personal setbacks and disappointment. A wise teacher ones said to me. “Never try to make any major decisions when you are ill, tired or feeling despondent.” Good advice! Things always seem worse in moments of weariness, sickness or discouragement. That is what happened to John.
However, John is a man to be admired. He did something about his doubts, and what he did is what we need to do. First, he admitted that he had some serious questions about spiritual things. He even shared these doubts with his closest friends. This is the first step to recovery, for doubts suppressed are never conquered.
Second, John checked to see if what he had believed was really so. He wanted reassurance that the features of Christ’s ministry were precisely those that the prophets had said they would be. So Jesus said. “Go back and report to john what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Matt 11:4,5), Isaiah 35:5,6 and other Old Testament prophecies were being literally fulfilled and this was proof enough for John. He never sent another pair of disciples to question Jesus again. Our Lord said to John, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” (Matt. 11:6). Kenneth Taylor has correctly paraphrased this to read: “Blessed are those who don't doubt me.”
The same tongue that bore testimony to John in jail can bear witness to you today. He will say to you, as He did to another doubter who solved his problem: “Because you [Thomas] have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20: 29).
Source of Doubt
In solving the problem of doubt, it is always wise to consider the source of doubts. This is something that John apparently failed to do, or he wouldn't have sent his disciples in the first place. Doubts, obviously do not come from God, for the Bible says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me’ “(James 1:13). Every doubt arises from one of two sources: First, there is the “flesh” or the old nature, which is the basic cause of most doubting. We look at our self or our circumstances, and we begin to question. Doubts spring from our depraved minds. We must recognize this source and “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (II Cor. 10:5).
Satan is also the planter of doubts. Ephesians 6:16 speaks of those “flaming arrows of the evil one” that are directed towards the Christian. The Devil has been specializing in raising questions regarding spiritual things ever since he asked Eve, “Did God really say….? (Gen. 3:1), Peter reminds us that “your enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat. Resist him standing firm in the faith” (I Pet. 5: 8, 9).
Once we have determined the actual source of all doubts, we are prepared to properly interpret them in order to bring a new understanding to this common problem. NOW, instead of viewing your doubts as enemies, why not view them as friends? Why do I say this? Because after you have scripturally determined their origin, you can begin to see them as encouragements instead of detriments. Let I explain.
Let’s suppose that you have just recently trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. This transaction of faith does not end all fears and doubts—as every Christian can testify. Doubts and questions will arise, sometimes very soon, and you will wonder. Was I really born again? Did Christ actually come into my heart? What then? Remember the source and realize that satan sends those “darts of doubt” your way precisely because you are a Christian and not because you aren't a true believer”! Genuine Christians are the one who entertain these doubts, not unbelievers. Yes, doubts can be your friends, and when properly understood, provide a tremendous encouragement to the questioning believer.
The final part of the solution to the problem of doubt is to do exactly what John did and what Ephesians 6:16 commands: “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Faith and doubts are mutually exclusive. They cannot coexist. One will cancel out the other every time! When John heard that the Word of God was being fulfills, his doubts vanished, That settled it for him. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).
Paul, like John the Baptist, was also ones in prison and facing an uncertain future. But instead of asking, “Are you the one, or should we look for another”? he said, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (II Tim. 1:12). In saying that, he revealed his solution to the problem of doubt: “I know whom I have believed”—and you can say that too!
By Roy E K
By Roy E K
Confident Living Magazine