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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Is It Okay to Hold On to Our Doubts?

I have been guilty of telling people that it is normal to doubt. Of course, that statement may be true but not helpful. There is a tacit approval of doubt when I say it. It is normal to doubt your salvation, to doubt God's provision and doubt God's deliverance but it is not helpful to our faith.

Faith always requires a commitment. We understand something is from God and commit ourselves to it. It may cause us to be calm in the face of a storm or to act without regard to the apparent consequences. The commitment reveals that we believe what we know to be true by God's own word to us. He said it and we believe it. The proof of our belief is found in how we act after knowing what God has said.

Being skeptical is not the same as doubt. A skeptic doesn't know whether or not something is true. They remain unconvinced that what they have "heard" is either good or godly. They question whether or not God has spoken. That doesn't mean that a person can remain skeptical forever. There comes a point when the skeptic becomes the doubter because he knows he has heard God but refuses to admit it. He refuses to make the commitment that faith requires and hides behind his skepticism.

The doubter has heard from God and knows he should believe what God has said. He simply cannot hold onto what God has said. He stands between two ways. He can say the truth but cannot make the commitment to continue in what he has heard. Therefore, he says that God will provide and worries. He wonders about his salvation and whether he knows God at all. He walks on God's path as if he is walking on thin ice. He can only continue on this path as long as the commitment is not too great and he is forced to believe God when sacrifice is required.

God doesn't give us permission to doubt. He has mercy on the doubter but He also works to eliminate that doubt. Jesus came to Thomas and let him touch His wounds to remove his doubts. James says that the person who doubts should expect nothing from God. Peter is rebuked for only being able to take a few steps on the sea because of his doubt. The Bible assures us that the mountains in our lives can be thrown into the sea if we give up on our doubts.

It seems to me that God is not content with our doubting and my words of "normalcy" can be damaging to others' faith. They may assume that they can remain in their doubts when the Lord requires them to act in faith. Thus, I have realized that I cannot simply let people hold on to their doubts. True, I have mercy on the doubter but I also should never let them languish in their doubtful condition.

I suppose I should tell people that they need to act on what they know to be true. They should ask the Lord to help them with their unbelief.

Is faith like climbing a mountain? You simply can't get any higher until you get past the places where it is hard to climb. Thus, doubt arises and we simply can't stay where we are. We will go on or we will go back down the mountain without ever reaching the top.

So, stop holding onto doubt and act on your faith.

Matthew 14:31 (ESV)
31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Mark 11:23 (ESV)
23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
Romans 14:23 (ESV)
23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

James 1:6 (ESV)
6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.


Anonymous said...

One believes with one's HEART. Contrary thoughts or questons is a mental thing. It doesn't mean that our heart doubts; it means that our mind questions.

Believe in our hears, confess with our mouths--ain't nothin about cognitions in that.

When the thoughts express doubts, I just see what my heart knows. "Doubts" usually melt away when confronted with heart knowledge.

Thoughts can come from several places other than God. Flesh and the devil and the media and our culture all often infiltrate the brain.

Shrug it off, wasting no guilt energy on it.

God plants His thoughts in our hearts, which is why "as a man thinketh in his heart" that counts.



Anonymous said...

To doubt is common, but is it normal or not, it depends on perspective. From God's perspective or the perspective of the Kingdom (of God) it is not, although from the world-view perspective, it is (normal). What God desires, is not doubt, but faith. It is grace and mercy by God, that He allows us time and room to grow and authenticate our faith.

We must always remember, when it is grace and mercy, it is not a matter of our right but it is from the prerogative and sovereignty of God, and must not be profaned. When it is faith that God desires, then faith is what we are to develop. Indeed, Scripture speaks against lack of faith, against doubts, against wavering, against unbelief, and any other that distracts from genuine faith, like double-mindedness.

There are a few Greek words from which Bible translators translated into the English word, "doubt", one or two of them are capable of multiple meanings, apart from doubt or wavering. One meaning is doubled-mindedness, and James 1:6's doubt should more correctly have been double-mindedness; James 1:8 left us the clue to that. Double-mindedness and doubt are different. Having doubt suggests weakness of faith per se, double-mindedness, on the other hand, speaks of flip flopping between faith which would please God, and the wanting to go for another, which would displease God. For example, flip flopping between worshipping the Lord and another god is double-mindedness. James 1:7 said that such a person should not expect to get anything from God. In other words, God is more upset with double-mindedness than mere weak faith due to doubt per se. It is one thing to have doubt that God would help you to secure a contract you need and so, you pray half-heartedly, it is another, you, instead of petitioning to the Lord about the contract, go pray to another god which you think would help with the contract.

Why do people doubt? One main driver is their past experiences. From experiences, people did not get what they expected; what they expected to happen, they did not happen; what they expected not to happen, they happened! Negative results breed the doubts in people. But why did the results came in negative? There are many things that can be said on this, and many articles can be written for them; but here, I will mention a few which are important that we should all know.

Motive and motivation is one; our values is another; and our degree of alignment to or consistency with, the righteousness imputed to us from entry into salvation, is also another. Then there is our lack of knowing (ginosko) God, and so, His righteousness, too, and so, our misalignment to God's righteousness.

We pray and ask God for that-something, but it does not come, and when it happens again and again, we develop doubts, from such experiences. But why did God not grant? If your motive is not right, God does not grant; if what you ask is not consistent with the values God wants to see in you, He does not grant; if what we want is inconsistent with our righteousness from salvation, like we still want to ensnare others wickedly, God does not grant; and if you are not aligned to what God wants done, He does not grant. Doubts breed in you when you have many negative experiences or results. There is no short-cut, generally. We have to take the time and trouble to work with the Lord on such areas as I have mentioned ( there are more) above. Godliness with contentment does not come by, overnight; quiet confidence, and peace and joy, they too, result from cultivation in the faith, taking time, making sacrifice, and giving attention to God and knowing (ginosko) Him, and His righteousness, and be led by His Spirit.


Anonymous said...

Cont. From above

When we doubt less, our faith is stronger. Apart from supernatural faith which is one of the 9 spiritual gifts, there is an onus for faith, on our part; meaning we are to build our faith, and so, not continue in much doubt. The teaching that (normal) faith comes from God, I dislike, for if it were to come from God with onus on Him, then it is oxymoron to ask for faith from us, and so, too, to disdain doubts in us. Scripture does point to God asking for faith from us. Examples included Heb 11:6 - without faith, it is impossible to please God; Rom 14:23 - that which proceeded not from faith is sin.

We should not encourage doubts or the holding on to doubts. Double-mindedness, of course, is a no-no. Instead, we are to encourage people to grow in the faith, and grow in faith. While we accept those with weak faith, without passing judgment on disputable matters (Rom 14:1), at the same time, as we gather, we are to encourage and build up one another (Heb 10:23-25).

Is it ok to hold on to our doubts? No.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions