DEALING WITH DOUBTS
Passage: Matthew 11:2-6
When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “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. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
My first car was a used Cutlass Cruiser station wagon with “wood” paneling on the side of the car. Who wouldn’t want one of those? It ran flawlessly the first few years, but mechanical issues soon became a concern. I was adding oil almost as often as I was buying gasoline, parking on inclines so water that was trapped inside the front door could be set free after it rained, and apologizing to other drivers as my car often stalled near busy intersections. Hypothetically speaking, if your car stalls and creates a traffic jam on the highway that is mentioned on the local television news, it is probably a sign that it needs repairing. Similarly, our faith can be solid at one point in our lives but later deteriorates. Have you ever sensed that your relationship with God has stalled and needs some work under the hood? This is what happened to John the Baptist.
Can God be gracious to us in spite of our struggles with faith and doubts? John the Baptist spent his entire life serving God and pointing people to Jesus. At the end of his life when he was in prison and suffering, he began to have some doubts about his Savior. Jesus reassured John by reminding him what He has done and reviewing the evidence that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus also listed the fulfillments of prophecy from the Book of Isaiah that contained descriptions of what the coming Messiah would do. John the Baptist was a spiritual giant, but he faltered in his faith. Jesus gently guided him back to truth.
How do you handle your doubts? Doubt has the potential to be extremely dangerous. It is one of the devil's tools to pull us away from God as he did with Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 3. Doubts invite themselves into our minds, but it is important not to believe the deceptions or act on them. On the other hand, as we grow intellectually, we are going to come to our faith with new questions. Actually, this type of searching for truth can build up our faith effectively. Here are some helpful responses when having doubts:
1) Go to Jesus. When John had doubts, he asked Jesus about them. Jesus was incredibly merciful with John; He even complimented John for his faith (Matthew 11:11). Ask God your most honest and difficult questions.
2) Go to the Word. Make sure the teaching you hear doesn’t falsely undermine and deviate from what the Bible actually says. Many people intentionally and unintentionally misinterpret the Bible. Jesus reminded John of the truth of the Scriptures in His response. There can be so-called Christian teaching that is not solid and doesn’t actually come from God’s Word. Watch out for savage wolves and false teachers (Acts
3) Go to people with faith. Thomas had doubts in John chapter 20, but he stayed in the community of faith. There are many great books today that give the intellectual evidence for our faith and answers to difficult topics. You can ask your pastor for suggested readings and resources.
1) What do you think are the most common spiritual doubts?
2) How would you respond to people who have these doubts?
3) What have been some of the biggest doubts you have faced in your own faith?
4) Has doubt ever positively motivated you to seek more evidence for your faith?
5) What are the different ways God responds to doubt in the Bible?
Matthew 14:22-33. Some doubts are fear-based: get rid of them.
Genesis 3:1-7. The devil tries to get us to doubt God’s Word.
Jude 1:22-23. Show mercy to a doubter but also share truth.
Acts 17:11. Test all spiritual teaching to see if it’s consistent with the Bible.
James 1:5-8. You can ask God for wisdom in any situation.
Mark 9:20-29. Admit your unbelief to God and start choosing to believe.
Gracious God, I want to build up my knowledge of Your Word and the evidence that supports my faith. When doubts creep into my thinking, I want to bring them to You and trust You more. Please help me to encourage people who are having destructive doubts with their faith. I pray this in Your mighty name Jesus. Amen.
For more from Pastor Jesse Bradley and Activate Media Ministries, visit www.activatelife.org