Summary: When it comes to Chris-tian truth, God doesn't want us to be skeptics, but I don't think He wants us to be gullible either. In fact, our faith can be strengthened when we ask tough questions and even when we struggle with doubts.
Some people are natural skeptics. My Grandfather was one. When man first landed on the moon in July of 1969 and the TV pictures came back from the lunar surface, my Grandpa thought it was all being faked. He figured those pictures were coming from a desert somewhere in Arizona. Sometimes he was a fellow who didn't want to be con-fused by the facts. On the other hand, some folks tend to be gullible and will believe anything they are told. I had a friend in college, a girl who believed me when I told her we had a nuclear-powered coffee pot in our apartment. She never doubted anything she heard. Friends, when it comes to Chris-tian truth, God doesn't want us to be skeptics, but I don't think He wants us to be gullible either. In fact, our faith can be strengthened when we ask tough questions and even when we struggle with doubts. Today our topic is "Dealing with Doubt." Our text is Matthew 11:1-11. This is a fascinating passage be-cause here we find John the Baptist in the role of a skeptic, expressing his doubt. John questions whether or not Jesus is really the Messiah. This may seem a bit confusing. Almost every Sunday we talk about the importance of faith and trusting in the Lord. We often view doubt as the opposite of faith. How could a great man like John be a doubter?
As we explore our text today, I believe we will find that the Lord has some important words for us on how to deal with doubt. As we look at Jesus' reaction to John the Baptist, I think it will help us to be an encouragement to those who struggle with doubts, and will also enable us to better deal with our own questions. Let's pray that would happen.
There are four main points I want to make today: #1) Doubt is a reality, even among believers. Let's look at John the Baptist's question. John is called the Baptist, not because that was his dad's name or be-cause he was a Baptist deacon or anything like that, but rather because he baptized people, including Jesus. Matthew 11:1-3 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. 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?" Why was John in prison? He had publicly denounced King Herod, because Herod had committed adultery and married his brother's wife, Herodias. The King didn't like what he heard, got mad and threw John in prison. By this time there were a number of people who had become John's followers, or disciples, and they came and gave John a report about Jesus' ministry. John tells his disciples to go ask Jesus, 11:3b "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" John is a doubter. Some have sug-gested he is merely asking this question for the benefit of his followers, but that is not what the text says. John is uncertain whether or not Jesus is really the Messiah. Not long before, in John 1:36, he had proclaimed that Jesus was the Lamb of God who would take away the world's sin. But now, he is not so sure.
It is important that we don't confuse John's doubt with unbelief. Os Guiness gives a very helpful definition of doubt in his book In Two Minds. He says, "When you believe, you are in one mind and accept something as true. Unbelief is to be of one mind and reject that something is true. To doubt is to waver between the two, to believe and disbelieve at the same time, and so to be in 'two minds.'" That is what James calls, in Chapter 1, a "double minded man," or as the Chinese say, "Doubt is standing in two boats, with one foot in each." That also reminds us that doubt can be a very agonizing and painful experience. But remember, doubt is not the opposite of faith. Unbelief is. The greatest danger, however, is that if not responded to and dealt with, doubt can lead to unbelief.
John's experience reminds us that no one is immune from doubt. Just like people who are in excellent physical health can still get a cold, people who are in great spiritual health can still be afflicted with doubt. There are other doubters besides John mentioned in the Bible. The apostle Thomas was. Do you remember what happened after the other apostles had told him that they had seen the risen Lord? Thomas told them, "I'm not going to believe you unless I see Him standing here and I can put my finger into the nail holes in His hand." Because of that one statement, he has been known for the past 2000 years as "Doubting Thomas." Of course, the rest of the twelve also struggled with doubt. They didn't take Jesus very seriously when He told them that three days after His crucifixion He would rise from the dead. When the women returned from the empty tomb that first Easter morning, the apostles were pretty skeptical. In the Old Testament we see Elijah, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, struggle with doubt. In 1 Kings 19, he is ready to totally give up and throw in the towel, even though the Lord had just used him to achieve a great victory against the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. David certainly was a doubter at times. In Psalm 22, for example, David basically asks, "God, where are You? Why have You let me down?" Some of the great heroes of the Bible, people who at times demonstrated outstanding faith, still sometimes struggled with doubt.