Summary: When you have a bout with doubt, remember that doubt doesn’t disqualify you.
Christmas Questions: Doubt
Rev. Brian Bill
Can you tell me who said the following?
This person was asked if he believes that after he dies, he will hear God say to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ After a long pause, he responded, ‘I hope so.’ (Billy Graham)
“Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.” (Mother Theresa)
“How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (Zechariah)
“How will this be?” (Mary)
Last week we looked at the topic of discovery and learned that…
* Until you go, you’ll never know
* Until you know, you’ll never show
* Until you show, you’ll never glow
Once you head out on the road to discovery, sooner or later you will encounter some doubts. In his book called “Confessions of a Pastor,” Craig Groeschel writes this: “My first memorable spiritual hiccup was a time I doubted the existence of God. It happened, oddly enough, in church. I was probably seven or eight years old. The minister was preaching…and I was bored. Without warning, the question dropped into my mind: ‘Is God real? Or is He just something we made up?’ Fear and guilt overwhelmed me immediately. I tried to ignore the question and listen to the rest of the boring sermon.”
You know you have some doubts when your prayer sounds something like this: “O God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have a soul, so I can go to heaven, if there is a heaven.” Here’s what I want to say right up front: When you have a bout with doubt, remember that doubt doesn’t disqualify you.
Definitions of Doubt
The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary defines doubt this way: “The state of mind that hesitates between two contradictory conclusions.” The Greek word literally means “to go two ways.” It’s the idea of wavering between two positions. In that sense then, doubt is not the opposite of faith; unbelief is. Unbelief refers to a willful refusal to believe, while doubt describes inner uncertainty. This is described clearly in James 1:6: “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
We are so fortunate in this church to have such a wonderful student ministry. A month ago, Pastor Jeff and his team took the high schoolers on a retreat. One of the sessions dealt with doubt. Here’s the “Big Idea” or summary statement: “It is normal to doubt. What you do with those doubts makes all the difference.” Pastor Jeff then said this: “God is less threatened by doubt than His church is.” God can handle whatever doubt you are dealing with today.
I’m glad we have such a sharp church sign and that it has been recently repainted. We also have new signage inside the church to help people find the various rooms. I think we missed one though. There should be a big and bold sign over each entrance with the words, “Doubters Welcome!”
One of the hidden secrets in the church is that many Christians deal with doubt. While this topic is often not addressed, we want to establish that doubt doesn’t disqualify you. In fact, doubt can even lead one to deeper faith. Instead of throwing daggers at doubters, we’re called to be compassionate towards those who have questions. We see God’s heart in Jude 22: “Be merciful to those who doubt.” Entire books of the Bible delineate issues of doubt – Ecclesiastes, Job, Lamentations and Habakkuk come to mind. In addition, many of the psalms deal with doubt.
Elie Wiesel, when asked to describe his faith, uses the adjective wounded. “My tradition teaches that no heart is as whole as a broken heart, and I would say that no faith is as solid as a wounded faith.” Pastor Rodney Buchanan hits it on the head: “Doubting is a common experience among Christians. If you have never doubted anything, it may mean that you have never thought seriously about anything. The only way to never doubt is to never use your mind to question and try to figure anything out. So, not only can you be a Christian and still have some doubts, but you can hardly be a Christian without doubting at times. After all, if doubting was not possible, faith would not be possible either…doubting does not mean that your faith stops, it means you are trying to understand your faith at a deeper level” (www.sermoncentral.com). Another honest believer writes: “It’s is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.”