Summary: Three questions to ask in times of doubt.
Woodlawn Baptist Church
November 12, 2006
Read Luke 7:18-35.
If you were here last Sunday night you should remember me saying that for the last year or so, perhaps even the last couple of years, I have questioned many things about our faith and the things of God. I am a skeptic. I admit it. Whenever I hear about someone who is suffering from cancer miraculously discovering his or her cancer is gone, I doubt. I read reports about God mysteriously working in people’s lives and I question whether their experiences are genuine or not. I wonder, I doubt, I grow skeptical. I am skeptical about whether God’s plan really works; if His Word is good for real life. I confess that there are times when I wander through the bookstore’s religious sections and eye the other religious books, wondering, “Have I really found the right way?” After looking through stacks of sermons I have written and preached, I grow skeptical about whether it is worth the effort and time involved.
Perhaps you understand what it means to be skeptical – to doubt. There are times when while I am praying, I begin to wonder whether God hears me, whether there is even a God. What if this whole thing is wrong? What if Jesus was just a good man and there really is no heaven or hell?
Writer and preacher Lee Strobel says that there are three kinds of people in this room today. The first group would be those who have doubted. The second group would be those who haven’t doubted yet, but who will. And the third group would be those who are brain dead. In other words, if you’re a thinking person at all -- if you seriously contemplate your faith and what it means to follow Jesus Christ -- the chances are that every once in a while you’re going to come down with some questions, some issues, some uncertainties, some doubts.
Maybe you doubt that God has really forgiven you. Or you wonder whether the Bible really is the Word of God. Or you question why God lets people suffer. Or you’ve been praying for help with a struggle in your life, but so far there has been silence, and you’re wondering whether anybody’s at home in heaven, or if there is, whether He really cares. Maybe you have questions about how God created the world or how He’ll end it. Or you’ve said to yourself, “I think I’ve become a Christian, but sometimes I’m not sure. Maybe I wasn’t sincere enough when I prayed.”
But these sorts of questions are not reserved for Christians alone. Many who have never trusted Christ are asking all the right questions – “Is there a God?” “Can I trust Him?” “Is Jesus for real?” and many others like them. If you can identify with what I’m talking about this morning, then I want you to consider three questions I have for you today: three issues that need to be raised in order to help you work through your own doubts about Jesus and whether He really is the Messiah.
Are You Really A Doubter, A Skeptic?
I ask you that because the fact is that you need to be honest about what you are, because many people who say they are doubters or skeptics really are not. A doubter, or a skeptic is someone who has trouble believing something but will make the effort and take the time to investigate it. In his book, Your God Is Too Safe, Mark Buchanan points out that skepticism means to look at a matter closely, to scrutinize, to study with great care and in minute detail. He goes on to talk about meeting a man who said he didn’t believe the Bible. Here’s what he said.
“I asked him if he had read the Bible. ‘No, not really,’ he said. ‘I told you; I’m a skeptic. I don’t believe it.’
“This is not skepticism. This is its opposite – a refusal to investigate, to scrutinize, to ponder deeply…skepticism is not an excuse for evasion, an alibi for idleness. It is not a self-imposed boundary to keep you from embarking on any deep and meaningful search…This form of skepticism is only a subtle way of lying to ourselves, like telling ourselves that the world is flat to avoid the burden of launching dangerous and costly voyages beyond the horizon.
“Any true skeptic worthy of the name is both hunter and detective, stalking the evidence, laying ambush, rummaging for clues, dredging the river bottom, wiretapping phone lines, setting traps. A skeptic is passionate about discovering truth and wants to believe (and there’s the key), but safeguards against the hypnotic power of that wanting. So he tests.”
I suspect that most people who claim to be skeptics and doubters really are not. Most are just hiding behind the words so they don’t have to give an honest nod at Jesus. I met a man on Morton Street who told me he was a skeptic. He said he didn’t believe in God. When I asked him if we could talk about it he told me no. His mind was made up that there is no God. He doesn’t doubt – His mind is fully persuaded. Now you see, that man is not a skeptic. In fact, the Bible calls him a fool because he won’t investigate.