Summary: Dealing with doubt and unbelief.
I BELIEVE, BUT WHY DO I DOUBT?
I’m sure that most of us would prefer to live in the mountaintops of the spiritual highs of our lives. Those times when God is moving in powerful ways, your confidence is high, you have that positive, “can-do” attitude, your relationship with God is passionate, there’s excitement in the air and you have this bold persona – “Bring it on!” Looks impossible – no problem.
I just love those times. But I have found that it’s hard to stay on the mountaintop. As the song goes – “There got to be a little rain sometimes.” To get to the other mountaintop, we have to come off the one that we are on, into the valley and work our way up to the other side. It’s the valleys we don’t like. It’s those times when it’s dark and we can’t see the way, when fear creeps in, when it’s long and discouraging and beyond our human ability to coupe, that’s when we begin to struggle.
I would like for us to take a look at the twelve disciples of Jesus. They were for the most part average men. They were with Jesus and saw first hand His miracles and power. They saw Jesus calm the storm, heal a demon possessed man, raise a 12 year old girl from the dead, feed 5000 men plus the women and children, feed another 4000, saw Him walk on the water and even watched Jesus at what we now call “The Transfiguration.” To add to this, Jesus gave the 12 disciples authority over evil spirits and the ability to heal and sent them off into the towns and villages to preach. You talk about spiritual highs, it was one right after another.
Yet there were some valleys. In Mark 9:14, we pick up a story that I believe can help us wrestle with our doubts. The disciples were arguing with the religious leaders and things were probably not going very well. Let me just interject, no matter who you are, how well intentioned and honorable your motives and desires, there will always be those who oppose you. The Scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees harassed Jesus and His disciples relentlessly. They were determined, embittered and downright hateful group of people. Have you ever run into anybody like that? They have their doctrines that they are so dogmatic about that when Jesus Christ came differently than their doctrines, then Jesus was wrong. I’ve sat in heated deacons meetings (not at this church) where a deacon vehemently accused me of moving the “ancient landmarks.” When I asked him to define these ancient landmarks that I had moved, he couldn’t. But none the less I had moved them and was leading the church astray. It’s hard to reason with those kinds of accusations. It can get down-right discouraging.
I bet the teachers of the law who were arguing with the disciples were disputing over things of more substance when Jesus came on the scene and asked, “What are you arguing with them about?” This is when the story really begins to unfold. A father speaks up, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” (Mark 9:17-18, NIV) It must have been very embarrassing for the disciples to be so powerless in the face of their detractors. They were unable to free this boy from the demonic grip in his life. They believed they could and had done it before with others but now they couldn’t. The paralyzing force of doubt had crept in and it was like a fire hydrant, distinguishing their faith.
Jesus replies, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” (Mark 9:19, NIV) Unbelief has no power! Jesus’ disciples had failed. He had chosen them, trained them, gave them authority over the powers of darkness, gave them personal experience and when He was gone for just a little while, they fumbled the ball. Jesus still comes to confront us in our unbelief. He comes grieving that we have such little spiritual power and victory. Unbelief cannot succeed against Satan. Unbelief does not and cannot please God. Heb 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (NIV) Please believe me, times of testing will always come. They are opportunities of faith. How can we say we have faith when we have blue skies and a warm breeze? How can we say we have faith when everything is going our way? It is only when we can’t see, when we don’t know how things are going to unfold, when things are really looking bad that we find the real substance of our faith. It is only in those times when it’s beyond our own abilities can we measure our faith.