Summary: A little doubt will do you good if you learn to navigate its waves.

Navigating the Waves of Doubt

John 20:24-31

This morning I want to introduce an idea to you that is so counterintuitive, you won’t believe me when I first tell you. I’m going to talk to you about doubt today and you’re going to doubt the truthfulness of my main point. Here it is: A little doubt will do you good … IF … if you learn to navigate its waves.

I’m going to stick with this metaphor because doubt really is like a boat tossed about by waves. Doubt literally means “two minds.” The doubting person vacillates between two points of view. On the one hand they want to trust God, but on the other there’s an experience or a thought or a feeling or a question that causes them to waiver and move toward unbelief. We’re tossed between competing currents.

People respond to doubt in one of three ways. If we’ve been around church or religious people long enough some of us mistakenly believe that doubt is a sin. We’re like the captain of a ship who ties the rudder to lock it in place. When waves of doubt come we hunker down and keep repeating the mantra, “You just gotta have faith! You just gotta have faith!” Others are like the captain of a ship with no rudder whatsoever. We’ve got no course at all and we simply spin around going nowhere at all. Then there’s the third group: their ship has a rudder, but they don’t tie it down. They accept the reality of the waves of doubt and learn to skillfully navigate them. Their faith isn’t swamped or capsized and they’re not lost at sea. Instead they wind up at exotic and delightfully unexpected ports of call. They find that a little doubt will do you good if you learn to navigate its waves.

Let’s take a look at a guy who learned this lesson well: good old doubting Thomas. We find his story in John 20:24-29

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-29

You’ve got to be careful with this story. Some people read the conclusion and wrongly believe that Jesus’ point was the Thomas just needed to have faith. To return to our metaphor, Jesus seems to be recommending that Thomas tie down the rudder. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if Jesus is counseling Thomas and us to just have faith and ignore our doubts we’ve got a contradiction to contend with because in the very next couple of verses John adds this:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31

You don’t invite people to examine the evidence for Jesus and also tell them, “You just gotta have faith.”

The truth is that Thomas had more than enough evidence to conquer his doubts, but for some reason he opted not to trust. Think about it! Thomas had spent 3 years with Jesus. He had viewed the miracles with his own eyes. He had worked miracles with his own hands. But for some reason, he wasn’t able to connect his past experience with the Lord to the witness of his fellow disciples. He was like the captain of the rudderless boat because he wasn’t properly navigating his doubt.

In essence, Jesus had to slap Thomas back to reality. Most of us don’t get that opportunity and I think that’s why Jesus pronounced a blessing on those who need no supernatural intervention and yet successfully navigate their doubt.

What I’m going to give you next is the key to navigating doubt. You must do this or your ship will lose its rudder. Trace the source of your doubts. This is easy to do because there are only three:

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