Summary: one thing the Bible and history teach us, is that many people, if not all people, have struggled at times in their life with issues of doubt and faith.
Struggling With a Wavering Faith
Turn to Mark 9:23-24
Show Video Clip from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Leap of Faith - leaping into the unknown.
Well, we’re talking this morning about those times when we need to make that leap of faith. Times when doubts arise and it all doesn’t make sense and my faith seems weak.
And one thing the Bible and history teach us, is that many people, if not all people, have struggled at times in their life with this issue of doubt and faith.
(Note - Much of the research for this sermon came from the Philip Yancey Book - Reaching For the Invisible God.)
Great Christians over the years have often felt anguish over the unknowable, the anguish of a faith that hit low points. The anguish of having doubts regarding God. And that’s an area the church has not always been kind to, and yet it’s an area that hits us all at different times of life.
St. Augustine the North African Scholar in the 4th century who is seen as one of the great minds of the faith, in his confessions said “I wish I could be made just as certain of things I cannot see as I am certain that 7 +3 make 10.” Yet he never found that certainty. He contended with the same issues that plague us today – believing in the invisible and dealing with a nagging area of distrust or doubt.
Martin Luther battled constantly against doubt and depression. He once wrote, “For more than a week, Christ was wholly lost to me. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy against God.”
A church in Boston refused to allow Dwight L. Moody to join because they said his beliefs seemed so uncertain.
And we certainly see it throughout the pages of the Bible. Adam, Sarah, Jacob, Job, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Jonah, Thomas, Martha, Peter… people who question, falter, doubt and yet in the end remain faithful.
And I think for many of them, and for many of us, the struggle is summed up by the words of a Father in Mark 9:23-24 who has a sick son, and he says to Jesus, do something if you can, and Jesus says “what do you mean “If you can.”
And he goes on to say everything is possible to him who believes.” And immediately the boys father exclaimed, I do believe; help me to overcome my unbelief.”
God we do believe, but it doesn’t mean we don’t struggle at times. And God help us with our unbelief.
Several points the Bible brings out regarding faith.
#1 – A lack of faith, and the opposite of that, great faith, is found in a variety of people.
It’s ironic that in the Scripture, we almost see a reversal of what you would expect in who possessed great faith in God. Often those that should have much faith, had very little, while those that had little reason to have faith, somehow came up with it and wonders resulted.
Example – the Centurion who said to Jesus you don’t even have to come to my house to heal my servant. Just say the word here and he’ll be healed. And Jesus says “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”
Or think of the Canaanite woman who sought Jesus out and he tried to put her off and she was so persistent that she won him over and he says, “Woman, you have great faith.”
Now why would a Centurion and a Canaanite, both of whom lacked Jewish roots, put their trust in a Messiah whose own countrymen had trouble accepting?
And contrast that with those people that should have known better. Jesus’ own neighbors and family who doubted him. John the Baptist, his cousin would question him. Among those closest to him, the 12 disciples, Thomas would doubt him, Peter would curse him, Judas would betray him, and all would abandon him.
Now here’s the exciting thing, the thing that give us hope, is that whatever grain of faith people had or could muster, God could work through that. Whether it was the bold centurian, or doubting Thomas or the distraught father who cried to Jesus, “I believe, help me with my unbelief.” Jesus always embraced faith, no matter how small it may be at the time. But faith, and doubt, finds itself in a variety of people.
A second thing about a lack of faith or what we might call doubt is that:
#2 – Doubt often leads to discovery –
Like the little boy that said to his dad, “dad, why is the sky blue?” I don’t know son. "dad, why is the grass green?" I don’t know son. Dad...etc. Finally the boy said, "Dad, do you mind me asking these questions?" "Why no son, if you don’t ask questions you don’t learn anything.”