Summary: 1. Faith is born from doubt. 2. Faith brings a reward.
A recent headline in the Sacramento Bee read: “Ignorance of the Good Book Reaches Biblical Proportions.” You can say that pun again! The other day I read about a chain of supermarkets in the U.K. which decided to lecture shoppers about Easter. In a press release sent to the London Times they said, “Brits are set to spend a massive 520 million pounds [US$1.02 billion] on Easter eggs this year, but many young people don’t even know what Easter’s all about.” And then they went on to tell everyone that Easter was about: “the birth of Jesus.” There was a hasty revision of the original article, which complained about “Britons’ mounting ignorance regarding Easter,” and changed their previous statement to say that Easter was about “rebirth.” Then a third revision was released which finally got it right and said that Easter was about “resurrection” — that is, after it had “consultations” with the Church of England.
A lot of people are confused about just what faith is and what to believe. Even those who seem very certain about everything, like the folks writing the London Times article, don’t necessarily have it all together. Some people find it easy to believe, in fact, some people will believe almost anything. Other people find it difficult to believe, in fact, they can’t help questioning everything. Some people say, “Just tell me what I should believe, and I will believe it. Tell me what to do and I will do it.” Then there are people who live in skepticism and doubt and say, “Tell me what to believe and I’ll tear it apart and tell you why you shouldn’t believe it either.” How do we acquire a faith which is neither easy believism nor cynicism, neither naive nor belligerent?
The first point that we want to consider is: Faith is born out of doubt. Doubt is the beginning of faith. There is such a thing as good doubt. It makes us ask questions and think deeply about things. All through the Bible we find people who struggle with faith. Abraham was a man of faith. The Bible says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). But we also see Abraham struggling to trust God and working at believing God’s promises to him. He makes several blunders that seriously affected his life, and still affect the world today. And yet God loved him and blessed him.
Jacob wrestled with God. He found himself in a tight place and struggled to believe God and trust him with his future. But God is patient with Jacob and uses him in spite of his wrestling. It almost seems that God wants us to wrestle with him. He invites it and blesses those who engage him in this way and do not just give up.
Job was certainly a man of faith, but he really fought to understand what God was doing in his life. He wondered how God could allow some things to happen. He said, “Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments” (Job 23:2-4).
David in the Psalms complains to God saying, “Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?” (Psalm 44:23-24). The prophet Jeremiah cried out to God saying, “You are always righteous, O Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (Jeremiah 12:1). These were not godless people who were cursing God, they were people who loved God, and God loved them and honored them, even when they were struggling with him.
All of these were good men, men of God. They were spiritual leaders. The Lord blessed them and used them, but faith was not something easy for them. They did not just go by blind faith, they struggled to understand and trust God. So just because you have questions, or even doubts, does not mean that you are a bad person or a spiritual failure. You are in the company of Job and Jeremiah and most of the other biblical people of God. Their doubts did not destroy their faith, they led to a deeper faith. Bad doubt is doubt that refuses to believe God, gives up and walks away from God. Good doubt is the struggle to understand God and trust him in spite of our questions. Frederick Buechner says, “If you don’t have any doubts, you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” Don’t be afraid of doubt.