Do You Have Doubts About God?
This is the second of a two-part sermon. On June 12, the emphasis was on how we interpret current events and information for truth or lies. Doubt perhaps should be looked upon as neither good nor bad. However, as a tool it can be used well or poorly. When properly used, doubt is able to polish up Truth and it is able to expose and trash Lies. Being biblically literate and Christ-centered will go a long way in navigating a true course.
Almost everyone of faith has, or has had, some degree of doubt about God and his ways. Doubts are not confined to us ordinary people. Throughout biblical history, there are examples of doubt and there are lessons to learn. Today we look at twelve causes for doubting God and four cures to resolve those doubts.
- Half-truths which distort the Truth
Read Genesis 3:1-6. God instructed Adam and Eve, on pain of dying, not to touch or eat of the “Tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. The essence of choosing to partake was to be able to adjudicate what was personally good or evil rather than looking to God for guidance. In essence, self-determination. Satan saw an opportunity to undermine Eve’s trust in God and put a different spin on what it meant to die. True enough, it was not to die a physical death. However, it was to die a spiritual death and lose the close connection with God. That sin has tainted humanity throughout history.
- When God’s Timeline is Different than Ours
In Genesis 15 and 17 we read the story of God promising Abraham the blessing of a son through whom an entire nation would be established eventually. The trouble was that Abraham was 85 years of age and his wife Sarah was barren. Sarah just cannot see God’s covenant every becoming real and, as the custom was in those days when a wife was barren, she offered her maidservant to Abraham to have a son. Ishmael was born. But, that was not the covenant son who was to be born. Isaac, the covenant son was born some 15 years later when Abraham was about 100 years old and the nation of Israel ensued. However the doubt and impatience resulted in severe conflict at that time within the family and that conflict persists to the present day.
Exodus 14 The people of Israel were trapped during the Exodus between the Egyptian armies and the Red Sea. Panic was setting in. Big doubt! The advice in verse 14:14 was simple “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” The waters of the Red Sea were divided to allow the people to pass safely to the other side whilst those same waters closed in on the pursuing Egyptian army.
And then there is the story of Gideon who is tasked with the undertaking to defeat the armies of the marauding army of the Midianites. Judges 6 and 7 is worth reading to see how Gideon was led from doubt into courageous service.
- Invisible Realities are hard to understand or perceive
We human beings have only five senses or a variation of those five senses enabled by technology. We tend to doubt anything outside of these senses. Thomas, the doubter, would not believe until he saw and touched the risen Christ in the flesh.
God is so far outside of our experience and understanding that so much of our perspectives of God are feeble and groping, as it were, in the darkness.
By faith we can “see” those invisible realities just as Elisha’s servant did in 2 Kings 6:15-17
- Evil Prospers
In Psalm 73, the writer is very disturbed to observe how evil people prosper and enjoy the good life. The atheist position is that, if God exists, he is either malicious in allowing evil to continue or if he is good, he is powerless to do anything about it. A cause for doubt.
- “Unanswered” Prayer
When there has been unremitting difficulty or suffering, people often ask “Why?” and “Where is God in all this?” “How can a God of love allow this to happen?”
- A Failed Agenda
The people of Israel were oppressed by the heavy hand of the Roman Empire and yearned for a Messiah who would deliver them. Not realizing that the salvation of Jesus was to be in two parts: his earthly work on the Cross and eventually the authority that he would have in the final judgement. Even John the Baptist, whilst imprisoned by King Herod, sent disciples to Jesus to inquire if he was the One to come to save Israel or whether there was to be another.
- Theological Error
The book of Galatians records the difficulty that the people had in understanding and embracing the Gospel of Christ, the new Covenant. In the book of Jude, seditious teaching was condemned within the fellowship. And the book of 1 John was intended to counter the heresy of Gnosticism that promoted a false dichotomy between spirit and “flesh” and sanctioned immoral practices as being of now consequence.
- A Temporary Perspective
As Christians we have to wait for the fulfillment of joy that will be ours in a heavenly eternity. Paul noted in 1 Corinthians 15:19 “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” The question of doubt “What’s the use of it all?” can creep in.
- Preconceived ideas / filters / prejudices
When we have made up our mind about certain ideas, a competing truth may be difficult to accept. Doubt may prevail. Christians sometimes are functional atheists, accepting a “nice” part of God’s truth like his love and compassion but rejecting his call to holiness and righteousness.
- Religious Hypocrisy
Mahatma Gandhi who was seeking to understand Christianity was turned away from entering a church because of his skin colour. He told some missionaries at some point: “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Hypocrisy is subtle and is dangerous! It will reinforce doubt and unbelief in those who are estranged from God or who are wavering in faith.
- Conspiracy Theories
Social media is rife with conspiracy theories often blending truth with fiction or dressing lies with an appearance of truth. This sort of thing is not new, of course. There have been heresies and untruths promoted throughout history. We need to use the tool of doubt persistently to expose lies. Falling prey to conspiracy statements will cause doubt and also compromise the Christian testimony that we should have before a world that needs to know God in his glory and holiness. And all that will be accomplished not by our efforts but by yielding ourselves to God, his ways and in his timing.
AND NOW, TO CONSIDER FOUR CURES:
- KNOW WHO GOD IS…and who he is not!
Isaiah 58:8,9 God’s words: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and our children forever that we may follow all the words of this law.”
Job testified during his time of suffering “Though God say me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job 13:15) Daniel’s friends faced the fiery furnace telling the king that God was able to save them, but if that didn’t happen, they still would not submit to the king’s idolatrous demand to worship the golden idol.” How could people in such distress continue on in faith?
The biblical people who really knew God and the long-term plans and care that was promised them, continued on in faith.
- KNOW BIBLICAL HISTORY
If we recall to mind the remarkable works of God from Creation onward, we will be awestruck at his faithfulness and patience with human kind. We will also see that a plan of salvation has been enacted and is progressively unfolding. Add into that history, the prophetic victory that is assured the people of God going forward and we will be able to continue a difficult journey in faith.
Isaiah 50:10 “Blessed are those who walk in darkness and see no light, yet trust in the name of the Lord.”
- KNOW YOUR OWN BIASES OR FILTERS
We all program our thinking from childhood on with attitudes, perceptions, biases, prejudices. It is important recognize how these serve to filter and interpret experiences and ideas throughout our lives. Some filters block out falsehood but other filters block out truth.
- LOOK TO JESUS CHRIST, THE LOGOS / LIVING WORD OF GOD
When doubt haunts you, always go back to unshakeable foundations.
God spoke time, space, and matter into existence. He also spoke his Love for us in coming into our existence clothed as one of us: the Incarnation! There is no god of any religion, other than our God, who has sacrificed himself on our behalf to pay the penalty for our Sin. Through the Cross of Christ, we are given the invitation to sign on to life forever with this loving God.
Isaiah 61:10 “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness.”
True faith is not a religion but a relationship with Jesus Christ in the here and now through the Holy Spirit. It is in the Person of Jesus that we see God. Recall Jesus’ words to Philip in John 14:3-9 Philip asks Jesus to show him the Father. Jesus answers, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” It is in the Person of Jesus that we see, and at least in part understand, God and his mind.
The cure for doubt is faith. But it is not and should not be blind faith. It should be a faith that is based on truth, historical fact, understanding who God is and who God is not. It should be a faith that sees the whole counsel of God and his activities within our earthly existence.