Charles Stanley - Why Do We Waver in Our Faith?
Everybody has faith. The difference is that some people have great faith, some people have a little faith, and some people just have faith that just wobbles all over the place. They believe it today; they can't believe it tomorrow. And so, if you ask them, "Well what is faith"? Well, for those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ, we know that faith is the confident conviction that God will do what He promised. That's what real genuine faith is: the confident conviction that God will do what He promised. And in spite of that, there are times when situations arise that we doubt Him.
We look at the situation or what appears to be the facts, and we think, "That can't happen. God's not in that". And oftentimes that is exactly what He's up to. All of us are going to go through situations and circumstances where our faith is going to be tested, no question about it. And when James writes this very short, but very practical epistle, he deals with people who are facing some very strenuous situations: persecution, all kind of hard things going on. And in these first eight verses, he gets our attention when he comes to faith that's not sturdy, it just wavers. I believe it now, but the way I feel now, I don't think that's true.
So, I want you to turn to James chapter one and I want us to read these first eight verses together and see the principle here. He begins with, "James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings". Undergoing persecution, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed to the wind, wavering here and there, that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways".
So, what James is simply saying here is this: one of the reasons that people don't get along too well; maybe they don't have what God intended for them to have. They don't get the promotion that they think they should have. Or maybe they don't get healed, or whatever it might be. He says, "Being a double-minded man, unstable in all their ways". Don't expect to, "Receive anything from the Lord". What's a double-minded man? Double-minded man says, "Yes, He can. I'm not sure. I really believe that. Well I have my doubts," back and forth, in and out. And all of us have faced situations where we believed God maybe at first, what He was doing, and then maybe something came along that caused us to question.
Now questioning God is not a sin as long as you and I are seeking to know the truth. Because there are situations and circumstances that would make us stop and think, "Now wait a minute. Am I understanding this right or am I not? Is this really what God is saying or is it not"? So, we all have those times in our life, but they should not last long, because we are children, the scripture says, "Of faith". And because we are children of faith, then we should believe that God will do as exactly what He says He'll do. So, ask yourself this question: Would you consider yourself really to be a real genuine true believer, not only for your salvation, but you believe God? You believe He's who He says He is? You have, listen, you have strong convictions about God answering prayer and listening to you and being patient with you and forgiving you of your sin? Where, in other words, are you a doubter or are you a strong believer?
Well, we all need to know where we are. And so, as I've been thinking about that and thinking about, why we doubt, and you can be a believer for years and years and years, and once in a while something will come along and you think, "Wait a minute, God. I've been trusting You for years and years and years, why this"? And so, I want you to think about these. When you and I are trusting God and something comes along that's against our human reasoning, we're prone to doubt sometime. And a good biblical example of that is Peter walking on water. Jesus told him to walk and he walked on the water. Then all of a sudden scripture says he saw the waves. That is he took his eyes off the Lord and he began to sink. Human reasoning says you don't walk on water.
So, when he began to humanly think about it, he began to sink. Then think about this: the very idea that Sunday after Sunday, you and I come and we tithe what God has given us through the week because of our labors. Now this doesn't match up with human reasoning. And so, I understand why people don't believe it, but what I want you to see is this: you don't believe it and when you don't believe it, you don't believe God can do what He says He'll do. And this is why, this is why James makes it so clear here. He says, "Now, if you're doubting God, don't let that man expect that he'll receive anything from the Lord". You know why some people hurt and suffering? They don't believe God. If you live by human reason, you will miss God's best for your life. You're going to miss His best. Because there's nothing in the Bible that says, "Everything spiritual will be reasonable". No, indeed.
So, I think one of the primary reasons is the conflict with human reason. A second one is this, is when we allow our feelings to overcome our faith. If I say to you, "Next Sunday, I want you to come up and speak for ten minutes about your testimony". "Oh, I couldn't possibly do that". Yes, you can, you won't because you don't believe God. That is, whatever God calls us to do, He is committed to equipping us to do it, whatever that might be. And this whole idea of feeling unworthy and fear of criticism and inadequacy and so forth, you're either going to believe God or you're not going to believe Him. And listen, the Christian life isn't the natural life. It's the unnatural life. It's Holy God working in people who've trusted Him as their Savior and allowing Him to work and to demonstrate His awesome power in your life. But He warns us. He says, "Now, if you doubt Him expect to receive nothing".
Now that doesn't mean, watch this, that doesn't mean that you can't ever have a little doubt about something, but that you deal with it. Because all of us may run into something that hits us suddenly, we're not thinking about it. We weren't planning on it and all of a sudden you think, "Well what, Lord, this looks like the right thing to do," but you ask God, "Now Lord, what would You have me to do"? And what He may ask you to do is something totally unreasonable. If you believe Him, watch this, you will obey Him. And for somebody to tell me that they believe God and do not obey Him, they're totally deceived. And so, it's a simple thing, but it's the law of God. And so, if I let my feelings get the best of me, fear of criticism, fear of what'll happen. You know what? We're to live by faith, not by fear. Another reason, I think, that we have a problem with this, is when we focus on the circumstances.
Let's say for example, that you have a little debt. And that little debt's really bothering you. And what happens is you go to bed thinking, "I've got to get rid of that debt". You wake up thinking, in other words, watch this: the longer you focus on something, the bigger it gets, larger it gets. And sometimes little things become mountain-size, because that's all you're focusing on. You focus on God. And think about this. Everything, no matter how big it is, when you focus on God, nothing. Because He can handle everything. Once I begin to believe that He can handle everything, no matter how large the issue may be, then I begin to look at it in light of who God is and I know that He can handle anything and everything. But if I get, begin to doubt, and you focus on it and keep thinking about it and thinking about and thinking about it, it doesn't mean you can't solve problems in life, or that you can't deal with issues that may profit you greatly at some point. But the issue is you don't worry. If you're worrying and fretting, you're not trusting. And as believers, we have a definite conviction that God is with us in every single circumstance of life.
Then of course, you may be ignorant of God's ways. And I think that's where most Christians are, they're ignorant of God's ways. And a good example of that is this. When Lazarus was sick and dying, Mary and Martha called for Jesus. Well, what's the natural, normal thing you would expect of Jesus when one of His best friends is dying? That He'd tell His disciples, "Let's hurry over let's go find what's going on with Lazarus". No, He just let him die. That wasn't a reasonable, normal thing to do. But if you'd have asked Mary and Martha three days after the resurrection, "Would you have rather Jesus healed your brother or raise him from the dead"? What do you think they would have said? "Raise him from the dead". But you see, it didn't seem to be the reasonable thing, and they got upset. They were both upset. "Where's Jesus? Why didn't He come? Why didn't You come"? Because He had something better in mind. You see, if I'm trust... watch this carefully. How many of you got a watch? Hold them up. Okay, spiritually speaking, when you're living a Christian life and you're listening to God, you have to get rid of that, and your calendar, because God's timing is not ours. His timing is not ours. You have to get rid of that.
Now, don't throw your watch away today, but here's the thing of it: you can't tell God when to do what. You know what? He knows exactly when to do what. He knows how, exactly how to change the circumstances of your life. And He knows when the best time is to do it. He knows when it'll have its greatest impact in your life. So oftentimes people, they're believing God and trusting God and thanking God. He's answered their prayer about other things and now they're asking about something else and God's silent. Watch this, God is only silent when He's up to something fantastic. It's not that He's forgotten. It's not that He wasn't listening. It's just that He doesn't do it when we think He ought to do it. And if He doesn't match my schedule, then I think He doesn't love me, He doesn't care. I do this for Him, I do that for Him and all the rest. No. God hasn't changed. Watch this. He knows exactly when you and I need what we need. And He knows the best way to provide it. And sometimes the way He provides it is a total, wonderful shock. It comes from a source that we never even thought about before.
So, you can't put a time limit on God or tell Him how to answer that prayer, whatever it might be. Then, one of the primary reasons that people waver in their faith is this. Watch carefully: they still feel guilt over past sins. It may be something yesterday, but more than likely it's something that happened a long time ago. "Well, when did it happen"? "Well it happened about five years ago or seven years ago". "Well did you ask God to forgive you"? "Yes, I did. Well, I have been asking Him ever since". "Wait a minute. You mean you, you asked Him to forgive you when it happened"? "Yes, I did". "And you've been asking Him for five years"? "Yes, I have". "Well, why have you been asking God to forgive you for five years for something you ask Him for once and did He hear you"? "Well, He must not have". "Yes, He did". You see, guilt is a heavy weight. And if you don't know how to deal with guilt, then what happens? Satan just puts it on you. And there you are facing it day after day after day. And you ask God to forgive you.
And let me ask you a question: if you're saved and you ask God to forgive you, doesn't He forgive you? The problem is you don't forgive yourself. And think about, suppose you live four years having asked God to forgive you for something that He forgave you for the first time you asked Him, and you're still carrying it around. Four and a half years later your carrying it around, why? Was it because God ignored you? No, it's because you ignored His promise. "If we confess our sins, He's faithful," count on Him, "and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," period. "By grace are you saved". What happens is we feel guilty; we can't handle our guilt. We ask Him to forgive us; claim it and move on in life. That doesn't mean to be careless about sin, because sin has its consequences. And I'm not saying if you sin against God and ask Him to forgive you, there are no consequences. I didn't say that. I said "He'll forgive you". Watch this carefully, there are some sins for which there are consequences that will be there in some situations for a lifetime. Does it mean you're not forgiven? No, it doesn't mean you're not forgiven. It means there are consequences.
So, the question is: How do we deal with them? How do we deal with these things that pop up in our lives or things we bring upon ourselves? And I think a number of things. You ask yourself, "Where do these doubts come from? Do they come from the truth of God's Word or they come as a result of how I feel or what somebody else has said"? The second question is this: has God ever failed me in the past? Let me ask you this: how many of you would say, "God has failed me in the past". Raise your hand. God failed you. Well, God hasn't failed you. He's never failed any of His children.
So, I'm asking, if I'm doubting I'm asking myself the question, "Well, has God ever failed me in the past"? The third is this: Did not God promise to meet all my needs? Yes, He did. And most folks would they read the Word of God, believe what Paul said, "My God shall supply," what? "All my needs according to..." what? "According to," listen, "His grace and love and sufficiency for us". He makes the promise. So, if you have a need that God has not answered, it's probably one or two reasons. Number one, you're out of His will and He's not going to answer your prayer as long as you're out of His will. Or you're asking for something that absolutely is not His will. Or you may be asking for it at a time He's not ready to give it. So, you ask yourself the question, "God, what's going on in my life? You haven't failed me".
So, did He say He'd meet all of our needs? Yes. That's who God is. He will meet our needs. And all through the scriptures, for example, over and over and over again, multitudes of example of God meeting needs. And all of us probably could give some testimonies of how He's met big needs in our life. Yes, He will. The next question is this: did He give me the Holy Spirit in order to enable me to believe Him and to be able to do whatever He's required of me? Yes, He has. When you trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, the Bible says, watch this, the Holy Spirit, third person of the Trinity, came into your life and sealed you as a child of God unto the day He calls you home. Sealed, watch, sealed by the Holy Spirit, not sealed by somebody; not some stamp. He sealed you with what? With the presence of the Holy Spirit. Every single one of us who is a believer is sealed unto the day we die when God calls us home to be with Him, sealed by the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. That's His promise.
And so therefore, that being true, I have the Holy Spirit to look to, as He says in His Word in John, that He's our teacher; He's our guide; He's the one who comforts us and leads us. He will show us the way. He will guide us in the right way; guide us in answering our prayers; guide us to know how to pray. That's the promise we have, if we'll trust Him; if we'll believe Him. And then, another question is this: Is this one of those forks in the road in which my unbelief could cost me a lifetime of regret? Write it down. Is this one of those forks in the road when I'm trying to find out what I should do? "Lord, what do You want me"? I'm not asking my friends, asking God, "What do You want me to do". And is this one of those points, forks in the road, and my answer is going to affect me the rest of my life.
And I have looked back many years and I was a pastor at this time in Miami so I was in my twenties. And I'd been wrestling with God about something that He'd told me to do that I was scared to do. I felt too ignorant to do it. I felt I would be embarrassed. I felt that I would fail. I gave God all of these reasons. In fact, I remember, now that I recall it, going up into the mountains to one of my friend's cabins, up in North Carolina. And I took my family up there and I said, "Now, I just need to get away and fast and pray, and so I'll be with y'all a little while and then I just, I've just got to get an answer". So, I went up there and we did and I came back and did I have an answer? No. And several months went by and I'm still asking God about this. No. Is God saying anything? No, no, no, no. I had two or three days at that point before I had to make a decision, and it was a big time vital decision.
So, my wife had taken the kids to school that morning and I'm lying down in, in the sunroom in Miami, and talking to God. And I knew in my heart, I think I knew in my heart what was, what was going on, but I'd been fudging. You know what fudging is? You just keep putting it off and trying to convince God that He had the wrong person. And I was lying there just talking to the Lord and He made this crystal clear. He said it so strongly I have never forgotten it. He said, "Here's your choice. You can do what I'm telling you to do and see how I'll bless you, and see what I'll do in your life. Or, you can disobey Me, refuse to obey Me, and spend the rest of your life wondering what I would have done with you, had you obeyed Me". That's all I needed. I thought, "God, if I'm the biggest failure, it doesn't make any difference. I'm not going that route. I'm going to trust You no matter what".
Now listen, I couldn't be more blessed. And you know what? I look back and think, "What would have happened to me if I'd a said, 'I can't do that and I'm not gonna do it.' I probably wouldn't even be in the ministry". But God loved me enough to put up with me because He knew there was going to come a day and a time when I was going to get the real question. "Are you willing to obey Me and watch what I do with you? Or, are you going to disobey Me and spend the rest of your life wondering what I would have done, if you had obeyed me"? Listen, there'll be times when we'll have those momentary doubts, but they should be momentary.
Remember, no watch and no calendar. God knows exactly when to make everything crystal clear. And I wonder if there's something going on in your life that you're doubting God about. You know what He's saying. And you did and have done maybe what I was doing. I was praying about all kind of things. You should hear me try to convince God of what I should do and why I should do it and why I couldn't do it and why it wouldn't ever work. Thank God, by His grace and love and mercy, He confronted me with a life question.
And you think about it. We all come to those forks in the road. And there are some forks, there's no turning back. It's either do what's right, or spend the rest of your life with the consequences. You say, "Well that's just you". No. That's not just you. That's a principle. There are times, there are seasons, there are forks in the road in everybody's life. It may be a big fork or a little fork, but it's a fork. And your decision will determine your destiny and what happens in your life. To keep on doubting God is a sin. Worse than that, it's not just a sin, it's a disaster.
And you may be saying, "Well, I guess I blew it back yonder somewhere". Would you not agree that you've paid the price? That there are consequences that you wish you'd never had to experience. Yes, that's true. Will God forgive you? Yes. "Well, what'll happen if He forgives me"? Here's what'll happen. No matter who you are, where you are, what your age, what you may have missed, He'll take you right where you are. He'll forgive your sin, cleanse you, write your name in the Lamb's Book of Life, if you've never been saved.
Or if you've been saved and you've lived in disobedience all those years, will He forgive you? Yes. Will He make everything right? Yes. Will He make it possible for you to get all that back? No, the consequences to sin for which there is no retrieving. Forgiven, yes. Consequences, they're still there. If you're wise, you'll trust Jesus Christ as your Savior right now. My prayer for you is simply this: that you ask Him to forgive you of your sin and to save you, and that you're surrendering your life to Him and you want Him to govern your life all the days of your life. And He'll start immediately if you ask Him.
Father, how grateful we are for love that's beyond our comprehension. Make our faith solid, immovable, unchangeable, unwavering, fully connected to You. And we know that that takes time to develop it, but here we are, Lord. I pray the Holy Spirit will make it simple, confession, repentance, turning away from a life of sin, and surrendering to Christ, that's the best way; the only way to experience eternal life. Happiness and joy and peace, even in the midst of trials in this life, in Jesus' name, amen.