Craig Groeschel - Dealing With Your Doubt
Jesus was suffering and dying on a cross. And he looked up to heaven and declared to his Father, "It is finished. I did everything that you sent me to do". And he said, "Into your hands, I commit my spirit". And he breathes his last. And the moment that he gave his life, the earth trembled and the rocks shook, and the sky grew dark. And his disciples, the people that had left their families, left their jobs, left their comfort, abandoned everything to follow him, they were terrified. They were unsettled. They were afraid. What happened? He said he was a Messiah, and he's no longer alive. And three days later, according to Matthew's gospel, "Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb where Jesus was buried. And suddenly, there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it".
That's cocky. I'm just gonna sit on the stone I rolled away. "His face shone like lightning. His clothing as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. And the angel spoke to the women. 'Don't be afraid,' he said. 'I know that you're looking for Jesus, who was crucified, but he is not here. He is risen from the dead, just as he said it would happen.'" And today, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith, the crowning proof that Jesus defeated death. And that nothing in all creation will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
So Father, we pray today that you would be honored by our worship and the preaching of your word. We ask God because of what you've done, that we could put our faith in you, your goodness, your grace, your power, your love, and that lives would be transformed by the risen Jesus. We pray this in his name, and all God's people said, Amen. amen and amen.
Before you're seated, why don't you look at the person sitting next to you and just say, "You look Easter good". Tell him that. Hey, even if you have to say it by faith. Hey, look at the other person now. Look at your second choice. Look at your second choice. Look at your second choice. Tell him, "You don't look bad either". Go and be seated, if you will. To set the context for what will be our key verse for today, we're actually gonna stay in Matthew 28. And I wanna give you a little insight. After Jesus died and he rose from the dead. In scripture, in the New Testament, there's 13, what theologians call post resurrection appearances of Jesus before he ascends to heaven.
So 13 different times in the New Testament after Jesus died and rose again, 13 different times, he appeared to people. He appeared to the women near the tomb. He appeared to two men on the walk to Emmaus. He appeared to ten of the disciples. He here to 500 of the brethren. He appeared for a meal. He took the disciples fishing, and he took 'em up onto a mountain. He was a beach guy and a mountain guy. He appeared 13 different times to his disciples. And in Matthew 28, the disciples were on a mountain before the Ascension. If you don't know what the Ascension is, this is when Jesus ascended into the cloud, which had to be amazing. I don't know how it happened, but I visualize it. By faith, I believe that Jesus just was standing there in one moment, and he went, whoosh. And he was up. I just see it like that, that he just, he just, whoosh. Iron Man, Iron Jesus, ascended into heaven.
And before he ascended into heaven and was taken to a cloud, he gave his disciples their divine assignment. He told them to do the very same thing he tells us to do. And that was to go into all the world, and tell people the story of what just happened, tell them the gospel that Jesus is a son of God, that he was without sin, that he became sin for us, that he died on a cross, but God raised him from the dead so that anyone who knows him, believes in him, would be forgiven, would be transformed. Go tell the whole world. Jesus told him that. And there is a verse in Matthew's gospel, Matthew 28:16 and 17, the very same chapter of the resurrection that so many people miss. And it says, "Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go". When they saw Jesus, what did they do? "When they saw Jesus, they worshiped him, but some of them doubted". When they saw the risen Christ, they worshiped him, but some of them doubted.
Today, were starting a new message series called Doubting God. The title of today's message is Dealing With Your Doubt. I wanna raise a funny observation about human nature. I don't know why it is, but when we see something else bad in someone else's life, it's often encouraging. Have you noticed that? Like it's rather encouraging to me that the disciples could see Jesus, the resurrected Christ, and still doubt. That makes me feel so much better that they were sucky too. It's a weird thing about human nature, that when someone else struggles, it makes you feel better. For example, this week, I posted a very transparent post on social media. I said how most people are always like, here's the beautiful me, and here's the perfect me, and here's my filtered life.
And I said, this week, as I'm preparing for Easter, it seemed like I'm getting attacked again. I got diagnosed with a case of shingles. If you've ever had shingles before, that ain't no joke and that ain't no fun. And so I said, I've got shingles. And then I talked about how we had mold in our house and a plumbing problem, we had to dig up our hard floors and then replace our cabinets, and we got it fixed, and then now, we gotta dig up the plumbing again, and the same cabinets that we just replaced are messed up again. And you know what people said? They said, "Oh, it makes me feel so good". I'm so thankful. That makes you feel so good. I am so glad that my pain blesses you in such a significant way. Ain't that funny how we are in human nature.
One person said, "I didn't know pastors had problems". Most of them don't. But whenever God was handing out the 'pastor don't have problem' card, after I graduated from seminary, I missed that day. I missed the card. It's a funny thing about human nature that when we see other people struggle, sometimes it makes us feel better. And it makes me feel so much better that the disciples saw the resurrected Christ and some of them still doubted. Because I can feel so close to God sometime, and then still have doubts. I don't know if you can relate. But there are times when it's like, it's almost like God is so real, I can almost touch him. I believe he's good. I believe he's with me. If you told me, like, God's not real. I'm like, "Your mama's not real". It's that personal.
And then other times, it can be like I'm in the middle of presence of God, like in church or something, and all of a sudden, with all these other people around, all this spiritual stuff, like, "Is this stuff real"? I mean, what if we're just like making this stuff up? I mean, I prayed about this and God didn't show up. And it can be really, really, really scary and lonely in Christian circles when you start to doubt. It's scary and you wanna ask questions, but sometimes you wonder, "Am I the only one"? And if I ask this, what are they gonna think about me? And so you might wanna ask, but you feel guilty and you feel ashamed. And I am convinced just in my pastoral tenure, that there are some people that are leaving the church not because God isn't good, but because they have questions they don't feel safe asking. I am convinced there are some people that just don't feel like they can safely express their doubts.
Do you ever battle with doubts? Why do we doubt? I see several reasons. One reason is that there are questions that you can't answer. You come across something in the Bible and you say, "Well, it says that there, and it says this here, and I'm just not quite sure that I understand". There's questions you can't answer. Sometimes, there's situations that seem unfair. You're thinking, "Okay, if I prayed about that and God could and he didn't, then why didn't he? Does he love me"? And there's this bad thing that happened to this good person. And this good thing happened to this bad person. And then there's like world stuff like innocent children that are suffering, and innocent people being hurt in a war in Ukraine. And you wonder, "Where in the world is God"? Sometimes it's because there are hurts that you can't resolve.
You looked at someone and looked up to them and they were a Christian, and they just did something horrible. Or you felt like church was a safe place, and then, unfortunately, it wasn't as safe as you thought. And then sometimes, if I can just talk to those who are Christians, sometimes we make it worse as Christians. There are some Christians, I would say, that just don't have much grace. There's not a lot of bend, not a lot of bend. With good intentions, they're like bumper sticker theology. The Bible says that, I believe it, and that settles it. And everything's black and white. But sometimes the world is complicated. And when someone has a question and they can't find an answer, someone hurts them, there's a theological question, they feel let down, there's a situation. If there's not a lot of bend, if a stick won't bend, it'll break.
And sometimes people have a question. And when there's no bend, they feel like the only option is to walk away from God. I wanna show you this week and next week and in the weeks to come, that your doubts handled properly, they can actually be a catalyst to a stronger faith. Your doubts don't have to take you away from God. Your doubts can actually draw you closer to God. Because it's so important to understand that your faith is actually a journey. It's not a destination. Your faith is a journey. You don't ever arrive. You don't just like, one day, like, "Okay, I've done the classes. I did the work. I've gone through the test. And now I have graduated faith. I've got my MBA in faith. I've got my PhD in faith. I've got a masters of faith. Now I've got perfect faith". You don't ever arrive like that.
There's no such thing as just always, always, every moment of every single day, just say, "Now, I know it all. I understand it all". And that's why for just a moment, and we're gonna dive deep into this in the upcoming weeks, I wanna talk to those of you who are parents who raised your kids in the church. At some point, don't be surprised if your children start to wrestle with doubt and start to ask some questions. If that happens, don't panic when they start to ask hard questions. What I want you to do, mom and dad, is recognize they've grown up watching your faith. They've seen your faith. And sometimes you're in middle of hypocritical in your faith. And they've noticed that you have a faith. And if they're asking questions, they may be just wondering, "Can I make your faith my faith"? It's not necessarily a bad thing. They may have to ask some real, some sincere, some hard, some complicated questions to say that this is now my faith.
If there's questions, if there's doubt, this is not a time to panic. It's a time to process. It's a time to talk, because the church and the home should be the safest places in the world to ask the hard questions, should be the safest places in the world. And I hope that you'll discover that the strongest faith isn't a faith that never doubts. The strongest faith is a faith that grows through your doubts. Take for example, Thomas, in the Bible after the resurrection, in John 20:24. John's gospel tells us, "One of the twelve disciples, Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, 'We've seen the Lord.'"
Now, this is actually funny if you study Greek. In the Greek language, the verb is in the active tense. And so that means, they said it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. It's like your kid in the back seat, "Are we there yet"? Are we there yet? Are we there? Are we there? I gotta go. I gotta go. I gotta go. Or like my CrossFit friend, "Come to CrossFit. Come to CrossFit, come to CrossFit, come to CrossFit". I'm like, "All you ever do is invite me to CrossFit". He said, "All you ever do is ask me to church". Touche. I got it. It's like that guy. Okay. It's like, "We've seen the Lord. We've seen the Lord. We've seen the Lord". They said, "We've seen the Lord. We've seen the Lord". "He was dead but we've seen the Lord," they go on to say. But Thomas replied, "I won't believe unless I see the nail wounds in his hands. I won't believe unless I put my fingers into them. I won't believe unless I place my hand into the wounds in his side".
And that is the reason that Thomas is known as, help me out, he's known as doubting Thomas. I'm here to tell you, Thomas is getting a bad rep. He really is. In fact, my goal is to dignify his doubts. Because the only reason those other boys were believing, you know why? 'Cause they'd seen him. That's why. Thomas is getting bad rep. I believe there are many of you like me, you could relate to Thomas. He was a realist. He just wanted to know. I'm guessing that Thomas is like a lot of you, that he'd been through some stuff before. I'm guessing he'd seen some stuff. He has some disappointments, some heartbreaks, some very real, very honest, very sincere, very complicated questions. Just because you have questions, that doesn't make you bad.
Questions make you human. In fact, it was Oswald Chambers who said, "Doubt is not always a sign that a man is wrong. It may be a sign that he's thinking". Your doubts don't disqualify your faith. In fact, if you ask me, in my very pastoral opinion, to rank the disciples in order of spiritual strength and greatness and faith, you know what I'd do? I'd put Thomas right up there at the top, honest to goodness. I would put him right up there at the top. And I'd give you two reasons. One of the reasons is, if you know in the gospels, there was a guy named Lazarus. Lazarus died. For four days, he was dead. The King James version said he stinketh, which is funny to me, that's street language for he's tanky. Okay. Four days later, he stinketh, and you know what Thomas did? Thomas went to Jesus. Whenever Jesus said this. Jesus said to the disciples, "Lazarus is dead". Like, thank you, Jesus. It's been four days. We knew that. Then Jesus says, "Let us go to him".
Then Thomas, also known as, what? Say it aloud. Also known as Didymus. This is why we call him T Didy. Just wait. There's more. There's always more. Hashtag dad joke. I got 'em all. Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, "Hey, let's go, that we may die with Jesus". That's not fear. That's courage. This is Thomas. Hey, if they're gonna kill us, let's be with Jesus when they do. That's not lack of faith. That's tremendous faith. And that was Thomas. There was another time, in John's gospel in John 14, when Jesus said to them, "Hey, I'm gonna go away. I'm gonna go to a place called heaven. And I'm gonna prepare some really cool mansions for you. I'm gonna prepare a place for you". And Thomas is like, "Oh, oh, oh. Oh, oh, oh. Oh. Oh, Jesus". Thomas said, "Jesus, we don't know where you're going. So how can we go where you're going"?
This was a sincere question. This was the guy who said, "I wanna go where you're going. I just need some details. Just answer my questions. I need some details". Thomas just wanted to know for himself. And so if your kids, or if you start to have questions, this is not a time to panic. This is a time to process, to talk about it. Keep pressing into the things of God. And watch, how did Jesus respond to Thomas's doubt? Well, this is what scripture says Jesus did. The Bible says, "Eight days later, the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was there". Don't miss this. How many days later was this? This was Eight. eight days later.
So what I want you to notice is eight days later, Thomas showed back up. Even in the middle of his doubts, even when he wasn't sure, he showed back up. If there is anyone here who's been hurt or you have doubts, let me applaud you because, guess what? You showed back up. You're here. You're watching online. Sometimes you just show back up. "The doors were locked, but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing there. 'Peace be with you,' he said. Then he looks at Thomas and says, 'Hey, put your fingers here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound of my side. Don't be faithless any longer. Believe.' And Thomas shouts out, 'My Lord and my God.'" What did Jesus do? How did he respond to a doubter? Jesus came to Thomas and gave Thomas exactly what he needed. And one moment he was doubting, and the next moment he was shouting, just like some of you will do when Jesus touches you. Proving to you that God is not distant in your doubts.
Somebody needs to hear this. Jesus is not a standoff savior. He's willing to be touched. If he feels far away, reach out to him because he's reaching out for you. You can ask questions. You can take your frustrations to him. You can wrestle with him. You can complain. You can tell him that you don't understand. Thomas asked questions. Thomas needed answers. Thomas got answers. And what did he do? He served Jesus faithfully. In fact, tradition tells us this. Tradition tells us that after preaching Jesus and preaching Jesus and preaching Jesus, that Thomas was actually murdered in India in the year 72 AD or so, when he wouldn't back away from his faith in Christ, and they drove a stake through his stomach because he would not surrender the Lordship of Christ. Proving to us, and I hope you feel this.
When you have questions, when you have doubts, your doubts don't disqualify your faith. Your faith is a journey. It's never a destination. And so what's gonna happen, at some point in your life, in the life of a friend, a classmate, a child, a brother, a sister, there's gonna be a question. You're gonna have a doubt. You're gonna have a moment of insecurity. You're gonna want some details. You're gonna want an answer and you don't have an answer yet. And your spiritual enemy, the devil, is gonna try to use your doubt to drive you away from God. It's gonna tell you, "You're not a real believer. You don't have perfect faith. This stuff's not real. Church doesn't care about you. God's not involved in your life. He's not good. He doesn't love you. He's not with you. He hadn't really forgiven you. You've been too bad. You've been too filthy. After what you said, after what you did, after what you think, after how you act, after how you behave, he doesn't love you".
And the devil is gonna try to use your doubt to drive you away from God. But I came to tell somebody today that God can use your doubt to draw you to himself. God is so good. Jesus came to Thomas in the middle of his doubts. And this is hard for me to tell you because I am your pastor. But it was only three years ago or so, when I was about to preach in my spot, on song number two, standing right here, trying to worship, and feeling nothing. And I don't know why. I don't know why then. But at that moment, this panic came on me. What if this isn't real? What if it's just like emotional? What if it's a crutch? What if you die and go back to the ground? What if this isn't real? And I'm telling you, I couldn't breathe. My heart was pounding. I started shaking. The tears started coming. And I looked right at the Exit sign, and thought, "Maybe I can just escape". I mean, I'm minutes away from preaching. I'm overwhelmed with doubt. I sat down, I started crying, put my hand in my face and prayed, "God, if you're there, show me something".
And I had a vision. It wasn't like a weird guy vision. It was like a very normal preacher guy vision. I saw myself back in college, reading in the gospels for the first time about this Jesus. I'd never really understood. This Jesus that loved people as broken as me. And I remember reading that it's by grace through faith that you're made right with God. And the moment I thought the word faith, I thought, "Okay, faith". It takes faith. It's always gonna take faith. And if there's any proof at all, what Jesus did in me is proof. I was lost. And then I was different. Faith. I have faith to believe. And I discovered that faith is not the absence of doubt. But faith is the means to push through doubt.
And scripture says in Psalm 23, that even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me. When you're in a valley, what do you do? What do you do when you're in a valley? You get through it. You keep walking. You get through the valley. You don't stay in the valley. You keep walking. Somebody, you're not in the valley of the shadow of death. You're in the valley of the shadow of doubt. And if you're in the valley of the shadow of doubt, you don't stay in doubt. Don't let doubt be your dead end. If you're in the valley of the shadow of doubt, you just keep on walking. You just keep showing back up. You just keep asking questions and trying to trust God. And you don't have to have faultless faith. You just have to have a little bit of faith. But Pastor Steven, I think I need some help from you. Pastor Steven, can you help me out here? I need some help. What I wanna do is I wanna ask you, can you sing "Come to Jesus"?
I wanna invite people today. I'm gonna use this mic so I can, I'm not gonna sing. But I wanna say to you all, "Come to Jesus". If you're in the middle of the valley of the shadow of doubt, just keep on walking toward Jesus. Keep on walking toward Jesus. Come to Jesus. Because faith is a journey. It's not a destination. Listen to me. If you have your doubts, come to Jesus. If you're struggling, come to Jesus. If you've got questions, bring them to Jesus. If you've got sexual baggage, take it to Jesus. If you've got secret addictions, you tried and you can't overcome them. Take them to Jesus. If you see something in life that doesn't seem fair, and you wonder why. Take your burdens, take your hurts. Take them to Jesus. Cast your cares upon him because he cares for you. If you've got church hurts, take them to Jesus. Today, at all of our churches, would you just stand to your feet wherever you are.
Just stand to your feet. We're coming to Jesus. We're coming to Jesus. Come to Jesus as you are. "Come to Jesus". Come with your heart. "Come to Jesus". Come with your fear. "Come to Jesus". Come with your doubt. "Come to Jesus". With all your brokenness, come to him. Who is he? He is the Lamb of God. For the forgiveness of the sins of this world. He's the favorite son of God who loves you. He is perfect in every way. And he loves you. "He gives grace". Bring your questions. Lift your hands and worship him. "As you are, with nothing else just come. There's no need for any hiding in the Father's house, you're met with open arms, his arms are open to you. He gives grace without conviction. The amazing grace of God. As you are, with nothing else just come. As you are, with nothing else just come" Oh, come to Jesus today. Wherever you're watching from, if you're watching online at every single church, let's go before our Father in prayer today.
Father, thank you for your Son, Jesus, for his grace, for his love, for his mercy, and for the empty tomb.
Wherever you're watching from today, I know that there are those of you that your life feels wrecked. You feel left out, overlooked, alone, broken, ashamed. You've tried to heal and overcome some sin. You're back in it. You feel guilty for what you did, where you were, how you've acted. You maybe have even tried to be good enough for God. You simply can't be good enough for God. And do you know why? Because we simply are not designed on our own to ever be good enough. Jesus said, "Tell the gospel". What is the gospel? The good news is such good news. The bad news is bad. And the bad news is we've all sinned, we've all fallen short. But the good news is that our God is so amazing, that he became one of us in the person of his son, Jesus, born of a virgin, living without sin.
Jesus was the lamb of God, perfect in every way. Without sin so he could become sin. The perfect sacrifice so that we could be forgiven. He died in our place on a cross. And three days later, by the power of our good God, the stone was rolled away. The tomb was empty. Jesus was not there. Defeating death, hell, and the grave. Therefore, if anyone, listen to me, anyone, and this includes you, doesn't matter how dark your life is, doesn't matter how bad you've been, anyone who calls on that name, the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus, your sins would be forgiven and you would be made new. You may have questions. Come to him. You may have doubts. Still come. You may have insecurities. Come. You may have brokenness. Come. Your life may be a mess. Come to him as you are. And call on his name. When you do, he'll enter your life, forgive your sin, and he makes you new.
Today, wherever you're watching, from those of you who say, "I need it, I need his grace. I need his mercy". Just come to Jesus. Just come to Jesus. The moment you call out to him, he forgives your sins. Wherever you're watching from today, you know you need his forgiveness today. This is the day we're stepping away from the old life. This isn't a religious decision. You're not joining a church. Today, we're making a spiritual decision. We're stepping away from the old, from our sin. We're stepping toward Jesus, by grace you're saved through faith. You believe he is the son of God. He will forgive you. You are new. The old is gone. The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will dwell within you.
Wherever you're watching from today, those who say "I need it, I want it. I'm ready. I'll walk away from the past. I give my life to Jesus". Lift your hands high now, all over the place. Lift them up. Right over there. Man, lift them up. Right up there. Both of you up there. Come on, somebody. Right over there. Right over here. Praise God for you. Come on up here. Come on, somebody. Let's go, church. Worship. Let's worship, church. Online, just type it in the chat. Just type it in the chat. I'm giving my life to Jesus. Oh, come on, somebody. Let's thank God for his goodness. Type it in the chat. I'm giving my life to Jesus. And wherever you're watching from, will you just pray aloud? Pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive all of my sins. I put my faith in Jesus, in his work. Change me. Fill me with your spirit so I could follow you. My life is not my own. I give it all to you. In Jesus' name, I pray.
Could somebody celebrate big? Worship the goodness, the power of our good God.