David Jeremiah - Slaying the Giant of Doubt
It should not surprise us to discover that in the Bible, there were many people who doubted. If you read through the Psalms, or you examine the lives of men like Job or Solomon, particularly as he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes, or even in reading of the Psalms of David, you find out that great men and women often went through times of doubt.
When you come to the New Testament, one of the most prominent characters at the beginning of the New Testament Scripture is a man by the name of John the Baptist. And John the Baptist, was a man who, on one occasion, expressed a very serious doubt. He sent two messengers to Jesus to ask him this question recorded in Matthew 11:3. He said, "Are you the coming one, or do we look for another"? In other words, "Jesus, are You the Messiah or should I keep looking"?
Now, at first blush, that doesn't sound like that's much of a deal. I mean, why would that matter? What is the importance of that question? The importance of the question is wrapped up in the fact of the identity of John the Baptist. Jesus said of John the Baptist, that he was the greatest of all of the men born to women. And when you put that together with the fact that just a few days before this, John had been involved in the baptism of Jesus, and in Matthew 3:17 while he was baptizing the Lord Jesus, God Almighty spoke from heaven and said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased". And yet, here's John saying, "Lord, are you the one or should we keep waiting for somebody else"?
Doubts are normal experiences, even for great Christians. And I like to say that especially because we have so many young people here because I remember as I was growing up going through my teenage years, there were times when I struggled a lot with the doubts of my faith. I think that's especially true for those of us who grow up in Christian homes. Sometimes we wonder if we're truly Christians, or if we're just conditioned to be who we are. And so, we wrestle with these questions. And if we're not careful, we begin to think that maybe our doubts are some sort of a sickness, or maybe it's sin.
I want to tell you that doubting is not sin. Some of the greatest people who ever lived, some of the great people of the Bible were people who experienced serious doubts. And I'm convinced that God respects the probing questions of his children, that he delights when we don't just take things on the surface, but when we go beyond the surface to find the answers that are available. So, then doubt is the act of questioning. It is uncertainty. It is the humility of a mind asking questions and seeking real solutions, and there is a difference between doubt and unbelief. Perhaps it's best summarized this way, doubt asks the sincere questions, unbelief won't hear the answers.
So, if you struggle sometimes with questions about your faith or about your life as a Christian, let me just encourage you to relax a little bit and understand that we all go through periods of doubt. And in order to illustrate the principles of doubt, I would like to turn your attention to the 20th chapter of John's gospel where we have the record of a doubter. In fact, with tongue in cheek without doubt, he is the greatest doubter in the Bible. His name is Thomas. He's one of the Lord's disciples. He had a lot of questions. He was a person who was very melancholy in his spirit. If he were living today, we would say he was a pessimist.
You know what a pessimist is? A pessimist is someone who feels bad when he feels good because he's afraid he'll feel worse when he feels better. Do you ever know anybody like that? They feel bad when they feel good 'cause they're afraid they're gonna feel worse when they feel better. Thomas was that kind of a personality from what we can gather in the references made to him in the Scripture. For instance, on one occasion when Jesus had indicated he wanted to go be near his friend, Lazarus, who was very sick and was dying, when Jesus wanted to go back to Bethany, which was just two miles from Jerusalem, here was Thomas's take on it all.
John 11:16, "Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, 'Let us also go, that we may die with Him.'" This guy's a real winner, isn't he? I mean, a lot of people think that was a statement of devotion and perhaps it was, but how many of you would have thought of that? You know, in the upper room, Jesus was trying to prepare the disciples for his departure and he said, "And where I go you know, and the way you know". And Thomas was the first one to speak up. He said, "Lord, we don't know where you're going, how in the world can we know the way"?
You kind of get a little bit of a picture of this guy. He's a very questioning person, a probing personality to try to find the answers. Now, the thing I want you to understand is that Thomas was not without faith. He was not an unbeliever. He had every reason to believe. He had walked with the disciples, he had seen all the miracles that Jesus did, he had heard the Lord's predictions about his death, burial, and resurrection. And Thomas had many facts to back up his faith, and yet he doubted. As we examine his doubt, we can begin to see some of the things that caused us to doubt because he is no different than we are, a man of like passions.
Notice, first of all, that doubt develops in isolation. When we are isolated, when we're the only ones, if we can't find anyone else who believes as we believe about God, sometimes the doubts can come. If you go back to John the Baptist for a moment, it's interesting, when John the Baptist sent his messengers up to Jesus to find out if he was the Messiah, you know where he was when he sent that message? He was isolated from the rest of his friends. He was in prison left alone to think about, "You know what? Is this really Jesus or is this really the Messiah"? Whenever we're struggling with doubt, it's always good to take our emotional temperature. Doubt can flourish during times of isolation.
C.S. Lewis, the great English writer, said that he struggled seriously with doubt when he would go on trips and find himself alone in hotel rooms, isolated from his family and from his friends. That's when he struggled most with his doubts. Next, I want you to notice as you read the Scripture in John chapter 20 that doubt demands evidence. In verse 25 we read, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, put my hand into His side, I will not believe".
Now remember, this was the Thomas who had warned the other disciples not to go to Jerusalem, remember? He said, "Don't go down there because we'll all end up dying with Jesus". And now the worst has happened, Jesus has died. And Thomas isn't convinced that he's come back from the grave by any means. He's not convinced. And when he gets together finally with the disciples and they say, "We saw the Lord, he's back from the grave," Thomas said, "You know what? I don't know that I believe that. In fact, unless I can see it for myself, unless I can examine the evidence myself, I'm not going to believe".
I really have to take my hat off to Thomas, at least he was honest and he said what was in his heart, and he began to ask for the evidence that he needed. And I'm convinced, as we'll see in a few moments, that when we seriously and sincerely seek for the answers to our questions, God will meet us at the point of our need, amen? He will. And that brings us to the third thing that doubt draws us back to Christ. In the first meeting when Jesus came into that room, Thomas wasn't there, but it is interesting that eight days later, those same disciples got together and this time, Thomas was with them. "And Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, 'Peace to you"!
Thomas didn't sit around and argue with the disciples about whether Jesus had come back from the grave, he just determined, "The next time they get together, I'm gonna be with them. And if Jesus comes back, I'm gonna check this out for myself". And the Lord's presence was there for Thomas to see. You know, Christianity is first and foremost about a person, not about doctrines and creeds. If we express our doubts clearly to the Almighty God in prayer, if we read the four gospels carefully about his life, if we examine the evidence that is available to us, it will not draw us to the right answers, it will draw us to the right person, and that person is Jesus Christ. That's what happened to Thomas. In his desire to find evidence, he found the living Lord.
Let me suggest, fourthly, that doubts have the potential to deepen your faith. It is interesting that Thomas never would have had the opportunity to see Jesus as He saw him, had he not doubted. Later on, I can imagine someone coming up to Thomas and saying, "Thomas, do you believe that Jesus Christ came back from the grave"? And Thomas would say, "You know what? I had my hands on his body. I put my hand in the side where the spear went. I looked right smack into the nail prints in his hands, and I put my fingers in there and saw". How did Thomas get that unparalleled opportunity? Because he doubted and he followed his doubts through to their solutions.
Sometimes people say they have doubts, and it's just something they've decided they don't want to believe, so they chuck it over here and say, "Well, I have doubts". You know, a lot of people do that. We need to learn how to be honest about our doubts. One of the things that many doubters report is that when they begin to search for the evidence, the search does take them to the answer, but in the process of searching for the evidence, they find a relationship with God they never had before. And sometimes I've heard them say at the end, "I don't even care about the answer anymore. I found the Lord in a whole new way, and the answer is there and I'm just gonna rest and be sure of it, and walk before our Lord".
Finally, the last thing I want you to know as you face doubts is that doubts can define your faith. Somebody has said that there is more faith, believe me, in one doubt, than in half the creeds. Well, what that means is that when we follow a doubt all the way through to the resolution of it in our heart, that gives us the ability to say like Thomas said when he finally saw the Lord, and touched his body, and saw the nail prints, and put his hand in his side, you remember what Thomas said? One of the greatest statements of declared faith in all of the Word of God. He said, "My Lord, and my God". Say it out loud, "My Lord, and my God".
I wish I could have been there for that moment when the doubts of Thomas were once and for all put away. He sought for the answer. He followed hard after the evidence. And when he finally stood in the presence of the Lord Jesus, put his hands on his body and saw the nail prints and the side wound, it suddenly hit him, "Yes, he did die in Jerusalem, but he's back from the grave, my Lord, and my God". So, how do you fight the giant of doubt? First of all, you face it, and then you fight it. Let me just give you four or five practical things. First of all, you need to admit your doubts personally.
You know, it's not very much fun to go to a testimony meeting when everybody else is standing up, saying, "You know, I'm all excited about what God's doing in my life. And, you know, God is great, and life is great. Witnessing is great. My prayer life is great". And you're sitting back there with doubts. You don't feel very good about standing up and saying, "You know, well, let me give you my testimony tonight. My testimony is I really question God. I really doubt God". Nobody's gonna say amen, and they're gonna look at you and some of the glow will come off of your halo, I promise you. But that's where it starts, isn't it?
Doubts that are buried often come back in agnosticism, but doubts that are dealt with will lead you to a greater and stronger relationship with Almighty God. The first thing you need to do, if you're struggling with doubts, is admit that to yourself, "I've got some doubts". And then you need to articulate your doubts clearly. Why do you doubt? What is your doubt? Some people say, "Well, I'm just a doubter". Well, about what? You see, it's so easy for us and Satan loves to do this, paint these broadbrush pictures in our minds.
And if we don't crystallize our thinking and articulate what's really going on in our lives, we will allow doubt itself, without ever defining it, to destroy us. What are your doubts, and why do you doubt? If you just sit down for a moment and say, "I've got these doubts," and you begin to crystallize them, and write them down, and articulate them, the more clearly you can articulate your doubts, the easier it will be for you deal with them. And then, acknowledge your doubts prayerfully. Here's the most important thing I want to say today based upon the Scriptures, and I want to put it up on the screen so you won't miss it.
Here's what you do with doubts, watch this, "Turn your doubts into questions. Turn your questions to prayers, and turn your prayers to God". You say, "You mean I'm supposed to tell God that I doubt him? Won't I get zapped"? No, you won't get zapped. I'll tell you what, if you read the Scriptures, you'll find out that many of the people whose lives are described in the Word of God, they doubted. God had told Abraham and Sarah they were gonna have a son, and they were both pushing a hundred. I mean, that could cause you to doubt, could it not? But we're not talking about just anybody saying this. This was Almighty God saying this. Is anything too hard for God? Sarah not only doubted kids, she laughed at God. I mean, I don't suggest that, but she did. She laughed at God. When God told her she was gonna have a baby, she laughed out loud and she didn't know God was listening.
Let me tell you something, God's always listening. And he said, "You laughed," and she said, "No, I didn't". And God said, "Yes, you did. I heard you". What was she doing? She was doubting God. Do you need to tell God so that he can find out? No, you need to tell God so that you can hear yourself telling God what's going on in your heart. Once again, that makes it more understandable to you as you try to figure out what's going on in your life as you pray. And then you need to analyze the evidence diligently.
Just understand that if God's put a doubt in your heart, it's a little motivational program to get you going in a study so that you can learn something you didn't know. The whole secular educational program is about built on the evolutionary foundation, not just in the science courses, but in history and in every other course. It is all tainted by the humanistic evolutionary thought process. And then, I want to be real careful here, but let me just say this, you need to accept limitations humbly. And I want to talk about two limitations that you need to accept.
First of all, accept your own. You know what? You're probably not the smartest person who ever lived, I know I'm not. And there's a lot of stuff I don't understand. You know, I study a lot, that's what I do. My, you know, I spend hours every week reading and studying, and I love to do it. But you know what I do? The more I study, I think I'm just now finding out how much I don't know. The more I study, the more I become aware of my ignorance. And there are areas where I get going in some research project for a message or something, and something will open up to me over here in another area and I'll realize, I don't know anything about that.
And I just have to sometimes bow before Almighty God and say, "Lord God, I want to understand this the best I can, but I know you're working with flawed merchandise here. You know, I only got so much hard drive on this computer. And Lord God, you're gonna have to take this flawed human being and help me to understand to the best of my ability and keep giving me greater understanding. But Lord, I understand that there's a lot of stuff I don't understand," amen?
That's where you have to start your own human limitations. But let me give you one other, and this was one I'm really frightened because I'm afraid someone's gonna misunderstand this. You need, you need to also accept the limitations of the Bible. Whoa, I bet you can't believe I said that. I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, that it is true from cover to cover. I believe that is plenarily inspired and verbally inspired, that it is authoritative. I believe all of that.
I spend my whole life in the Word of God. But let me tell you something, listen carefully. The Bible has all the truth that you need to know, but it doesn't have all the truth that there is. There are a lot of things the Bible doesn't address, a lot of things the Bible doesn't touch on. Wherever the Bible touches on anything, it's always true. But the Bible doesn't give you all the answers to every specific question you may want to ask. And if you don't understand that, you may say, "Well, I'm a Bible Christian and I went to the Bible, and it doesn't have the answer".
There are some things the Bible's not supposed to have the answer to. But listen to me carefully. When you get all done with that, you need to realize this, that all truth is still God's truth. If it's true, it's from God. He may just not have put it down in the Word of God as a part of the revelation he wants to give to us. I see sometimes kids really get discouraged, and adults as well, because someone will come and say, "Well, what about this"? Well, there'll be general principles in the Bible about that, but there won't be specific answers 'cause that information's not there.
I believe this book is the answer to every need I have in my life and if I study it, and make it a passion to know it better, I will be able to do life as God wants it done. But there are some things the Bible doesn't speak to, some issues that aren't found in the Word of God, and you need to understand that. Finally, last but not least, you need to adjust to the complexity of the world. How many of you know this world is really complex? And we're just finding out about it. We're just finding out about this world. We're finite beings, and we cannot always understand God's ways.
And let me tell you, that's the way it should be because if you could understand God, he couldn't be God. Isaiah the prophet put it this way, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' saith the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.'" My friends, I worship the incomprehensible God. I worship the awesome God, spend my whole life trying to get to know him better, and I can know him through his Son Jesus Christ. But I will never be able to plumb the depths of his greatness, nor will you. And when doubts come in that part of the complexity of the universe and the knowledge of who God is, you just have to relax and understand that you're in the same category with everybody else.
Some unknown poet put it this way, he said, "The world will never adjust itself to suit your whims to the letter. Some things will go wrong your whole life long, and the sooner you know it, the better. It is folly to fight with the infinite and go down at last in the wrestle. The wiser man shapes into God's plan like the water shapes into the vessel". You hear that?
Lord, I don't understand all of this. I know it's you, but I'm just gonna fall in line with where you're going. Along the way, if you want to give me some more understanding, that'll be great. But I know it's you. I know who you are. You're an awesome God, I love you. I want to worship you. And what I don't understand I will worship, falling down before the awesome nature of God. You may never know the full answer, but your questions and your doubts will lead you to a deeper understanding of what you do know and perhaps even the vistas of knowledge you never ever dreamed you would visit before. And walking with God, and walking through doubts, you come to know him better. And I trust you can come at last to the place where Thomas did and say, "My Lord, and my God".