Doubt

doubt |dout|: (noun)

a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction; (Example: some doubt has been cast upon the authenticity of this account | they had doubts that they would ever win).

I’ve had my doubts about things, and believe me, doubts can shake you up quite a bit. I have this friend who would say that he doubts almost everything about God’s existence; but I can’t say that I blame him, sometimes I can feel the same way. This friend has seen quite a bit of junk concerning the Church in his lifetime, which in turn has left him sort of apathetic when it comes to God.

Even though my friend may be more on the extreme side, I can empathize with the doubts that he expresses because I’ve felt them time and time again.

The definition that I gave earlier states that doubt is a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction about something. I can honestly say that I’ve had these feelings more than I’d like to admit. How ever I may feel in those moments of doubt, I believe those moments are actually strengthening my faith for the better.

Let me explain: I don’t believe that doubt is necessarily a bad thing. I mean, the only real thing that we can be certain about is the fact that everyone has doubts!

3 Reasons

I’ve come to notice that there are three major reasons for our doubting:

1) We’ve developed a certain idea or understanding of God that is biased and one-sided.

I believe that many so-called “Christians” out there lose their faith because of this very thing. Let me explain my thinking here: We can see faith through glasses that magnify the truth or we can see faith through a telescope that only focuses in on a single fixed point. I believe this first reason is like the telescope.

People who live this line of reasoning often think along the lines of “If God is good and the Devil is bad, then all good things come from God and all bad things come from the Devil.” This line of reasoning is very limited and counter Scriptural, if I might add!

People who live in this line of reasoning often give up on God the first time a bad event throws them down hard enough. They feel as if God has forsaken them or worse off, they can develop the idea that God is non-existent.

2) We can attach our faith to the faith of another person.

I believe this reason is why we lose so many teenagers from the Church come graduation.

This person derives their belief system based solely on the beliefs of others. Because their parents believe in God, they believe in God. Because their friends believe something, they believe it. Because their pastor said it, they believe it.

This line of reasoning can best be described as ignorance.

These people often experience doubt as they see others experiencing it. If a close relative or friend makes a decision that is out of character, their faith is shaken because their beliefs stem from the beliefs of another person.

I saw a friend in high school do this very thing. Through HS he seemed like the model Christian, but as soon as his parents divorced his faith became non-existent. Because his father was the source of his faith, and sadly the divorce, this guy’s belief system crumbled.

3) We can derive our beliefs solely on human reason.

This person is often very intellectual. They can wrap their minds around very complex ideas and are able to articulate faith in a very valid way; however, this person has never experienced their so-called faith. They have a belief system that has not come from personal experience but solely from hours of research.

I’m not saying that research is bad and experience is good; but I am saying that their should be a good coherence of the two for our belief to be authentic or accurate.

Doubt can be a good thing…

Let’s go back to my earlier statement about doubt not necessarily be a bad thing.

There have been very godly men in Scripture that have experienced doubts, and their doubts drove them to solid faith. (aka Job)

There have also been very un-godly men in Scripture who had doubts that lead them right into the path of Christ. (aka Nicodemus)

Doubts are feelings of uncertainty, which leave us feeling lost and confused; and when it comes to doubts about God, those feelings of lostness can be almost unbearable. I believe doubts are not to be feared, but embraced. Doubts can pave the way to belief.

Story Time

Let me explain this with a short story: I grew up in a church environment. Everyone around in my circle of relationships claimed Christianity as their belief system (on a side note 60-70% of Americans claim Christianity). Growing up in this environment, I developed a mixture of attached beliefs and biased beliefs (Reason 1 and 2 above). One day, I experienced an extremely tramatizing event. And the belief system of many around me did more harm than good. This event left my belief system in shambles.

Because of my broken faith, I became a very avid self mutilator. It finally came to the point that my mother feared that I would do some irreversible harm to myself (aka suicide), so she started taking me to a child psychologist. I don’t remember how long I met with the psychologist or even if she helped, but I do know that the belief system that had held my life together thus far was gone.

It was in this moment that my road to true faith was paved. I believe that through all of the doubts, I was forced to seek after God for myself and for real this time. To my surprise, God revealed Himself in an amazing way.

Conclusion

I don’t want to end this blog on a shallow note, and say that from then on I’ve never experienced a doubt. That would be stupid to say, but I can say that my doubts have been for my good. My experience may be unique in situation, but it’s not unique in process. I have met countless others, who have experienced a similar process of doubting that lead them straight into the arms of a Sovereign God. But sadly I must admit that there have been just as many, if not more, whose doubts have gotten the best of them. Some of them are still wondering in their world of doubts, and some have already passed on never knowing relationship that I have experienced.

So to conclude, I simply want to say: If you are experiencing doubt, give God another chance. Give Him the benefit of the doubt and seek Him with all that you have. If you end up not finding God, you can honestly say that you’ve sought after Him; but if you find Him, you will experience the most amazing relationship that you will ever know in this lifetime.

Faith, Hope, and Love

I was reading the Scriptures the other day and ran across this verse… again. It struck me in a new light.

1 Thess. 1:3

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul is writing to the church in Thessalonica. This verse is part of the introduction or salutation of the letter. Here, Paul is reminiscing with them about the good works that God has done in and through them as a church.

I think there is something that we can learn today from this verse:

I’ve been in kind of a weird place here recently in my life. I’ve recently stepped away from a leadership position in a church so that I can better hear God’s leading. This time has had its good times and it’s not so good times as well. God has revealed new things about Himself and my purpose as His follower, but I’ve also experienced quite a bit of doubts and frustrations. Through new realizations there have been new questions that have arrived.

My mind is constantly taken back to the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Where Jesus basically said, if you want to know God- seek Him and He will reveal Himself to you. I’ve blogged about this in the past:  https://guitarchrsbll.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/the-narrow-gate/.

I feel like God is constantly reminding me to remember Him and remember the hope that I have inside- the faith that will drive me.

So, to today’s verse

This brings be back to the verse I gave at the beginning of this blog. There, Paul is reminded of all the great things that God had done through the Church in Thessalonica, and he wants to remind them of this as well.

He says three individual things about the driving Force that they have inside of them, that I would like to bring to you attention.

1) Christian good work is produced through Faith.

As a follower of Christ, I am called to good works. These good works are not my own, because they do not come from me. They are produced by faith. Faith is what not only affects my life, but it affects the lives of others.

I believe that the Bible teaches us to live, not for ourselves, but for the glory of God and to love others more than ourselves.

If you are anything like me, loving others- including God- more than myself is a hard task. “Myself” is what wants to lead. My inward desires are in complete opposition to the good work that God calls me to. That is why I desperately need faith, because faith is what produces good work.

2) Christian labor (mission) is prompted by Love.

So, faith produces good work, but what makes us even want to do good works? I believe John gives us this answer. In 1 John 4:8, it says, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

Love is what prompts us to do good works, because God is love. John tells us that whoever lives in love lives in God, and God lives in them.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live in God!

Later in 1 John, it tells us that God displayed His love for us in a special way- Jesus on the cross. So, for Christian labor (mission) to happen it must happen because of love. It must happen because Love first met us and showed us what true love is; then we are able to pursue labor (mission).

3) Christian endurance is inspired through Hope in the Lord- Christ.

I get tired from time to time, and it is in those times that I seem to lose sight of the purpose of everything. But it is also in those times that I am inspired to get back up again and continue. The thing that inspires me, and probably many of you, is Hope.

Hope picks us up again, hope endures, and hope is what keeps us going. Let me explain this concept with a story:

When I was a kid, I got made fun of a lot. I felt that I couldn’t amount to much of anything. Now, if you’ve ever studied psychology, you’ll notice that most people around the world feel this way. But you’ll also notice that many of those people actually give up on life- they take their life.

They give up on life, because they’ve lost all hope that things will get better. They’ve decided that things will never change and therefore, they have no reason to go on.

I almost reached this place when I was a kid. I almost lost all hope. I almost gave up.

But it was Hope that pulled me through. It was hope that picked me back up again. It is hope that continues to drive me.

Paul is telling us that it is hope that produces endurance!

Wrapping this all up…

Let me wrap all of this up for you. Paul is teaching us that there is more to this world, than what we can see, taste, and touch. He is telling us that there is something that is so much more important. But the cool thing about all of this is we already know this!

We already know that “some things just can’t be explained.” Love is an example: What causes us to love someone? Is it simply an emotion/feeling or is it something more?

Poets and musicians alike tell us that it is love that holds the world together and love that unifies all living things.

If this is true, then 1 John 4 teaches us that it is God that holds all things together. It is God that unifies.

A closing thought

I want to end by leaving you with one more thing to think on. In the 1 Thess. verse there is one major thing that stands out; and that is that we are not in control, or we are not the source of faith, hope, and love. Faith, hope, and love are given by an outside source and we are but mere recipients of their fruit.

This give me Hope in this time. When my unending questions find no answer, I am still able to continue because of the Hope that is inside me drives me forward. I trust that God has a plan for my future, and for yours, not because I see it coming, but because I have hope!

Free Your Mind

The above clip is from the 1999 movie “The Matrix.” This is one of my favorite movies of all time. Many people do not know this, but the films original storyboard was based on a loose interpretation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think this film has tons of spiritual implications, but we will only discuss one of them today.

Question:

Do you ever hope that there is more to this life?

I do, all the time! I hope that God exists; I hope that God’s plans are sovereign; I hope that God’s plans are good; I hope that my life has a distinct plan; etc. The list goes on.

I wonder a lot about the future- what it will look like, how I will look, etc. I believe that we learn from our pasts, but our futures shape our hearts. What I mean is this: we learn from our past. We learn what to do, what not to do, what we are good at, and what we are not good at. But the future is where our hope lies. We long to know what’s next, who will be there with us, and how long it will take to get there. I believe that it is in those longings, we become who we were meant to be. I believe that it is in those longings God reveals Himself.

Faith

In Hebrews chapters 10 and 11, the significance of faith is revealed to us. Chapter 11 verses 1-2 gives us the definition: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people of old earned a good reputation.” NLT

The author, then, continues by leaving us an extensive list of the OT patriarchs and the example of their faith.

Back to the clip

In the clip, Morpheus told Neo that he would have to free his mind in order to leap from one building to the next. As we saw from the clip, Neo didn’t make the jump, but fell to the street.

I can’t help but wonder if this concept is what the Bible is hinting at in its discussion of faith. The “people of old” apparently had great faith and because of that great faith they were able to accomplish some amazing tasks, such as: be taken into heaven without death, start a new nation, have a child when the womb is barren, lead hundreds of people out of the captivity of Egypt, split the Red Sea, and to destroy a city with only marching and horns.

As seen in Hebrews, faith grants God’s people the ability to accomplish amazing tasks.

But there’s a down side to it: No faith=no action. I believe that the author of Hebrews intentionally leaves out the countless stories of people who didn’t have faith for a reason- that reason being they don’t add too much to the grand story of the Bible. I mean, who wants to read about a bunch of people who did the average thing? Who wants to follow in the footsteps of the person who did only mediocre? I know I don’t!

The society we live in tells us that things can only be accomplished by measurable statistics or scientific norms. I can’t seem to give in so easily to this idea. I can’t do so, because my life has been filled with the opposite of the norm.

I have experienced countless moments of doubt on the behalf of others. I have been told time and time again that I “can’t do that.” But every time, God has made a way through. If statistics are always correct then I am the abnormality. If the statistics were correct in my life, I should be a lot farther down the social ladder than I am. To put it another way, my nurturing should have produced different.

I believe that this is because of faith. Faith is what drives my longings for the future. Faith is what gives me hope for the future. Faith is what gives my life purpose in the present. Faith is what gives me strength to carry on in the hard times. And, I am where I am here and now, because I have faith in someone who is not seen and that someOne has given me the strength to do the impossible.

But as you noticed from the clip, “no one makes the first jump.” My faith has been rocked on more than a couple of times. I’ve stepped out into the unknown with the hopes that God would provide and ended up at a dead-end; only to turn back around and go right back to where I didn’t want to go. Those moments have left me with questions, but not doubt.

Questions prevent us from doing stupid things, doubt cripples us from doing anything. I’ve acquired quite a few questions along the way, but so far I haven’t been crippled.

Final Thought

Faith is freeing your mind to the things unseen. Believing that the impossible is possible through means that are outside of yourself.

When you find that place of faith, you’ll be able to leap the largest gap, fight the strongest villain, and find the purest of loves.