[Taken from Women’s Bible Study Conference (Wales) 2016, speaker Penny Curley]
Dealing with Doubt, knowing what is real.
I don’t have all the answers but am just opening doors for you to think about things.
A little boy began to realise that the cartoons on TV were not real, and sometimes the people on TV were only pretending. When he was told something he would ask ‘Is that in real life? ‘ Sometimes we feel the same way and want to ask the same question.
Dictionary.com says doubt is a feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or nature of something.
Is it OK for Christians to have doubts? Yes.
George Verwer: Faith is not found in the absence of doubts but in the midst of them.
Chuck Swindoll: Doubt is the raw side of honesty as opposed to rank unbelief.
There are two kinds of doubt, intellectual and emotional.
Doubt can come from people who question your mental capacity or think you are swallowing fairy tales if you are a Christian. Have you ever been asked the question, Isn’t Christianity put together by clever people over many years to deceive people?
Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses.
We can also ask, Is God still God even if I don’t believe in him? Did Jesus still die if I don’t accept salvation?
The truth doesn’t change because I don’t believe.
There are two responses which will help counteract intellectual doubt:
Response 1: Look at the lives of other Christians past and present. Would they have suffered so much, even died, for a lie? Remember and share what God has done in your life.
Response 2: Look at other people’s discoveries, eg Stuart Burgess at Bristol University, or Alister McGrath at Oxford University. I don’t have time or brain power to research everything, but I can read others who have done the work. They assure me of the robustness of the Christian viewpoint.
When people question you, don’t be afraid to say, ‘Right now I don’t know but I can go and find out. ‘
This is much more subjective and internalised.
Does God really love me? Why doesn’t he answer my prayers?
Other people’s answers are not enough, we have to work it out for ourselves.
Blondin pushed a wheelbarrow across a tightrope over Niagra falls. One day he asked the watching crowd, ‘Who believes I can put a person in the wheelbarrow and cross?’ Everyone cheered and said ‘yes!‘ Then he asked for a volunteer. No-one answered. They didn’t believe so much that they would act on it.
I’m not sure what will happen, but I know who is pushing my wheelbarrow. I know who holds my life.
A young girl was afraid to jump into the swimming pool until Daddy said he would catch her. Our doubts and fears disappear when we rely on God.
How does God respond to doubt?
There are many great characters in the Bible who had doubts.
John the Baptist had great conviction, but in Luke 7:20 he sent his disciples to ask Jesus questions. Jesus’ response reminds John of what he already knows, and points him to the evidence – of scripture, of prophecies fulfilled, of changed lives. Those who don’t doubt are rare – it’s normal.
Jesus had questions from Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. He gives patient explanation and a demonstrative miracle. He points them to scripture. He reprimands them for not knowing. He asks questions of his own. Sometimes he just refuses to answer.
Not ‘doubting ‘ as we call him, his nickname was ‘the twin’.
So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16)
John 5:16;7:5;8:59;9:34;10:39 were all cases of opposition to Jesus – so Thomas had good reason for pessimism.
Thomas was the practical one. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5)
Thomas was real and honest – when they told him Jesus was risen, he needed to see for himself.
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25)
How does Jesus deal with Thomas’ doubt? Jesus doesn’t rush to put him straight, he gives him time to think. As Thomas shows his willingness to believe by being with the disciples Jesus shows himself to him and greets him with ‘Peace’. Jesus gives him all the reassurance he needs and then commends us for believing without seeing.
Genuine doubt comes from a desire for truth, and a reflective Christian is a healthy Christian.
What you do with your doubts determines whether they will help or hinder you.
Know in whom you are trusting, he will keep you safe.
Have mercy on those who doubt. (Jude v22)
“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)