Dealing with Doubt

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: John 20:19-31


I.         Is it wrong to have doubts? When those moments come when you wonder if God really exists or you run across an idea that makes you wonder if you really understood the Bible correctly, have you sinned?

            A.        Look at characters in the Old Testament and we find people who display moments of doubt

                        1.         Moses at the burning bush, after God tells him what he must do and shows him how he will accomplish his tasks, tells God in Exodus 4:13

                                    a.         To which the Lord responded in anger - Exodus 4:14

                        2.         Gideon was told a message from God by an angel, but he can’t believe that the message is really true - Judges 6:11-13

                        3.         Asaph, seeing the success of the wicked, came close to losing his faith - Psalms 73:12-14

                        4.         John the Baptist, languishing in prison wonders if he got the wrong person as Messiah - Matthew 11:2-3

                        5.         The apostles doubted that Jesus arose - Luke 24:10-11

            B.        Yet, it is not their doubts that we remember, but the fact that they went on, doing the will of God, despite these moments of doubt

II.        What is doubt?

            A.        Sometimes we define doubt as unbelief, but that isn’t how it is used. Each of our examples had some belief.

            B.        Consider Peter - Matthew 14:25-31

                        1.         Peter didn’t lack faith. He got out of the boat! Something most of us would never think of doing.

                        2.         Notice what Jesus said - Matthew 14:31

                                    a.         Peter’s faith wasn’t non-existent.

                                    b.         It was too little at that moment and time.

                                    c.         There was ample evidence for him to believe, but he didn’t have enough – he began to doubt

            C.        Doubt is insufficient faith

                        1.         Neither Moses or Gideon doubted the existence of God. They doubted that they were the right men for the job God gave them

                        2.         Asaph wondered if righteous living was necessary

                        3.         John wondered why he remained in prison and Jesus did not declare himself

                        4.         The apostles were having trouble accepting testimony that contradicted what they personally saw.

            D.        Doubt is being of two minds on a subject

                        1.         Diakrino - To content, to make war (two opposing views)

                        2.         Distazo - To duplicate, to waver between two opinions

                        3.         James 1:5-8 - Uses diakrino in verse 6

                        4.         Those wavering between worldliness and godliness are double minded - James 4:8

            E.        Doubt is immaturity - Ephesians 4:14

            F.        Doubt is an emotional storm that interferes with reason - Psalms 73:21-26

III.       Understanding what doubt is then gives us clues as to how to handle doubts

            A.        The basis of faith is knowledge of God’s Word - Romans 10:17

                        1.         If we have doubts about a subject, then I need to dig in deeper to understand it.

                        2.         Pretending that the doubts don’t exist or ignoring them won’t make them go away. Unresolved doubt will eat at you.

                        3.         I don’t have to worry about the knowledge causing more doubts. If I’m fairly analyzing the question from all sides, truth is going to become clearer. It is falsehood that cannot withstand scrutiny - Isaiah 41:21-24

                        4.         This is why Jesus confidently challenged people to examine him - John 10:37-38

            B.        Come to a conclusion. Don’t remain waffling between two ideas.

                        1.         Some people don’t want to decide.

                                    a.         If I have doubts about the Bible, then I don’t have to do what the Bible says.

                                    b.         Such a person will always look for another question so that the doubts can remain.

                                    c.         Always learning but never coming to truth - II Timothy 3:6-8

                        2.         Their doubts become a smoke screen for avoiding the truth. Like Pilate - John 18:38

                                    a.         Notice Pilate didn’t wait for an answer. He didn’t want to know.

                        3.         Some reject the evidence. No evidence is good enough.

            C.        You don’t have to have everything answered to reach a conclusion

                        1.         God didn’t answer all of Job’s questions.

                                    a.         He never explained to Job what was happening.

                                    b.         For that matter, as God, He doesn’t have to explain everything

                        2.         When God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, He did not tell Abraham why.

                                    a.         Abraham came to a conclusion - Hebrews 11:17-19

                                    b.         Note that Abraham’s conclusion was not fully accurate, but it was based on his trust in God.

            D.        Don’t abandon what you know just because there is a doubt about one matter

                        1.         Just because an evolution brings up a point that you aren’t able to answer right now, it that reason to conclude that Christianity is wrong and God doesn’t exist?

                        2.         The evidence for the existence of God and the religion of Christ isn’t based on a single point.

                        3.         Don’t lose sight of the things you know, just because you are uncertain about one point.

                        4.         I will always have questions that I can’t currently answer, but I know that I should eventually find the answer if I keep looking - Matthew 7:7-8

IV.      Consider too that doubt is not always a bad thing.

            A.        No one came to Christ without first doubting that his current situation and beliefs were wrong.

            B.        The examination of what he thought was true led to knowledge that he was wrong.

            C.        One can be confident and be wrong

                        1.         Jacob was certain that his son had died - Genesis 37:33-36

                        2.         People were certain that Paul would die - Acts 28:4-6

                        3.         Paul was confident that Christianity was wrong before he ran into contrary evidence - Philippians 3:4-8

            D.        Changing your mind on a matter because evidence points out you were wrong is a good thing.

                        1.         But again, make sure you are carefully examining the evidence

            E.        Holding on to a position despite the evidence is a bad thing - Romans 14:22

                        1.         Be confident in things, knowing that they are right in God’s sight.

V.        Don’t act from doubt

            A.        Romans 14:23 - You do things because you know this is the right thing to do at this moment in time.

                        1.         Being fully convinced does not mean having all issues resolved - Romans 14:5

                        2.         Abraham acted in faith, even though he did not know how God would accomplish what he promised - Romans 4:19-21

                                    a.         He held on to what he knew to overcome what he did not know

            B.        Thomas was not present when the Lord appeared to the other apostles - John 20:24

                        1.         Though the other apostles all testified to seeing the Lord, it was not sufficient evidence in Thomas’ mind - John 20:25

                        2.         When Jesus did appear, notice Thomas change - John 20:26-28

                        3.         He made a conclusion that the other disciples had not yet expressed. He accepted the evidence and saw were it led.

                        4.         Jesus’ rebuke of Thomas was mild - John 20:29

            C.        It isn’t wrong to demand evidence. Jesus supplied evidence for Thomas and for the other apostles - Acts 1:3

                        1.         Truth has nothing to hide

            D.        What Thomas wanted was the same evidence given to the other apostles - John 20:20

                        1.         He wasn’t making an outlandish request

                        2.         Faith has to be personal - Philippians 2:12

                        3.         He could testify because it was his own knowledge

            E.        Notice that Thomas didn’t reject the evidence once it was presented

            F.        Why do we have this recorded?

                        1.         Because we can see that this wasn’t a conspiracy to create a false report. Each apostle had to be convinced

                        2.         Their witness becomes more sure, so that we might have confidence ourselves - John 20:30-31

            G.        But even in doubt, God can save us - I John 3:18-22

                        1.         Do what you know God commands and the rest will get sorted out in time.

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