12/13/15 ~ Doubt

From the Preacher’s Pen ~

As a firefighter my life was guided by maps. Where is that location? How do I get to that address? What else is nearby? Is there water there? Are there other hazards in the area? All kinds of vital information were available with the right maps and guidance.

Like most others that have worked similar jobs there are a million stories of times when we were really confident in our knowledge. And a similar number of times when we were not.

There are few things more confusing that uncertainty. If we don’t know what our plans are, if we don’t have certain direction to our lives we quickly learn that we don’t function well. It is hard to get somewhere without going in the right direction. It’s almost impossible to do the job if you don’t fully understand what you are doing.

The same thing is true of our spiritual life. Consider for a moment the subject of doubt:

Doubt

Did you ever doubt? If you doubt that a rickety old bridge is safe and do not venture across, your doubt might save your life. On the other hand, if you doubt that someone is doing the right thing to rescue you from a fall down a cliff, you might end up losing your life.

In much the same way a Christian may doubt the Devil’s promises of how things will turn out and not listen to the bad advice of Satan. That would certainly be a good thing both for now and eternity. However, simply applying the same doubt to God’s word would cost you your soul.

As Moses prepared God’s people to enter the Promised Land he reminded them of God’s demand that they be faithful. In Deuteronomy 28:66 Moses told them what would happen if they are not faithful: “So your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you will be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life.”

It should be clear to us that God never wants us to doubt Him! Jesus taught His disciples that doubt was the thing that stood between them and great accomplishments by faith in God. In Mark 11:23 He said, “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.” Far too often the same doubt keeps us today from accomplishing great things in Christ.

A few years later when God is trying to get Peter to extend the offer of salvation in Christ to the Gentiles the problem of doubt played a part. Peter doubted that Gentiles were really meant to receive God’s grace and God sent him a vision to teach otherwise (Acts 10:1-18). In case there was still any question, God told him to go without doubt or any misgivings (Acts 10:20).

Later, as Peter reported the conversion of those Gentiles to the church in Jerusalem, some contended or took issue with Peter (literally, the text says that they doubted Peter and his decision).

Isn’t it a bit strange that we still give so much credibility to those who doubt God’s word and will? That question would continue to plague the early church as it does us today. In Acts 15 Peter would again be called out because of the false teaching and doubts of others. And Paul would constantly face the same issue numerous times in his preaching and teaching.

Doubt would rear its ugly head many times with God’s people. Some would waver over eating of meats that were associated with idol worship (Romans 14). Paul would remind those same Christians that the reason for Abraham’s great faith was his refusal to doubt God no matter how incredible His promises (Romans 4).

James would illustrate doubt as being “like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6) as he challenged Christians to pray and seek God’s help in their lives. Paul used that same theme to remind us to grow up and not be accepting of false teachings (Ephesians 4:14). Real strength is found in not allowing our doubts to ever take us the wrong way.

Jude would also remind us of the dangers of false teachers (Jude 17-21) and pleads with us to have mercy and help those brothers and sisters in Christ who are tempted to doubt God and follow error (Jude 22). What a beautiful thought that our encouragement might be equated to God’s own mercy!

As in other areas of life so also in our spiritual lives, doubt may be good or bad depending on how we use it or are used by it. Let’s work hard at doubting all the false teachings, all the earthly things that lead us away from Christ.

And let us never doubt our Savior in the things that lead us to Him and eternal life!

— Lester P. Bagley

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