Friday, August 03, 2012

Is It Wrong for Christians to Have Doubts? Sean McDowell

Is It Wrong to Have Doubts About God?
July 31, 2012, 12:00 am » Sean McDowell

God wants us to believe in him. He wants us to place our faith in him and believe he has our best interest at heart. So is it wrong to have some doubts creep in—doubts over what God has to say about what he has commanded in the Bible or how we are to live out the Christian life?

The faith of the great John the Baptist seemed to waver when he was imprisoned and things were looking grim. He sent his followers to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3).

Remember this is the man who had said, “I testify that he [Jesus] is the Chosen One of God” (John 1:34). But after John was thrown into prison he must have wondered why Jesus wasn’t coming to rescue him.

Like many of us do when faced with difficulties, John the Baptist experienced doubts.
When other disciples of Jesus were questioning who he actually was, he told them to “believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do” (John 14:11). Jesus wasn’t put off because his followers had some doubts or wanted some proof. He appealed to evidence to establish that he was who he claimed to be. God wants our faith in him to be assured and become deepened by our convictions. And having some uncertainties at times isn’t necessarily wrong. Like John the Baptist, we sometimes lack sufficient evidence to support our faith. And so, seeking to know why we believe what we believe can strengthen our faith and is by no means wrong.

Many of our doubts can be put aside as our faith becomes more intelligent about the evidences—knowing why we believe. But the evidences are not limited to things like Christ’s resurrection, his deity, the reliability of Scripture, and so on. There are also evidences about God’s character and nature that will support our faith and remove our doubts.

A man came to Jesus hoping Jesus could heal his son. The man said,

“Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24).

This man had faith, but he wanted help from Jesus not to doubt that the Master would heal his son. This father had probably heard stories of the miracle-working teacher. He may have personally known the blind man who got his sight back because of Jesus. He may have had a neighbor who was among the thousands who were fed by the five loaves of bread and two fish that Jesus blessed. So the man no doubt believed Jesus had the power to heal his son, but the big question for him was, Will Jesus care enough to heal my son?

Sometimes our doubts revolve around our faith in God’s nature and compassion. Does he care enough about me to heal my child? Does he want to meet my material needs? Will he keep me safe? It is important to know the evidences of his caring heart to help remove our doubts.

Jesus was once taking a nap on a boat while crossing the Sea of Galilee with his disciples. A fierce storm came through and the disciples thought they were going to drown, so they woke Jesus up. He rebuked the foul weather and stopped the storm. “Then he asked them, ‘Where is your faith?’ ” (Luke 8:25). It appears the storm is what occupied his disciples’ minds and emotions. And that kept them from trusting their situation to Jesus. Of course he wanted them to believe he was the One who had the power to calm the storm and who cared enough to keep them safe. He wanted them to have faith in him.

Jesus also told his disciples not to worry about their need for food and clothing. He said God took care of the birds and the flowers and “he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” (Luke 12:28). Again, Jesus wanted his followers to focus on the caring and providing nature of his heart. Yet the worries of life and all its insecurities could easily cause them to doubt. They can cause us to doubt too.

Placing our focus on the providing and protecting nature of God’s heart allows us to follow Peter’s admonition to “give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7). The future is unknown and our lives are full of uncertainty and insecurity. And while it is in our nature to question how things are going to turn out, when we add the knowledge or evidence of the caring heart of God to our faith, our doubts can be removed. So while it may not be wrong to have some doubts about God, he wants to remove them so we can trust him for whatever comes our way.

This article first appeared in 77FAQs About God and the Bible by Sean and Josh McDowell (Harvest House, 2012)

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