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Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Thing About Doubt...

At the end of 2014 when I started this blog, I wrote a lot about faith because God was teaching me so much about one of the crucial concepts. It strikes me that we as Christians get caught up in these overly complicated ideas rather than going back to what Jesus' ministry and the early work of the apostles was: simply complicated. In other words that they held onto simple ideas without over justifying them but that those simple ideas are the most complicated things in all the world - like faith, hope and love. Things that we find more difficult in our commercial world to live daily like we need to.

So yes, faith is one of those things that I've been thinking about a lot. But now I want to turn to the flipside of faith and examine doubt. A dictionary definition of doubt throws up that it's a "lack of certainty or conviction" - in other words doubt is really lack of faith for "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1) And given that as 2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us "For we live by faith, not by sight," the Christian should be someone who has a strong conviction in their life. Unfortunately, we are also not perfect and while I have a strong conviction founded in Christ - even I have doubts.

I was thinking about this in the morning today, and I realised that what I really have doubt in is myself. But even saying that is to say that I doubt Christ's ability to cover over my flaws and failings if you understand what I mean. Who am I to really doubt myself when my God is capable of doing above and beyond anything I can do to stuff anything up? It's like how in the story of Job, Job lost everything but God was beyond the situation. It's like how in the story of Jonah, Jonah almost threw away the opportunity before him - but God restored Jonah to his prophetic call and gave him another chance. My God is the God of second chances and the God of authority and power - so I really want to come to understand that more and more. You know those moments in films when a character knows their ability and authority and walk into a room radiating that? How much more incredible would it be if we could do that in our daily life?

There is plenty that the Bible has to say about doubt. For instance there's the story of when Peter walks upon the water out to Jesus and falls and begins to drown. Matthew 14:31 "31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’he said, ‘why did you doubt?’" You see at that moment that Peter fell it was doubt that led him to fall.

There's another story where a father asks Jesus for a miraculous removal of a demon and Jesus asks him whether he believes that Jesus can heal in such a way: Mark 9:24 "Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”" And Jesus is able to heal the man's son of the demon. There are other similar stories too where the admittance of faith - that yes there is some doubt but they choose to believe - leads to powerful healing by Jesus. 

And again in 2 Timothy 1:7 we are reminded that doubt is not a natural state for God's people. "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." We are made to walk in power, love and self-control and not the fear of doubt. 

In fact when in Ephesians, Paul writes about the spiritual armour of God that believers are to put on he talks about faith and says: "In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:16)

Here's what I want to say to encourage anyone reading this and to encourage myself. Doubts are flaming arrows to try and burn away at who we are, or to find some chink in our armour that maybe the arrow itself doesn't quite leave it's mark - but the flame burning on that dart will. But faith and its conviction completely extinguishes the flame of doubt as well as protecting you from the penetrating arrow.

It's a simple encouragement for us all: when doubt comes, grab hold of faith all the more. Believe when it doesn't look like it should be possible to in the natural because we do not live by sight but by faith. I had a great little conversation with my friend Jay, about what sin really is, and he made the point that it's not just disobedience - it's about a lack of faith. It's faithlessness. Think about it. Anything that is ever done and considered as sin in the Bible or in modern life has a link back to not being faithful to God. The desires of this world on their own are not sin, after all Jesus must have experienced the same desires equally, but he remained faithful to his father and carried on his mission above all else in perfect faith.

Faith should be the natural cry of our heart, to hold firm to the conviction that no matter what happens that God will be there holding onto our very lives. And that is what my overall position is, because I have a saviour who is there for me. The problem comes when in the day to day we make the wrong choices or we give in to doubt or fear or anything else momentarily. Because I, like you, am so weak - but despite that He is strong, And that's what I want to understand more and more: to walk in His strength and not my own.