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THE PULSE of Prince of Peace

 

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church newsletter.

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Doubt is not a pleasant condition

by Walt Hasbach

 

Zechariah asked “How shall I know this?” (Luke 1:18)

            We have all struggled with the problem of doubt.  Doubt is never far from faith so a clear understanding of doubt should be coupled with a clear understanding of faith.  If we understand our faith we should not be afraid of doubt.  But let me add this before going on.  The intellectuals take pleasure in upsetting the faith of weak believers  These intellectuals often find teaching job at American universities.  The Bible dismisses these scoffers with the words of David.  “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doth good.  The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. (Psalm 14:1-2 KJV)

            Doubt is when we want to believe, but are struggling with difficult questions.  While these questions are often sincere, they are mixed up with sin, especially the sin of wanting to run our own life apart from the Lord Jesus.  Faith is not doubt free.  There are tough questions, yes, but  the center issue is one of our heart, being willing to obey God and putting our trust in Him.  Once our hearts are subject to Him, He will give us satisfactory answers to the toughest questions.

            There comes another time of doubt when we get our eyes off the Lord in the midst of a difficult conditions.  The disciples were there when they were being swamped by the storm on the Sea of Galilee, “And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us!  We're going to drown!"  Jesus replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and the sea was completely calm.  (Matthew 8: 25-26).  He first rebuked the disciples, “Why are you fearful, you men of little faith?”

            While putting together my notes for this article the stories of Zacharias and Mary came to mind and I thought it to be a perfect story to to make my point.  The point being we do not know what the Lord has in mind when things do happen.  We are so wrapped up expecting things to go the way we wanted; and, we do not leave room for the Lord to work His miracles.

            Consider the life of Zacharias; he was on duty in the Temple as high priest, when Gabriel, the angel appeared to him and promised to give Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, a son.  He should have been overcome with joy.  Every day, for years, they prayed, “Lord, if it would be Your will, give us a son.”  But that had been many years ago.  Now it was too late.  They were both long past the time when even couples who had children were unable to conceive.  Zacharias had reconciled himself to reality.  They were not going to have a son.  He had come to terms with God over the matter.  God is free to give His blessings on whom ever He wishes.  For some reason, He has withheld that blessing from Zacharias.  And now, Zacharias was not willing to open himself to the roller coaster of hopes and fears that he had long left behind.  And so he doubted the word of the angel.

Now fast forward.

            John the Baptist, son of Zacharias, experienced a time of doubt.  He was wasting away in prison and he began to wonder, “If Jesus is truly the Messiah, why am I, His messenger, suffering here in prison?”  So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?”  Jesus replied, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard, the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.  And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Luke 7:22, 23).

            Then Jesus went on to tell the crowd that among those born of women, there is no one greater than John.  John was a godly man, but he had his time of doubt also.  So doubt is a problem, even for the righteous in God’s sight.  If godly men like Zacharias and John fell into doubt, we should be on guard to avoid that destructive feeling of doubt.

            Have you ever talked to someone who said, “If I just saw a miracle or had a direct word from God, I would believe”?  It doesn’t work that way.  Here, Zacharias had an angel suddenly appear and speak a direct disclosure from God, but he did not believe.  You may wonder, “How does Zacharias’ question differ from Mary’s question when the angel told her that she would become pregnant with Jesus, she asked,  “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”(Luke 1:34)  The angel did not confront her for doubting.

            God, who sees the hidden secrets of each person’s heart and knew that Zacharias was different from Mary.  Zacharias was limiting God by the normal course of human nature.  He and Elizabeth were too old to have children.  But he should have acknowledged, that in God all things are possible.  Mary on the other hand said “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1: 34-38)

            Our sinful hearts make us all prone to limit God by our small-scale potential.  The disciples fell into this error when they were faced with the crowd of 5,000 hungry men, plus women and children..  When Jesus looked up and saw this great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”  He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.  Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”(John 6:5-7).  He was limiting God to work through normal human means.

            So even if we’ve walked with God for years, when we are faced with a seemingly impossible situation, we look into our hearts for potential possibilities rather than looking to the Lord Jesus for a solution.  God has given us plentiful evidence in Scripture that He is the God of the impossible.  Nothing is too difficult for Him. The source of our doubts is not a lack of evidence. It is rather our, sinful hearts.  Maybe we should consider another possibility.  Is God judging us to see if we Christians are as real as we think think we are?