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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Overcoming Doubt

           We all have doubts in our lives at one time or another.  Do you ever doubt God and His power?  I think we all have at one time or another.  When we question, we are expressing an element of doubt otherwise we would not need to ask the question in the first place.  Doubt is a natural human reaction when things don't seem to be going our way, when forces around us seem to be overwhelming, or when we just cannot see what is there.  Doubt can be a seed of destruction of our faith and our determination, but doubt can also be the catalyst for our spiritual growth and strengthening our faith.

            Throughout the Bible we read about all kinds of people who doubted God and his power and plan. Some were prophets and kings, while others were just ordinary people who had time and again witnessed God's presence and power, and yet doubt would often fill their minds with questioning.  Today we're going to look at Matthew 11:2-6 to see how even someone like John the Baptist experienced times of doubt.

When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"
Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."
Matthew 11:2-6 (NIV)

         John the Baptist is considered to be a great prophet.  Even Jesus said, "Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist."(Matthew 11:11).  Yet in the above verses we see John the Baptist expressing his doubt about Jesus.  This seems like a rather curious passage.  Let's look at each section a little more closely.

When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"
Matthew 11:2-3 (NIV)

         Before Jesus began his ministry and became a known figure of his day, John the Baptist had become very well known and had gained many adherents to his teaching.  John preached of the coming of Jesus.  When Jesus came to John to be baptized, John immediately recognized who he was and after the baptism he witnessed the Spirit of God descend on Jesus and heard God's voice declaring Jesus to be His Son.  John knew at that moment exactly who Jesus was.   However later when he was in prison he expressed doubt.

         We don't know all of the details about John's situation in prison and his state of mind, but we can certainly make some suppositions.  He had probably undergone severe treatment by his captors.  He was probably afraid and in a state of great duress.  He may have felt a sense of abandonment by Jesus and God the Father.  He was prophesying Christ's coming, but like others had he may not have understand the real purpose in Christ's coming.  Alone in his prison, facing the possibility of death, he may have begun to wonder if what he had previously thought was truth or delusion.  What we do know is that he sent his disciples back to Jesus to verify if what he had believed was real.   John the Baptist was facing all of the situations that can bring about doubt and he began to succumb to that doubt.  He wanted reassurance.

Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
Matthew 11:4-5 (NIV)


          The disciples of John the Baptist became his eyes and ears.  John cannot actually be a witness to what Jesus has been doing.  However he has reliable witnesses in his disciples.  Through their testimonies he has good reason to believe that Jesus is exactly the one of whom John had foretold in his ministries.  The Bible is our witness to who God is and what God can do.  The Gospel is our witness to Jesus Christ and the mission which He fulfilled.

            Many will deny the validity of the Bible and say it is just a book of stories.  If one is truly honest after having thoroughly examined this book and considered the role the Bible has played throughout history, then it is difficult to reject it.  Allowing doubt to rule your mind will cause you to reject the Bible.  However, if you are the master of your doubt and allow that doubt to become an inquisitive force of mind that invites study, meditation, and prayer, then your faith can be increased.  Doubt is a weakness which when controlled can lead to strength.

Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."
Matthew 11:6 (NIV)

           The Good News Bible Translation in Today's English says, "How happy are those who have no doubts about me."      Doubt leads to confusion, emptiness, sadness, anger, and many other negative states of mind which makes us susceptible becoming lost or separated from God.  Many people in Jesus' day did not understand his ways and his appearance and rejected Him on the basis of that alone.  Those who accept Jesus for who He is, and do not doubt Him, are blessed with assuredness, fullness, joy, peace, and all of the fruits of the Spirit.


Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
James 1:2-8 (New International Version)

7 comments:

  1. Excellent Sunday post Lee.

    I will be perfectly honest with you, After losing my mother and 3 days later to be told my husband had terminal cancer I did doubt God and my faith which mum had taught me since I waas a child,
    I could only say one word"Why"
    Over the years my faith was restored I'm happy to say,But I spent seven years in the wilderness. I know everything happens for a reason and it's not for us to question that reason, but some things in life do seem unfair especially Volcano ash, floods, earthquakes and famine not to mention war.

    Have a peaceful Sunday
    Yvonne.

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  2. I think we all go through periods of doubt.

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  3. Reassuring to know even John doubted!

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  4. Very nicely written (and timely too). I'm going to come back and read it again when I can focus on it better.

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  5. Definitely we all go through times of doubt..and God will accept us anyway, even when we are fearful,and when we are lost. But our lives are sooo much better when we allow God to push those doubts away and we put our trust in Him.

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  6. My thanks to all for reading my Sunday entry.

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Lee