The bible is sprinkled with examples of doubting faith. Sarah doubted when she laughed at the news she would have a child in her old age. Gideon insisted upon a sign from God he was to lead the people against the enemy. Thomas doubted the resurrection of Christ pronouncing he must see and touch Jesus himself before he would believe. In today’s scripture, John the Baptist questioned if Jesus was who he said he was. God does not want cookie cutter Christians where everyone thinks alike, sounds alike, and looks alike! Questions mean you are thinking. Struggling means you are searching. God honors the process of coming to him with fears, doubts, questions.
An elderly lady was well-known for her faith and boldness in talking about it. She would stand on her front porch and shout "PRAISE THE LORD!" Next door to her lived an atheist who would got angry at her proclamations, "There ain't no Lord!!"
Hard times set in on the lady, and she prayed for GOD to send her some assistance. She stood on her porch and shouted "PRAISE THE LORD. GOD I NEED FOOD!! I AM HAVING A HARD TIME. PLEASE LORD, SEND ME SOME GROCERIES!!" The next morning the lady went out on her porch and noted a large bag of groceries and shouted, "PRAISE THE LORD."
The neighbor jumped from behind a bush and said, "Aha! I told you there was no Lord. I bought those groceries, God didn't." The lady jumped up and down clapping her hands and said, "PRAISE THE LORD. He not only sent me groceries, but He made the devil pay for them. Praise the Lord!"
God wants our heart, he wants our minds, he wants all of us, and that means we can truly think, question, doubt, even be depressed and hurting, and it is still faith.
Today we examine the third of four stories in the Diamond of Faith… 4 angles of faith, each one brilliant, but then to see them all together…. Today John the Baptist ~ who introduced Jesus to the world, who baptized Jesus ~ of all people, John questions if Jesus is the Christ! If this man has questions, surely my questions are acceptable to the Lord … God can handle your depression! questions! Search for truth and meaning!
A the beginning of the scripture John’s doubt is written twice: READ Luke 7:18-20. this is the equivalent of underlining something….
This week honored to spend a lot of time with Kay B and family.... Several days ago she got overwhelmed by God, overwhelmed by thoughts of eternity. She started thinking maybe she wasn’t worthy of God ~ it made me smile. I am not worried about Kay, and I am not worried about her questions of her own salvation. I think it’s normal for a person of deep faith! I shared with her a recent verse we went over at the Thursday Bible Study: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” …sometimes our doubts come in the form of the truth claims of Christ, sometimes they are in the form of facing the Holy and our unworthiness.
Doubts are a part of faith….Here’s a Q & A from Philip Yancey:
Question: Is there a danger in not facing our doubts?
Answer: As a child I attended a church that had little room for inquisitiveness. If you doubted or questioned, you sinned. I learned to conform, as you must in a church like that. Meanwhile those deep doubts, those deep questions, didn’t get answered in a satisfactory way. The danger of such a church like that—and there are many—is that by saying, “Don’t doubt, just believe,” you don’t really resolve the doubts. They tend to resurface in a more toxic form.
Inquisitiveness and questioning are inevitable parts of the life of faith. Where there is certainty there is no room for faith. I encourage people not to doubt alone, rather to find some people who are safe “doubt companions,” and also to doubt their doubts as much as their faith. But it doesn’t help simply to deny doubts or to feel guilty about them. Many people, after all, have been down that path before and have emerged with a strong faith.
(For more Yancey Q & A’s see http://www.philipyancey.com/q-and-a-topics/faith-and-doubt)
What is most affirming about John the Baptists questioning faith is Jesus’ response.
Jesus is not embarrassed by John the Baptist “Goodness, John was my star pupil and now look at him.” He doesn’t try and sweep John’s questioning faith under the rug as if he doesn’t really mean what he says, but he takes the question respectfully and seriously: “Go back and tell John…” (Luke 7:22a). Friends and other Christians may question your questions, but the Lord does not. He is not embarrassed by you. He reminds John, through his disciples, of the evidence that he says who he is (Luke 7:22-23). We need the reminders, the evidence…just as it takes time to trust other people, we need to learn to trust the Lord. Jesus is not offended. Fear or embarrassing ourselves can stymie us from being honest with our questions. The fact that Jesus is NOT embarrassed by John, his star pupil, is huge. We can spend so much time worrying and getting embarrassed by each other, teenagers embarrassed by parents, saying the wrong thing, being out of place… but amazingly Jesus is not at all ashamed of John.
Jesus goes one step further: In spite of John’s questions wanting to know if Jesus really is the Savior, before the disciples have any chance to go back and report to John, before Jesus knows how John responds, Jesus commends John for his faith (Luke 7:24-28) culminating with the words of v. 28: “among you there is no one greater than John.” John, in spite of his questioning of Jesus, his doubting of Jesus, takes a back seat to no-one. Do you need any more proof that it is ok to doubt, to ask questions, to struggle with the truth? The Lord does not require a simplistic faith that nods and is in complete agreement, but he values the person who asks questions, the person who struggles, the person who takes the time to work through the issues of faith that are challenging. Most teenagers that put a foot in the world of adults struggle with the faith of their childhood: is it credible? Is it for adults? Do the promises and claims of the Bible make sense? In every transition of life facing the unknown, that is a rich time to ask questions, to make a commitment to the Lord, or a renewed commitment, and for many people the transition is accompanied by pain, by doubt.
And Jesus says, “there is no-one greater than John.”
Questions, doubts, struggles are a part of faith. They are all part of a transition into the changes of life that are a constant part of the human experience. That is when we need the reminders of what God has done and is doing in Christ Jesus, the testimonies, the reassurance, the examples of God’s power, God’s teaching, God’s character through Christ (Luke 7:21-22).
Your sincere questions seem to please God. Do you know what the best form of evangelism is, in my humble opinion? Hang around with people as much as possible that need the Lord, and listen for the questions. Until people ask questions, they are not ready to take the next step of faith. God loves people who are searching for him, searching for truth, searching for life, searching for meaning. Maybe the Lord will see fit to commend me, even though I am a sinner, even though my doubts at times discourage me. I don’t want anybody to blindly accept truth. Not long ago somebody followed me into a parking lot and wanted to talk about her child’s questions of faith, hard questions ~~ I see that as part of maturing in faith. We want a community of faith that is safe for real questions to be asked, real struggles to be expressed, real confusion to be voice. We ought to see Thomas as a hero of faith who dared to pronounce he needed to see the very wounds of Jesus before he would believe Jesus was truly resurrected. John the Baptist, of all people, dared to ask questions, surely an honest expression of his faith… and Jesus said he is an example of a man of faith that you can admire!
I want to end with two stories of questioning faith, one old and one new. For those of you who have secret doubts, refuse to blindly accept the claims of Christ, may you find a measure of encouragement.
Story #1: William often struggled with depression and doubt. One night he decided to commit suicide by drowning himself. He called a cab and told the driver to take him to the Thames River. However, thick fog came down and prevented them from finding the river. After driving around lost for a while, the cabby finally stopped and let William out. To William’s surprise, he found himself on his own doorstep. In response to what William saw as God’s providence to rescue him from his own depression, he wrote a poem including the following lines:
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
What William Cowper is saying is that faith, even an uncertain faith, a questioning faith, God is still with you. There may be struggle, even bitterness, but the Lord’s purposes will prevail. Questioning faith, struggles, uncertainty, real human emotions are allowed. Immediately following John’s questioning Jesus authenticity, Jesus says of John, there “is no one greater.” (for more on Cowper see http://www.challies.com/articles/hymn-stories-god-moves-in-a-mysterious-way)
Story #2: Excerpts from Luke Larsen: Living with doubt
I did not grow up in the Church…. But through a series of spiritual … encounters with the Living God, I became a Christian at the age of 15 …. when I turned 16…, I started encountering this big, messy thing called doubt... this wasn’t one of those small puddles of doubt that I could just step over….This was an insurmountable ocean of doubt...
I never really told anyone about that doubt at the time, realizing quickly that most of the Christians I knew didn’t bother thinking too hard about such things. But I doubted everything: the authenticity of the Bible, the historicity of Jesus, the value of the Church, creationism—the whole nine yards. I would go back and forth over the months in terms of beliefs, but whenever the doubt would take over, I’d fall into a state of frantic panic. I think of it being like when someone who doesn’t know how to swim just jumps in a pool and starts flailing their arms around.
…. one thing I learned during this time was that well-meaning Christians love to tell you doubt is an important thing to acknowledge in your life, but that you shouldn’t ultimately get too carried away with it. …After all, you don’t want to be like doubting Thomas who couldn’t even acknowledge the Risen Christ without inspecting him like a TSA agent at the airport….
For me, it wasn’t until I’d realized that it was not knowledge, but fear…that was keeping me from moving forward in my faith. My fear of the unknown and my fear of death were what held me under doubt’s captivity—not my lack of compelling [logic]. …
“Faith is like yogurt,” said my college pastor, standing a half-stage in front of about 200 college students who had chosen to go to church on a Friday night instead of party with the rest of the town. He said the berries on top (hint: the doubt) needed to be mixed into the yogurt (hint: faith) to have a full picture of what being a disciple of Jesus was like. If you were missing the berries in your meal, your faith was a bit incomplete. You could still eat it, but it was missing the flavor it was meant to have.
…for me, that picture of faith rocked my world because it made me realize that I had been doing faith wrong for most of my life. My proportions were all backwards. My walk with Christ had been more like an entire bowl of berries with some [yogurt] drizzled on top. I was doing it wrong…It was time to … start trusting God in the ocean...
(for full article see http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/how-doubt-saved-my-faith)
John the Baptist dared to ask questions, surely an honest expression of his faith… Jesus was not embarrassed by John, he reminded John to take a look at Jesus character and actions, and amazingly, he commends John even with his doubts as a great example of a man of faith that you can admire. The diamond of faith: confidence, It’s all God, questions and struggles are part of faith, and next week, faith is needed because we are sinners. May you grow in your own faith through your struggles and questions of the ministry and meaning of Jesus Christ. Amen.