Growing In Godliness Blog
Seven Things to Remember When Dealing with Doubts – Part 2
By Mark McCrary
Text: Matthew 11:1-14
In our last article, we discussed three things we learned from the event of Mathew 11 where John expressed doubt about the identity of Jesus as the Messiah:
- Everyone doubts. John was strong and faithful, but even he was weak at this moment. We should not be surprised when we go through moments of doubt as well.
- Express your doubts. When John began to question, he took his questions right to the source: Jesus. Sometimes when we doubt, we are tempted to bottle them up inside. That doesn’t help. We should go to God in prayer and find others whom we trust to talk with.
- Circumstances of life cause us to doubt. John’s doubt likely came from his difficult imprisonment. Our struggles often come in challenging seasons—sicknesses, loss, etc.
There are four other helpful things to remember from this lesson, however. Let’s dive into them.
Number four: Jesus is Understanding When We Doubt
This is comforting. Jesus didn’t say, “What in the world is wrong with John? He saw the Spirit and heard the voice of God!”
We feel that way when we doubt, right? Surely God is disappointed in me. He must be thinking, “What in the world is wrong with them? They go to church! They’ve read the Bible! They’ve prayed and taught others about Me!” But, how did Jesus respond? Jesus turns to the crowd and lifts him up. Jesus understood the stresses John was in and sought to reassure him. And, if anyone was prone to judge John for this “momentary” lapse in faith, He defends John (Mt. 11:7-10).
Isn’t that wonderful? I need to hear that! Doubts from the circumstances of life don’t undo a life of faith expressed in service. And though faith may be suppressed because of circumstances, that suppression doesn’t mean it is dead. God sees it still!
Number Five: Jesus Doesn’t Want Us to Remain in Doubt
As understanding as He was, though, He did not want John to continue to question. He wanted to assure him to hold on to what he knew, not let go because of what he felt.
Jesus wants the same from us. While understanding of our doubts, He wants us to move past those and regain confidence in Him.
Number Six: Listen to Witnesses
There’s great power in a personal testimony; when a person says, “I saw this. It happened to me.” Jesus didn’t just tell John to trust Him. He performed miracles in front of John’s disciples and said, “Go tell him what you have seen Me do.”
Who are our witnesses? Who tells us when we doubt of what they have seen and experienced personally? Certainly, the apostles would be the first we should turn to. They witnessed the teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:1-11; 1 Jn. 1:1-4). History tells us that except for John, all died for their faith. None renounced Jesus or claimed what they taught was a clever lie designed to bring them power and fame. No, they all died confessing Jesus is indeed Lord—even in the face of death. Listen to those witnesses!
But perhaps there are other witnesses we can turn to. People whom we know whose faith remained even through challenges in life. Brothers and sisters who persevered through cancers, pain, disappointments, and even death. Though they may not be witnesses exactly the way the apostles were, they are still witnesses to us that faith can be held on to even when difficult.
This brings us to our last lesson…
Number Seven: Hold on to What You Know
The message to John from the witnesses was enough to strengthen him. John could know these things. They were to be certain to him. Jesus’ message: imprisonment isn’t going to end for John well. Jesus knew he felt uncertain. But he could face what lay before him with confidence that Jesus was indeed the promised One—Jesus was doing what Isaiah said the Messiah would do. He would indeed accomplish the work of God’s Messiah and usher in God’s eternal kingdom. John, hold on to what you know—not what you feel.”
That is our call today. When you begin to feel doubt, go back to what you know. What are the proofs of God, His word, and His Son that are undeniable for you?
Here is an example to contemplate: The tomb of Jesus was empty, and none have been able to give a credible explanation other than the Bible. If the leaders took the body to keep it from the disciples, they could have produced it easily when the church started in the book of Acts and ended Christianity very quickly. They could not. If the disciples took the body to begin a movement intended to bring them fame and wealth, they would have admitted so when faced with certain death. They did not. The apostles knew whether they were telling the truth or lying, yet to a man they gave their lives as a testimony to what they saw and knew to be truth.
Whether it is the above or some other truth you cannot shake, hold on to it. Don’t define your faith by your doubts, but your doubts by your faith. That’s what Jesus was calling John to do. That’s what He is calling us to do as well.
Doubts sometimes occupy the minds of those who are not omniscient, thus are a part of our human journey. Don’t feel ashamed of those moments. Let’s learn from this story of our Savior and a faithful servant and press on.
Seven Things to Remember When Dealing with Doubts - Part 1
By Mark McCrary
Text: Matthew 11:1-14
He was a voice "crying out in the wilderness" (Isa. 40:3; Mt. 3:3). He boldly confronted community and civic leaders—and paid a price for doing so (Mt. 3:1-12; 14:1-12).
He sat in prison in Herod’s Fortress, Macherus, near the Dead Sea. At some point, he received word about his cousin, Jesus. While John was in prison, certainly He must have taken up and added to John’s work; after all, John’s work was merely a precursor to the Messiah’s work. John must have been anxious to hear who Jesus had rebuked and confronted; the trouble Jesus had gotten into up to this point.
What he heard must have shocked him. Jesus not only wasn’t in trouble with legal authorities (at this point) but was rather popular with the people and ignored by authorities (at this point). What was going on? Was he wrong about Jesus? Had he imagined what he heard and saw when he baptized Him (Mt. 3:13-17)?
John sent several of his disciples to meet with Jesus, asking if Jesus was indeed who John thought Him to be, or should they instead be looking for another. Jesus responded by highlighting particular miracles John’s disciples saw Jesus perform. These were not random; rather they were spoken of as works of the coming Messiah in Isaiah’s message (Isa. 29:18; 31:1; 61:1). Jesus, it seems, did those works precisely to assure John. Jesus concludes with this admonition to his cousin, “Blessed is the one who isn’t offended (or, “tripped up”) by Me” (Mt. 11:6). In other words, the one who continues to trust and lets go of doubt.
John, the stalwart proclaimer, was doubting. From this account, we can draw several helpful lessons:
Number one: Everyone doubts
John wasn’t a weakling. He was tough and brave. Guess what? Everyone doubts. Elders doubt (Are we leading properly? What do we do about…?). Preachers doubt (“Am I teaching truth? Am I too loose? Am I too stern?” [these are actual doubts, btw-mm]). Parents doubt (“How do I raise my child? Should I homeschool? Put them in private school? Public school? What do I do?”). The strong and the weak at times wavier in their commitment. Maybe we wonder if God really exists? Or, is the Bible really reliable? Is a particular doctrine I hold actually true? We may sometimes have the idea that if we are doubting, we just aren’t strong enough and we are weak. That kind of thinking not only isn’t helpful, it isn’t biblical! Abraham doubted! Thomas doubted! No one, no matter how spiritually strong, is above doubting.
Number two: Express Your Doubts
If we aren’t careful, we can get so caught up in our church culture that we perpetuate the myth that “everyone is perfect.” The last thing we want to do is honestly pull back the curtain and reveal our struggle (because we must be the only ones with questions, right? Nope, see the previous point). Often, either we will keep our doubts to ourselves and move farther away from God, or we will express them to the wrong people who may reinforce those doubts. What we should do is exactly what John did—take them to God (or Jesus, in this case). Express your questions to God—He’s big enough to take them! Let him know your frustrations. Also, seek out godly, spiritual people you trust and know want the best for you. Be honest with them— you will likely find they’ve had similar wonderings.
Number three: The Circumstances of Life Cause Us to Doubt
Where was John at the moment? In a plush hotel? His private home? He was in prison. And, what type of prison? One with cable, high-speed internet, a gym, and a library? No, he was likely in a stone room, either hot or cold without any ventilation. No toilet (and everything that goes along with that). He may have been beaten and in need of medical attention. He was physically and mentally weak. That, in turn, leads to spiritual weakness.
Often, life doesn’t go the way we plan. Sometimes that’s good; other times, it's bad. We know there’s no assurance in scripture that our lives will go smoothly, and we read of the faithful whose lives certainly did not. But still, when the bills can’t be paid, when the doctor gives a bad diagnosis, when our loved one’s lives aren’t going well, when we are praying and serving but still struggling, we naturally ask, “Why?”
Life causes doubts.
That’s all for this week. Next week, we will consider four other things to remember. They are:
Number four: Jesus is understanding when we doubt…
Number five: Jesus doesn’t want us to remain in doubt…
Number six: Listen to witnesses, and…
Number seven: Hold on to what you know.
See you next week.
The Power of the Mind
By Larry Coffey
I have just finished reading a 600+ page book called “Life Force” written by Tony Robbins. Tony Robbins is an entrepreneur, #1 New York Times bestselling author, and philanthropist honored by Accenture as one of the top 50 business intellectuals in the world. This book covers new breakthroughs in precision medicine. It deals with things like new medical technology, regenerative medicine, stem cells, gene therapy, etc. The last two chapters are about the power of mindset and decision. This is a medical book written from a secular viewpoint, but I believe Christians can benefit from some of what is taught.
He contends the mind has the power to heal the body in certain instances, and provides some examples where this has happened. He mentions the use of placebos can have tremendous power over pain. Placebos are harmless “medicines” or procedures that are used to test a therapy’s effectiveness. In a migraine pain study at Harvard Medical School, the placebo was found to be nearly as effective as the actual drug.
He mentions another Harvard study, in which one hundred medical students were enlisted to test two drugs: a “super stimulant” red pill and a “super tranquilizer” blue one. Unbeknownst to the students, the drugs were purposely switched—the red was actually a barbiturate, and the blue an amphetamine. Even so, the subjects who were given a downer experienced stimulation because of their expectations, while those who took the upper felt tired. Talk about the power of the mind!
Several pages dealt with the subject of stress of which there are several levels. Suppose your mail was not delivered for several days in a row and you were expecting to receive something you needed. That could cause some stress. Then you receive a letter telling you a company in which you had a significant investment had gone bankrupt. That would be a higher level of stress. Another few days pass and you receives results of a recent wellness test and you are asked to return because a tumor was detected. The stress increases further.
Robbins says, “extreme stress is going to be a given in your life. So, the real key to have an extraordinary quality of life….is not to hope you get lucky and that nothing happens, but to develop the kind of psychological and emotional strength that makes you resilient enough to use whatever life brings you to create something even greater.”
Now what do Jesus and the apostle Paul have to say about the power of the mind and stress. Jesus deals with these two things in Mt. 6:25-34. Jesus says do not be anxious about your life, don’t be anxious about clothing, don’t be anxious about what you are going to eat. He adds, which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Therefore, don’t be anxious about tomorrow. How does Jesus expect us to use the power of our minds? We are to focus our minds on seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all the things we need will be added to us.
Paul says in Phil. 4:11, whatever state he was in he was to be content. He further addresses this in I Tim. 6:6 & 8, by saying there is great gain in godliness with contentment, and if he had food and clothing, with these he would be content. In Col. 3: 1-2, Paul says to seek the things that above where Christ is, SET YOUR MINDS on things that are above, not on things on earth.
Robbins tries to help us have better lives on earth. Christians are to focus our minds which God has given us on things above. And our minds have the power through Christ to truly achieve an extraordinary life in heaven.