By Dr Peter Lim
At several points along our spiritual journey, most of us are likely to be assailed by doubt about our faith. Doubts in and of themselves should not be a hindrance in our spiritual lives. In fact, they should help us to reassess the basis of our faith (see 1 Peter 1:6-7). It is when doubts degenerate into unbelief that our relationship with God is threatened.
Here are two Biblical examples of such a situation. The first concerns John the Baptist. Although this passage is not covered in our current study of Luke, we can study it ourselves (Luke 7:18-23). Throughout his prophetic ministry, John the Baptist was unequivocal about the deity of Jesus Christ (John 1:32-35) and about Him being the Lamb of God (John 1:29). Yet while languishing in prison because of his denouncement of Herod’s adultery with Herodias, he was troubled by grave doubts about the Messiahship of Christ. (Luke 7:20).
The second example concerns Thomas. The death of Jesus Christ was traumatic for all His disciples. Despite all the steps our Lord Jesus Christ took to prepare them for this tumultuous event, His disciples were overwhelmed by the sudden arrest and rigged-up trials culminating in the brutal crucifixion of their Master and Lord. Bereft of their beloved Leader, they were shell-shocked. Is it any wonder that when Jesus first appeared to them after His resurrection, they were dubious about who they had seen (Luke 24:36-43). But of all the apostles it was Thomas who was most forthright about his disbelief which was dramatically dispelled upon seeing the resurrected Lord (John 20:24-29).
New converts to the Christian faith often have doubts about their salvation. It is not uncommon for some to undergo multiple conversion experiences in attempts to allay such doubts. For young Christians, the issue of salvation and forgiveness of sin is often troubling. “For many people it leads to the belief that when they sin, they are kicked out of God’s family. They believe that they are not in a state of grace – until they confess their sin and are accepted back in. Consequently, they live on a neurotic life of sin out – confess back in. Being in His kingdom is not a matter of your performance, but the free gift of God in Christ. For the Christian, conversion and forgiveness is a matter of doing some maintenance on that relationship – but the relationship itself is not negated by your sin” (David Boan). Major outreach initiatives like the Alpha Programme usually incorporate some post conversion counselling to enable young believers come to terms with their spiritual dissonance.
When tragedy strikes us, our faith in God may waver. Adversities in the form of broken relationships, job layoffs, unexpected death of a loved one, or severe debilitating illness can trigger doubts within us. These arise because we are unable to reconcile our belief in a loving and caring God with One who can allow such disasters into our lives (ref Ecclesiastes 7:14; Lamentations 3:38). While we know that God is sovereign, we may still have difficulty acquiescing with our misfortune. Thankfully we are not alone in such a quandary. We can find solace as we vicariously experience the gut-wrenching ordeals of the Psalmists and David in particular (e.g. Psalm 42). These men of God were able on most occasions to dispel their doubts because of their unflinching faith in God Jehovah. But if anyone had just cause to have doubts about his faith, it has to be Job of the Old Testament. Job had to endure the catastrophic loss of children, property, social standing and painful sores all over his body. His so-called three friends berated him instead of comforting and encouraging him. Read the book to see how Job emerged victorious over his dire circumstances.
To combat doubt, we have to be well-versed in the Word of God. Satan frequently instils doubt about God’s teaching in Scripture. From the very first temptation in the Garden of Eden in which he planted the seed of doubt to deceive Adam and Eve into disobeying God, Satan has been on the rampage in the world. If he had the audacity to quote Scripture out of context in the temptation of Jesus Christ (Luke 4:1-13), the Son of God, we can be certain he will also be devious in his spiritual and psychological warfare against us. To prevail against Satan, we need to be fully equipped with the entire armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).
So, when you are next assailed by doubt about your faith, dispel it by Job’s affirmation “…I know my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). Or cling on to the Apostle Paul’s statement of faith to sustain you “. . . I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)