Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Danger of Doubt
by Larry Rouse

“If you were to die today, do you know where you will spend eternity?” This is a question that others have asked me and one that I have asked others. John wrote so that “you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Men today fight this truth for various reasons, preferring to leave others wandering in doubt and darkness. Is it arrogance and pride, as some suggest, to say, “I know” about this question or any other Bible subject?

The powerful claims the Bible makes for itself will correctly lead one to the conclusion that certainty about the truths which God has revealed is not only possible, but expected! Luke wrote about the life of Christ so that everyone who read would “know the certainty of those things…” (Luke 1:4). He wrote by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and as a result had a “perfect understanding of all things from the very first” (Luke 1:3). A perfect revelation will provide certainty in the path a Christian is to walk. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).

How Faith Comes Through Doubt

However, there is a place for doubt in the building of our faith. Consider the struggles that must take place before a certain faith is found. During His ministry Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in Him. “…If You do these things, show Yourself to the world. 5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him” (John 7:4-5). I can understand why they would struggle this way. From the standpoint of sight, how could they believe that their older brother was the Creator of the universe? Jesus gave undeniable proofs of His deity but He did not answer every question that a man might ask. Jesus would often leave a man to struggle with his doubts. Yet, He always gave them a path that would lead to certainty, only if they had the commitment to follow it. His brothers followed that path and later came to know with certainty the truth about Jesus. After the ascension of Jesus, His brothers are named as being among the believers. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with His brothers” (Acts 1:14).

How Satan Uses Doubt

Satan wants to destroy the effectiveness of God’s work in every way he can. In the parable of the sower, Satan is pictured as a bird that snatches away the seed of God’s word before it can penetrate a man’s heart. Why might the seed not enter a man’s heart? “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside” (Matthew 13:19). A lack of understanding, a doubt about the value of the message, caused this one to quit and turn away from the powerful word of God.

Satan often employed shallow “arguments” that effectively discouraged many from further investigation. The very name “Jesus of Nazareth” brought forth doubts. “Others said, ’This is the Christ.’ But some said, ’Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?’” (John 7:41-42).

Satan also used false charges against the character of both Jesus and John the Baptist by saying that John “has a demon” and that Jesus was a “glutton and a winebibber” (Luke 7:33-35). Those without a heart to pursue the truth would easily turn away from Jesus.

How False Teachers Use Doubt

Like Satan, false teachers have the goal of ending the pursuit of the truth found in God’s word. They will use any tactic to cut off the influence of a faithful teacher. Raising questions about anything and everything, creating confusion by switching to unrelated subjects and interrupting any answers with more questions are the preferred tactics of such men. The “cloud of dust” that is raised is then cited as proof that the subject cannot be completely understood and therefore is not an issue worthy of our concern. A careful observer will note that the one who raises all the questions often will not lift a finger to find any answers. It is also not uncommon to find the false teacher closely guarding his doctrinal positions, not allowing them to be openly examined. Please remember, there is a difference between raising an honest question to pursue the truth and raising a question just to defeat an “opponent.”

Another common, but effective, tactic of a false teacher is to correctly diagnose a problem among the people of God, but then offer a “solution” that is worse than the problem itself. Upon hearing an effective analysis of the problems of worldliness and divisiveness among some Christians, many are treated to a number of “solutions” that will “solve” these problems. People are then urged to cut off “traditional teaching and traditional teachers.” They are encouraged to purse a direct leading of the Holy Spirit apart from the written word. They are even persuaded to reject foundational principles of Bible study for a nebulous “hermeneutic of love.”

False teachers will often replace the doubt they planted with a confidence in the student’s relationship with himself. Praise, flattery and needed attention are lavished upon this one who shares in this new “spirituality.” “They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them” (Gal 4:17).

My Personal Observation

Over the years, I have seen those who were once close to me overcome by these men and their relationship of pride. I was marked as “traditional” and unworthy of study though their influence. In time, my friends accepted the “wisdom” of their new teachers and, as a result, cut me off without as much as a word to me. On my part, I longed for open Bibles and open hearts and prayed for some time with the friends that I loved. I was never given that opportunity--for my friends had found a new “certainty,” one that involved closed Bibles and closed relationships.

How to Find God’s Certainty

1. Never be satisfied with questions alone. God’s power will never be found among those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

2. Do not accept “easy answers.” Those who rejected Jesus because of the easy answer that He grew up in Nazareth failed to look deeper into the question. He grew up in Nazareth, but He was indeed born in Bethlehem! Be like Nathaniel, who raised this very objection, but was willing to investigate further when invited to “come and see” (John 1:46-49).

3. Never give up. In my own life I had to study some challenging subjects while I was first learning how to study the Bible. At times, I needed to lay aside a difficult subject for other studies. I always returned to the challenging question at a later date. Some of the greatest blessings God has given me were from these studies! Be like the brothers of Jesus, and pursue, over time, those doubts you may possess.

4. Pray. Let a faith in God be the foundation of all of your studies. Remember the examples of His own prophets who struggled with doubt, but always took that doubt to God in prayer (Habakkuk 2:1-4).

5. Do not run from an open study of any truth that you have found (John 3:19-21).

Are you running from your doubts? If so, you are running from a living faith. It is my prayer that you will begin the struggle today to open God’s word and find the assurance that will only be found in the knowledge of the truth (John 8:31-32).

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