Tag Archives: Faith

3 Keys for Overcoming Doubt

One of the world’s most loved comic strips is Hagar the Horrible. In one strip, we see Hagar kneeling in prayer, “It is not easy to believe in you God. We never see you. How come you never show yourself?” Next, we see:

  • A flower springing into life next to Hagar.
  • A volcano erupting in the distance.
  • An eclipse of the sun turning the sky black.
  • A star shooting across the night blackened sky.
  • A tidal wave rushing over Hagar.
  • Lightning flashing.
  • A bush beginning to burn.
  • A stone rolling away from the entrance to a tomb.

Hagar pulls himself from the mud, dripping wet, and surrounded by darkness. “Okay, okay! I give up! Every time I bring up this subject, all we get is interruptions.”

This comic strip makes light of a real issue with which many Christians struggle at some time in their life.

Is it true? This is a question many have asked over the years, and it brings to light the reality of doubt. Doubt is a season which many people pass through. When we think of someone who doubted, we probably think almost immediately of Thomas. He is even known as “Doubting Thomas.” Peter also experienced some moments of doubt, and it is safe to assume other of Jesus’ first followers may have had a doubt or two. John the Baptist among them.

Matthew 11:1-6 records, “When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region. John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing, so he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting or should we keep looking for someone else?’ Jesus told them, ‘Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the good news is being preached to the poor.’ And he added, ‘God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”

John the Baptist is struggling here. Perhaps with good reason, imagine the scene. John has been sitting in a small prison cell for approximately a year. His disciples were talking with John about the rumors of Jesus’ work. He was healing folks who suffered from a variety of diseases and illnesses, he was having compassion on people, and he was approaching individuals with a tender touch. As John was looking through the bars of his jail cell, it seemed Jesus was not bringing any judgment to the world, especially to the corrupted official who imprisoned him. Jesus is not acting in the way John thought the Messiah would, so he begins to doubt. He begins to wonder if Jesus is the Messiah who was to come or if someone else will be coming.

Put us in the scenes of our lives, and doubt begins to enter. We have plans made which we feel are secure, but suddenly life throws a wrench in those plans. We begin to wonder of the Lord’s whereabouts as our plans fall apart. Doubt creeps in.

Doubt enters for the young husband who is struggling just to provide for his family. Doubt enters for the parent whose child is struggling. Doubt enters for the retired couple who is dealing with much more than planned in their golden years. Doubt finds opportunities to walk into our lives.

Doubting and asking questions does not make you a bad person. It is how you handle the doubts and the questions which makes all the difference. Here are 3 keys for handling doubt the right way.

1.      Present your doubts to the Lord

The first key for handling doubts is taking our doubts to the Lord. John’s doubts are real. John doesn’t try to hide his doubts are hide himself from the Lord. He does just the opposite. He goes right to Jesus with the question. We can even say John’s question was blunt.

“Are you the Messiah, or is someone else coming?” This question is to the point. It is not hidden; it is not veiled. It is very real and honest, and Jesus’ response shows us it is okay to directly approach him with our doubts.

Jesus responds to John with much compassion and grace, as if to say, “I understand how you feel, so let me help you through it.” This is not the only time Jesus responds compassionately and graciously to someone with doubts.

He responds the same way to Thomas, who can be classified as the most famous of doubters. John 20:24-29 tells us Thomas was not present the first time Jesus appears to the disciples, and when they report the news to him, Thomas just can’t wrap his mind around it.

Verse 25 says, “But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail scars in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

Thomas’ doubt is not hidden or veiled here; it is real and bluntly presented just like John the Baptist. And, Jesus responds in the same way.

John’s Gospel goes on in verse 26: “A week later the disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”

It is as if Jesus was in the room a week earlier when Thomas expressed his doubt, and Jesus responds compassionately and graciously.

The final statement Jesus makes to Thomas in this moment is, “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:26). The IVP Commentary Series states another way to think of Jesus’ words is, “Stop becoming unbelieving and become believing again.” Our Christian life is a journey of faith and seasons of doubt come, but when they do, Jesus responds with compassion and grace.

You see, it is okay to go directly to Jesus with our doubts. He even defends John. Matthew records Jesus telling the crowd they did not go out into the desert to see a man put on a good show. They went out to see a prophet. During everything John is going through, Jesus still calls him a prophet; “the Elijah” who was to come. John doesn’t lose credibility with Jesus because he presents doubts.

Likewise, we do not lose credibility with Jesus when we present doubts. He knows our hearts and minds anyway, so why try to hide the doubt? Why try to veil the very feeling which the Lord will help us work through? John presented doubts; Thomas presented doubts, and Jesus responded with compassion and grace. We can present doubts, and Jesus will respond with compassion and grace. Stop becoming unbelieving and start becoming believing again. The first key to overcoming doubt is to take it to the Lord.

2. Look Around to Overcome Doubt

The second key to overcome doubt is to look around. Jesus replies to John’s question by telling his disciples to go back and report what they see and hear. Look around at the Lord’s work.

Just step outside and look around at the workings of nature. We find the Lord’s fingerprints all over. According to Amazing Facts, here are a few places we see the Lord’s fingerprints.

  • The sun is a certain distance from the Earth. If it were any closer or at a greater distance, human life could not exist.
  • The Earth rotates on its axis at a certain angle. Any change in the degree of angle, and human life could not exist.
  • The air we breathe is 79% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen. The slightest change would cause much difficulty for human existence.

These are just a few examples of where we see the Lord’s fingerprints. Look around in nature, and you will find the Lord at work.

Another place we see the Lord’s work is in people’s lives. How many times have you heard those stories where there is just no explanation or things worked out in just the right way?

I’ve heard the story of a son who was going to look at a race car. He was interested in purchasing the car. He and his friends started on their way, and the son realized he forgot to grab an item out of his garage. He returned home to find his dad lying on the garage floor. His father needed medical attention, and had the son not forgotten the item, no one would have known it in time.

I’ve heard a story of a lady attempting to find her sister-in-law to let her know her husband was in the emergency room in serious condition. All she knew was her sister-in-law was running errands. The lady called some local businesses searching but came up empty. After exhausting all other options, she decided to just go driving around looking. She was getting ready to pull off her street onto the highway and guess who went by – her sister-in-law. If either of these ladies had delayed driving even by seconds, they would have missed each other. Everything worked out in just the right timing.

These two stories are interwoven. They are connected by a single family. As they were anxiously awaiting news about their dad, husband, and brother, they were reflecting on the afternoon’s events. And, only one conclusion was logical. The Lord had to be with them.

We all know of stories like this. There is just no explanation except the Lord was at work. “Look around,” Jesus says to John’s disciples. Look around at how you see the Lord moving; look around at how you see the Lord working; look around.

3. Challenge Your Doubts with the Bible

Thirdly, Jesus suggests referring to Scripture to help overcome doubt.

Jesus responds to John’s disciples in part by quoting Scripture. He quoted passages of Scripture which were beginning to be fulfilled. Not every detail of the prophecy John knew had been fulfilled at this point, but it was starting to come together.

Jesus was jogging John’s memory with Scripture. He certainly knew John was aware of the Old Testament passages discussing the Messiah. Jesus pushed John to Scripture to help him overcome his doubts.

Allow your doubts to push you to Scripture. Allow Scripture to challenge your doubts. Allow yourself to be open-minded enough to ponder the claims of Scripture. In doing so, your doubts may start to erode. After all, what do you have to lose besides doubts?

Acting

John the Baptist was a strong person of faith. He was the forerunner for Jesus, yet he had a season in life when he doubted. Doubt is certainly a part of many Christians journey; however, how the Christian responds to doubt makes the difference. These three keys will help overcome the season of doubt.

All three of these keys will only work if there is a willingness on our part to give them an opportunity. If you find yourself in a season of doubt today, why don’t you give them a shot? We asked this earlier, but what do you have to lose – besides doubts?

Valley of Broken Promises

“I will always love you.”

“Till death do us part.”

“I’ve got your back; you don’t have to worry about this round of layoffs.”

These are promises many of us have heard only to find out they have been broken. Many of us have found ourselves walking through the valley of broken promises on more than one occasion. We were given a promise, but the promise wasn’t kept. Words were flowing freely, but the commitment was not behind them. Many may break promises, but there is One who will not send us to the valley of broken promises.

The Lord is faithful, and he always keeps his promises.

  • Psalm 12:6 says, “The Lord’s promises are pure,
        like silver refined in a furnace,
        purified seven times over.”
  • Numbers 19:23 says, “God is not a man, so he does not lie.
        He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
    Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
        Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”

Looking through history reveals God’s flawless record of keeping his promises. He promised Abraham he would become a great nation, and Abraham did. He promised Israel they would possess the land of Canaan and they did. The Lord promised Israel manna in the desert, and the manna showed up just as he said. The Lord is faithful in keeping his promises.

  • 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.”
  • Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”

For you and I, this means the promises we find within Scripture are true. The promises we cling to in the middle of the night are true. The promises we rely on in rough times are true. The promises in which we place our hope for a better tomorrow will be fulfilled. The Lord’s promises are true.

Choose to claim the promises we find in Scripture about our family, finances, and future, and cling to them. They are true because God always keeps his promises!

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Abraham’s Faith

He was promised a son. He was promised from this son would come many descendants. Then Abraham was called to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Genesis 22 records:

22 Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

Abraham’s faith is being tested. How far will he allow his faith to take him? Genesis 22 goes on:

The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”

So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”

“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

Notice Abraham tells his servants he and Isaac will return. Like Isaac, Abraham knows the Lord is in control. Abraham’s faith compels him to trust the Lord.

In Hebrews 11:17-19, the writer says:

17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.

By faith, Abraham knew the Lord would keep his promises. Therefore, he fully trusted the Lord. The Bible encourages us to fully trust the Lord. In Proverbs 3, Solomon suggests we trust the Lord and seek him in everything we do.

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Faith That Climbs A Mountain

Where would you let your faith take you? How far do you think you could trust it if it was pushed? These are questions a 17-year-old young man had to answer.

The Bible records Isaac’s faith taking him up a mountain to be a potential sacrifice. Genesis 22 records the Lord asking Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. While Abraham’s faith was being tested, so was Isaac’s. Think of the scene for a moment.

At a certain point on their journey, Abraham and Isaac leave everyone else behind. It is just the two of them. As Abraham is carrying the fire, Isaac is carrying the wood, so he knows they are going to offer a sacrifice; however, there’s no lamb. Isaac knows something is up.  Abraham is around 120 years old, while Isaac is in his late teens. Isaac could have easily overpowered Abraham and refused to go any farther, but he doesn’t. His faith takes him up the mountain with Abraham.

Genesis 22:9-12 records what happens on top of the mountain:

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Isaac’s faith takes him all the way to the altar. He is not sure what the Lord is going to do, but he knows the Lord has it under control. Isaac’s faith pushes him up the mountain.

Where is your faith taking you? Is it pushing you to trust the Lord in your life? Is it calling you to follow the Lord’s leading to achieve a dream or accomplish a goal? Are you trusting your faith to help you fulfill your purpose in life? We may not be sure what the Lord is going to do, but we can trust that he is in control.

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Promises Kept

The Bible is filled with promises the Lord has made to you and me. He promises we will spend eternity in Heaven. He promises eternal life. He promises our needs will be met. He promises peace. He promises too always be with us. And, the Lord keeps all of his promises.

Along with the promises made to us, the Bible also shows us the Lord is faithful to keep his promises. Take the promise the Lord made to Abraham and Sarah for example. The Lord promised this couple they would have a son, which seemed impossible, but the Lord kept his promise. Abraham and Sarah had a son.

Genesis 21:1-3 records:

21 The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac. 

This is not the only time we see a promise being made and kept. On the night of Jesus’ birth, Luke’s Gospel teaches the angel made some promises to the shepherds as to what they would find. Luke says the shepherds found everything just as they had been told when they went to see Jesus.

The promises made to us will be kept; we too will find everything just as we’ve been told. The Lord is gracious, and he keeps his promises. How has the Lord kept a promise for you?

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Our Redeemer Lives

Disappointing, painful, and hard to go through may easily describe Job’s situation. He went from having plenty to having nothing. His wealth, health, and family all stripped away. His friends begin to question him and conclude it is his fault, but Job remains steadfast in his faith. Job declares his redeemer lives.

He says in 19:25-26, 25 “I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I will see God…”

Disappointing, painful, or hard to go through may describe where you are in life right now. You moved across country for a big promotion that has made you miserable and left you disappointed. Your relationship ended in a painful way. It is hard to watch your loved one suffer as he or she battles a medical illness. In many ways, you can parallel your life to Job right now. What about your faith?

Disappointments, pain and suffering are unfortunately a part of life. Dreams and goals may not always work out exactly as planned. However, we can echo the words of Job, knowing that our redeemer lives. Though life may not turn out as we planned, in Christ, we can have confidence the Lord is with us and Heaven awaits.

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changed

“When the angels had left them and gone into Heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.’ So, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them, but Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:15-20).

The shepherds were truly changed by their encounter with the Lord. Luke says they returned to their flocks praising God. This is not the only time we see a life changed due to an encounter with the Lord. Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, and Saul became Paul after coming across the Lord. Perhaps your life has been changed by the Lord’s grace also. It is impossible to find the Lord and walk away the same way you came.

Make sharing your joy and faith a part of your holiday celebrations this year. God did not make a mistake sending the angel to the shepherds. The birth of the Messiah was an event causing great joy for all people. The shepherds started spreading the joy they experienced, and you and I should continue spreading that joy.

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how to respond like a shepherd?

The sheep were asleep. The shepherds were gathered around a small fire talking as some of them dozed off. The stillness of the night was suddenly interrupted by an angelic visit. The angel brought news that a Savior had been born. The shepherds listened intently as the angel spoke, and when the angel had left them, they hurried to investigate this news.

The shepherds’ response to the angel’s news is worthy of modeling. As their initial terror subsided, the shepherds responded with much faith and overflowing joy.

“When the angels had left them and gone into Heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger” (Luke 2:15-16).

The shepherds responded to the angel with much faith. Believing the angel, the shepherds acted upon their belief. The writer of Hebrews says the Lord rewards those who earnestly seek him. How are you and I responding to the Lord in faith? Are we taking him at his word and allowing our curiosity to spur us on to see his promises fulfilled?

Along with their faith, the shepherds experienced overflowing joy. “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17-19).

The shepherds were so filled with joy they could not keep it to themselves. They had seen the Lord, and they wanted to share their joy with everyone. As you and I find the joy of the Lord, we should attempt to share it.

We can share our joy in an appealing way. We can share our joy by starting a Pay-It-Forward chain at our favorite coffee shop. We can help purchase Christmas gifts for a family who otherwise would not have gifts. We could prepare a shoe box gift for Operation Christmas Child. We can call to check on a neighbor who may experience loneliness this time of year. There are many ways we can share our joy, and this is the perfect season to share it.

Many have commented they will be glad when 2020 enters the history books. It has been a sad and difficult year for lots of folks. It seems they may be hungry for joy and hope more this year than before, and the joy of the Lord can be prevalent in our lives. We can be like the shepherds and spread joy.

Please share this post, and thanks to Light for including this in a recent edition.

don’t miss christmas

A father and son enjoyed collecting art. They enjoyed attending art auctions together, and the two had amassed a stunning collection. Paintings by famous artists lined the walls of their living room, and the two spent much time pursuing their hobby.

One day the son received word he had been drafted, and he was to report to basic training before heading overseas. A few months later, early December to be exact, the father received news his son had been killed.

Still absorbing the shock, the father decided to spend Christmas day alone, but as he was sitting in his easy chair, there was a knock at the door.

The man opened the door to find a tall, young man standing there with a package under his arm. “Good morning sir,” the young man said, “may I come in?”

The father invited the young man into the house, and the young man began to explain, “I knew your son. I’m actually the one he was saving when he was shot. I know you like art as I do, so I wanted to give this to you.”

He unwrapped the package to reveal a portrait of the father’s son. “It is not the fanciest painting. I did it myself, and I thought you would enjoy having it.”

The father quickly jumped up to rearrange his collection giving the portrait of his son a prominent place. He placed it above his fireplace directly across from his easy chair. The father could gaze upon his son every time he sat in the chair. The father and soldier spent Christmas day together talking and laughing before parting ways.

Years later, the father passed away, and he left instructions in his will to have his art collection auctioned on Christmas day. Many collectors from around the country arrived to bid on the collection.

The crowd was upset when they realized the first painting on the block was the portrait of the father’s son. The auctioneer tried to move the painting for several minutes before a neighbor finally bid $10.

“I knew the boy, so I’d like to have the painting,” the woman said.

“Going once. Going twice. Sold,” came the auctioneer’s voice as the crowd cheered wildly.

“Now we can get on with the good stuff,” they snorted, but they were shocked when the auctioneer slammed his gavel declaring the auction over.

“How is it over,” the crowd demanded. “We didn’t even have a chance to bid on the good paintings.”

The auctioneer explained the father’s instructions were to give the whole collection to the person who bought the portrait of his son.

God’s Christmas Gift

Romans 8:32 says, “Since he did not spare even his own son, but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” Don’t miss the true gift of Christmas.

People search for peace and hope in many places. Shiny packages of all kinds contain promises of peace and hope, but they are empty or fall short. True peace and hope are found in God’s Christmas gift. “Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you,” the angel told the shepherds. He is Jesus.

As you hustle and bustle this year, take a moment to find and reflect on the true gift of Christmas. Whoever gets the son, according to God, gets everything else.

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The Whirlwind of Life

She experienced a whirlwind of emotions.

She was a widow, with a son, in the middle of a famine. Provisions were almost expired; enough was left for one last meal. She was gathering the wood for the cooking fire when Elijah entered her life.

Elijah asked the widow to bring him a drink of water and a piece of bread. She responds in 1 Kings 17:12, “As surely as the Lord your God lives, I don’t have any bread, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son that we may eat it, and die.”

Can you imagine? The widow is in a desperate situation, and she may feel hopeless. But here comes hope.

Elijah encourages her to do as he has directed, and promises the Lord will continue her provisions until the end of the famine. 1 Kings 17:6 records the widow and her son having enough to survive until the famine ended. This storm ended, but another rain cloud was on the horizon.

Some time later her son died. Amid the storm, the widow went to Elijah so he could act on behalf of God. This would have been an emotionally draining whirlwind for the widow; hard times followed by okay times only to be replaced by hard times again. Sadness giving away to happiness only to be broken down by grief. The winds of life tossed and turned the widow.

Perhaps this sounds familiar to your experience. Don’t lose the big take-away of the widow’s story.

Her faith pushed her forward.

It was the widow’s faith which compelled her to feed Elijah and go to him upon the death of her son. Her faith steadied her as the winds swirled around her.

You and I have a friend in Jesus who sticks closer than a brother. His compassion wiped the tears of the widow and held the hand of the man with leprosy. His power was victorious over death. There’s nothing in life that is a match for him.

Allow the Lord to be a part of your storm today.

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