Do you ever doubt? The faith as a whole? That God is working a specific situation out for good? Or that He is really coming back? Does your doubting lead you to wonder if you even have faith at all?
Over the years as I have had questions and doubts, verses ring through my head like Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees who asked for a sign:
“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.
– Matt 16.4
And James says doubting prohibits one from receiving wisdom from God:
But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
– James 1.6-8
This week, however, I was encouraged by the story of Abraham – the first of the patriarchs and one of the examples of faith Hebrews offers:
And [God] took [Abraham] outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. And He said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” He said, “O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?”
– Gen 15.5-8
The Bible tells us that God chose Abraham (Gen 18.19), He set him apart to be the father of Israel – the chosen people of God. Abraham did not seek God out, or ask to be used, but God went to him, told him to leave his family and land and promised to make him into a great nation. So Abraham obeyed and believed the promise that God gave him, “and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Gen 15.6).
But then he questioned God.
God gave Abraham a promise. A personal promise, one on one! And Abraham believed, but then asked God for a confirmation. “How may I know?”
Lucifer, in contrast, when he was tempting Jesus, was trying to get Jesus to prove Himself. “If you truly are the son of God” Lucifer taunted in the first two temptations (Matt 4.3, 6). For this mindset Jesus condemned Lucifer’s desire to test God: “Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”‘”(Matt 4.7). It was not a genuine request for confirmation or help in time of disbelief, it was disbelieving heart taunting God.
Abraham was counted righteous for his faith, and he questioned God in the same sentence. Jesus had compassion on the disciples when they doubted that He had truly risen from the grave and showed Himself to them as proof that He was alive. James promises that whoever lacks wisdom will be given it if they ask of God. If we are doubting or are unsure, it is both normal and allowable. God will comfort and assure us when we need it.
However, He hates and will not honor testing of a pessimistic nature. He might respond, as He did with the prophets of Baal. He might avenge His name like He did when Ananias and Sapphira lied about what they gave to the Church in His name. But one should approach with caution when wanting to put God to the test for the sake of asking Him to prove Himself. It will not turn out well for such a one. However, if you have sincere doubts, fears and questions He will embrace you and reveal Himself to you. Let our heart honestly proclaim,
“I do believe; help my unbelief!”
– Mark 9.24