As followers of Christ, we are all prone to experience doubts. Does having doubts mean our faith is not real? What should we do with our doubts? Is it possible to conquer our doubts and grow our faith? In this message, we address those questions and look to the three stories of people doubting in the Bible for answers.
Let's go. New series kicking off. Very excited. Yes, we are kicking off a new series tonight, Asking for a Friend. Welcome friends in the room, friends in Fort Worth, Houston, El Paso, Tulsa, Spring, Cedar Rapids, wherever you are joining us from tonight. I'm going to start with a little bit of a story. I, six years ago this past weekend, got engaged on July 7, 2012. Justin Bieber and I have that common now. I know. I was like, "Dude. Come on, man. Get your own day."
Anyway, I'm going to tell you a little bit about that day and how that came to be. My wife's birthday is on July 7, and I came up with this plot. I thought that she would assume, there's no way I'm going to get engaged on her birthday because she'd be like, "Oh that's so plain. Of course he's not." So I was one step ahead of her, and of course I'm going to get engaged on her birthday, because that's when she would least expect it. Reverse psychology of her reverse psychology.
I put together this whole plan, this elaborate scheme, and began to plan out what we would do. Toward the evening part of that birthday day celebration, I told her, "I'm going to pick you up about 5:00. We're going to go to the Arboretum. Then we're going to go to have dinner at this place after that for your birthday and celebrate it." I intentionally wove in a little misstep to throw her off the scent, in case she was thinking we were going to get engaged at this time. So, here's what I did.
I told her we were going to the Arboretum, but I knew it was Saturday night and the Arboretum is closed on Saturday night. I'm literally, during the day, calling to confirm, "Hey I need you guys to, for sure, not be open tonight because we are going to deviate and go to another location where people were going to meet us. If we end up being able to get in the Arboretum, it's going to create some problems, so confirm for sure you're closed." Of course, they were like, "Yeah. We're closed tonight."
So we show up at the Arboretum, we go into there and it's like, "Oh no. It's closed. Guess we'll have to go somewhere else. I guess we'll kill sometime at a park before our dinner reservations," where I had it all planned out. Come to find out, weeks later, she was already anticipating, going, "We're for sure getting engaged. Oh my gosh. He didn't even check the Arboretum was going to be closed? My boyfriend has no sense of details."
In the moment I'm like, "Oh bummer. Okay, let's go over here," and we go to this park where I had friends who we're supposed to meet us. They were hiding in the bushes in someone's yard to take pictures. It starts pouring, and I'm like, "Oh no." We need to get over to this one area, and she's like, "Why don't we just do it another day?"
"No, I really think we should try." It's soaking wet. The grass is literally soaking mud to the point where I have to piggy-back ride her over to this place. I'm like, "Look at the ducks. They're beautiful." She's going, "What is wrong with him? What is wrong with me for dating him?" The moment came, and I dropped down to a knee and shared some nice things and I asked her, "Calli
will you marry me and spend the rest of your life with me?" She said, "Yes." Yeah. Get excited.
From there, something very interesting happened over the next few days. Now we're engaged, and there's all this anticipation. If you're dating in the room, maybe you're in like or in love (where ever you are), and you're in that moment where you got engaged, and I don't know what you anticipate happening… What happened to me was not what I anticipated.
Over the next few days, I began to get filled with such doubt over, "Oh my gosh. What did I just do? Have I made the biggest mistake of my entire life? Is this the woman I'm supposed to marry?" All these different questions begin to flood through my head. I know, really romantic, ladies (for those of you in the room).
I'm like, "Was this even right? Maybe this wasn't the right relationship for me." It wasn't because of anything really clear, it just was these lingering questions. Maybe this relationship is not right, maybe it's wrong. People say things like, "When you know, you know." I don't know, so does that mean that I know that I don't know that I'll ever know, and what does that mean? I just began to freak out and have all kinds of doubts.
I went to on a trip Watermark had taken to Haiti and had to lead this trip to Haiti. The whole time we're over there, I don't sleep at all. I'm just thinking, "What have I done? What have I done? What have I done," as I'm sitting in this international environment for that week. I remember, I processed with community and eventually came to a place where, thankfully, I didn't allow that to hold me back. I'm going to come back to that story and why I start there in a second.
The main reason I start there is because of this. In the same way that in a dating relationship, or for me at that moment, I was experiencing some level of doubt over, "Man, is this right? Is this the right girl for me? Is this the right relationship? Is the fact I'm having doubts mean it's wrong?" In the same way, it's often the experience that many people have as it relates to their Christian faith.
Whether they experience some level of doubt, and they begin to wonder like, "The fact that I'm not really sure about… I just have some questions as it relates to what the Bible teaches. I still have some places where I just have doubt in my mind over some of the things that Bible says. Does that mean my faith is wrong or my faith is not real? Maybe I'm not a true believer. Maybe this thing is just made up? Are these doubts creeping in? What do I do with them?"
I don't know if you've experienced doubt in your journey of faith, but if you haven't, it is coming for you. It is really a common universal experience for anyone who wants to follow Jesus with their life. Maybe doubts for you look like, "Can we really trust the Bible?" Maybe you've had doubts about, "Is Christianity really the only way? Is it just because I was born America? If I was born in India wouldn't I be a Hindu? Maybe this is just our expression, in the West, of what faith in God looks like. How can I really know?" Maybe that's the doubt you've experienced.
What about heaven and hell? Maybe you've had lingering doubts over, "I'm just trying to believe in God. I really struggle with the idea of hell or Jesus being the only way to heaven. Maybe you've had doubts about other religions and other belief systems. Maybe you've wondered if God can truly love you the way the Bible says, the way preachers stand up and say, "He loves you despite all the things you know, in your own life, are jacked up and are messed up."
You doubt, despite hearing it week after week, "Does God really love me in spite of me," and, "What do I do with those doubts?" Doubt is a little bit like fear or anxiety, if you think about it. It's not something anyone plans or wants more of in their life. In other words, no one plans, "Today I think I'm going to be anxious between 3:00 and 4:00." It just shows up and grabs you. In the same way, doubt is one of those things we don't even have to attempt to do it. It can just grab us in a moment.
Just like a relationship. I can doubt, "Maybe this isn't the right person," and then the same thing can happen with our faith. Maybe Jesus isn't the right Savior. So tonight, we are going to cover the subject of doubt of Asking for a Friend. What do my doubts tell me about my faith?Does it tell me my faith is not real? What do I do about my doubts?
We are going to cover three episodes in the life of Jesus, the three interactions Jesus has as it relates to the subject of doubt, and explore how you and I can experience further and further freedom from doubt and experience what doubts tell us, or what God intends us to do with those doubts.
If you watch Netflix, we're going to flip through one episode after the next after the next, jumping all throughout the scripture, just like you flip through episodes in a Netflix binge-watch. The first episode we're going to look at, where Jesus interacts with a man who had experienced doubt or was experiencing doubt, happens in Matthew 11. It involves John the Baptist. These verses will be up on the screen. You can flip there if you want to, but let me set up a little bit of John the Baptist.
There are a couple Johns inside of the New Testament. There's one who wrote the book of John. Then there's this other dude, who was not one of the disciples. His name was John the Baptist. He had the nickname "the Baptist" because he was the first guy we know of who was baptizing people.
He showed up before Jesus. He was actually Jesus' cousin, interestingly enough. John the Baptist had this huge ministry. Before Jesus showed up on the scene and became the figure who he was, John was out in the countryside. This dude lived in the woods. He was known as a man's man or wild man. Think Duck Dynasty. He's out in the woods by the river baptizing dudes all the time.
He has one message. "Repent because the Messiah is coming. Repent because my cousin is the Messiah, and he's coming. Repent because you don't want to miss the Messiah once he's here." This is what he would say, and we're told thousands of people would go out and see him. He's actually included in other historical pieces of literatures outside of the Bible from that day.
This dude was known. He was a rock star, if you will. A little bizarre, because he was hairy and Duck Dynasty out there, eating locusts we're told, but he's a rock star. Even the king of that area would go out because they just wanted to hear them teach. One day he's out baptizing people, and he's saying, "Repent, the Messiah is coming."
All of a sudden, his younger cousin, Jesus shows up to the whole crowd. He says, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!" The Lamb who takes away every person's sin if they'll trust in him. He says in front of this whole crowd, "This is the one we've been waiting for. I must decrease; he must increase." He says, "This is God's chosen one." You can read it John 1.
John was just a bold dude. He didn't play around. He drove right to the point. That bold type of teaching he showed that day would end up being something that ultimately lead to him being arrested and thrown in prison for his ministry. John, sitting in a prison cell, begins to move from that bold declaration of who Jesus was and begins to question things. He found himself in a circumstance where things weren't going like he thought they would.
Here's what happens in Matthew 11:2. "When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah…" People were telling him, "Hey your cousin Jesus, he's healing the lame. He's raising people from the dead. Blind people couldn't see, and all of a sudden, they could see. Jesus was doing all these amazing things. He sent this disciples to ask him (Jesus), "Are you the one who is to come or should we expect someone else?" What just happened there?
Well I'll tell you what just happened. John is sitting in between maybe a couple other prisoners inside of a jail cell, he's looking through bars, and he begins to question after a few days go by, maybe a few weeks go by, a few months go by, "Where is my cousin? I'm the guy who made him what he is. I'm the guy who said, 'He's the one. He's the Messiah. He's the Savior of the Earth and he's out there caring for everybody else. Is he really the Savior? Why am I sitting in prison right now? Maybe he's not. Maybe I had it all wrong,'" and John begins to question.
This man, who earlier in the story, had said, "This is the Lamb of God," the man who told everybody else, "He's the one who is to come," now gets his disciples, and he's sitting in a prison. He says, "You have to go ask Jesus a question for me. I need you to go ask him, 'Is he the one we thought he was, or is he not?'"
John found himself in a place he never thought he would be. He found himself in circumstances that he was like, "Surely, God would intervene here," and he began to doubt. The disciples must be thinking, "John, how can we go ask that question to Jesus? You're the one who told everybody he is the one, but I guess we'll go ask him."
So they go to Jesus and they ask, "'Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?' Jesus replied, 'Go back and report to John what you hear and what you see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.'" I love Jesus, because the two disciples who came to visit him have to be thinking, "Are you the one who is to come?"
"Go back and tell them the blind see, the lame walk, and the deaf hear." They're going, "Great. Check, check. 'Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?'" He just says, "You can see for yourself." The acts of the Messiah, or the acts of the Christ [which is what the word Messiah means] are clearly being shown by Jesus. "Go back and tell them of these works." Then he says that line of, "Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me."
In other words, Jesus says, "Blessed is anyone who does not fall away because I'm not acting how they think that I should be acting. They assume, 'Hey if there was a God, he would for sure act in this way.'" Then Jesus says something that's remarkable. In a few verses he says this about John, "Truly I tell you, among those who were born of women…" That's everybody. Everyone in this room is born of a woman.
"…among those who are born of women, there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." Jesus responds to his cousin who sits there and who had this overwhelming boldness. He's the one who's now finding himself in incredible doubt of, "Maybe he's not. I don't know."
He responds, and he says, "John the Baptist is the greatest person who has ever lived." Even John, the greatest person to Jesus… Jesus just said, "Hey, this dude is the G.O.A.T.," The G.O.A.T.: the greatest of all time. Not Tom Brady, not Jordan, not David in the Old Testament, not the old prophets.
He says, "There's never been anyone greater than my cousin, John." Think about that. There's never been anybody greater, and even the greatest of all time struggled with doubt in his moment of need. Doubt does not disqualify a person's faith. Doubt is a part of any true faith you're going to experience.
1._ Doubt is normal for even the greatest people of faith_. John the Baptist, who Jesus says, "There's never been anyone greater," when he found himself in a place where he didn't like how God was not intervening, where he didn't like the story that was being written in life, he begins to doubt. Jesus says, "Even the greatest experience doubt in life."
If you struggle with doubt or you've ever struggled with doubt… If you read the Bible you will find good and great comfort and encouragement because all throughout it, there are people who struggle with doubt. Every single one of Jesus's followers struggled with doubt. Every single one of his twelve disciples struggled with doubt. From Peter to John to Andrew, all of them struggled to believe, "Is this really true? Is Jesus really who he says he was?"
They struggled after they saw him walk on water, after they saw him feed 5,000, and after they saw him do all these miraculous things. In fact, (it's so comical) you read Matthew 28, and we're even told the disciples go to meet Jesus after he's risen from the dead and he's ascending into heaven. He's floating up in the sky, and he says, "Go into all the earth and proclaim," and he says the Great Commission.
The Bible says (Matthew 28), "When they saw him do this, [out of the 11, some] worshiped him; but some doubted." Think about that. They're sitting there… Dude just came to life, he's literally floating up into the sky, and they're like, "Eh. I don't know. I've got an uncle who does very similar stuff to this. I'm not totally convinced here." That's who the disciples, the 11, where.
If you've ever struggled with doubt, you'll find great comfort and encouragement because the scriptures are full of people who didn't have it perfectly, but on the journey as their faith continued to grow, they wrestled with doubt. Really, the Christian life for anybody. If you've met people who are like, "I've never struggled with doubt," they're just not telling the truth.
I can tell you, working on a church staff, you still experience, levels of doubt. The Christian life is like a roller coaster. There are moments where you're like click, click, click, click, click. We're just going up. "God's taking over the world. He's the only King. He's on the throne. He's coming back. Nothing can stop us. Though none go with me I will follow. Click, click, click. Ahhhhhh!Where are you God?" You just find yourself on these ups and downs.
The truth is, the more your faith grows, the less (hopefully) of those roller coaster rides you'll find, but it's never this straight journey. Even the greatest of all time, Jesus said, struggled with doubt. All right? I know in my own life. I read the same Bible you do. There are things in there that I'm like, "Huh. Interesting. Wow."
From Adam and Eve running around the garden naked and talking to snakes to Jonah in the belly of a whale for three days to the sun standing still in one moment to people living to be 800 and 900 years old. What is that? What do you even look like past age 100? You just turn into Yoda? What happens?
I remember, especially when I first got into ministry… I remember being in seminary, and I remember feeling these waves of doubt, because I was going all in on this Jesus thing. I was like, "I'm hedging myself here. I'm pot committed at this point. I've got a Bible degree, and I'm all in. Have I been misled here? I'm about to turn pro in Christianity, and I don't know if maybe these doubts are something I should listen to."
2._ Even with your doubts, Jesus is the best option you have._ In the next episode I want to look at, we're going to see (I think) a key to diffusing the doubt in your life. What to do whenever you experience doubt. What to do when those doubts come in. It's not just blind, turn off your mind, don't think about that stuff. It's the opposite, and we're going to see it in the second episode we're going to look at tonight. This episode takes places in John 6. Let me set the scene.
In John 6, Jesus does one of his greatest miracles. It's included in all four gospels. There are four different accounts of the life of Jesus. They include a lot of the same stuff. Very few incidences are in all four of them. This one is. It's the feeding of the 5,000 people. They all were like, "Dude that was amazing. Jesus was out. He was teaching thousands of people one day, and we're told it gets late in the day.
Jesus looks out and he says, "We have to feed these people. They've been here a long time. We don't have food trucks or food camels or anything, so we need figure out what to do." (That's just unnecessary. I don't know what I'm doing with that.) He looks at his disciples and says, "Give them something to eat." They said, "Give them something to eat? We couldn't feed 5,000." Estimates say 5,000 men, so that's probably around 15,000 women and children up to 20,000. They're going, "What are we supposed to do?"
Andrew sees this kid with a lunch box, and he's like, "Give me this. I have to give it to Jesus. Jesus wants it." He brings this lunch box to Jesus, and it says it has some fish and a few loaves in it. Jesus spreads it and tears it up and the bread just keep going and going and going and going, and they feed 5,000 men (or 15,000 people) that day.
The crowd is like, "This is amazing. We have a bread factory. We have to follow this guy everywhere," and that's what happened. The next day it says they showed up and they were looking for Jesus, and they go find him. He went on a boat across this lake, and they're like, "Well, now we're going with you," and they go find him over there. He shows up, and they're like, "Where's the bread?" It's true. It's in your Bible. He says something that ends with him being like, "I don't know if I can do this. I'm not in on that."
He says, "Look, I don't have bread for you today, but the bread you need is not the bread that's going to satisfy you today. You need the Bread of eternal life and I am the Bread that has come down from heaven. I am a provision that won't just give you something to eat today. It will be a provision for all of eternity for you to have."
Jesus says, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven." The crowd begins to murmur, it tells us. Literally, in the story it says they're like, "Wait, isn't he Mary and Joseph's son? Came down from heaven? He's from four blocks over there. Down from heaven?" They begin to murmur and go, "I'm not sure he's who says he is.
Then he says says something that was like, "Oh, that's a deal breaker." He says, "Unless you eat my flesh and drink of my blood, you won't be a part of this covenant." The crowd is going, "Okay, time out. Cannibalism? Really? Are we going there? I don't know if this is for me," and they begin to mosey out of there. That's what happens in this story.
They don't understand Jesus is using a metaphor, saying, "Unless you partake in me, unless I am the source and provision for your eternal life, then you will go hungry again. You will not be a part of the everlasting covenant." Similar to how we would talk about Communion.
The crowd doesn't understand that, and so they just slowly begin to get up, and all of a sudden people begin to walk away. People who were following Jesus decide it's not worth it anymore. "I'm not sure this is who he says he is, and I don't understand what he's saying." Here's where we pick up the story.
In John 6:66, "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." They said, "That is just too bizarre. I don't understand it. I'm out on that." Jesus turns to his Twelve (the twelve close disciples or the twelve apostles), and he asks them a question. "You do not want to leave too, do you?"
"Simon Peter answered…" and his answer gives us an antidote for what I think all of us have to do when we are in the face of doubt. All of us have to consider this whenever we find ourselves experiencing any doubt. "Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.'"
Peter basically says, "Yeah I'm uncomfortable. I have no idea what you're talking about with the cannibalism thing or really any of the teaching in the parables, but who else are we going to go to? You alone have the words of eternal life. If not you, then who? If we walk away from you, we're walking toward something, and what is the something going to be? If not Jesus, then who? If not Christianity, then what?"
Peter understood that when it comes to surveying the world around us, when it comes to exploring the options, with Jesus or with some other belief system, "Even with my doubts, even with my confusion…I'm not sure what you said…Jesus is the best option I have." Even with your doubts, Jesus is the best option you have.
Here's what I really want to explore for a few minutes with you. If you listen to a doubt and you follow doubt and you allow it to be like, "Awe man, I'm not sure how people lived that long or what they looked like. I guess this whole thing doesn't make sense anymore," you are not just leaving Christianity. You're going toward something. All of us, every single day, are going to wake up, and you will live by faith in something.
You are living by faith today in something and in someone, regardless of whether or not you know it, but to walk away from Jesus is not to walk away from certainty. Let me say it like this. I can walk with Jesus with some uncertainty…I don't understand everything. I still have questions…or I can walk away from him and have complete uncertainty. The world doesn't make more sense apart from him, it makes less.
When doubts come in you have to be like Peter, and I have to be like Peter. Just be willing to say, "I'm going to consider the options. I'm looking at the options, and even with some doubt, Jesus is the best option I have." The idea you're going to live by faith and I'm going to live by faith regardless of your belief is everywhere. Let's talk about some of the major world beliefs or religions. Maybe we'll just start with atheism.
Maybe you've called yourself an agnostic or you have friends and family who are agnostic and atheist. You have an enormous amount of faith to be an atheist. It's true. Atheism says there was no god, or maybe there isn't a god. To believe, despite the fact that science proves almost conclusively (according to Stephen Hawking) that the universe had a beginning and the universe isn't eternal.
So if there was this big bang beginning, to be an atheist you have to say, "Well, nothing caused that big bang. It wasn't a big god. I don't know what caused it. It just happened." You have to believe that something came from nothing. I know this almost seems elementary. That's what you have to accept at some level.
Even the leading thinkers within that camp… If you know of Richard Dawkins, who's one of the leading thinkers in atheism, he has proposed that we don't know what caused the Big Bang. Here's one of his leading explanations. You can go look it up. "Maybe aliens from another universe we've never seen before came and impregnated our world. Then they just disappeared, and that's how it all started."
I'm not the smartest guy in the room, but I think it takes more faith to believe in aliens, who we've never seen, from another universe, that we can't track or trace, impregnating (whatever that means) our world than God creating it. You have to have faith if you're going walk towards that. Maybe you're thinking, "What about the world religion of Hinduism?" To believe without any evidence.
All of our faith hinders on the resurrection and the life and death of Jesus. It's all about that. The Hindu faith hinges on an evolution of these teachings that have occurred for the last few thousand years. To believe that reincarnation is really a result of karma… So depending on how you live will determine whether you're coming back as a mouse or a cat or you. So you were probably were great in the past, but we don't know because you can't remember anything from your former life. That requires a certain amount of faith.
To believe in Islam requires a certain amount of faith. To believe that this experience that was had by Muhammad in the 600s where he had some divine encounter that told him to go become a warlord, and who ended up going to cities and saying, "Convert or die," is the one true way to god, requires a certain amount of faith. By the way, Muhammad didn't rise from the dead. Muhammad is buried somewhere.
Probably the most common thing we see inside of our world is, honestly, the most ludicrous one out of all the ones I've already mentioned, this modern age spirituality idea. It's really the American made-up god, which is like, "The god who's out there, he loves everybody. That's just my belief, aka my opinion, aka what I made up or what culture made up, and I'm accepting it. The god out there is love, and he really doesn't care how you live or what you do and everybody is accepted…except Hitler…so everything will be fine."
That's a made up god. That's probably the most common belief in our country, but that's a made up god. That is just the same… Listen to me. That's Zeus. You know that, right? The Greeks didn't have any literature for Zeus; they just made him up. "This is what he's like. I'm sure this is great." They made him in their image. That's the American god, who's just like, "He's love out there." That's what he is.
They took the God of the Bible, who says, "God is love," and they ripped the Scripture and everything they don't like about what the Bible says, and they just said, "We'll just go with the God-is-love theory. That's a made up mythology, and that takes an enormous amount of faith to believe. You're going to believe, and you will walk by faith whether you realize it or not.
I used to be uncomfortable with the statement that's written in the Bible, "For we walk by faith, not by sight," I was uncomfortable with that because I was like, "Does that mean Christians are like, 'Nope. Not me. I don't care about sight. I'm more of a faith guy. A lot of people see it to believe it. I'm more of a believe it, don't see it thing.'"
Then I realized everyone walks by faith. Every person you've ever met (red, yellow, black, and white) all walk by faith. Every person you work with and interact with, they're all walking by faith in something. The Christian faith is the most rational of all the options, even with your doubts. As Peter says, "Who else are we going to go to? You're the best option we have." Even with your doubts, he's the best God.
Here are some big problems that to walk away from Jesus you have to be able to explain and you have to be able to reconcile inside of our world. How do we know the story of Christianity? How did Christianity make it out of the first century? You ever think about this? The fact that today, over two billion people all over the planet claim to have some relationship with God through Jesus of Nazareth.
Where is Nazareth? It's in the armpit of the Roman Empire. You couldn't pick it out on a map, and no one would ever know it existed had there not been this Jewish peasant who was the son of a carpenter. If you're going to explore any other belief, you just believe, "He was a lucky guy, and things really took off for him. Things were going great. He was just a man." That's absurd.
Not only that, the narrative that he was a really good guy and a good prophet… If you read the Bible, those aren't the words of a guy who's a really good guy and a good prophet and just keep the mission and movement alive with his teachings. His teachings, apart from him being God and rising from the dead, don't make much sense. They're not that profound, and they're not that amazing apart from him being who he said he was.
In fact, they almost come off as a looney tune. No one would say the guy who claims to be God is a good guy. "Hey, I'm God" "Yes, I love that guy. Good guy over there." No one would say that. Yet, that's the claim for millions and millions of people. How do you explain that apart from the message of Jesus being true and apart from the resurrection, all over all our world in different languages and on different continents people claim to have had an encounter with Jesus in a real way, and it did something to their lives?
They began to be transformed from the inside out. When you get them together they speak Mandarin Chinese, and they speak Farsi, and they speak English, and you compare their stories, and they're eerily similar. How do you explain the fact this peasant movement never should've made it out of the Middle East Palestine area?
The Roman Empire said, "We're going to stomp them out. We're lighting them on torches." The Roman Empire persecuted the heck out of them. Eventually they spread and spread and spread and exploded. Not by the sword, like Islam, but by love, and it toppled the empire. Today, Rome is not the place trying to kill Christianity for a billion Catholics; it's the epicenter of Christianity. How do you explain that?
You read history books that try to tell you, "Those were really compelling Christians in the first century," and it's ludicrous apart from the resurrection. How do you explain men and women by the hundreds who went to their deaths, not for what they said they believed in…listen to me…but for what they saw.
People die for what they believe in all the time. Terrorists fly planes into buildings because they believe in it. They believe in the movement. Christ followers do not say, "I believe in the movement. You should love your neighbor as yourself. Kill me for that." They said, "I saw a man die. He went into the ground. He was buried, and I saw him rise again. You can kill me. You can do whatever you want, But I'm going with the guy who comes back from the dead because he said if I trust in him, I'm going to come back from the dead, and I will live for all of eternity."
How do you explain that?This is a movement that every person on the planet today dated their calendar, their checkbook, their life by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. How do you explain that? This idea that he was just some good guy from the Middle East, and they're all the same. That is absurd. That requires an enormous amount of faith. It contradicts every world religion. It contradicts the one true God. Even with your doubts about were the dinosaurs were, Christianity is the best, most rational option you have.
When I struggled with my engagement with my wife, what did I do? I went and sought answers. If you're struggling with doubt in the room, the best thing I can encourage you to do is to seek out answers. What do I mean by I sought answers? I sat down with my Community Group.
I'm like, "I'm having some nervous… I'm filled with doubt. Is this wrong? Is it right? Maybe I'm not supposed to marry her." You know what they did? They sat me down and were like, "Dude, you're having cold feet. You're freaking out. Okay? Just calm down a little bit, and let's talk about why you're nervous. Is there some sin you've observed in her life that's making you concerned?"
"No not at all."
"Is there sin in your own life? You're not talking with with people?"
"No, not that I know of."
"Is there something outstanding contradicting the Bible you see in her life?"
"No, not that I know of."
"Then what it it?"
"I'm not sure. I'm just paralyzed with doubt right now. Maybe I'm making a mistake."
"Okay. We're going to encourage you to continue to work through that, because it doesn't seem like these are thoughts that are planted from God. Maybe they are. Maybe we're wrong." I remember JP coming along and saying, "All right, dude. You're going back and forth. Here's what I want you to do. Let's pick a day. What day do you want to pick? Alright, next Wednesday?" "Next Wednesday."
"Okay. Next Wednesday we're going to put to bed this doubt and this 'I'm worried, I'm nervous. I'm unsure.' We're just going to put it to bed. So by next Wednesday, we're either going to hit pause officially, or we're going to say, 'You know what? I'm done with that. There's no reason why I need to continue living in this doubt right now.' You freak out and worry all you want between now and then, but Wednesday is D-Day, so we'll make the decision."
That was profoundly helpful for me. It was like, "Oh, we'll explore it, and I guess there isn't anything here." For whatever reason it was like, "I'm putting that to bed, and I'm moving on." It wasn't that I was unwilling to acknowledge reason or to explore or to seek answers, but there wasn't anything outstanding. It just was some nerves in my own heart.
Some of you, you need to seek answers and to continue to find clarity if there are parts of you that are doubting. There's a website called www.gotquestions.org. I could not recommend it highly enough. You could type in almost any question you want (they've got millions and millions of questions that are there) and get biblical answers that will help answer some of those things. Maybe you have friends who may have questions, and that could be a resource to you.
Then there's this other group in the room. This is probably what I think most people in our age demographic are in. Our doubts, in this group, are less like, "I'm just not sure that it's true," and they're more in the category of, "I'm not sure I want it to be true. At least not yet," if you will. I'm not sure I want it to be true, because if the Bible's really true, if Jesus really did rise, I might have to change some things.
I don't know if I'm wanting to do that, so I'd rather just live in, "Ignorance is bliss," right now because if it's true I might have to stop sleeping with my boyfriend. If it's true I might have break up with her. If it's true I might be in an occupation I'm not supposed to be in. If it's true, I may not be able to smoke weed the way I've been smoking weed. If it's true, I may need to change some habit or change some of the people who I run with. It may mess my life up. I'm not sure I want it to be true. At least not yet.
Someday, once I'm past my 20s, then I, for sure, am going to get in church. We're going to get a minivan and take the kids to church, and it's going to be great, but right now, I'm not sure I even want it to be true. Let me tell you the danger in that.
The best way I know how to explain it would be this. Have you ever had that feeling or that experience where…and I'm asking for a friend here…you're buying something, and you're like, "I don't know how much I have left in my bank account right now. I'm not even sure I want to look this week or today or anytime soon. It'll be fine. I've got some credit in there. It'll be great." You kind of operate in this, "I'll look, but not until next week, because it's a little depressing every time I do."
You have that experience where you're like, "I want to know the truth just not quite yet." The danger there is as you do that, you're not making responsible decisions. You end up increasing the debt you have. It ends up costing you either way. In the same way, unlike a bank account where maybe you get a bonus or something and you can pay it off easily, when you continue to reject the truth or not live with the truth, you're not racking up debt. You are racking up damage to your life.
You're racking up dysfunctional habits that don't just go away, like alcohol. When you continue to just abuse alcohol, that doesn't just go away. That becomes alcoholism. Pornography. If you continue to just indulge in pornography, that's not something that's going away. You are continuing to create a habit inside of your life.
If you continue to live in a way that's outside of God's will, you're not racking up debt. You are damaging your life. You are missing out on experiencing your 20s with the life you want to have and the life God wants you to experience. You're hiding behind, let's be honest, just smoke screens. You're like, "I just want to claim, 'I don't know,' because I honestly don't even know that I want to know.
It's a smoke screen, and in the end, it's only going to cost you. It's only going to bring damage to you. in a way that no amount of, "When I get the next check I can just pay it off," is going to be able to take care of. In the meantime, the questions all of us have to wrestle are…If not Jesus, then who? If not Christianity, then what? You're going to walk by faith and you're going to live by faith whether you realize it or not. The question is will you be honest enough with yourself to admit it?
3._ Jesus can handle your doubt._ The third episode we see in this trilogy of interactions with Jesus and people who struggle with doubt comes in John 20. What I want to pull out from this text is the simple truth that Jesus can handle your doubt. The doubt is normal for even the greatest of faith. We said in the first point that even with doubts, Christ is your best option, and that Jesus, no matter what that doubt is, can handle your doubt.
This story comes from John 20. This is one of the most famous interactions Jesus has with someone who experienced doubt. This was a dude who ended up getting a nickname. His nickname was Doubting Thomas. That's right. Five of you know this story. So for the rest of you, here's what happened.
Thomas was one of the twelve disciples. Thomas was one of Jesus' followers. In John 20, shortly after Jesus died on the cross, rose from the dead, came back alive, he began showing up and appearing to people. This is blowing people's minds because people don't come back from the dead very often…or ever.
So people are like, "I saw Jesus," and Jesus is showing up to different people. He shows up to Mary Magdalene, he shows up to another Mary (his mother), he shows up to 11 of the disciples, and Thomas is not home. Thomas had gone to the grocery store to get something, and so Thomas was the only one of the disciples who was not home. Jesus shows up and he's in the room and he allows the 11 disciples… "You can touch my hands. You can see me. Look at me. It's me. I've risen from the dead. Peace be with you."
Thomas comes back, and they begin to tell him, "We saw Jesus." Here's what happens. John 20:24, "Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
Thomas gets a bad rap. Thomas feels like an honest dude to me. If I'm in the room right now and I've never seen someone rise from the dead, I feel like that's pretty reasonable. You're like, "Yeah. When I see it, I will definitely believe it. I'm going to take your word, but you guys are not the brightest group in the whole bunch here. So when I see it, I'll believe it."
Here's what happens next. "A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them [this time] . Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them…" Which is a total gangster move. Just like, "I'm going to walk through the walls right here. I'm Jesus. How are you?"
"…and he said, 'Peace be with you!'" They probably were terrified. If somebody walks through a wall, that's a real deal right there. He walks through wall, and he says, "Peace be with you!" or, "Hey, don't be afraid." Then he looked at Thomas, and what would you expect him to say? "Thomas, you doubted me. I'm done with you. Bye, Felicia. It's over." That's not what he said. This is The Message version and… That's not true. The Message is great. Whatever Bible you'll read.
"Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.'" That's amazing to me. How much humility does it take for the God of the universe to say, "He didn't believe. I'll prove myself to you. If you want to come here you can touch the hands and touch the holes, Thomas." He didn't say, "Thomas, I'm done with you. I can't believe you, man. Unbelievable. Who do you think you are?" He said, "Thomas, come. Come see for yourself. It's me. It's Jesus. I rose just like I said I would."
"Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!" Side note, over and over the Bible paints a picture Jesus didn't claim to be a man. He claimed to be God, and everyone who believed in him, died for him, or followed him believed he was. "Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'"
That's you if you're a follower of Jesus. What Jesus displays here is that he can handle your doubts. He didn't chastise Thomas. He allows him… "You want more evidence? Come and seek more evidence." He moves towards Thomas in compassion. Jesus can handle your doubts. If you're someone who has doubts, he's not disregarding you, he's not done with you, that doesn't disqualify you. He moves in your direction like he did with Thomas.
If you're someone who has sincere doubts in the room, I want to invite you and I want challenge you to do something. If you're someone who is like, "I'm trying as hard as I can, but I'm just not there yet. I'm not even sure God exists. I'm not sure this whole Christianity thing is true. I want to be there, but I just can't get there. It works for everyone else. I just can't get there."
I want to encourage and challenge you to do something. I want you to pray something this week (for the next seven days). "God if you're real, will you show yourself to me? God, if you're real I want to know you. Will you reveal yourself to me? God if you're real, will you reveal yourself to me?"
You may be, honestly, too afraid to pray that prayer because you're afraid he might actually do it. If you're sincere, if you want to know him, I want to challenge you to pray that prayer. "God if you're real, will you reveal yourself to me?" Here's what I know about you. Here's what I know about every single person in the room.
You want to know God. If the God who is there is real you want to know him. You want to know him even more than you want answers to the questions you have. Think about that. Thomas wanted to know him more than he wanted to know answers to his questions. When Jesus shows up, Thomas is not like, "Yeah, I really have to explore here. Let me see those hands. Give me that thing. Is it really Jesus? All right. Open up. Ah."
He goes, "He's the one. I don't need to explore anything more." Thomas wanted to know him more than he wanted to know answers. I know that's true for you. Here's how, further, I know it. If Jesus or God was to appear to you tonight inside of your room… if you're someone who is like, "I have questions. I have doubts. I'm a skeptic by nature." If he showed up in your room tonight, here's what I'm confident would not happen.
Jesus stands in front of you, "Hey, it's me. I'm Jesus. It's true; I'm God." You wouldn't be like, "Hold on. Let me get my list. Okay, let's start from the top. Noah, huh?How did he fit the animals on the ark? That's what I want to know." You'd be like, "Oh my gosh. It's real." Your questions would all shrink to the side. You'd be like, "God,we'll figure that out. You're real; it's true." You, every person in this room, want to know him more than you want answers to your questions.
First, if you are a person who's wresting with those doubts, I just want to challenge you to pray. "God if you're real, will you reveal yourself to me? I want to know you. I want answers to my questions, but I want to know you more than I want answers to my questions. Will you show yourself to me in an undeniable way?" I believe that's a prayer he will answer. So this week, for the next seven days, you owe it yourself because if he's there you want to know him even more than you want answers to your questions.
Secondly, I would challenge you to seek answers. There are libraries written on the questions you may have. Truly. My guess is maybe you are the one exception in the whole world history who's going to come up with the one question that's like, "Yeah, that's a stumper. Even God is not sure on that one," but for most of us the questions you have like, "How old is the Earth," are great. Ask them. Seek answers on them. Don't just live in the fog of doubt. Doubt happens even to the greatest of faith.Even with doubts, Christ is your best option and Jesus can handle your doubts, wherever you are in that journey.
I'll close here. I was thinking today, and I was thinking about this. Had I allowed those doubts to rule my life…the doubts with my relationship with my wife…how much would I've missed out on? How different would my life have been if I was not able to get over doubts, that I wasn't able to move forward and I allowed those things to be in the driver seat?
"I can't move forward in this relationship." I probably wouldn't have been able to move forward in any relationship had I allowed those doubts that were… There wasn't any really good reason for them. Had I allowed those things to rule my life, how different would my life have been? How much would I have missed out on?
I can tell you. I would've missed out on the last six years being married to one of the godliest people I know. I would've missed out on some of the best six years of my life. I would've missed out on seeing the birth of two children. They wouldn't exist. A 2-1/2-year-old son and a 9-day-old (or something like that) daughter. Yeah, I know. We're not sleeping. We can keep going. Thanks. Golf clap for that.
I would've missed out on all kinds of different things. It's clear I know what I would've missed out. Here's what you're going to miss out on if you allow doubt to take you out. If you allow doubt to be something that rules your life rather than saying, "Christ is going to rule my life." If you allow your doubts, you don't seek out answers, you just hide behind the smoke screen, and you hide behind "Not yet. I don't want to give this up yet. I'm not sure it's worth it to follow Jesus. I'm not sure I want it to be true yet."
If you allow doubt to rule your life, you are going to miss out on peace, and you are going to miss out on purpose and meaning. Those are things that are only found in knowing Jesus. You're going to miss out on the only level of satisfaction you're going to find inside of this life. You're going to spend your life trying to fill a hole inside of you that no amount of money, pleasure, alcohol, sex, people, or anything can fill because it was a hole that was put there by God. It was put there so you would reach out to know him.
You're going to miss out on knowing the one true God. You're going to miss out on the peace that comes of knowing, "I know where I'm going to go when I die." You're going to miss out on the only rational explanation for the world around us that I think there is. You can choose to live in the shadows of, "We can't really know," and, "I'm an agnostic," but you're living by faith, friend.
Your faith is not anchored in a person who came and died on a cross 2,000 years ago, and who entered into history. It's not anchored in a book that has over and over again proven to be consistent with the world around us, with historical facts. It's not anchored in any of that stuff. It's anchored in your opinion. You're a much more arrogant person if you think your own opinion of the world suffices to explain everything.
The rest of us, we acknowledge that if there's a God who's there, he's probably even bigger than our own minds could ever comprehend or understand. I'm going to humbly, willingly accept the rational faith that is there, or I'm going to continue living behind the smoke screen and allow doubt to take me out. If that happens it's going to cost you and you will miss out on the life you want, the life God wants for you and the abundant life you were created to experience. Let me pray.
Father, I pray for friends in this room right now who have sincere doubts and who are unsure about whether or not you're real, that you would move them to pray. "God if you're real would you show yourself to me," and that you would answer that prayer. Father, I pray for those who are living behind a smoke screen. They don't have sincere doubts. They just are in a place where they don't want to know and they don't want to change. They're afraid of what it's going to cost them.
Would you would grab ahold of their hearts that they would come to a place where they believe you're not here to rip them off (You're God. You don't need anything from them. You desire for them) and they would believe and accept that. Father, thank you for the fact that you're patient with our doubts and you can handle our doubts. We worship you now in song. Amen.