Today’s passages: Matthew 14:22ff, Matthew 28:15ff
In his book on doubt, Os Guinness writes that “What is most dangerous to Christianity is not that Christians doubt, but that there seems to be so little open discussion and understanding of doubt. This must be changed.” This morning, we’re making a start on that sort of change.
Are you a Christian who struggles with doubts? It’s not the sort of thing we like to admit to each other. We like to give the impression that we are perfect Christians, who have such a strong relationship with God our Father that we trust Him completely in every moment of every day. But I sincerely doubt that anybody in the church can honestly claim to never have doubts run through their mind.
We need to remember, however, that doubt is not the same thing as unbelief. As Os Guinness goes on to say, to believe in something is to be of one mind that that it is true. To disbelieve is to be in one mind that it is untrue. To doubt is to waver between the two; it is to be in two minds as to what the truth is.
Unbelief is a wilful refusal to believe. It is a deliberate decision to choose not to trust God. Doubting can, if not handled in a wise and godly manner, gradually slip into unbelief. But on the other hand, our doubts can also be a great impetus to drive us into a deeper and stronger relationship with our Father. God is equal to any questions that we might have. I firmly believe that he is not frightened by our doubts. Perhaps the best thing we can do with our doubts is to seek to answer them, and to grow in our knowledge of God. Our doubts can help us clarify why it is that we are willing to trust God.
In our first reading this morning, we’ll be looking at the “walking on water” incident from Matthew 14. This is a story that is full of doubt and fear. Seeing Jesus walking towards them on the waves, through a storm, the disciples firmly doubt that this could actually be Jesus. Even Peter, who famously walked on the waves himself, was less than 100% convinced. And yet he got out of the boat. What was it that caused Peter, doubting if it was Jesus, to do such a thing?
As far as we are concerned, is it right for us to expect to be 100% convinced about the things of God before we act on them?
And why, when he is walking on the waves!, does Peter again succumb to doubt? Can’t doubt simply be eradicated from our lives in one fell swoop of decision?
We’ll also be looking at Matthew 28. We read there that the disciples who saw the risen Jesus worshipped Him, but that some doubted. How is it possible that Jesus would entrust the task of making disciples for Him to such a group as this? How could he possibly work with Christians today who at times doubt?
In this life, there will be times when we find ourselves having to deal with doubt. Ultimately, however, whether absolute certainty is possible or not, we will have to decide whether we will trust Jesus.
At the moment, we see as through a mirror – darkly. But one day, we will see our Father face to face. We will stand before our Father’s throne, and we will know for certain that God is for us, and that nothing can ever separate us from his love. That’s what God promises, and he has proven Himself to be true to His promises.
Until then, we have to trust Him, to choose whether we listen to the challenges our doubts throw up, or to the evidence for God’s goodness.