Today’s lesson is a DOOZY! I’ve been working on it all week and I am still digesting it. This is exactly what we went through in Bible Study today, so if you attended, it’ll be familiar and serve as a good review. If you didn’t get to attend, here’s what I want you to do: As you read, the Scripture references that are listed in BIG type are the ones that you should look up. It’s a lot of page turning, but it comes together in the end so stick with it! Every one of the topics we will study in this series (hurt, fear, worry)are all rooted in doubt. Do you really believe that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do?
As we study this topic of doubt today, I want to help you put things in perspective. When we refer to doubt, we aren’t talking about doubting God will provide. We are talking about doubting God IS PROVIDER. We aren’t talking about doubting God will bring you peace. We are talking about doubting God IS THE PRINCE OF PEACE. God wants you to put your faith in HIM, not in what He will do for you.
Imagine you are one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus. Maybe you’re John, the disciple Jesus loved. Or maybe you’re Peter, the rock upon which Jesus would build His church. You have been called to follow Jesus and you’ve answered the call, even though at times you’re unsure where you’re going. You’ve left your old life behind – your friends, your family, your job, your home – because you believe that this Jesus guy is telling the truth. You’ve travelled with Jesus for three years now and you know what he stands for. You’ve watched him turn water into wine and heal all kinds of diseases. You’ve seen him feed five thousand men and countless women and children with five loaves and two fish. You’ve watched him calm the seas. You’ve walked with him on the water. You know his teaching so well that you could teach it yourself. You were there when he was crucified. You saw the nails in his hands and the spear in his side and you waited for him to take his final breath. You heard with your very own ears when he whispered “It is finished.” You grieved as they took his body down from the cross and laid it in the tomb, covering the entrance with a stone. You saw it all.
Jesus predicted his death at least three times in the Gospel of Luke. If you were a disciple, you would’ve heard him teach these things:
*Luke 9:21-22 – He told them not to tell anyone this prediction. He told them that he would suffer and be rejected and killed, then raised to life on the third day.
*Luke 9:43-45 – He told them again that he would be delivered into the hands of men. But they didn’t understand what this meant because it was hidden from them.
*Luke 18:31-33 – Jesus told the disciples that everything in the prophets would be fulfilled. He would be mocked, insulted and killed. But on the third day he would rise again. The disciples didn’t understand any of this – it was hidden from them.
Most scholars interpret the phrase “it was hidden from them” to mean that the disciples were unable to comprehend what Jesus was telling them. There is some debate over whether this was simply the disciples’ unbelief or if God actually prevented their eyes from being opened to the truth that Jesus spoke. Either way, it’s clear that the disciples had been told very clearly what would happen to Jesus and they didn’t believe it.
So fast forward to the day of Jesus’ resurrection. The women had gone to the tomb and found it empty. The angel reminded them of Jesus’ words and the ladies remembered what he had prophesied. They ran and told the eleven disciples, but they dismissed it as an “idle tale” (Luke 24:1-12). That same day, Jesus met two of his followers on the road to Emmaus. Scripture tells us in Luke 24:16 that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him”. For some reason, Jesus didn’t reveal himself to these followers until later. We’re not quite sure why, although many smart people have many smart theories about it all.
What we do know is this: God opened their eyes to the truth in Luke 24:45. But first, let’s read Luke 24:36-43.Jesus was with his eleven disciples, his closest friends and followers. Imagine again that you’re one of them. Remember, you’ve seen it all. You’ve heard all of the predictions. You’ve even heard some of his followers say that he’s risen from the dead. Yet when you see him with your very own eyes, you jump more readily to the conclusion that you’re seeing a ghost than you do to the conclusion that what Jesus had been saying was true. You still struggle with disbelief. But in Luke 24:44-49, Scripture tells us “Then he opened their minds to the Scriptures.” Hallelujah, maybe now they’ll get it!
We get a bit of a different perspective if we read the gospel of John. John records this story and notes that Thomas wasn’t present at the first appearance of Jesus. The other ten disciples told him that they’d seen Jesus and Thomas didn’t believe it. Read John 20:24-29. Thomas believed because he saw. And because we can’t see, we tend to doubt.
So where does doubt come from?
1. Sometimes doubt comes from Satan. (Genesis 3:1)
a. Satan doesn’t want you to trust God. He is the Father of lies (John 8:44), and he knows that he can stunt your growth as a Christian if he can plant his seed of doubt in your mind.
2. Sometimes doubt comes because God keeps things hidden from us. (Luke 9:45, 18:34)
a. In the same way that the truth was kept from the disciples, God doesn’t reveal his whole story to us yet either. God keeps our eyes closed until just the right time for him to reveal himself to us according to his divine plan.
Now, the opposite of doubt is faith. Remember, Jesus told Thomas “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” But in Hebrews 11:1, we read “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is believing without seeing!
Let’s go back to the Old Testament for just a moment. Remember what you can about Moses. He was put in a basket in a river as a baby in order to save his life. He grew up in the palace, killed an Egyptian man, encountered God in the burning bush and led the children of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years. He saw God move in incredible ways in his lifetime.
Moses is mentioned in Hebrews 11, which records so many great heroes of the faith. Let’s read Hebrews 11:29. Think back to when Moses led the people out of Egypt. They were in slavery and had been for a long time. The plagues had come through Egypt and finally Pharaoh told the Israelites they could go. But then he came after them and there was a showdown at the Red Sea. The Israelites crossed safely through and the water swallowed the Egyptians. As they journeyed through the desert, a pillar of cloud led them by day and a pillar of fire led them by night (Exodus 13:21) All Moses knew to do was follow the Lord. He didn’t know where they were going or why it was taking so long to get there. Eventually, the people doubted. They turned on him and wished that he would take them back to Egypt. He still faithfully led them to the Promised Land. His name is recorded in Hebrews 11 because of His great faith.
Faith is a Choice.
So how do we get from a place of extreme doubt like the disciples and the Israelites, to a place of extreme faith, like Moses and the others listed in Hebrews 11? It comes down to a choice. You see, we all have emotions – God created us that way. Sometimes we don’t feel the belief. We doubt. We wonder. We question. Our emotions are playing a big role in our thought processes.
Faith is not at all about what we feel.
Faith comes down to a choice.
Believe God or don’t.
I remember when Chris and I were doing our pre-marital counseling. Our pastor told us that love is a choice. He told us that as an engaged couple, it might be hard for us to imagine because we were feeling so much love, but there would likely come a day when our feelings wouldn’t look much like love. He told us that there just might come a time when love was more of a choice we would need to make than a feeling that swelled within us.
Faith is the same way. Sometimes we feel the faith. Other times, it’s a choice we make. So if you’re not feeling it, here’s what you’ve got to do.
Steps of Faith
1. Choose to believe God.
Believe that God is telling you the truth. Believe the Bible. Believe that what he says, he will do. But believing God is not enough. Even the demons believe and shudder. (James 2:19)
2. Choose to believe in God.
Take the small mustard seed of faith that you have and act on it. Live out your belief in God.
*Chair illustration. Everyone stand up. Look at your chair. It is one thing to believe that this chair will hold you up. It is an altogether different thing to sit down on it. If you are able, sit down slowly and notice the point at which your weight shifts from your feet to resting on the chair. This is the difference between believing God and believing in God.
The Old Covenant and The New Covenant
I can’t wait to show you what comes next. Back to Moses. Remember when Moses went up on Mount Sinai to get the two stone tablets and meet with the Lord? Let’s read about that in Exodus 34:29-35.
Moses put a veil over his face because the glory of the Lord made his face shine. He would come from meeting with the Lord, face shining, and deliver the word of the Lord to the Israelites. Then he would cover his face with a veil.
Now let’s read 2 Corinthians 3:12-15, which references this story about Moses from Exodus.
The minds of the Israelites were hardened. (verse 14) Here’s why. The word of the Lord in that time was the Law. God had given the Israelites not only the 10 commandments, but many instructions detailing how they must obey, everything they must do, every sacrifice they must make in order for their sin to be atoned for. When Moses explained this Old Covenant to them, they couldn’t understand it. Their hearts were veiled; their minds were hardened. But why? Why would their hearts be hardened?
God wanted them to understand that only through Christ is the veil removed. He is the way and the truth and the life. Without the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, nothing makes sense.
That’s what happened in the case of the disciples’ hard hearts too. They couldn’t understand the prophecies about Jesus’ death and resurrection because the veil hadn’t been lifted yet. It wasn’t until Jesus lifted the veil that everything became clear to them. They remembered his words of prophecy and all of a sudden all of the pieces began to come together for them.
Read 2 Corinthians 3:16-18.
When you turn to the the Lord, the veil is removed. Under the Old Covenant, there were so many laws and rules to keep that there was no hope for anyone. But read this: 1 Samuel 15:22.
And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,”
God planned to fulfill the Law by establishing a New Covenant with his people, a Covenant that depended solely on the work of Jesus Christ. Because of this New Covenant, we find freedom in the saving work of Jesus Christ, not in any sacrifice we make. All he asks of us now in response to His gift, His New Covenant, is obedience.
Now back to Hebrews. Remember chapter 11, the chapter with all of the great people of the faith? Well, Paul tells us in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore” – that because of all of them, because of their faith, (Read Hebrews 12:1-2.) He tells us to look to Jesus, just like they looked ahead to Him, the author and perfecter of our faith and theirs. In other words, lift the veil! We are under the New Covenant now. There’s no more sacrificial system. No more waiting for someone to come off of a mountain to tell us what we need to do in order to make atonement for our sins. No more watching from afar while someone else goes to speak with God. We can turn to the Lord and He will remove the veil of doubt!
And when we all turn to the Lord with unveiled faces we begin to be transformed. Doubts no longer have a place in us. Pain has no place to dwell. Fear and worry and sin and loneliness have no foothold in our lives because we, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the Father’s glory as he transforms us into his image.
So practically speaking, what does this look like? Last week we talked about pain and hurt. That’s just a fact of life. It will be there. Life is just so hard sometimes. So when life is hard, when you’re faced with doubt about God’s goodness or who you are in Christ Jesus or you just wonder if God really cares about you, CHOOSE FAITH.
Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. When those arguments, those doubts arise in your mind, this is the battle plan.
EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE.
When that thought sneaks into your mind, CAPTIVE. When you wonder if God cares about you, CAPTIVE. When you doubt that He will come through, CAPTIVE. This means that when you think some lie like, “God doesn’t care about me”, you immediately ask the Lord to demolish that thought in your mind. You ask him to lift the veil and remind you of who you are in Christ Jesus. When you think some lie like, “I guess I’m just going to have to take care of this situation myself”, you immediately ask Him to lift the veil and remind you that He will fight for you. When you think something like, “I’m just not sure about my salvation”, you ask him to take that thought captive, lift the veil and remind you that He loves you so much He sent His only Son to die for you and that whoever believes in Him will be saved. Don’t let those little thoughts sneak in unchecked. Take them captive and make them obedient to Christ.
Remember last week when we learned that the key to obedience in painful, hard times is to decide that your answer will be “Yes, Lord” BEFORE the hard times come? Well, when you start making your thoughts obedient to Christ, you will find that the choices you make don’t come from doubt, but from the fact that your “Yes, Lord” has been laid willingly, with an unveiled face, at His feet.
1 Peter 1:3-9