Intro: Are you skeptical about anything. I’ll admit it. At times I can be skeptical. Whenever I hear about someone who is suffering from a disease discovering his or her illness is gone, I wonder if it can be true. Is there another explanation? I read reports about God mysteriously working in people’s lives and I question whether their experiences are genuine or not. There are times when while I am praying, I begin to wonder whether God hears me, or are my prayers just bouncing off the ceiling? (I’m not alone.)
13 But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14 Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me? (Psalms 88:13)
Trans: 1) Writer Lee Strobel says that there are three kinds of people in this room today. The first group would be those who have doubted. The second group would be those who haven’t doubted yet, but who will. And the third group who never doubts but
are brain dead. In other words, if you’re a thinking person at all – if you seriously contemplate your faith and what it means to follow Jesus Christ --the chances are that every once in a while you’re going to come down with some questions, some issues, some uncertainties, some doubts.
Target: My message is simply this…God understands your doubts and wants to help you grow through your doubts. In fact those who are the most mature in their faith will have serious times of doubts and will face them until they find God’s resolution.
Luke 7:18-28 (p.730)
1. Our story turns again to Jesus relationship with His cousin, John the Baptizer. John has a meteoric rise in ministry that lasted no more than a year. He is in prison.
He is put in there because he is stirring unrest among the common people. And he is taking on the man—the corrupt leadership. He called some of leaders a “brood of vipers.” Whatever that means it was not a term of endearment. It has landed him in prison. He has been used to the open desert and now he is confined to a prison.
2. We confront him in a severe time of crisis and doubt regarding his faith in Christ.
What should I know?
18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” 20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ ”
Doubt is not the same as unbelief.
1. John is expressing doubts in who Jesus is claiming Himself to be. He is expressing
doubt in who He claimed Jesus to be. Is this wrong? Is this sin? (I don’t think
2. Doubt is a matter of the mind: we cannot understand what God is doing or why He is doing it. Why isn’t God answering my prayer? If God loves us and is all-
powerful why does he allow suffering? How do I know Christianity is really true
in comparison to other faith systems? (As we’ll see in a moment, this is the
nature of John the Baptist’s doubt and questioning. It is a matter of the mind.)
3. Unbelief is altogether different. It is a matter of the will: we refuse to believe God because we don’t want to, not because we don’t understand.
(Illus.) Books-a-Million! (Free Thinker magazine…Maybe Christianity is not for knuckle dragging morons.) Doubt says I have questions. Unbelief says my mind is already made up, don’t confuse me with truth. Doubt as John expresses it is not a sin!
Doubt occurs even among the most mature of God’s people.
1. Jesus addresses John’s doubts. And as he addresses the doubts of John in front
of a crowd who could be wondering about John’s credibility. Here is a guy who
so boldly and loudly and even defiantly claimed that Jesus was the messiah is now wavering in his faith. What’s up? Jesus answer is that great men are still merely
24 After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?
2. John wasn’t a mamby pamby wimp, believing one thing at this time and another the
next. He doesn’t take a stand based on opinion polls or how his stand will impact his likeability and electability. So his doubt was not born out of double mindedness or a lack of integrity.
25 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces.
3. His authority wasn’t from a place like the White House or Buckingham Palace. He didn’t have on fancy clothes. In fact the camel’s skin he wasn’t exactly the height of fashion even during Jesus’ day. His authority was not from men.
26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
27 This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.
4. John was prophesied in the Old Testament. He would have looked at the writings of
Isaiah 600 years earlier and said these point o me. He is the guy who had the Spirit in his mother’s womb and jumped for joy at the announcement of Christ. He is the one who saw the Spirit descending like a dove and a voice coming out of heaven. This is the guy who announced, “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He wasn’t a run of the mill prophet.
5. Now look at the compliment he pays…
’28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John;
6. From Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Jeremiah and all of the rest, this is the greatest
man of God to have existed. THINK ABOUT THAT -- JESUS GAVE JOHN THE HIGHEST COMPLIMENT IN THE WORLD AT THE SAME TIME THAT JOHN WAS IN THE MIDST OF DOUBTING!
Doubt can occur due to missed expectations about God.
1. When John said here comes Jesus to take away the sin of the world, he thought Jesus
would do it as a conqueror or a prize fighter, as he eventually will. It is not
happening. Jesus is going to take away the sin of world in a way that was quite
Doubt can occur due to disappointment with your life.
22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 23 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
1. Following the call of God did not turn out the way he expected. John saw his call
to defeat the corrupt leaders, not to be placed in prison by them.
(Appl.) May I suggests that for most of us the periods of doubting come when life does not turn
out the way it was supposed to: our family became shattered, someone was taken from
our lives, a series of heartaches occurred that we never dreamed, you were treated unfairly by people who should know better, on and on.
(Illus.) Charles Swindoll outlines the promised blessing of (v.23) this way, “Blessed are the Jobs, who suffer, yet stay faithful. Blessed are the Josephs, who endure unjust treatment yet refuse to live in bitterness. Blessed are the Hoseas, who continue to walk in obedience even though their spouses leave them. Blessed are the Pauls, who pray for relief from the thorn in the flesh yet also respond, ‘His grace is sufficient for me). Blessed are all those who can live with unanswered questions, who can rest in what they see, and who can wait patiently for God to reveal what they can’t see.” --Charles Swindoll
What should I do?
Find the root of your doubt.
1. Like John identify the source of your doubt. He had missed expectations of who God
is and how God was to work in his life.
2. Doubt can come in different forms:
a. There are Natural doubters – their personality and makeup tend to focus on uncertainties and questions. Men usually fall into this category more than
women. b. Disappointed doubters – They have desired something, asked God for it, and have not received it as of yet.
c. Emotional doubters—your faith is based more on a feeling and is not resting in
God’s revealed Word.
d. Wounded doubters –They are scarred from an experience in their past. In other words, if you’ve suffered parental abuse as a child, if you’ve been abandoned by your parents or a spouse, if you’ve felt unloved or unworthy of love, that can affect the way you view God. You may develop chronic doubts and uncertainties because deep down inside you’re just waiting for God to let you down like people have in your past. They project that onto God.
(Illus.) Gary Parker, The Gift of Doubt: “If faith never encounters doubt, if truth never
struggles with error, if good never battles with evil, how can faith know its own power? In my own pilgrimage, if I have to choose between a faith that has stared doubt in the eye and made it blink, or a naive faith that has never known the firing line of doubt, I will choose the former every time.”
Ask God and even others for help.
1. That’s what John does.
(Illus.) I have gone through deep periods of doubt. They have always increased my level of faith
but I have to bring my doubts in brutal honesty before God.
(Appl.) God rather have you be honest with Him about your doubts than to profess a phony faith. An honest relationship means we need to tell the truth about how we feel.
Identify a course of treatment.
1. Jesus spoke to John. “It is hard but hold steady!”
(Illus.) I read of one man who was plagued with doubts when he’d go through a period of depression, but then he came to this conclusion: "Though my emotions may flap like a flag in a gale, I’m learning to trust that God doesn’t move. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. In fact, He is often doing the biggest work in me when I feel the lowest. The mountain peaks are fun, but the thin soil on the summit is not nearly so nourishing of spiritual fruit as that rich, dark humus in the valleys."
Take care of your spiritual health.
1. Keep connecting with God and others. Continue to reinforce and grow in the truths
God is teaching you.
Hold your remaining questions in tension.
1. John did not understand everything. I am confident that all of his questions and
concerns were sufficiently addressed though not completely addressed.
(Appl.) Our 3 pound limited brains are not going to comprehend the unlimited God. So there are bound to be some questions that we have to wait to get full and complete answers to.
(Appl.) Maybe as we mature in our faith over the years and continue to seek God’s wisdom, over time we’ll get a better glimpse of an answer. Like John the Baptist you can have a strong faith and still have some doubts. You can be heaven-bound and still express some uncertainty over certain theological issues. You can be a full-fledged Christian without having to feel like every single question of life has been absolutely settled. In fact, it has been said that struggling with God over the issues of life doesn’t show a lack of faith -- that is faith.
In his book Unspeakable, Os Guinness tells the story about a well-known Christian leader whose son had been killed in a cycling accident. Although the leader was devastated, somehow he managed to suppress his grief, even preaching eloquently at his son's funeral. His display of hope in the midst of tragedy earned him the admiration of many.
But a few weeks after the funeral, the man invited Guinness and a few friends to his home. According to Guinness, this man spoke and even screamed "not with the hope of a preacher but with the hurt of the father—pained and furious at God, dark and bilious in his blasphemy." In his agony, he blamed God for his son's death.
Rather than rebuke him, one of Guinness's friends gently reminded the enraged father of the story of Jesus at Lazarus' tomb. On three occasions in that story, Jesus expressed anger, and even furious indignation, in the presence of death. When Jesus came to earth, he became a human being just like us, feeling the abnormality of our suffering. In Jesus' humanity we see God's perspective of our pain: the beautiful world God created is now broken and in ruins. Jesus will heal this broken world and our broken lives, but first, he came to earth in order to identify with our anguish.
Guinness concludes that when we understand Jesus' humanity, it frees us to face the world's brokenness just as Jesus did. Like Jesus, we must never accuse God of wrongdoing or blaspheme God, but like Jesus, we are "free to feel what it is human to feel: sorrow at what is heartbreaking, shock at what is shattering, and outrage at what is flagrantly out of joint … . To pretend otherwise is to be harder on ourselves than Jesus himself was."