It is comforting to know that problems of faith we face today are not new to us. The crisis of doubt occurred with the earliest Christians in Luke 24, and Christ solved it by reaffirming his real presence with them. Great men in church history have struggled with similar crises, and Christ has reaffirmed his reality to them as well. Nicholas Ferrar was a 17th century British Christian leader who rejected a promising business and political career for life of ministry. His life has been recorded for us by several authors because of his unique commitment to living out his faith.
Nicholas was attending a rigorous school as a boy, and found himself doing quite well, particularly in the religious exercises. But one day, relaxing in his parents home, a great flood of doubts cascaded upon his mind. The faith he had always unquestioningly accepted was now before the judge and jury of his heart. What if it was all a myth? What if there really was no God, and even if God existed, how could anybody know what he wanted us to do anyway?
Young Nicholas' mind grappled with his soul and he became greatly disturbed. And then one night, after having gone to bed as usual, he awoke suddenly. For some reason he now found himself wide awake, and sleep fled from him. He got out of the warm covers into a chilly room and, without quite knowing what he was doing, went downstairs and out in to the family garden in the backyard.
The frigid winter air and the passage of time were unnoticed by him as he lay in the grass and wept bitterly, earnestly praying to God for guidance and enlightenment. Suddenly, he knew a great peace of mind. All his doubts were resolved. Kneeling upright on the frosty ground, he dedicated himself to God's service. His Lord had met him in the garden. And the rest of his life he began with a memory of that great moment, driving him to greater service. He never doubted again.-A.L. Maycock, NICHOLAS FERRAR OF LITTLE GIDDING, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eardmans, 1980), p. 13.
Often doubts attack believers just before God is going to use them mightily. It seems Satan wants to get one last lick in—and what better way than to get a believer to doubt his faith?
The Los Angeles Crusade of 1949 propelled Billy Graham from being a smalltime roving evangelist to a world-wide celebrity. The crusade led many common folk to faith in Christ, but when celebrities started accepting Christ, the media picked up the story and Billy Graham's ministry exploded.
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What most people don't know is that what transpired on a walk in California's San Bernardino mountains six weeks earlier could have been the end of Billy Graham's career.
During the summer of 1949 Billy Graham was struggling with his faith. He had begun to wonder if the gospel he was proclaiming had any truth to it. He wrestled back and forth with this issue, even suffering from a terrible pain at the base of his skull, brought on by the stress.
The conflict steamed up at a Bible conference in Michigan early in the summer of 1949. He and a friend were praying under the Northern Lights after a discussion of Christ's return. As they were praying, both men heard a strange, muffled voice. Billy lay full length in the wet grass.his face buried in the ground, and pleaded, "Lord, trust me to do something for You before You come!" But something had to be settled before God could answer that prayer.
Late in August Billy was attending a conference at Forest Home, a retreat center high in the San Bernardino Mountains. Billy was disturbed and hurt because a friend was questioning the credibility of his ministry. Graham skipped the evening service and began walking through the mountain pines behind the center. He was at a point of crisis—he had to settle the doubts, one way or another, that night.
He recalls, "I went back and got my Bible, and I went out in the moonlight. And I got to a stump and put the Bible on the stump, and I knelt down and I said, "Oh God; I cannot prove certain things . . . but I accept this Book by faith as the Word of God."
Six weeks later the Los Angeles Crusade propelled him to a world-wide ministry, fueled by the same faith he expressed at the tree stump. His doubts were laid at the feet of Christ, just as the disciples had done 2,000 years earlier, and his fears were swept away.-John Pollock, TO ALL THE NATIONS, THE BILLY GRAHAM STORY, (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)
Writing in "This Week" magazine some years ago, Oscar Hammerstein III said, "Too many (people) become certain about too many things too early in their lives. Overeager to have everything 'settled in their minds', they lack both the wisdom and the courage to expose their hastily adopted ideas to healthy doubts. They cling with blind passion to their false 'certainties' and too often they are ready to kill or be killed for them .... The (person) with a civilized mind is neither afraid nor ashamed to change it. ..."
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