Posts Tagged ‘doubt’

Art by Brad Moody

Art by Brad Moody

Honestly, it never occurred to me that walking on water might be normal behavior. Think about it. The way the story goes, Jesus finished praying and then headed out by the most direct route (across the water) to meet up with his friends. It’s not like he stood at the shore and said to himself, “wait til they see this!” It was simply a means to an end. It could have been a true turning point for the disciples. Instead, it was one more picture lesson in faith.

O you of little faith. Why did you doubt and dance back and forth between following Me and heeding fear? [Matthew 14:31b, The Voice translation]

Most Christians, when they get a hold of the possibility that miracles are still possible today, focus on healing. After all, Jesus did a lot of healing and when faced with the pain and suffering of those around us, we want to help, we want to save them, we want to keep our loved ones with us. Heal them Father, we cry out. Have mercy.

When danger is before us, we cry out. When death is near, we shout. When fear feeds on our hearts, we beg for relief.

But no one, at least no one in my circle of friends, asks to walk on water. What’s the point? Walking on water won’t change the world around me, it won’t heal or alleviate suffering, it won’t bring the dead back to life, it won’t change anything. Except for myself.

That’s right. Walking on water is a personal transformation. It’s an assurance of faith within. It’s a breakthrough in surrender, full and complete. All in.

If I walk on water, then all is possible. It’s not the cliche of being perfect at all. It’s something totally different: it’s trust and fearlessness in the face of the natural laws of nature. It is outside 3-D experience. It is Spirit leading flesh, in charge. What it really means is to live in mutuality with the Holy Spirit. “At that time, you will know that I am in the Father, you are in Me, and I am in you.” [John 14:20

Walking on water is the antithesis of fear. Perfect love casts out fear [I John 4:18] and sets the stage for that journey.

Miracles and water walking are a natural outgrowth of a focused faith: love God, love others. This is our part of the bargain–the covenant. Simple. Impossible? Possible.


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Acts 2:37b-38
“Brothers, what shall we do?” [the crowd] Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…”

Repent. It’s become such an inaccessible word over the years. It’s like a joke. How many times have we seen caricatures of “preachers” holding up a bible and shaking it over the crowd: “Repent you sinners!” Who can even hear the real message anymore?

And yet, it’s exactly “repent” that is the core to change. Repent is not just a religious term, it’s a personal experience. It’s a choice. Change… for good or evil… cannot happen without choice.

Personally, I find myself bemoaning over the same sins every day: gossip and judging others (to name two of the most popular). Both are extraordinarily nasty sins and I am ashamed to confess them. But the point here is that shedding these sins is not just about confession and the receiving of forgiveness… there is a point where I must “stop” and do something else instead.

Once, in counseling session some years ago, I was crying over these and other “besetting” sins (as though they have a mind and life of their own) and how I struggled with them. In the end, the revelation was simple: “I didn’t want it badly enough” … I didn’t want to change enough. I didn’t want to stop enough. The benefits of continuing were still outweighing the unknown of stopping. Who would I be if I stop this behavior? Who would I be if I change?

So often, people (including me) are more comfortable with our current state because it’s a “known.” But to change or “repent” means we are moving into an unknown territory. We are pioneering into a future we cannot predict. Fear, doubt, insecurities, anxiety also jump into the fray.

I am a bit of a hypocrite. I say I like change, but really, I mean change around me… I can adapt to that kind of change. But, I’m different when it comes to my own behaviors. Those changes are much easier to avoid.

So, today, one challenge: stop and turn away from gossip. If what I say cannot be said with the person standing there beside me, it shouldn’t be said. End of story.

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John 20:24b
But he [Thomas] 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 it.”

Poor Thomas has become legendary by the phrase, “doubting Thomas,” used in both secular and religious circles to mark someone as “unwilling to believe.” So often, the implication is that he was a second-class disciple because he didn’t believe at the first. And to make matters worse, Christ himself admonished Thomas by saying, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” [verse 29]

But I think we are being a little unfair. After all, the rest of the disciples DID get to see Jesus appear that first time in the locked room. We don’t know if they would have done any better than Thomas, had any of them missed that gathering. Direct experience is powerful. And it is for this reason that many people over the years have become believers: a direct experience with God in Christ.

Everyone else is initially dependent on the testimony of others. Is our story compelling? Is it complete? Is it loving? Is it inclusive? Is there room for doubt?

I think there is a healthy place for doubt. In some cases, it’s better to face the truth of our fears, our concerns, our uncertainties and engage them. To camouflage doubt is much more serious and weakens faith even more when the tough times come along. There must always be room for questions and those who don’t doubt must embrace lovingly those who do.

Christ returned to the locked room specifically to meet Thomas there, to meet his doubt. The transformation of Thomas in that moment is worth noting: he went from doubt to total belief and faith. I am convinced that Thomas was never shaken again by doubt. When doubt is authentically washed away by the revelation of truth, it sticks.

But we should not fear doubt, instead, lay it at the foot of God who will address it. Sometimes the road from doubt to faith is a slow journey. For instance, if we have doubt in ourselves, it often takes a series of positive experiences to reveal our ability to do or succeed at something. And the building of our faith in God may be the same way. Each person is different. Some achieve faith in the blink of an eye and some along a path that is only illumined one stone at a time.

My own doubt in God’s love for me has traveled in waves over the years. Naturally, it tends to rear its head when circumstances are most difficult: when my marriage was in crisis, when I couldn’t bear children, when our finances were stripped bear, when our parents died, and so on. But each time, I can say, Christ appeared in the locked room of my heart. His presence replaced doubt with hope and I was made new again.

I am on the slow path, I guess. And although I am not Thomas, I am stronger for each doubt challenge along the way.

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Matthew 27:46
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

We don’t know how God will save. Despite Jesus being God in the flesh, he was also limited by this flesh and did not really know how the end (or the beginning) would manifest. All around him were mockers. All around him were soldiers “just doing their jobs.” And even, around him, were a few faithful, believing in him still… somehow. But what would happen next? He had already suffered so much: the betrayal, the false hearings before the Sanhedrin and Herod, the flogging, the long walk to his the Golgotha, the nails, the erecting of the cross with his body impaled upon it.

How much more could he bear? How would his salvation come? Would he know death? And still, the pain of the flesh overcame everything. And there was the most human experience of all: fear and doubt.

Had Jesus known these anytime before? I can’t think of one. Even in the face of Lazarus’ death, he sorrowed, but he knew. But here, I think he felt the intensity of our human fragility.

We don’t know how God will save. For Jesus, he went to the end of human life to find the beginning of new life. And this is so for many of our loved ones. But there are also dramatic reversals, healings, mercy, transformations, love, and renewal. Everything is possible now because Jesus pressed into the reality of his fear and doubt and still surrendered to the wisdom of God: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Today I will remember surrender.

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Why Do You Doubt?

Matthew 14:31
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

As much as God has done for me… why do I doubt? I think I know. It’s because I think/believe/fear the good things will stop. Some of it comes from my constant battle with condemnation: “you don’t deserve this,” etc. Some of it comes from old scripts, “you don’t appreciate what you have” (that’s my mother talking, in case you’re wondering). And some of it is my trust issues, “if I don’t protect/control this situation, it’s going to go downhill.”

God’s prophets, throughout the scripture, keep telling us to “remember!” We are to remember all the wonderful things God has done for us. And in this, our faith will be stirred. Our hope will be rekindled. Our trust will be buoyed. Our mind will be renewed.

Today, I will remember, keep my eyes on the Lord, and walk on the waters of fears.

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