The Winds of Doubt

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By Stan Peterson

The sky was dark. Pitch black clouds loomed over the ocean and at any moment would let loose the rage of a squall. Winds had broken the main mast, sails were torn from their riggings and shredded from the gale force. Waves rolled in over the sides, crushing everything under their immense weight and showing no mercy where they landed. The ship plummeted hundreds of feet from tip of wave to bottom, and then back to tip, causing anything that was not lashed down to be hurled overboard. The waves were the size of small mountains. All caused by the wind.

Just like the ship in this description, we can become overwhelmed by life and circumstances. We can lose sight of the horizon and lose our bearings altogether.The Bible speaks of us being like a wave tossed about by the wind when we doubt.

We are reminded that the Israelites went into the wilderness not because they were lost, but because they doubted (Hebrews 3.19). Are you in the wilderness? Are you tired? Are you weary? Do you feel as though you cannot take one step further? Have you stopped asking God because the pain is too much?

When we doubt God’s character and His Word, we have allowed our flesh to rule our minds. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Romans 8.7). These are dangerous waters to sail in. I know, I’ve been there recently and have seen the results start to show up in my life and in my children’s lives. These thoughts are destructive for us and those all around us.

Remember what God has told us in His Word. We as God’s children are admonished to be diligent in taking every thought captive to the lordship of Christ Jesus. We are reminded that we have put off the old and put on the new man who is renewed in the knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. If indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Take courage beloved, for you are not alone! God is with you, He is in you, and your doubt has not caught Him by surprise. Humble yourself before Him and be set free today! Right now! Do not put off until tomorrow that which you can do today.

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How to finish well, Part 2

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By Larry Short

In last week’s Last Word I introduced a very interesting exchange I had on my Facebook wall and blog with two “deconverted” (formerly Christian, supposedly, and now nontheist) friends. This week, I will present conclusions I drew from this experience.

So, other than my own edification, what was the result of my extensive Facebook and blog conversations with my two “non-theist” friends? (Which involved, for me and I’m sure for others, a significant investment of time, effort and emotional energy.)

I don’t know the complete answer to that question (yet), though there are some things I am encouraged about. I have re-established the original relationship with Friend A, the friend from high school, and he has agreed to meet me for coffee next time I am in his home town (probably in July). His position seems fairly intractable, but I am hopeful that at least by showing him the love and respect of Christ I can be the appeal of God to him to return to the fold, before it is too late.

And I still pray for Friend B, the woman in Chicago, although her case seems very hopeless indeed. She has apparently experienced a great deal of hurt and has gone to a very dangerous place as a result. When I realized that she mainly was in it for the sake of argument and apparently enjoyed the satisfaction of striking out against God and others, I mostly stopped responding to her mean-spirited, moralistic and critical comments in order to focus my hopes on Friend A.

I am also encouraged that others who read my responses, especially responses to mean-spirited comments, seem to have been edified by observing that they remained gentle and respectful, which was my goal (but easier said than done!). I realize that intellectual debate rarely changes anyone’s mind, and that Christ is best seen reflected by our character.

Pastor Martin speaks often about the imperative to “finish well” as believers, and how few of us really do so. One huge lesson I’ve learned is how critical it is for us remain connected to Christ, our Vine. There is nothing wrong with having doubts and seeking honest intellectual satisfaction of the basis for faith. I love how Christ patiently put up with Thomas’ doubts, and how after “proving” himself to Thomas he said: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

You and I are in that group, blessed in ways I’m sure we cannot yet imagine, because we have staked a claim of faith on Christ, even though we have not (yet) had the opportunity to see His resurrected body. In order to remain alive and healthy, it is imperative that our faith continue to blossom and grow within us. And in order to do this, we MUST keep connected to Christ. If we wander from the fold (and we all do, in many small and sometimes larger ways), according to 1 John 1:9 we MUST repent, which means turning back to where we went wrong, seeking and accepting Christ’s forgiveness, and starting again.

In both of my friend’s cases, it is very clear to me that their journey of “deconversion” began not with an intellectual reassessment, but with a failure to stay connected to Christ. When they strayed off the straight and narrow path, rather than repent, they just kept going in an effort to justify themselves. Ultimately they began to believe the lie that their quest really was an intellectual one, and de-invested themselves of their faith.

Every day I see greater wisdom in a key truth expressed by Jesus in Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The thing that we invest in is what will end up taking over our hearts and lives. If we stay connected to the Vine, investing in our faith, we will finish well.

But if we invest heavily in our doubts (or in any one or more of a myriad of other things in which Satan, the world and the flesh continually tempt us to invest, whether that be money, or leisure, or other people, or sex, or addictions, or whatever), we endanger ourselves by straying too far off the path and not being able to find our way back.

The good news for straying sheep is two-fold: 1) God promises in Romans 8 that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus,” that “all things work together for good for those who love him,” and that “he who began a good work in you shall see it through to the end.” And 2) We have a Good Shepherd who is willing to leave the 99 in the safety of the fold and go after the lost sheep who strays into dangerous places!

Praise God for his grace and mercy, shown daily to each one of us.

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