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Doubt

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“Stop doubting and believe,” [John 20.27] Jesus said to Thomas when he finally re-joined the ten a week after Jesus had first appeared to them on resurrection evening.  This command was not intended for Thomas alone, for the ten had doubted the messages of the angels and the women and not one of them had gone to Galilee as instructed.  So in fact, the Lord was giving all eleven a command – “Stop doubting and believe.”

Now see the order of things:  Jesus commanded them to stop doubting first, and then to believe.  So often we think that the increase of faith will deal with doubt.  If that is true, then Jesus would have said, “Believe and stop doubting.”  However, after the resurrection, it is doubt that must be dealt with first, not faith.  In the time before the crucifixion, it was faith that was commended again and again.  Indeed, Jesus said, “Everything is possible for him who believes,” [Mark 9.23] and that is true.  However, if we think that by believing alone we are able to have a faith that overcomes doubt, we are very wrong.  Anyone who has been a follower of Jesus would have had to wrestle with the problem of faith and doubt, and experience the reality of the failure of faith when all the believing have not produced the results hoped for.

The problem we now have in the kingdom came first from unbelief, which generated doubt… the unbelief of the ten and their doubts.  As such, Jesus commanded them to get rid of the doubt first so that faith could be restored to what it should be, starting with belief.  For faith begins as a belief, then it grows into obedience and finally matures as loyalty.  The eleven began to destroy their faith when they all ran away from the Lord, and Peter denied the Lord a total of nine times.  (See The Testimony.)  They lost their loyalty, and when they did not go to Galilee at the message of the angels, they lost their obedience, for obedience is proved when you obey your fellow servants when they give you a command from the master.  As the centurion told Jesus, he too was a man under authority, with soldiers under him.  His soldiers obeyed the commands that he had been given from above.  Likewise, when the ten did not believe and obey the message of the angels, they disobeyed those who had been given charge over them.  And when they did not believe the message that Jesus gave Mary and the women, they destroyed the last leg of the faith – belief – and all that was left in its place was doubt.

For faith and doubt coexist like the two sides of a coin… where one is, so is the other.  The moment there is doubt, there has to be faith, for there would be nothing to doubt if there was nothing to have faith in.  And the moment there is faith, then doubt comes into existence, for where there is faith, there is something to doubt.  It is no wonder that Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” [Mark 11.23]  See again, doubt comes before belief so that faith cannot begin to work and reach its fullness of maturity until doubt is eliminated.  And it must be eliminated, for the command is, “Stop doubting…”

So how does one eliminate doubt?  All doubt is eliminated when the witness and the evidence are complete and perfect.

The problem we all have is that even for those of us who love to bear witness for Jesus and testify to the truth of His words that we have experienced and lived, we tend to only bear witness to the ‘blessings’ of His word.  The good bits, if you like, the pleasant uplifting bits, the parts where you are healed, delivered and prospered.  The places where His light shines in, so to speak, and we keep away from the unpleasant parts – the ‘woes’ – for in our self-righteousness we tend to think they belong only to the hypocrites, the teachers of the law, the rich, the well fed, those who laugh and those who cause others to sin.  Little do we realise that there are times in our lives when we are the hypocrites, not doing what we preach; when we are the teachers of the law, laying on burdens that are too hard for others to carry; when we are the ones through whom the sin has come; when we are the ones who are rich and well fed and are the ones who are laughing, to whom the woes are due.

When times of woe come open us, we are so ready to blame Satan.  Now, please do not flatter yourself that you are worthy of Satan’s attention.  Not being omnipotent, he cannot be everywhere at once, and really, unless you are a champion of God like Job, David and Jesus Himself, I doubt if Satan would give any of us the time of day.  However, there is a Satan we keep forgetting.  The Satan that Peter became when he did not have in mind the things of God but of men.  Every time we do not have in mind the things of God but of men, we are Satan also… remember that.

Every time we lead others to do things contrary to what Jesus commanded, then the sin has come through us.  Woe!  An example is when Peter took the seven fishing in John 21 when Jesus had commanded them, “…but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high,” [Luke 24.49] on resurrection night.  The sin of disobedience to Jesus had come through Peter, and in leading them to Galilee to fish, he was leading them to sin… to disobey.

When we teach others to do what we do not do, we are hypocrites.  Peter was eating with the gentiles and behaving like a gentile, but when men from James came to Galatia, he separated himself from the gentiles and began to behave like a Jew, which earned him the rebuke of hypocrisy from Paul. [Galatians 2]

When we begin to make so many rules in our fellowships so that the people are too busy obeying them instead of practising the words of Jesus, we have become like the teachers of the law – making our own laws in church, which Jesus never worried about.  When the yoke we place on our people is no longer easy and the burden is no longer light, then we have become like a teacher of the law and the woe spoken by Jesus is ours.

Too often, we mean well… but well meaning is never a reason to negate the word of Jesus.  I am sure James the Younger meant well when he wanted to make things easier for the gentiles.  Unfortunately, he had the church adopt three practices that went against the teachings of Christ and thus brought everyone who listened to him back under the curse of the law.  Even the great Paul, when he listened to James and the elders of Jerusalem in Acts 21, lost his freedom.

So, when woes beset you, do not look to Satan to blame, but look at the word of Jesus and see if you have in fact become a person about whom He said, “Woe…” to.  If you can bear the truth, you, like me, will find that indeed you have become a person to whom Jesus would say, “Woe…” to.  And as you suffer the woes, as the troubles come upon you, as the discomfort and the loss beset you, do not grumble, do not mourn, but repent… and more importantly than repent, REJOICE!  Yes, rejoice, I say, and again, rejoice, for the woes that beset you when you become one of those to whom Jesus said, “Woe…” to, allow you to bear witness to the truth of Jesus as much as when a blind man sees when you lay hands on him.  Learning to see and admit that our woes come because we have become a person to whom Jesus would say, “Woe…” to completes the witness of the person of Jesus and His words.

Too often we forget or have never read that in Isaiah 45.6-7 the Lord said, “I am the Lord, and there is no other.  I form the light and create the darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.”

When we only bear witness to the ‘blessings’ of Jesus, we are witnessing to only half His words.  It is when we are also witnesses to His ‘woes,’ that we are the complete witness, and when the witness is complete, all doubt is removed.

Blessings always generate faith, for when the blessings come, we inherently rejoice and enjoy them.  However, when the woes come, then doubt comes.  We doubt God, we doubt His word and our very existence and salvation.  As such, blessings do not give anyone the practice of overcoming doubts, much less stopping it.  But the woes do, for when woes come upon any of us, we begin to doubt.  However, we learn to recognise that the woes have come upon us because of the truth of Jesus’ words, and we learn to rejoice that we are bearing witness to His truth in blessings and in woes.  That is when the doubt is removed, for the woes have given you witness to the truth, and that witness stops the doubt.

So, to stop doubting, complete the witness in yourself of the words of Jesus.  Like Thomas putting his hands into the wounds of Jesus, go where it hurts and admit that you have become what is deserving of the woes, and as they come upon you, rejoice in no less a measure than when the blessings come.  In that instant of complete witness, the doubt is stopped and faith is released to do what it is given to do without hindrance.

Now if faith is the substance of things hoped for, [Hebrews 11.1 KJV] then doubt is the substance that destroys the things hoped for.  If faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, then doubt destroys that certainty and sureness.  But when the witness and the evidence are complete, then there can be no doubt and the command is fulfilled.

So, do not shy away from the Lord when woes beset you, and do not cool your zeal to be His witness, for it is the woes that make you a complete witness, that He is true to His word… His entire word.

So, the complete witness of God is one who can testify about the light AND the darkness He brings, as well as the prosperity and the disasters.  That is when you have come to know the all of God, and if you know the all of anything, then doubt is gone.

So, it is possible to stop doubting, otherwise He would not have commanded us to do so.  So, draw near to God not just to be blessed, but also to be consumed by the fire of jealous anger, for then you will stop doubting.

Hr. Ed Kwan, manager of the Holy Spirit’s Workshop

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NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan.  All rights reserved worldwide.  www.zondervan.com  KING JAMES VERSION [KJV]  Scripture quotations marked “KJV™” are taken from the King James Version.

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