From the fist sentence in James epistle, to the very last, James calls the believer to live with integrity. No matter what. James’ words almost seem merciless, scolding those who experience doubt, especially given their circumstances (trials of various kinds). Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. In love, James gives insight to those who desire wisdom. If you really want to know “What To Do When You Have Doubts”, be assured, God is more than able to provide. Faith grows best when it’s put to the test.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6.
Keeping in context:
The lens through which we must study the entire book of James is this: James wrote to believers who were in the midst of being beat up, literally. Whenever we read an imperative, rebuke, or exhortation, keep in mind, the Jewish Christians were under a lot of pressure. Rejected by the Jews for their belief in the Messiah, and by Christians for their Jewish traditions. Ostracized by both faith families, they were constantly being exploited by the Gentiles. Many were homeless. Others were robbed of whatever possessions they did have, then hauled into court under false accusations. Separated from close family and friends, in a foreign land, they were considered of lower status than even the slaves. Faith grows best when it’s put to the test.
Additionally, though the focus of this session is on doubt, rather than seeking God’s wisdom during hard times, I don’t want to lose sight of the context of our study about doubt. Our key verse has been gravely altered by many. Their mantra: Believe and receive. It’s been made to mean that if you doubt anything, even for a second, God won’t give you what you want. He won’t heal your disease. He won’t get you that job you need. He won’t restore that broken relationship. The truth is, God won’t always give you what you want. That has nothing to do with your doubt. God will only and always do what’s best.
What is doubt?
James wanted his readers to know one thing: If you need wisdom in the midst of a crisis, you can come to the Creator of the Universe – no matter what. Whether you got yourself into the trouble, or it came upon you, God gives the wisdom you need. And generous amounts of it. God will never withhold wisdom from you. There’s no reason to doubt that.
Wikipedia defines doubt as “a mental state in which the mind remains suspended between two or more contradictory propositions.” On an spiritual level, doubt is indecision between belief and unbelief. Doubt is lack of conviction on certain Biblical facts. For example: God IS; the promises of God are reliable; all of God’s motives towards you are good. These are absolutes, however, at various times through out our faith journey, we remain unpersuaded by the Biblical declarations. That’s doubt.
Tossed back and forth
Actually, doubt is a decision. You must choose to dismiss the all or some of the evidence. The narratives recorded in scripture. God’s promises throughout the Bible. The tangible answered prayers you’ve received. Doubt is the decision to dismiss all of that and choose, in the moment, that for whatever reason, God will not come through again. Tossed back and forth!
Three critical questions:
- 1. Do you believe that the Bible is divinely written and infallible?
2. Do you believe it’s possible that the Bible, written thousands of years ago, could speak into your present day circumstances?
3. If you answered yes to either or both of those questions, how willing are you to put your words to the test? If you answered no to questions 1 and/or 2, would you like to have your response change?
Far worse than a person who doubts God and His promises, is the person who suppresses or hides their doubts. My prayer for you is that your faith will grow exponentially, over the next few weeks. Having said that, it’s up to you to be honest with yourself and with God. The precursor to any positive impact this study can have on your faith is your willingness to be teachable. The goal, my friend, is that we would be able to overcome our doubts. Amen?
How doubts are exposed:
Read James 1:2
- 1. Count it all __________ when you meet trials of __________ __________.
2. At what point in any trial was James asking the Jewish believers to count it all joy?
The NESB translates James words in this way: “Count yourselves supremely happy.”
Now, put yourself into the warn out sandals of the dispersed and dejected Jewish believers. After hearing the first few lines in James epistle…
- 3. What thought(s) would go through your mind?
4. Give yourself a few moment to feel the full weight of what’s just been read, in light of the circumstances. What word would you use to sum up your emotional state?
5. Would you continue to listen to the rest of the letter?
6. If not, why not?
Time for Reflection:
In the rearview mirror, we often see how God’s hand was upon us. Hindsight gives us the evidence of the good that came out of past adversity. However, James wasn’t asking his readers to look back. He’s was asking them (and us) to look forward to coming trials. To meet each challenge with joy – at the beginning, not the end. James wasn’t making an emotionally, therapeutic suggestion. It wasn’t a pop-culture, think-positive mantra. To “count it all joy” was a command. Why? Because, Faith grows best when it’s put to the test.
When difficult circumstances come your way, it’s not uncommon to ask, “Why me? Why now? Why THIS, LORD?” Sometimes God answers those questions. However, more often than not, God does not give specifics. He simply asks that we trust Him.
- 1. With that in mind, think about the last (or current) difficulty you went through; at the first sign that something unpleasant was/is about to come your way, what thoughts about God (if any) ran through your mind?
Especially when there seems no apparent rationale for the struggle, do you;
- a). Wonder what you’ve done wrong? Assuming God is punishing you for something?
b). Blame God (He obviously doesn’t care enough about you to spare you from this trial)?
c). Wonder if God really exists?
d). Trust that if God is allowing this, He has a good plan?
e). A combination of the above
Loved one, these are indicators. It’s not wrong to have any or all of those thoughts. In fact, it’s good to search your heart for hidden, sinful habits. It may be that God, in His love for you, is disciplining you – for your own good! It’s human to wonder if God cares about you. It’s dangerous to conclude that God could ever be mean-spirited in allowing trials. Our instinct to question the existence of God can be a catalyst to move us deeper into our search for God – or not.
The point is, the initial gut reaction isn’t wrong. It’s problematic to allow false beliefs to linger. Doubt always gives way to impulsive behaviours. A quick fix often results in more and deeper trouble. More trouble gives way greater doubt. An initial step in overcoming your doubts is to simply be aware of your thoughts during times of trials.
Doubters in the Bible
Remember Abram and Sarai? They had doubts. They believed in God. They just didn’t think He would fulfill His promises to them. So, they took it upon themselves to make a baby some other way. It turned out – well – disastrous!
How about Peter? He thought he could withstand anything and remain loyal to Jesus. At the first sign of trouble, in the Garden of Gethsemane, he fled. And, then there was doubting Thomas. What’s important to remember is that, up until the moment of personal failure, they didn’t recognize their own doubts. We know from Scripture, in the end, they were each found faithful. Faith grows best when it’s put to the test!
God already knows our hearts condition. However, we often don’t know our own heart. That’s a spiritually dangerous ignorance.
Look up the following verse:
1 Corinthians 10:12
- 1. What warning are we given?
2. What tragedy results?
What is a trial
James 1:2, the word trial from it’s original Greek, means: probation, testing, being tried, calamity, affliction. At our first face-2-face Bible study someone asked, “is every trial a test from God?” It was a good question. I’m not sure the Bible gives us the answer. This I do know; God will never waste a trial. If we allow Him to, He will bring about a good result.
Types of trials we will encounter
- a).Fiery trials: intense encounters or struggles, bursts of anger, grief, or passion(lust).
b). Infirmities: physical illness, limitations, disabilities
c). Reproaches: ridicule and rejection on account of beliefs and moral values
d). Persecutions: harassment and oppression due to convictions
e). Necessities: wear and care of daily needs and responsibilities
f). Distresses: disappointment and deep hurts
g). Tribulations: unusual pressure or challenges
h). Temptations: opportunities to yield to our sinful desires
Many Christians have a strong Biblical knowledge. You and I can have a plethora of scripture memorized and even understand them. But simply possessing the knowledge is useless. Hardships are the necessary training grounds where faith is put to work. Will we trust God, or doubt Him?
God’s purpose through trials:
From the following verses, record God’s intended outcome from various trials:
- Isaiah 43:13
1 Corinthians 10:13
Whenever I hear someone complain about their co-workers, it’s often followed by their intention to apply for a promotion or change of career. As they share their plans to seek advancement, I lovingly ask them to consider; if you can’t handle the present circumstances, how will you conduct yourself in a place of leadership? If you can’t handle the pressure of parenting your toddler, what do you suppose it will be like when they reach the teen years? If you’re selfish when dating, what will your future marriage be like? If you whine when you have a common cold, how will you manage a serious illness? This was God’s point in Jeremiah 12:5.
- Proverbs 3:26
It’s been said that you’ll never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.
- Acts 5:41
What to do when you have doubts about God
1. Understand God’s purpose. Perhaps you’re starting to see a theme develop? God’s plan in every circumstance is to: a). Deliver us from any and all dangerous and ungodly behaviours. b). Develop our ability to live Coram Deo (with authenticity and integrity – watch the introduction video for more info). There’s nothing like a trial to develop character. c). Deepen our love for God and others. There’s nothing like adversity to grow our understanding of and trust in God.
2.Remember God is with you. Look for Him in the small details. A call from a friend at just the right moment. The perfect scripture verse that pops up everywhere. A small need that’s gets met. An answer, small or big, to prayer. The more we experience difficult circumstances, the more opportunity we have to see God’s faithfulness. From the small and mundane trials of life, to most tragic losses, God has and continues to prove Himself faithful. The more God proves Himself faithful, the more we are able to overcome our doubts.
3.Decide to trust. Ironically, as I began to study the book of James, I have encountered all kinds of trials. In an extremely uncharacteristic way, I decided that if I am going to count it all joy later on, why not choose to do so now. At this moment, I feel like I’m on the passing end of this faith test, rather than being swallowed up by doubt. I can’t say that I enjoy the trial, but I’m still enjoying God. That’s a miracle!
And don’t forget:
4.PRAY. Always, always, always, pray. As though your faith depends on it. Ask God, who gives liberally. He will give you the wisdom you need in the moment you need it. Not before. Not after. But right on time.
5. Stay in Scripture. Faith comes from hearing. And hearing from the word of God. It’s been estimated that only four days without the word of God and your faith quickly begins to decrease. As does your appetite for reading the word. I can’t stress this enough. You need to read your Bible daily. Let God speak through His word to encourage your faith.
Remember: Faith works best when it’s put to the test!
- God bless you, my faith friend!
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