Christian Unbelief and Doubt
Introduction (2Co 4 – We live by faith, not by sight)
Becoming a Christian does not mean we will never struggle with unbelief and doubt (ever again) as it relates to God. Nor should we believe doubt is always bad. In the words of 17th century philosopher Francis Bacon, “If a man will begin with certainties, he will end in doubts; but if he is content to begin with doubts, he will end in certainties.” In other words, doubt can be a sign that I need to do further study – which (then) leads to confidence and certainty in what I believe vs. “blind faith.” It is for this reason that Jude says to “have mercy on those who doubt” (Jud 1:22). We should not initially view others having doubt as treason. At the same time, we must shore it up before it becomes dangerous (Pro 4:23; Heb 3:12). How doubt becomes dangerous is its leading to falling away in two ways:
- It leads to unfaithfulness (commitment requires conviction and confidence in belief).
- It leads to apostasy.
To illustrate, doubt (i.e. the deceit of sin in the mind) is like little fires that start in the middle of the forest – which if left to themselves will become a raging inferno destroying everything in its path (it this case – our faith).
What fuels these “fires” of doubt:
- Ignored intellect (intellectual problem – insufficient data)
- Intellect ignored (moral problem – the data is there, but it is being ignored) – this is what makes it “evil.”
This study gives you the data to fix the first, the second is a moral issue (i.e. rebellion) and can only be fixed through repentance.
There are six types of doubt: Practical, Situational, Ontological, Scriptural, Religious, and Perfunctory.
1. Practical doubt
“I can’t do it,” “The Christian life is too hard,” “Nobody in my household or that I know is doing it faithfully – everybody is faking it or hypocrites,” “I am doing it but not seeing the ‘return on investment.’”
In relation to nobody in my household or that I know is faithful (therefore we are all faking it and hypocrites): That does not mean that people are not doing it outside your household, they are.
In relation to it being too hard: Heb 12:1, 12:4; Deu 30:11; 2Ti 1:7; 1Jo 5:3-4
The reason it seems too hard is the same reason you are not seeing a return on investment: because you refuse to be “all in.” And yet, this is the only deal God will make with us – “all in or not in at all.” (Luk 14:25-33; Deu 27:1, 28:1-2, 15-20, 30:1-20; Mat 16:24-25) In other words, success in living the Christian life as well as receiving a return on investment now versus simply later is not proportionate (e.g. you do 50% of what God says and you get a 50% return in abundant life blessings). Instead, you commit to only 50% and you get zero. Why? Because that’s the deal (all in or not in at all).
Three illustrations to further help in this point:
Football, unless you get in the endzone or put it through the uprights you get no points.
Antibiotics, take all the pills or you will not be cured.
Most diets: follow the program exactly or no guarantee of results.
When you go “all in” things don’t get harder, that is faulty thinking. (e.g. “if it was hard when I gave 50%, I can’t imagine 100%”) It gets easier, because now God is in it with you. For the first time you have the Holy Spirits’ help (2Pe 1:5). Hence why consistent faithfulness (being a legitimate example and having real success in living the Christian life) requires 100% commitment. And when you have that kind of success and are getting a return on investment, all practical doubt (that it works) goes away (As we would expect).
If you are living “all in” there is no aspect of your life that isn’t submitted under the Lordship of Christ. What the Apostles used to assess their lives in this respect: present actions determined by future results. (2Co 5:9-10; 1Pe 1:17)
What must a person possess to be “all in” or remaining “all in?”
Luke 7:1-15: There is only one person in this parable who fits the description of being “all in,” – the person successfully living and persevering their Christian life, the last one. Though the two before him “receive the word with joy,” testing (through trials and temptation) or the cares and pleasures of this world causes them to fall away or to compromise. It should be assumed that the person represented by the 4th soil also experienced these things but nonetheless stays the course and remains “all in.” And that because of what makes them different from the others (v. 15 – “an honest and good heart”).This then is the answer as to what a person must possess to be and remain “all in” (a right heart).
What is meant by an honest and good heart:
A heart/mind committed and loyal to truth (“honest”) and goodness (“good”) – or, the Bible and God. Why? Because they have chosen to believe the Bible and God to be the truest truth and the highest good. (Psa 73:25-26; Heb 11:6; Jam 1:5-8)
As human beings, we all live and are committed to what we value the most. And what we value the most, is always what we choose to believe is the truest truth (in that moment) and highest good (in that moment). Hence why Jesus can say “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mat 6:21)
Additional Clarifying and Reinforcing Thoughts (in this respect):
1.1. Possessing an “honest and good heart” is a choice in the mind, your feelings follow.
Your feelings and physiology are fully dependent on your mind – and what you choose to believe, in determining how it reacts. It is therefore not the arbiter of truth – only the 1st responder to what you have “told it” to be true (By what you, your soul, mind, and heart) has chosen to believe. Hence why we can have emotional or physical reactions to what is false (e.g. a child believes there is a monster under their bed and is shaking and crying). Never would we point to the child’s feelings or physical reaction as an indicator of truth (only psychology is stupid enough to do that!). Rather, we understand their reaction to be the product of what they have chosen to believe as true.
1.2. Internal temptation is a great indicator of what you have chosen to believe in these two categories: 1) what is true? 2) What or who is good? (Jam 1:13-15)
1.3. Your level of self-control is also an indicator of what you have chosen in these two categories. Hence why “and without faith [and faithfulness] it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb 11:6)
1.4. Since this is the way God has wired us, it is impossible to operate without something filling those categories. God expects us to choose His word and Him. Our refusal means we have instead chosen ourselves to fill those categories. (In other words: we have chosen to rebel against Him)
1.5. Not being in God’s word on a regular basis – or hearing God’s word through others on a regular basis is often why those who once made the right choice, start 2ndguessing it.
1.6. Hence why God can rightfully judge us according to our deeds (and by that determine our love and loyalty to Him), because they reflect what we chose to be our truth and highest good.
1.7. You are not a victim to your feelings, motivations, actions, etc. It is instead the other way around. They are the result (or victims) of what you have “perpetrated” to believe with your mind.
1.8. Not choosing God and His Word as your highest good and truest truth is the epitome of stupidness.
1.8.1. You can’t escape His reality. (In other words, the world He created operates according to His principles, which means to have any real success you must still follow them. But now you do it with Him against you (if you walk away). For example, self-control and saying no are still imperative if you don’t want to live under a bridge.
1.8.2. You can’t escape His eternity.
Those pagans who have been successful or are living fulfilling lives do so only because they are self-controlled and highly disciplined people. But because they chose to also be rebels against God, they will spend eternity in Hell – i.e. they gained the world, but lost their souls. (Mar 8:30; Psa 73:1-22)
1.8.3. Sin and rebellion against God never brings anyone fulfillment. What grants even to pagans a sense of fulfillment is not the sinful things they do – but again their lives of self-control and their consistency to those principles established by God and His word. In other words: what they “get to do” (in living a life also filled with sinful choices) is not what is bringing them any satisfaction. Though it may, on the surface, look like it, their sin is actually working against whatever happiness is being achieved through their self-control.
Hence why those who have tread that path (and jettisoned any commitment to God’s established principles or allow such sin to eclipse it) end up destroying their lives (e.g. consider how many among the famous end up committing suicide).
God and Christianity are not therefore what is causing you to fail (God is not the problem), He is the solution. “Quitting God” is “cutting of your nose to smite your face.” It’d be like a kid calling his father into the room and “firing” him as his dad. So this again is what it comes down to – a choice. A choice all of us will and continue to make every day. To close then, the choice is presented once more in Joshua 24:14-15.
Your entire existence will be determined by this one question, who are you going to serve?