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Apostles' Creed 2: Doubt

By Pastor Phillip Howle
web posted May 31, 2013

RELIGION – Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. (13)  You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart,  (14)  I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.  Jer 29:12-14
We started with the Apostles’ Creed last week, looking at the first little phrase “I believe”. 

Here is the creed again for you to read:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Now, do you believe? Most people say they believe in God.  But many people have some doubts about God. Even if they don’t doubt God exists, they may still have some doubts about God’s goodness, God’s plans, and God’s purposes.

 This week was a week of some firsts for my son, Cason. He climbed the 15 foot climbing rope we have at our house by himself, and more importantly he transversed the monkey bars. This is a big deal; monkey bars are not joke! Go try to cross them at the play ground; it will humble you as little girls zoom across. But this monkey bar issue was personal for me. I was a very portly kid; I tried crossing the bars when I was about my son’s age and I fell off and broke my arm. I decided then that they said these bars were for monkeys I would let the monkeys have them!

I never shared this with my son as I did not want to make my son scared, but he has tried and tried and never been able to cross them. I figured it was defective DNA. But this week in North Augusta it happened! A Howle crossed the monkey bars for maybe the first time in recorded history! Cason had failed numerous times, but he kept trying. He never let any doubt he could not do it come into his mind! He believed in spite of Howle DNA and all of his prior failures , he crossed that stretch of sand as if below were a pit of rabid hummingbirds all waiting to suck his brain juice through his eye sockets. He believed in spite of the obvious. This is faith.
I want a faith that never doubts, but I don’t have one. I too sometimes doubt God’s plans. I do funerals I feel like I should not doing. I watch marriages break up that should not be breaking up. I see sickness that God ought to heal. I at times beg to feel God’s presence and I don’t feel it. I experience doubt, but I continue on in faith. We have to. Hebrews 11:6 writes that “without faith 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.”
An amazing Christian lady spoke these words “I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.” “I want God with all the power of my soul — and yet between us there is terrible separation.” “I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.” Do you know who spoke these words? Mother Theresa.
So today, if you have your doubts, and at times you struggle to believe if there is hope for you, continue on and have faith. Alistair McGrath, in his article “When Doubt Becomes Unbelief” writes that “Doubt is natural within faith.  It comes because of our human weakness and frailty… Unbelief is the decision to live your life as if there is no God.  It is a deliberate decision to reject Jesus Christ and all that he stands for. But doubt is something quite different. Doubt arises within the context the faith. It is a wistful longing to be sure of the things in which we trust. But it is not and need not be a problem. (Tabletalk, 16, No.1, January 1992)

Henry Drummond wrote that “Doubt is can’t believe. Unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty. Unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light. Unbelief is content with darkness.” You see God is bigger than any honest doubt. Not all doubt is honest, many people don’t want God involved in their life and look for any excuse to reject God all together because they like ruling their own life and have no desire to ousted off that little throne.

But honest doubt is good. Honest doubt asks hard questions and desires to study, work, search, and pray, knowing that God will answer. I denied any doubts I ever had for many years. I was fearful that if I ever allowed a doubt to live in mind or heart it would open a flood and I would wind up an atheist. But oh how little and weak was my faith! I had no confidence in the creator God of the universe who reveled Himself fully in Jesus, who conquered death and has sent His Spirit to empower my life. I was worried that my little doubts were larger than God.

I had my eyes really opened to not only the validity of doubt, but the power of doubt for God in Tim Keller’s amazing little book “A Reason For God” He writes that "A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection."

So, while I want you to believe, I don’t want you to have blind faith. I want you to know and talk to God. I want you to have a faith like the Psalmists who wrestled with God, questioned God, and grew in their love faith and knowledge of God!!
Thankful God is larger than all my doubts!! Pastor Phillip

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