One of the toxins that can take hold within our souls is doubt. Of course, not all doubt is bad—struggles and questions are a natural part of faith. But we tend to keep “pet” doubts around that keep us from having to really live as followers of Jesus or trust God in painful ways. These “pets” begin as honest doubts rooted in intellectual questions, past disappointments, or cultural resistance to Christianity. But over the years we grow comfortable with them because they keep us from having to live in full obedience to God. Lent is an opportunity to address these doubts and anything else that keeps us from living lives of faith.
Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
One of the biggest sources of doubt when it comes to our Christian lives is our cultural environment. Describe a way that you have seen belief in God or Jesus or the Bible depicted as stupid or weak by society or individuals. How does it make you feel when you hear these messages?
Looking at Scripture:
Read John 20:19-29.
Why do you think Thomas was so adamant about not believing unless he saw and touched the wounds of Jesus? Do you think it was okay for him to demand this kind of personal encounter?
Jeremy talked about three sources of doubt: intellectual questions, disappointing past experiences, and cultural pressure. How do you think each of these sources would be active in Thomas’s life, feeding his doubts? If you were Thomas, which of the three would be the strongest reason not to believe in the resurrection?
Jesus mercifully and directly addressed Thomas’s doubts, and gave him the opportunity to believe. Have you ever had an experience of wrestling with doubt and having Jesus give you what you needed in order to continue in belief?
Hebrews 11:6 says that anyone who comes to God “must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Often our doubts take one of those shapes: doubts about God’s existence/identity, and doubts about his intentions. Brainstorm some common doubts you think people struggle with in each area.
Who God Is God’s Heart/Intentions
E.g. God is the Creator E.g. God will provide for my needs
Which of these do you struggle most with (or keep as a “pet”)? How does that doubt affect your ability to live wholeheartedly for Christ?
After Jesus gave Thomas the evidence he needed, he told him to “Stop doubting and believe.” The word for believe could also be translated “trust.” Is there any area where God has really given you everything you needed in order to believe, and is now calling you to stop doubting and trust him?
Jeremy suggested a few “next steps” in order to get rid of different kinds of “pet” doubts:
1. If the doubt is intellectual, to address it head-on, understand that others have also asked it, to seek wisdom, and wrestle through the problem until it is adequately resolved.
2. If the doubt is emotional, based in past disappointments, God needs to be given a “second chance,” by taking small steps of faith in that area (after considering what his promises really were).
3. If the doubt is rooted in messages from the outside world, those messages can be labelled for what they are (naturalism, universalism, etc.) and countered by reinforcing the Christian message through music, books, media, friendships, etc.
As you examine the nature of your own doubts, what are practical steps you could take to begin to address them and live in greater faith?