What is the first thing we generally do in this moment? Lock our doors!!! Then we all abide by the unwritten rule of "being lost in a bad part of town"; Never, and I mean never, make eye contact with anyone. For eye contact says, "Please come mug me right now". We also don't make eye contact because we do not want to see what is around us, "Out of sight, out of mind".
Many go through life just like this. They do not want to think about all that is around them because it forces them to ponder the greatest questions of life: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? When we ask these questions doubt creeps into our mind. Even as a Christian I would be remiss if I did not admit that I doubted God's existence a time or two. When I wake up on some Sunday mornings I ask myself, "Do I really believe what I am about to preach to this congregation?"
Haven't you ever been there? You read the Bible yet it seems like a bunch of fables and your prayers feel as if they are bouncing off the ceiling. We wonder how a just God could allow people like the Westboro Baptist to claim His name. We question why a loving God would permit the slaughter of many innocent people.
Let me just saying it is natural to doubt. In fact, if you haven't doubted then you simply aren't thinking. Often we think of the Apostles as stained-glass-saints. There they are with their halos and perfect adornment. We rarely think of them as "doubters". Sure Thomas doubted that once but then he came to believe. Maybe you haven't considered that the disciples actually had great doubts about Jesus!!
The setting is the Upper Room. The time is right after the crucifixion. Jesus' corpse has been buried and the hope of his disciples have been buried with him. There sit the disciples, huddled together like a bunch of scaredy cats, unable to stand because their backbones are the consistency of jello. Luke 24:11 tells us that when the women reported having seen Jesus alive from the dead that, "But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them." I said it was natural and even legitimate to doubt for even the disciples doubted.
The setting changed from the Upper Room to the road leading to Emmaus. Two disciples are walking along together recounting the episode of Jesus' death/burial and their dashed hopes. When suddenly Jesus, disguised to them, appears and asked them what they were speaking about. Luke 24:21-24 gives us some insight into their doubt. Notice that the bare facts (Lk 24:18-20) were not the problem. The issue was that God did not act according to how they expected him to act. Most of our doubts are aimed at God's goodness not His existence. But doubting God's goodness leads us to doubt his existence.
Sometime in your life you will make a wrong turn and find yourself in the Valley of the Shadow of Doubt. Don't worry about avoiding it, that is nearly impossible. Rather concentrate on Jesus as your GPS to lead you through. What was the plan of Christ to lead these doubting disciples out of the valley?
He did not do a miracle--We are talking about the one who fed 5000 from a lunchable, made the blind see, even called Lazarus from the grave. Surely he could have done some miraculous feat in order to straighten the weak knees of these men? Why didn't he? Because physical evidence of a miracle is not the best medicine for doubt. Everytime Jesus gave them physical evidence they continued to disbelieve.
- Luke 24:37, 41--But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit...While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?
- Matthew 28:17--When they saw Him (right before the ascension), they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.
- Mark 16:11, 13-14--When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it...They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either. Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.
- John 20:25--So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
Instead Jesus took them to the Scriptures. God's Word is the ultimate answer for man's doubt. It was the exposition of Scripture that led their hearts to burn (Lk 24:32) not another miracle. He even took them through the Scriptures a second time (Lk 24:44-47). He showed them how the entire Old Testament was pointing to Him as the Christ. This is a powerful apologetic tool. Lets look at the nature of the Old Testament:
- It was written over a 1500 year period
- By dozens of authors
- In 2 different languages; Hebrew, Aramaic
- In 3 different Land Areas; Egypt, Palestine, Babylon
- By men from all different backgrounds; Scribes, Priests, Prophets, Kings, Farmers, Shepherds, Warriors, etc...
- On a controversial topic like religion which nobody can agree upon
- Yet it builds upon this Promise of a Coming Messiah with Zero contradictions, precision accuracy of when, where, how and why He could come
We know intuitively that mere men could not have written this collection of books. It is unfathomable for them to all agree and even more unsearchable to think that one man could fulfill it all in his life/death/resurrection. Look at just a few of the things Jesus could have said to his doubting disciples....I Am
- The promised seed of Eve who crushed Satan (Gen 3:15)
- The Ark of Safety from God's wrath against Sin
- The promised son of Abraham who would bless the world
- The Ram caught in the thicket to show, as Abraham said, Jehovah-Jireh (The Lord will provide).
- Shiloh (Gen 49:10), the one who has the right to hold the King's Scepter
- The Passover Lamb whose blood covers your doorpost
- The Manna from heaven
- The Brazen Serpent; look to me lifted up on the Cross to be healed
- The Prophet likened to Moses (Deut 18:15)
- The Fulfillment of the Law
- Your High Priest who enters into the Holy Place to make atonement
- Joshua who leads you into the Promised Land
- The King from David's Loins who will establish God's everlasting Kingdom (2nd Samuel 7)
- The Cornerstone of the New Temple (Isa 28:16)
- The Light which the Gentiles see (Isa 9:2)
- The Suffering Servant (Isa 52:13-53:12)
I have found that most Atheists have actually never read a decent portion of the Bible. Sure they have read about it, that is, why it is false, but they haven't actually read it for themselves. In my studies of the Bible I am captivated by its unity. There is no plausible explanation how the entire Old Testament can point to a single figure who would fulfill it all and yet that man not be who he claimed to be; God!!!
What is God's cure for man's doubt? His Word. Get into the word, study it, meditate upon it, and hide it in your heart. We all doubt but the next time you do think about the beauty and simplicity of the Biblical truths and God will help you navigate through the Valley of the Shadow of Doubt.
This post was based on a sermon I did on 3/8/15. Click here to watch