Monday, 10 August 2009

What the Bible has to say to doubters?

“Faith is a free surrender & a joyous wager on the unseen, unknown, untested goodness of God.” Martin Luther

The Bible has much to say about faith & doubt; certainly much more than we dare to admit from our pulpits & in our coffee shops.

The short letter by Jude includes a few gems; not least in encouraging us to “be merciful with those who doubt” (v22).

I love the guy in Mark 9, desperate for Jesus to heal His demon-possessed child. This guy’s iffy faith & wavering request has given me words to voice some of my most despairing prayers; “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

I too believe & doubt; hope & fear; pray & waver; ask & worry; so it is reassuring to see Jesus respond with grace & mercy & power in healing the child.

And whilst I like to fantasize that having a powerful mystical encounter with God would settle all of my doubts once & for all, I know from personal experience & Biblical example that this simply is untrue. Take the Israelites for example… 10 plagues, delivery from the Egyptians, safe passage through the Red Sea, an enormous pillar of cloud/fire in front of your eyes day in & day out, food falling from the sky every single day… and still a refusal to trust in God’s provision & protection.

And let’s not forget my personal favourite - sceptical Thomas who refuses to believe his friends’ testimony to the risen Jesus; believing that they were either lying or bonkers… “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I WILL NOT BELIEVE IT.” (John 20:25).

Scepticism can keep us from blessing & trapped in two minds, but it is not the most destructive form of doubt. Thomas really did want to know the truth which put him a cut above the close-minded cynic or the rebel who refuses to believe no matter what evidence is presented.

As a natural sceptic, I delight in Jesus’ patience with Thomas, but if we want the deepest blessings that Christ has to offer listen to his concluding remarks in that incident… “So you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.” (John 20:29)

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