No Doubt Allowed
Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
James had described the challenge and the benefits of trusting God during difficult times. Problems test our faith, he explained, and in the crucible of struggle, we develop the quality of endurance(James 1:2-3). As we continue to trust God in hard times, we grow up spiritually, and our faith matures into a deep, strong trust in God through thick and thin.
To get where God wants us to go, we desperately need His wisdom so we understand His purpose and processes along the way. He has promised to give us His wisdom generously, but there’s a catch: We have to ask in faith and not doubt.
In times of trouble, we naturally doubt just about everything, including our abilities, our understanding, other people’s motives, the path forward, and God’s goodness. We can get so wrapped up in trying to figure things out on our own that we almost go cray! James calls this confusion being “like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” The winds we experience during hard times are all the conflicting thoughts, differing advice from friends, and emotions that can swing between blind hope and deep despair.
When we “ask in faith,” we humbly acknowledge that we don’t have the answers and we’re turning to God for His help. We need to consider our ways, but we don’t want to become obsessed with every possible contingency so that we lose sleep. We also need to trust that God will, in His way and in His timing, give us the direction we need. We don’t demand an instant answer. We ask, and we wait confidently. During the wait, God often leads us to truth in His Word and to wise believers who give us valuable insights. Then, when we sense that God has, in fact, given us His wisdom, we act.
God’s laws work all of the time, not just some of the time, and they work whether you believe in them or not.
The journey of faith is filled with the battles of doubt and unbelief. Our common response is: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” And we usually arrive at that conclusion in life because we have been scammed, been the victim of broken promises, or somewhere along the way lost our trust. Our doubt and unbelief is largely due to us humanizing God. We reason that if those who say they love us have let us down like they have, why wouldn’t God do the same. We reason that if every other source we’ve tried in the time of need has come short of providing totally our need, then why would God who is so busy managing the universe have the time or the desire to help us. We have become so immersed in the make-believe of movies and storybooks and have observed that life doesn’t work like the movie script, that we often put the miracle working power of God in the same category. Like the person who crosses their fingers, rubs their rabbit foot before they pull the handle on the slot machine, we may have a vague hope but aren’t surprised when we come up empty.
In the Lord’s Prayer model there is an important order to our prayers. Before we ask God to supply our daily bread(need), we first ask for His kingdom to come and His will to be done. It would be correct to say that we preference our prayers about needs ,desires, and wants with asking God to show us His will. It is while we are waiting that the battle of doubt engages our minds and hearts. But we are not alone. Most of the heroes and heroines in the Bible wrestled with doubt. We all know about Thomas. But the stories of Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Miriam, Naomi, and even Mary all tell of periods of wrestling with doubt. Hebrews tells us that Abraham was well aware the his body was too old and Sarah’s womb incapable at her age for them to have their own child. But the powerful part of the story says that with full knowledge and awareness of the situation, Abraham hoped against hope. In his story are the seasons of needing reassurance, times when his doubt almost overcame his faith, and times when his impatience caused him to almost derail God’s plan as he did by having a child with Hagar. Yet the Bible says that because he chose the path of belief and because in spite of his doubts, fears, and trying to take matters into his own hands, it was counted to him as righteousness(being right with God). Somehow he pulled from the ashes of doubt, the flame of faith and trust.
The first step to asking in faith to determining what God has already said about the matter. To some degree it’s like going to the attorney’s office for the reading of the will of a relative in order to discover what they have left you. The Bible is divided into sections called the Old Testament(Covenant or Will) and the New Testament. In both we can read what God’s plans, desires, and promises are for His people. Hebrews tells us that the New is the better covenant than the Old. In the Old, constant animal sacrifice was required. In the New Christ offered once for all Himself as the final sacrifice. In the Old Testament during the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness, they were given the visible witness of the cloud and the pillar of fire. In the New Testament, we have the witness of the Cross.
The amazing thing about God is that if we are honest about our doubts, He will provide us the help we need to believe.
So how do we ask in faith? We ask by trusting in the love of God even when we don’t know how He will answer or exactly what He will do. We ask in faith, like the three Hebrews standing before the fiery furnace who said, “Our God is able to deliver us, but if He chooses to not do so, we still won’t bow.” We ask in faith by believing in God’s promises and then trusting Him for the outcome and the timing. We ask in faith because we know He hears our cry, He cares about us and our need and He is “able to do exceeding, abundantly, above all we are able to ask or thing according to His mighty power that is within us.”
Yes, we all will have times of doubt. John the Baptist certainly did when he was in prison waiting execution. What he did is a lesson to us. He refused to give in to his doubts but he needed reassurance so he sent messengers to Jesus asking if He was the One or had his work been in vain. Jesus didn’t rebuke John but instead sent back the testimony of the work of God. When Mary doubted at the tomb, Jesus didn’t rebuke her, instead He called her by name. So in the midst of your time of doubt, turn your attention to Christ and like these we will find Him coming to reassure us of His care. The only way doubt can ever win, is if we give in to it and let it drive our lives.
The writer of the old song said:
Turn your eyes on Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.
There’s the secret to asking in faith.
Dr. John Thompson