Doubt: Sin or Path to Righteousness?

Doubt: Sin or Path to Righteousness

Be patient. Wait. Put one foot in front of the other, and be led blindly down the right path. Trust. Have faith. This has been the theme of my life for the past three years.

It wasn’t so hard at first. Short seasons of the unknown are to be expected in life. It’s when they drudge on month after month, year after year, that the need for faith increases and yet seems to be harder to come by. I realized quickly, and often, that faith in my own strength is not faith at all – that I needed to surrender my own strength to Jesus and let him fill me with the faith I needed to lead me through my job, my service to him, and my family life; all areas that were so hard and seemed so uncertain over these past three years. Easier said than done, as they say.

Then God began to show me a glimmer of the sun rising in the horizon, and yet, I find myself doubting. It’s been so long since I’ve had a true glimmer of hope that I wonder, “For me? Really? Are you sure?” because I’m used to trudging on, one foot at a time sinking into the murky soft ground, requiring each step to be calculated lest I fall. A moving vehicle on solid ground helping me get closer to my dreams is so foreign to me, so I look around and wonder, “Is that really for me?”

Doubt and the Flesh

I found myself asking, “What is the difference between not doubting and operating in confidence in my own flesh?”

Mark 11:12-14, 20-25 furthered my wonder:

12 On the following day, when [Jesus with his disciples] came from Bethany, he was hungry.13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it…20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer,believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

This passage always confused me a little, but in my current faith versus doubt versus confidence in the flesh internal debate, it stood out to me. To me, the passage is not so much about the tree doing or not doing what it’s supposed to, but about what God’s power can accomplish when we believe in Him. It’s about believing that Jesus is who he said he is and believing that God is all that He’s shown Himself to be throughout the ages and in my own life. It’s about allowing God to answer my prayers rather than trying to make my dream happen with my own strength, in my own way, on my own timetable.

However, I still doubt. I know he can answer my prayers, but enough disappointment in God not answering them how I want, when I want, where I want (even though I always find that when He does answer them, it is in the right way, time, and place) causes me to doubt. Rather than believing what God has called me to over and over and over again is true, just because it hasn’t come to fruition yet, I doubt that I should continue praying for that thing even though he’s given me a small peak at it’s forthcoming. When God clears the path and gives me a vehicle for smooth travel, I doubt whether it’s ok to get in. I wonder, “God, you’ve led me down such an unexpected path for my life that I fear what I believe deeply is next, is not really it after all.”

God Won’t Let Us Remain in Doubt

I’m a hypocrite. I say I believe in God’s truth, and yet when He shows up, I begin to doubt. So, I began to worry that by doubting God, I was sinning against Him. I searched the scriptures and found that time and time again, God’s people doubted.

Abram and Sarai doubted that they would have the son God promised them. He did not leave them in that doubt, but led them to belief. They then trusted Him so deeply that God gave them new names, their son was born, and then Abraham became known as the father of faith.

Peter, in the act of miraculously walking on water toward Jesus, began to doubt. He stumbled many times in his faith, and yet when Jesus ascended into heaven, he left Peter to lead his flock and he became the leader of the first Christian church.

Story after story of heroes of faith in God’s word have shown me that it’s natural to doubt, and not only will God not let us stay there, He will lead us out of it and onto a path of righteousness with stronger faith than ever before.

The story that really hit this home for me is that of the two men on the road to Emmaus. Jesus had just been crucified, died, and buried. All of his followers were so confused. “Is he not all the things he said he was?” they cried out in despair. Then, his tomb was found empty and despite a visit from angels proclaiming his resurrection and all the prophecies they knew about, it’s like they wanted to believe, but their confusion grew.

These two men began the journey back to their home in Emmaus and discussed their disappointment that Jesus was not the Savior they had waited for. As they walked and talked, without recognizing him, Jesus began to walk with them. They invited them in for a meal upon reaching their destination and only when Jesus blessed the bread and broke it did the men realized who he was. They returned to Jerusalem and Jesus showed himself to the disciples and many others. Jesus led them out of their place of doubt and upon rising from the dead, allowed them to be filled with his Spirit, and went on to build the Church that, as of today, consists of billions of people worldwide.

The only sin in doubt is if you choose to remain there when God is clearly leading you out of it. It’s not the doubt causing you to sin, but the choice to not follow Him out of it.

Acting on Faith

While God won’t let us sit in our doubt, we can’t just wait for Him to drag us out of it like a baby in a messy diaper. We’re not babies; we can think and act for ourselves. With whatever level of spiritual maturity we have, we must stand up and seek God to lead us in the right direction on the path to righteousness. Faith requires obedience to take those steps, however big or little they might be, even if we can only see the ground one step ahead.

“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

So while I may fear more disappointment, if God is showing me the path I’ve been waiting for, I have to step in obedience into that path and run with it. I need to believe that God is good, faithful, loving, true, and sovereign in my life. I need to continue to pray and believe that God wants good for me as His child. I’ll likely hit some bumpy disappointments along the way – and I already have – but I would rather face obstacles on the right path in the presence of God than sit stagnant in the mess of my doubt while God has clearly gone before me.

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