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How To Overcome Doubt

At 22, Maria and I were engaged to get married. I knew I was young and about to make the most significant life decision. On the day of my wedding, I had a moment of doubt. I started questioning what I was doing and asking myself questions like if I was really ready. My mother came to check on me in the middle of my doubt. I told her I wasn’t sure if I was prepared for this BIG decision. She listened to all my concerns and then devised an escape plan. She said, “Son, this is what we’re going to do. I’m going to pull my car around the back of this chapel. You’ll go out the side door and jump in the car.” When I heard this plan, I realized I needed a second opinion. I needed my dad. My dad comes in, and I fill him in on my doubts and the escape plan that Mom just came up with. My dad listens to me and then says, “I understand what you are saying, but have you met Maria?” That snapped me out of it, and I remembered my love for her.


Isn’t it interesting how one voice can rise above all the others and give you the clarity you need? In moments of doubt, we need that voice. This is precisely what happens with John the Baptist when he finds himself in prison. He wasn’t imprisoned for doing something wrong but for doing something right.


Matthew 11:2-3

John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”


John needs to hear one voice above all the others. He knew, “If I can get this voice to tell me the truth, then that will be enough for me.” John was in prison and had doubts. Interestingly, a few prominent events happen in all four Gospels, including John the Baptist. Why is he so key to the Gospels? Because John is the one who comes onto the scene to prepare the way for Jesus. He comes as a prophet at a time when Israel hasn’t heard from a prophet in hundreds of years. John shows up baptizing people and telling people that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. In fact, the Bible tells us that when John’s mom Elizabeth was pregnant with him, she knew Mary, the mother of Jesus, was pregnant with Jesus. John actually leaped in his mother’s womb when he came in proximity with Jesus when he was in Mary’s womb. John knew that Jesus was the guy before he was even born. John was the one to baptize Jesus and hear God say, “This is my son, in whom I’m well pleased.” John, above anybody else in all of scripture, should be the one who knows God’s purpose for his life, yet we see him in a moment of doubt. If you take one thing away from this, remember that there’s room in your faith to doubt.


There are three things we see John and Jesus do when facing doubt:

1. Get to Jesus


When John is in prison and facing doubt, we see that he needs to hear from Jesus. He thinks, “If I can just get Jesus right, then I can hang on a little bit longer.” John’s suffering would be a little bit easier if he could make sure that he gets Jesus right. What voices are you listening to in your life? You need people in your life who remind you that Jesus is who He says He is. If you can anchor into that, it’s the first step to overcoming your doubt.


Matthew 11:4-6

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”


Jesus could tell John he’s the Messiah, but instead, he quotes the Old Testament. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet tells us what the Messiah will do, “The deaf will hear, the blind will see, the lame will walk, the dead will be raised, the good news will be preached to the poor.” Jesus chooses to encourage John’s doubt with the Word of God.

2. Remember what God has already said


If you want to overcome doubt, you’ve got to listen to the One voice that matters over everything. But you also need to remember what that voice has already said. If you do not know the Word of God, you’re missing out on a way that God gives you security and confidence in your faith. If you know the Word of God, all God has to do is remind you of what He’s already said. But if you don’t know God’s Word, it will be much harder for you to have faith.


If you are in your own prison because of finances or relationships and you are facing doubts about your purpose, God wants you to remember what he has already told you. Jesus could’ve just told John that he was the Messiah, but maybe he knew that there would be some people today that are in a dark place in their life like John. In the Word of God, He knew that you would need a prescription for your doubt. He could have just told John he was the guy. But instead, he used what he had already been saying. Do you know the Word of God? Learn the Word of God so your faith can be encouraged in times of doubt.


When Jesus quotes Isaiah chapters 35 and 61, he gives John a checklist of things they remembered from the scriptures. The thing that we might miss if we aren’t paying close attention is that Isaiah tells us seven things that the Messiah will do. But when Jesus tells John the list, he leaves one out. The deaf can hear. Blind can see. The lame can walk. The dead are being raised. Good news is preached to the poor. Jesus didn’t say the seventh one but instead said, “Blessed are those who don’t stumble because of me.” The seventh one was, “He will set the captives free.”


Jesus didn’t say anything about the captives getting free. Why would Jesus intentionally leave off that seventh thing when he was trying to encourage John, who was in prison? If you’ve been following Jesus for a while, then you know Jesus tends to leave a lot of things out for us. He tends to keep us guessing. I know that he will surely use every opportunity He can to help me grow in my faith and trust Him.


James 1:5-8

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.


Do you think that you can have faith or doubt? Or do you think it is possible to have a doubt that’s so strong it can overcome doubt? The word doubt in the original Greek language means to go back and forth and to judge thoroughly. When it talks about being “double-minded,” it means to be overanalyzing. Maybe it’s not about your faith growing more; it’s about your faith picking a side. Spoiler alert: I made it through the decision to marry Maria. We’ve been married for 16 years now. I had to pick a side and choose to be loyal to her. I wonder how much of our faith crisis is just because we haven’t made a decision to be devoted to those areas of our hearts.


So when John was in prison, he first wanted to know if Jesus was the guy. Once he knows that Jesus is the Messiah, then he doesn’t need to know if he’s going to get him out of prison or not. John is loyal to him because of who he is, not what Jesus can do for him. We’re not loyal to God because of what he will do. We’re loyal to God because of what he’s already done.


Could God show you what’s going to happen? Yes. Will he show you what’s going to happen? Probably not. We all want to know God’s plan for our lives, but He wants to do more than accomplish a goal. He wants to develop trust in you.


Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp for my feet,

a light on my path.


In Bible times, a lamp was a tiny vase with a bit of oil for a little flame. It’s just enough light to see what step to take with each foot. It’s enough to barely light the path. But it’s not enough light to light the destination. We want the Word of God to be a flashlight, but instead, it guides us each step of the way. Why does he not tell you everything you’re supposed to do all the time? It’s because we are to be growing more like Jesus and learning to trust Him in every area of our lives. Maybe showing you a destination that’s too far away isn’t going to help you after all. It’s a daily dependence and surrender on a light that is enough for each step of faith. Then when you’re faithful at that step, it’s light enough for the next step.

Maybe you are reading this, and you feel like you are trapped in a marriage. You might feel like there’s a prison over your heart. You might think, “This is not where I thought I would be in life.” Can I tell you that your faith will grow if you can get your focus off the next chapter and onto the story’s author? Your confidence will be in Him, and you will realize that you’re not the story’s hero. He is.

3. Remember what God has already said about YOU


Matthew 11:7-11

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.


This is the one about whom it is written:

I will send my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way before you.


Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.


Jesus doesn’t just tell John that He is the Messiah but instead reminds him of who John is. Jesus reminds John what the Word of God says about him. In Malachi 3:1, the prophet tells about the messenger that would be preparing the way for the Messiah.


Do you know who you are in Christ? Some of your doubt problems are because you’re listening to voices that are not Jesus. You’ve let those voices get too loud. God should be able to speak to us in a whisper and not raise his voice because we know how to turn the volume down on unhealthy voices. You might have a doubt or faith crisis because you don’t know the Word of God. Maybe you’re new to faith or don’t have the discipline to read the Bible. Jesus’ strategy to encourage John was not to make up new scripture but to encourage him with already written scripture. What He’s already said is a good enough strategy for us today. Jesus encouraged John by reminding him of who he was. If you don’t know who you are in Christ, let me tell you that the Bible says you’re a son and daughter of the king himself. As God’s family, you will face doubts, but choose your side today and remember who God says you are.

Pastor Justice Coleman
Freedom Church