Pastor Jeff Williams
May 7, 2006
Living Free Series: Part 3 “Dealing With Doubt”
We‟re going to share right now, and we‟re going to dig into God‟s Word together. Living
Free is our topic. We‟re studying the 12 steps of recovery. We said that we‟re all in
recovery; every last one of us is in recovery from something. We all need to be healed in
some area. We have memories; we have all hurt others; we‟ve all been hurt by others, so
we are all in recovery today. These steps are for all of us.
We talked about Step 1, which is to admit we are powerless. That has to do with saying,
“God, I can‟t.”
Step 2 has to do with “He can.” Step 2 is about faith; it‟s about knowing that we need a
power greater than ourselves to bring restoration to our lives.
Step 3 today is to make a decision to turn our will over to the will of God. Step 3 is about
surrender. Step 3 is about saying, “I can‟t.” It seems to me like if we‟re going to get stuck, we usually get stuck in Step 3. If there‟s
going to be one we struggle with, it‟s usually going to be Step 3. I think it has to do with one word; it starts with a “D” and ends with a “T.” Do you know what that word is? It
rhymes with shout. Doubt. We struggle with doubt. We have doubts about the Lord. Is
He willing? Is He powerful enough? We talked about that last week, doubts within
ourselves, all kinds of doubts. There might be intellectual doubts, just questions that you
have that need to be answered before you can turn over. You see, it‟s impossible to turn
over something so important and precious to you unless you know the person you‟re
turning something over to is trustworthy, right? So you have to have those doubts
addressed. It could be psychological doubts. Sometimes people have a hard time turning
their lives over to their Heavenly Father if they‟ve had an abusive earthly father. They project that onto their Heavenly Father, and they struggle with that-psychological doubts.
Emotional doubts: sometimes we‟ll be doing fine in our faith, but when our emotions are
down, our faith is down, and we have doubts because we put so must trust in our
It could be theological doubts, those questions: How do I know the Bible is the Word of
God? How do I know Christ was the Son of God? Or that He‟s been raised? So there are
theological questions that need to be answered.
There‟s all kinds of different doubts that you and I might be dealing with. The first thing
we‟re going to have to do is come clean and acknowledge that we have doubts. One of
the things we do as Christians is we tend to look at doubts like a secret sin that we don‟t talk about.
I was watching a show called “Wife Swap,” and it‟s not as bad as it sounds. It‟s about
families that trade wives, usually extreme opposites. One went from a household where
she had no rules at all, no etiquette, to a household where the mother was an etiquette
teacher. What was her name again? Ms. Lydia. And Ms. Lydia taught her children to
swallow their burps. When you‟re at a table, swallow burps. Their table was a belch-free
zone. The other lady was “let it all hang out.” Her kids were like the louder, the better. So
Ms. Lydia taught them how to swallow their burps, this new mom did. She believed if
you belch, that‟s just shameful-that‟s just wrong, so we tend to swallow our doubts.
We tend to think if we articulate our doubts; people will think less of us. It‟s similar to
our not wanting to admit that we‟re struggling with some aspect of our faith because we
want people to think highly of us, so we keep that inside. We don‟t want to admit that
we‟re struggling with doubt. The truth is we all struggle with doubt, even you who‟ve been believers for decades. You struggle with doubts. There are periods in your life when
you ask questions. You have philosophical doubts, theological doubts, and you struggle
with them. The first thing you have to do is you have to acknowledge that. You have to talk about that.
In Mark 9, there‟s a gentleman who brings his son to Jesus. His son is possessed of a
demon. There‟s no cure; there‟s no answer. This has been going on since childhood. The demon comes on the boy, and it tries to destroy him and kill him. This is a terrible
situation. The father is powerless over the situation. The son is powerless over the
situation. They believe Jesus can help them. His struggle comes in Step 3 of turning over
his faith and letting go, letting Jesus perform this work in his son‟s life. Listen to what Jesus says, “„How long has this been happening?‟ The father says, „It‟s
from childhood. It‟ll throw him in the fire and put him in the water to kill him, but if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.‟
“„If you can?‟ said Jesus.”
I‟m not sure you can. I‟m not sure you‟re willing, but if you can…and Jesus jumps on
that and says, “„If you can?‟ Everything is possible for him who believes.‟
Immediately the boy‟s father exclaimed, „I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.‟”
Can you relate to that statement? See, doubt really is an inner-struggle. Doubt is not the
opposite of faith. Sometimes you hear people say, “Well, there‟s faith, and the opposite
of faith is doubt.” No. The opposite is unbelief. The opposite of faith is an unwillingness to believe.
That‟s not his problem. He says, “I believe, but I doubt. I have unbelief. I struggle.”
See, I would go so far as to say not only is doubt not the opposite of faith, doubt is very
much a part of faith. Doubting Thomas: he said he didn‟t want to believe Christ rose from
the dead. No. He did but he struggled intellectually with what they were saying because
Thomas knew he was dead. So it‟s an intellectual doubt, a stumbling block, “Unless I see
Him and can put my finger in His side and see the scars in His hands, I will not believe.”
Doubt is something we grapple with to bring us to faith. All through the scripture, disciples, men and women, had doubts that they struggled with. You and I, first thing
we‟re going to do, we‟re going to be able to fully turn over (Step3) acknowledge that not
everything is okay.
There have been some things that have happened in our lives that cause us to have doubts
and struggles. We‟re going to watch a media right now that talks about that. Brenda put
this together for us. I want us to reflect on the words of the song and the meaning of the
song as it talks about our humanity, our struggle in our faith. Then we‟re going to look at a very unusual case study and see how he dealt with his doubt. Let‟s go ahead and play it.
(The song is I‟m Not All Right by Sanctus Real-see bottom of text for lyrics and link to song.)
When I say John the Baptist, what do you think of? Do you think of somebody a little
crazy? Somebody with a wardrobe malfunction, right? Strange diet, locus and honey, the
first Atkins diet. Think of somebody in your face, somebody out there, and all those
things are true. One thing you don‟t think about John the Baptist is you don‟t think about
doubt, do you? Did you know John the Baptist struggled with doubt, the thing we‟ve
been talking about this morning? He did. He struggled with doubt. He questioned
whether or not Jesus was the Messiah.
In Matthew 11:1, Jesus begins his Galilean Ministry. When John heard (John is in prison
by the way because he had confronted Herod, and Herod didn‟t like it and had him
incarcerated) in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you
the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” In other words, you‟re not
acting like I thought you should act. You‟re not doing the things that I thought you
should do as the Messiah, so I‟m wondering, do we have the right guy? Are you the one
I‟ve built you to be?
John had turned over his whole ministry to Jesus. In John 3, John‟s disciples are coming
up to him and saying, “Hey, everybody‟s following Jesus. What are we going to do? We‟re losing power. We‟re losing ground.”
John says, “That‟s exactly the way it‟s supposed to be. He must increase, and I must
decrease. I‟m not worthy to carry his sandals. He is the man. He is the one who came from Heaven. He‟s the real thing. I was just here to announce his coming and get out of
the way. I‟m rejoicing that the bridegroom is finally here,” John 3. And now, he‟s
scratching his head.
You see, when Jesus comes on the scene, the Holy Spirit said to John, “Whoever you see
the Holy Spirit ascend on as a dove and remain, He‟s the Messiah.” So, he sees Jesus,
and the Holy Spirit remains on Him like a dove, and he says, “Behold the Lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world.” He announces to everybody, “This is the Son of
God.” You can read that in your Bibles. “This is the Son of God,” he says in John 1. He just tells everybody.
In Matthew 3, he talks about what he expected the Messiah to be. Let‟s turn there really
quick, Matthew 3, page 957. You get a little taste of John‟s preaching style. In Verse 7,
the Pharisees and Sadducees are coming to him. These are important people. These are
the religious elite; the Conservatives were the Pharisees; the Liberals were the Sadducees;
but both groups were men of means. You‟re thinking John is going to be on his best
behavior because if it gets these two groups as part of his following, it‟s really going to
help the economy of his ministry. He could buy some better clothing, maybe eat some
better food, maybe move out of the wilderness and get a condo in the burbs of Jerusalem.
Let‟s be nice to these guys-these are powerful men, but when he sees them coming, he
says, “You brood of viper!” Not a good start. You poison the snakes. „„„Who warned you
to flee from the coming wrath?‟” What‟s coming? Wrath is coming. “„Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.‟
“„Do not think you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you
that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.‟” In other words, don‟t trust in your religious affiliation and background-heritage, to be your salvation. That‟s a good lesson to learn. Don‟t trust in whatever church membership
you have or church affiliation or the faith of your mom and dad. John says, “What about
you? What is the condition of your heart? Have you repented? Are you following the
He says, “ „The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce
good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.‟ “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come One who is more
powerful than I‟…” You haven‟t seen anything yet! You think I‟m tough, wait until you
see the next guy!
“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” What does fire signify? Judgment. Purging.
“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and He will clear his threshing floor, gathering his
wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
You take the winnowing fork, and you lift the wheat into the air. The chaff would blow
away, the wheat would fall down, and you‟d gather that up, use it, and then you‟d burn
the chaff. When He comes, He‟s going to judge. He‟s going to separate, and if you‟re not
on the right side, you‟re going to burn, baby. So he‟s got a hell fire and brimstone
message, and he says, “Wrath is coming. The next guy makes me look like a puppy.”
So Jesus comes on the scene, and what does Jesus do? Is it wrath? Does He roar? Does
the Lion of Judah roar? What does He do? He starts healing people and helping people.
His teaching is extremely different from John‟s. He starts talking about the lilies of field
as they‟re clothed, how God supplies for the birds, and how He loves you too, the hairs
on your head are numbered. He talks about how He‟s a good God.
John‟s scratching his head. He‟s saying, “Come on! Get rid of the soft stuff! Tell them
what they need to hear! None of this feel-good stuff!” He‟s teaching differently. He‟s helping people. He‟s forgiving sins. He thought Jesus would come and punish for sin,
bring judgment. But what he didn‟t understand was Jesus hadn‟t come to bring the wrath
of God onto people. Jesus had come to take God‟s wrath against man‟s sin onto Himself.
He had come for redemption, not for judgment.
John didn‟t understand that, so he sends a note from prison, “Are you the Messiah, or did
I make a mistake? Should I look for somebody else?” Jesus does all these wonderful miracles, and what did He say after He was done? He said,
“Shhhh. Don‟t tell anybody. Don‟t let anybody know I did that for you.”
Remember the man last week who He healed from Leprosy? What did he say after He
healed him? “Don‟t say a word. I don‟t want anybody to know.” He did that all through
the Gospels until the time was right. He‟d say, “You need to be quiet about what
John is saying to the whole world, “He‟s the Son of God. He‟s the lamb of God.” And
Jesus goes, “Shhhh. Be quiet. Not My time yet.” Jesus did something very interesting in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 4. We really don‟t
have time to turn there, but sometime read Luke 4 because it parallels Matthew 11. We
will turn there, Matthew 11. Right yourself a note to look up Luke 4.
Matthew 11: How is Jesus going to respond to John‟s doubt? What‟s he going to say?
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John and say you turncoat, you betrayer, you
unfaithful doubter. How could you question me? I disown you!” No! That‟s not what He said.
He says, “Go back and tell John the blind receive their sight.; the lame walk; those who
have Leprosy are cured; the deaf hear; the dead are raised; and good news is preached to
He answered the question. You say, “What do you mean He answered the question?” In
Isaiah 61:1,2, there is a prophesy about Messiah. It says, “When the anointed One
comes,” (that‟s what Christ mean-Anointed One, Messiah-same word in the Hebrew.
Christ in the Greek, Messiah in the Hebrew-both words mean anointed one), here‟s what He will do: “The blind will see; the lame will walk,” etc. Jesus read this in Luke 7 as He
began His ministry in Nazareth, His hometown. He goes into the Synagogue, and they
hand Him a scroll from Isaiah, and He starts to read Isaiah 61:1, 2. He reads this passage
right here about what the Anointed One will do. Then He rolls it up, and He says, “Today,
this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
In other words, “I‟m the fulfillment of this Messianic Prophesy. I‟m the person Isaiah
That didn‟t go over real well. “Hometown boy, who do you think you are?” It says they
grabbed Him, and they wanted to throw Him off a cliff. It says Jesus just passed through
their mitts because it was not His time. How would you like to be at the front of that line?
“Where‟d He go? What happened?” He was gone. He stopped short. As He‟s reading that scripture in Luke, He stops right in the middle of
the verse, right in the middle of Verse 2 of Isaiah 61. He stops halfway through. He
leaves out a phrase. The phrase is this: “And to proclaim the day of vengeance of our
God.” Judgment and wrath.
When Jesus quotes that prophesy from Isaiah in Nazareth, He reads from the scroll, He
stops mid-sentence and leaves out the rest of the verse, “To proclaim the day of
vengeance of our God.”
Is that an accident? No. Because He had come, in His first coming, not to bring
vengeance and wrath, but to bring redemption. The wrath would come on Him, not on
people. John didn‟t understand that, but now He did. It‟s a good thing.
Did John swallow his doubt? Nope. John didn‟t swallow his doubt. You and I don‟t
swallow our doubts. Don‟t pretend it‟s not there. You address your doubts. What is the
specific area the doubt I have comes from? And then you address the doubt. Get your
answers. That‟s what John did. That‟s healthy. Whenever I hear people express doubts to me, do I go, “Ahhh! No! You have doubts!”
Having doubts and addressing those doubts is a part of faith, not of unbelief. It‟s a part of
faith. It‟s a part of our struggle as Christians. Is Jesus going to think less of John now?
Let‟s find out.
Look at Verse 11. This is after John questioned if He was in fact the Messiah. He says, “I
tell you the truth. Among those who are born of women, there has not risen anyone
greater than John the Baptist.”
Does that sound like Jesus thinks less of John the Baptist? Does that sound like someone
who‟d say, “Boy, I used to think he was a great guy, but he just really lowered himself in
my eyes when he started doubting like that. You doubted Me, for goodness sake. No, he‟s not as good of a guy as I thought. He‟s not as strong of a follower as I once thought he
Jesus esteems him. Friends, it‟s a lie. Express, pinpoint the area, talk about it, and get
your answers. Pursue healing, because once doubts are answered, then action takes place.
When action takes place, we‟re able to turn our lives over more completely to the Lord
because those doubts and those questions are answered. Do not be afraid of doubts.
Sometimes Christians are afraid of their doubts. They think, “Something‟s wrong with
me. I‟m doubting something about God. I‟m doubting something about my faith. There
must be something wrong with me.” We are afraid of our doubts. Do you know what I‟ve found in my life? When doubts are addressed, when questions
are answered, my faith becomes stronger or weaker? Stronger. Every time my faith has
been rocked, I‟ve gone after the answers to the questions. When I was 17 years old, in English class, Mr. Connally said, “You can write your paper
on anything. You can use any source but the Bible because it contradicts itself, and it‟s
“Eww. Eww,” like Horshack (from Welcome Back Kotter), “Mr. Connally, Mr. Connally,
I‟ve got a question.”
And he dissected me. He tore me apart. I was no match for this guy intellectually. He
began to raise all kinds of questions about the Bible that I‟d never heard before. You
know what I did? I went and “God answers” because I had doubts after talking to him. I went and talked to my professors, and I came back and said, “I‟ve got some answers for
you.” In front of the whole class, I was able to share those answers. I remember being a student, studying for the ministry at Trinity. Remember old Dr.
Linton I talked about last week. Dr. Linton brings in a liberal scholar who says Genesis is
just symbolism, just allegory. It‟s an allegory of what happened. There really wasn‟t an
Adam and Eve. There really wasn‟t a garden. It‟s just a story so we can understand our sinful condition.
And then I thought, “Well, Dr. Linton‟s going to beat him up.” He‟s tearing us up, but Dr.
Linton will set him straight. And he didn‟t. I was thinking, “Dr. Linton, take care of this
He said, “You guys go back to your dorms, and you study these questions. He‟ll be back
I went back. I was in Genesis. I was there! “Williams! Wanna go shoot some buckets?”
“No, no, no. I‟m in Genesis.”
“Wanna go get some pizza?”
”No, right here. I‟m staying right here.” And the next day, I came back to class and so did
the rest of my peers, and we nailed that guy! If it‟s an allegory, why did Jesus refer to
him as a real person? Why does Paul refer to him as a real person? And that is a real
event. Why is He listed in the genealogies of Abraham and others? We just had questions
that left him scratching his head and having some doubts when He left.
You become stronger.
You know, we‟re all worked up about the DiVinci Code. We‟re going to address this in
two weeks in our church. This movie that‟s coming out says Jesus was married to Mary
Magdalene. They had children. They‟re still living in France, their descendents. Mary
Magdalene is the Holy Grail. It‟s craziness. The secrets societies and Leonardo DiVinci,
Sir Isaac Newton and so on. This is the only time I‟ve ever seen liberal scholars and
conservative scholars in agreement; I have never seen this before, but right now liberal
scholars and conservative scholars say, “These people that believe this are nuts. There is
no evidence. This is just out there. This is far-fetched. This is crazy.” You know what I believe? I believe this film has just as much potential, and you might
think I‟m nuts, but just as much potential to bring people to Christ as did The Passion of the Christ. Do you know why? Because people have their faith questioned, and it raises
doubts. What do they do? They say, “I‟ve got to find out. I‟ve got to know.” I‟m sure there‟s going to be some that it‟s going to hurt because doubt is a dangerous
thing. If you know nothing about your doubts, you just let it linger and live within you, it
will paralyze you; it will impede your growth. It will cripple you, and it will spread. But
if you address those doubts, I think you‟re going find people whose faith becomes
stronger, not weaker. You‟re going to find people coming to Christ because they‟re going
to start investigating this and thinking about whom Jesus is. Watch, watch and wait. It
happens every time.
Don‟t be afraid of your doubts because your doubts can be turned to areas of great faith.
The ushers are coming forward, and they‟re going to be distributing the communion.
Hold on to the elements. Hold on to the bread, the cup, do not partake them. If you‟re
here this morning, and you‟re a believer, you‟ve made a commitment to Christ, you‟re
welcome to receive with us today. You don‟t have to be a member of our church to
partake; we will not exclude you. If you‟re not sure if you‟re a Christian, or you know
you‟re not, let this time be a time of meditation, reflection for you. We want you to know
how glad we are that you‟re here and how much we hope and pray that you‟ll come and
join us next week.
Artist: Sanctus Real Album: The Face Of Love Song: I'm Not Alright If weakness is a wound That no one wants to speak of Then “cool” is just how far we have to fall I am not immune I only want to be loved But I feel safe behind the firewall Can I lose my need to impress? If you want the truth, I need to confess I’m not alright I’m broken inside, broken inside And all I go through It leads me to you, it leads me to you Burn away the pride Bring me to my weakness Until everything I hide behind is gone And when I’m open wide With nothing left to cling to Only you are there to lead me on Cause honestly, I’m not that strong I’m not alright I’m broken inside, broken inside And all I go through It leads me to you, it leads me to you And I move, and I move, and I move...closer to you And I move, and I move, and I move...closer to you And I move, and I move, and I move...closer to you And I move, and I move, and I move... I’m not alright I’m broken inside, broken inside broken inside, broken inside And all I go through Leads me to you, leads me to you I’m not alright, I’m not alright, I’m not alright...that’s why I need you