Community Group Study Notes

  • How did Sunday’s message help re-frame your perspective on doubt?
  • If doubts are never addressed properly, what negative impact could that have on our faith and on our lives?
  • What is one action step you can take with what you heard in Sunday’s message?


Memory Verse

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:5-6)

Sermon Transcript

I'm in Romans chapter 15. If you want to find your place there, that's where I'm going to be. Let me read this passage to you. Beginning in verse number one, it says, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: 'The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.' For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Now, to this passage, we will return in a little bit, but not yet. I remember how shocked the world was in 2007 when the private journals of Mother Teresa were released in kind of book form about 10 years after her death in 1997. One of the things that took everyone by surprise was how much she struggled with kind of a dark night of a soul, kind of the idea of doubt and the darkness that had creeped in in her life. I mean, somebody of such great faith who had worked with the marginalized and the poor in Calcutta for so long who was viewed all over the world as a godly woman, now we were seeing a decade after her death her journals that reflected so much working through some things in her life. In fact, in one entry it said this. She wrote, "I feel just that terrible pain of loss of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing." This is Mother Teresa writing this.

Now, the interesting thing is that journalists picked up on this, and they began to kind of write articles and thought pieces about how they questioned her faith and whether or not it was real or authentic. Then, some of the Christian community felt like they were just in shock based upon what they were reading, but let me tell you what my response was after kind of thinking about it and processing it for a while. I was actually a little bit relieved that she was like everybody else. In fact, I was relieved in the same way I was relieved when I read CS Lewis's work called A Grief Observed. He wrote that in 1960-ish. In writing it then, that was about 20 years after he had written a book called The Problem of Pain. In The Problem of Pain, Lewis had written kind of a theology and a philosophy around the idea of pain and suffering. What he did in Problem of Pain is he used his mind to work through some of the theological and philosophical issues around the idea of suffering and pain.

20 years later, when his wife was dying of cancer, he wrote A Grief Observed, and it was real and earthy and tough and raw. In fact, in that particular book, A Grief Observed, Lewis wrote this. He said, "Meanwhile, through the pain, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you're happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing him, so happy that you're tempted to feel his claims upon you as an eruption, if you remember yourself and turn to him with gratitude and praise, you will be, or so it feels, welcomed with open arms. Go to him when your need is desperate, when all other help is bane, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows."

This is CS Lewis writing this. Obviously, you know where he landed. You know he worked through that, but this was him in the midst of dealing with that time of doubt and darkness. Writing in the forward to that book, A Grief Observed, was another great writer named Madeleine L'Engle. You've probably heard of her. Here's what she said, "It is helpful indeed that CS Lewis, who has been such a successful apologist for Christianity, should have the courage to admit doubt about what he has so superbly proclaimed. It gives us permission to admit our own doubts, our own angers and anguishes, and to know that they are part of the soul's growth." Doubt, have you ever felt it?

Have you ever been embarrassed by it a little bit because you're thinking to yourself, "Nobody else has these, just me"? Have you ever felt like doubt was one of those things that you had to push beneath the surface and hide like it was that one family secret about that one relative that nobody ever talked about and you tucked it away and never did anything at all with it? Well, if you have, I would encourage you to go back and start to read the Bible because in the Bible what we run into in person after person after person in the Bible itself is them working through an issue of doubt, people like Eve or Sarah or David or Solomon or Gideon or Elijah or Mary or John the Baptist or Thomas or Peter. That's just a sample, by the way. There could be a whole lot more that we might name. You see, when we look in scripture, we see them. When we look in scripture, we see ourselves because we see ourselves in them. We see the doubt that we feel sometimes that's actually in them. We start to go, "Okay, it's real."

You see, the scripture itself has a posture on this idea of doubt. It takes kind of a perspective on this idea of doubt. To maybe say it simply, if you're a note taker, you could just write this down. Scripture treats doubt as a reality but not necessarily as a virtue. You know, one of the things I love, among the many things that I love about the scripture itself and about having all of these people who have written by inspiration of the Spirit so that we can learn and grow and be taught, is that we get in the Bible, from cover to cover, we get the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is not like a prettied-up, polished-up kind of deal. We get to see people at their dead level doubting worst and we get to see them at their absolute faith-filled best. We get everything in between, all of this. We get the entire continuum of the human experience here in the scripture. When we see people who are wrestling and dealing with doubt, we have to know that scripture treats doubt as a reality but not necessarily as a virtue.

In that statement that I made, I realize that there are two parts to it. Scripture treats doubt as a reality. That's the first part, so let me pause for just a second and unpack that idea that scripture treats it as a reality. If scripture treats doubt as a reality, then it is incumbent upon us to talk through it and to work through it, see, as opposed to stuffing it away, which is what we do so often in the church. We put it away and think that it can't be talked about, that we don't want to deal with it, we don't want to acknowledge it, and we just stuff it. Truth is is that often times through the course of history, the church hasn't dealt very well with the idea of doubt or with people who are struggling with some doubt. The church hasn't done a very good job.

In fact, that may be why when CS Lewis was writing in 1960 and writing these incredibly earthy, real reflections on what's going on in his the midst of his pain, maybe that's why, when he published that book, he published it under a penname, NW Clerk instead of CS Lewis, because maybe he knew that the response might be one of judgment or condemnation or looking down upon. Certainly after his death, we found out that this was CS Lewis who actually written this, the same guy who had written The Problem of Pain and given us handles in which to work through the philosophical and theological issues surrounding pain and suffering. See, I'm imagining that with all the people who are under the sound of my voice today that there are people who've had some sense or a background in whenever they've worked through the idea of doubt that they've never felt the liberty be able to talk about it with anybody else because it seemed like the people around them always had their stuff together, never doubted anything, and, as a result, they didn't want to be looked down upon because if they even thought or doubt or had a question that maybe they would be looked down upon.

I find it interesting sometimes when people say to me, "Hey, Pastor Jerry. I've got a question for you." I'm thinking, "Just one? That's all you've got? Because I've got a bazillion of them." You see, when we understand that the Bible teaches us and shows us that doubt is a reality, a human experience that you have to walk through, then maybe it's incumbent upon us in the church to be able to talk about that a little bit to get it out in the open as opposed to tucking it away beneath the surface where we hide it. We should talk about it and work through it because doubt, the scripture tells us and shows us, is a reality, but it's not necessarily a virtue. See, that's the second piece of the statement that I made there. Scripture teaches us that doubt's a reality but not necessarily a virtue. If doubt is not a virtue, then it shouldn't be worn as a badge of honor.

See, that's the thing. In our post-modern world that we live in, we reject answers and just like questions. That's kind of the post-modern world that we live in. There are people even in the Christian church that write entire books on a particular subject and the whole book is nothing but questions with no answers at all. As a result ... I understand where that came from, by the way. It came from kind of a rebellion against previous generations who acted like they had answers for everything even if they didn't know what they were talking about, that made up answers because it made them look smart and powerful and all of those kinds of things. A generation sees that and sees between all of the cracks and all of the holes of people that think they have all of the answers for everything. Then they start saying, "All I have is questions," and we wear it as a badge of honor, "I'm a doubter." We think it's the right thing and it's the cool thing to just be a doubter, but the scripture doesn't actually talk about doubt as a virtue. It says that it's a reality, but it's not necessarily a virtue and shouldn't necessarily be worn a a badge of honor.

I mean, nobody comes up to you, right, and says, "Hey, congratulations on your sickness. I'm so glad you're sick. It shows you just how mature you are." No. They shouldn't do that with doubt either. "Hey, congratulations on all your doubt. You're incredibly mature. You're so well-advanced because you doubt so much." No, we should treat doubt not just like a sickness, but we should treat it in this sense, that we come alongside of people, we show grace to people, we show love to people, and we want to help people learn how to get better or we ourselves want to learn how to get better because we're not destined to live in that place forever. You see, doubt is a reality. We see it all through the scripture. We see it in the lives of the people all through the scripture. We see it in our own lives, if we're honest, but it's not necessarily a virtue to be worn as a badge of honor.

We've got to ask at least this question. Where does doubt come from? If we know that it's a reality, then where does it come from? If we can understand where doubt comes from, maybe we can begin to diagnose what it is we're dealing with. My job here today is not to give you an exhaustive list of where doubt comes from. I don't know that I could do that, but I can at least give you a sample of how doubt gets involved in our lives. Let me give you the first one. It comes from unrealistic expectations. That's at least one place that I could tell you that doubt comes from, unrealistic expectations. What do I mean by that? Well, I actually like the way that Alister McGrath said it. Alister McGrath is an Oxford professor that wrote a book called Doubting. That's relevant. In it, he said these words. He said, "Of course we have difficulty in trying to understand God and the world, but this does not mean our faith is misplaced. We need to understand what those limits are because, in the end, doubt arises partly on account of our unrealistic expectations of certainty."

You see, here's what we get confused by. We have unrealistic expectations. I've talked with skeptics till I'm blue in the face. I've done my dead level best to answer questions that they have in reasonable ways, in intelligent ways, in Biblically faithful ways as best I can. There may be some questions where I just say, "Yeah, I don't know." If I don't know, I just answer, "I'm not sure. It's a good question." "Aha. See, that's why I don't believe." "Oh, really? It's just that one? I could probably feed you 50 more if you wanted them." See, the bottom line is you've got some kind of unrealistic expectation if you're in that place to think that you have the capacity to know everything and to have every question solved. You really think that? If you're being honest, you can't possibly think that. You have limitations. You're a created creature, not a creator. Therefore, you have limits. You're finite. You can only understand so much. I can only understand so much, but we have these unrealistic expectations that until God answers every question that I've ever come up with in my life, then he's not worth paying attention to or following or listening to.

You see, here's the definition of someone who knows everything about everything: God. That's the definition. That would eliminate you and I. We better make sure that we don't have these unrealistic expectations because when we create them, when we have to have everything absolutely certain ... By the way, if everything's absolutely certain and everything has an easy answer, where's faith come in? What's your need then? We create these unrealistic expectations. As a result, sometimes that's why we doubt. The Bible's actually not too thrilled. God himself, when he was speaking through Isaiah to the people of Israel, was not too thrilled with people who were basically saying, "I know as much as you do, God. I know as much as you do or I should know as much as you do." In fact, listen to what the Lord says in Isaiah 29. He said, "You turn things upside down as if the potter were thought to be like the clay. Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'You did not make me'? Can the pot say to the potter, 'You know nothing'?"

Let me put it in modern parlance. That would be like the car saying to Henry Ford, "I know how to operate better than you." Henry Ford might go, "That's interesting. I made you. I made you." This is God speaking to us, saying don't have unrealistic expectations about the breadth of your understanding or the breadth of your certainty because that's sometimes how we fall into the trap of doubt. There's another one that I could tell you and it's doubt comes from spiritual amnesia. Let me remind you what I mean when I say that. How many of you have ever had a time in your life where you know God did something extraordinary, showed himself so powerful or faithful or true in a circumstance or many circumstances in your life that you can look back on and you can go, "There he is"? Has that every happened in your world? Certainly happened in mine. There he is.

In those moments, you're thinking to yourself, "God, I don't know how you did what you did here. I don't know how this even turned out to be the way that it turned out to be, but you clearly got involved in this and I will never doubt you again," until you do. We develop this case of spiritual amnesia. We've forgotten what God has actually done in our lives or we have forgotten what God has actually said. You see, I understand. We get overwhelmed because we live in the age of information. In fact, I think that part of the reason that we have so much struggle sometimes in our world is because we are over-inundated with information that we don't, as human beings, have the capacity to handle because we have unrealistic expectations on what it is we should know. We think we should know everything about everything, but, as human beings, we don't have that capacity and so we get overwhelmed. As we get overwhelmed, we start freaking out about everything, about our faith.

With every new scientific advance or development or discovery, we get freaked out. I get the emails, "Did you see the new discovery they found?" That actually comes through in the email. I don't know how you spell it but (noise). It feels like people are just out of breath. "Did you hear about this new scientific theory?" Yeah, science away. Discover stuff. I'm good with it. We get freaked out. Then we hear people who are not fans of faith, they're kind of the new atheist breed or the new agnostic breed that talk in real cool terms because they're hip and they can talk to everybody and how foolish it is to believe in this because basically they just believe in science as if science somehow contradicts with God, which is ridiculous.

Bad science actually contradicts with God, but good science doesn't have a tendency to do that because we understand the glory of God when we see God revealed through all of these things. Nonetheless, we get all freaked out when we see all this stuff and we get sideways. Here's the thing that people forget. We get spiritual amnesia thinking that somehow God has not addressed all of these reasons why we have doubt, all of these reasons why sometimes we don't think God's there. He's addressed all those in the Bible itself. He's like put them all out there for us. It's not like this is news to him, it's sneaking up on him. God already knows all this and he's giving us examples of people who walk through them. Have you ever read the Psalms?

I mean, in the Psalms, whether it's David or Asaph or others, sometimes they're just going, "Uh, what is up?" That's a straight Hebrew translation, by the way, "What is up? Where are you? What is happening? This doesn't make any sense." Just read the Psalms. You will find every expression of emotion that you can possibly find when you're in there. I like Philip Yancey who's kind of a Christian author who's written a number of books, some of which had to do with doubt. In an interview, I like what he had to say when he talked about kind of when he works through this issue of doubt. Here's what he said. He said, "When I speak to college students, I challenge them to find a single argument against God in the older agnostics like Bertrand Russell or Voltaire or David Hume or in the newer ones, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, that's not already included in books like Psalms, Job, Habakkuk, and Lamentations. God seems rather doubt-tolerant, actually."

I love how he phrased that. God seems rather doubt-tolerant, actually. What he's reminding us is this. We forget that God's already included all of this. We forget what God has done in our lives. We forget what God has said. As a result of our spiritual amnesia, we just get panicky and doubtful. Let me give you a third reason. It's sometimes doubt comes from immature faith. Not all of the time, but sometimes it comes from immature faith. In fact, when you look at what Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew chapter 21, he said, "Truly I tell you if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree," remember he made that kind of (noise). That's a literal. I don't know even why I made sound effects. You know, kind of the fig tree withered. "Not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done." Jesus was using language to describe kind of the increase and the growth of faith versus the immaturity of faith. The immaturity of faith was shown in doubting, but the growth of faith was seen in trusting.

Paul talked about the same thing in just a few verses before the opening passage that I was referencing. He said, "Whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat because their eating is not from faith and everything does not come from faith is sin." Paul was talking about food that was sacrificed to idols and whether or not Christians should eat that or not eat that. He was talking about the weak brothers and the strong brothers and sisters and those kinds of things. He said if what you're doing, you're doing based in doubt, he said then it's not based in faith and it demonstrates a bit of an immaturity of faith. How about James when he was talking about gaining wisdom? He said, "But when you ask for wisdom, you must believe and not doubt because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." Then he goes on to say, "Don't think that you'll receive anything when you're in that place," because there's just an immaturity of faith at that point instead of an expansion or a growth or a maturing of faith. Sometimes that's the case.

There's other times maybe where the reason that we doubt is because of contradiction. Here's what I mean when I say that. I'm talking about Job who has an idea of what he believes God to be, that God is good and God is righteous, and that Job's belief about God is that if Job honors God, that God is going to bless him in everything that he does. Yet Job honors God in his life and he's not blessed it seems. He was, but then he's not. That contradiction of this is the way that I believe God acts and God doesn't act the way I think he's supposed to act, and then it causes doubt to creep in because God's not behaving as we think he should behave. Or Mary, an angel shows up to her, says, "You're going to give birth to the Son of God. The Holy Spirit's going to overcome you and you're going to be pregnant with the Messiah, Jesus." She says, "How can this be? I'm a virgin. How can this be?"

You see, for her, it was a contradiction because she knew how the world worked and she knew how babies were conceived and she knew because she wasn't involved with the man that she was betrothed to be married to. How can this happen? It wasn't a doubt in terms of sin. It was a doubt in terms of the contradiction of this is the way that I know that the world works and I can't quite explain what you're talking to me about right now. Or Peter, we're all familiar with Peter. Peter was in a boat like he enjoyed being because he was a fisherman. He was out on the Sea of Galilee. A great storm came up. Peter and all the disciples were in the boat. Jesus wasn't with them. They were all a little bit concerned. Peter probably was able to navigate it a little better than the rest because he's been on boats in storms before, but some of the tax collectors and some of the other dudes were probably freaking out.

As they're all freaking out in this great storm with the waves riding over the boat, they see a figure out on the waves that's walking. They all freak out, saying, "It's a ghost. It's a ghost." You're laughing, but you'd probably be saying the same thing, right? It's a ghost. Jesus says, "Take courage. It's all right. Don't be afraid." Peter says, "If it's you, Lord, tell me to come to you on the water." I don't know what kind of inspired him to say that. Peter, often times, there was no filter. He thought it. He said it. That was that. Peter said, "If it's you, Lord, tell me to come to you on the water," and Jesus went (whistle). Peter steps out of the boat, takes a few steps. He's walking on the water and then he freaks and he starts drowning. Jesus rescues him. Notice what it says in Matthew 14, "Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter. 'You of little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?'" Listen, I know what Peter's answer is, "I doubted because people don't walk on water. That's why." It was a contradiction that he had trouble overcoming. This is not the way that gravity and earth and water interact. How is this possible that the sea has become a sidewalk? I don't know how to make that work in my head. Contradiction, sometimes it causes us to doubt.

Let me give you one more. Sometimes doubt comes from the fact that the gospel seems too good to be true. The gospel, the good news seems too good to be true. There was this British pastor back in the 1800s named Charles Spurgeon. In one of his sermons, he was talking about the idea of doubt. In fact, he had this really great name for the sermon. It was called The Desire of the Soul in Spiritual Darkness. You know what my title today is? Doubt. His was The Desire of the Soul in Spiritual Darkness. I'm like, "That's why you're Charles Spurgeon and I'm Jerry." Here's what he said, "I think when a man says, 'I never doubt,' it is quite time for us to doubt him. It is quite time for us to begin to say, 'Ah, poor soul. I am afraid you are not on the road at all. For if you were, you would see so many things in yourself and so much glory in Christ, more than you deserve, that you would be so much ashamed of yourself as even to say it is too good to be true.'"

What he's trying to describe here, ladies and gentlemen, is that when we get our minds even starting to flirt with the idea that the most infinitely happy being in the entire universe would rip his life apart to save people who were undeserving, sinful, and enemies, we can't help but say, "This is too good to be true." We who have been enemies, we who have been doubters, we who have been sinners, we who have acted independently of God, we who have been unholy, we who have been unrighteous, yet the most infinitely happy, infinitely holy, infinitely joyous being in the world tears his life apart in the giving of his Son so that we might be reclaimed. You can't help but think for a moment, "This is too good to be true."

You see, I've talked with people all the time. "I don't know, Jerry. I don't know that God could actually ever forgive me." It's too good to be true for them, so they doubt, but some of that is part of the soul's growth. Some of that is real and normal. You see, knowing these things about what causes us to doubt, and I've not named them all, but knowing these things helps us to actually diagnose doubt. It's not enough just to diagnose it. We have to ask this: How do we deal with it? What do we do about it? Every one of us, we've been in that place. We've experienced doubt. We've had questions we didn't know the answers to and didn't think that we may ever find the answers to. How do we do it?

Well, remember that passage I told you at the very beginning when I read I said I was coming back to it? I'm almost there. Before I get to it, I want you to write this statement down because this is what this passage is going to show us. Doubt can be fertile ground for hope if we let it. Doubt can be fertile ground for hope if we let it. Let me show you what I mean by that. When Paul, in chapter 15, is talking about those who have made decisions in doubt in chapter 14, when he's talking about eating meat sacrificed to idols and those kinds of things, we begin to see a bit of prescription for how we're supposed to operate in kind of this space or this world of doubt. Listen to what Paul says. The first thing that I would remind you is this. If we'll embrace some things that Paul teaches us, we'll find ourselves in a much better spot when it comes to dealing with doubt because doubt's a reality. We're all going to deal with it. We've all dealt with it or we're going to deal with it.

Here's the first thing I want you to embrace. Embrace endurance. Listen to what Paul says in verse number four, "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the," what? "Endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have," what? We might have hope. The endurance taught in the scriptures. You see, even when we find ourselves, ladies and gentlemen, in a place of doubt, what we have to do is continue to put our nose back into the revelation that God has given us in his word. Here's why. In it, he's not only commanding us and empowering us to be able to endure, but he's reminding us of the very people that have doubted yet endured in the midst of doubt.

You see, here's the thing, folks. Doubt sometimes wants to take over, but doubt's not taking over. Doubt's just renting a room of faith. We have this room in our heart that we call faith, but sometimes doubt shows up and rents a room. That's what happens. Now doubt and faith are living side-by-side inside of us sometimes. Now, there's times where it's not, but occasionally it is. We haven't said, "Hey, doubt's shown up to rent a room. Therefore, faith has to move out." No, no, no. The new heart that we've been given by Jesus Christ, it is a heart of faith. This is the ownership of this new heart. We have been made new. The old is gone. Behold, all things have become new. We are a new creation in Christ Jesus. When we have been changed and transformed, this heart is now a heart that is saturated by faith. Sometimes doubt comes in and rents a room for a bit and they live together. You know what you have to do? You have to endure because that's what they did in the scripture, whether that was Elijah or whether that was Gideon or whether that was David or Solomon or Eve or Sarah or Peter or Thomas, any of these people. You know what they did? They endured.

Here's the beautiful thing that we can be reminded of if we embrace this idea of endurance that we've been called to, that we continue to stick our nose in and continue to get to know God and continue to press in even in the midst of some of our doubts. There's another thing that we can embrace, encouragement. In fact, I want to remind you in this same passage that we're referencing here, you'll see both of them at play. Listen again to verse number four, "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope." What is the encouragement the scripture provides? The encouragement is that all these people that have gone through doubt that we see that were people of faith, that they've been wrestling with doubt, is that they endured and they didn't live in that place forever.

Sarah, she doubted that with a barren womb and at 90 years old that she could have a child until she did, until God came through and he did what he said he was going to do. She didn't live in that place of doubt anymore because God had interrupted that and shown her who he was. I like that. Thomas, he said, "I'm not going to believe until I see the nail prints in his hands and in his feet and the spear mark in his side." Then Jesus says, "Come on over, my man," and he does. He feels and he says, "My Lord and my God." Do you know what Thomas went on to do? He didn't stay in the place of being a doubter. We always call him Doubting Thomas. He didn't stay in that place forever because you know what he did? He ended up, listen to this, he ended up, after the persecution of the church and the scattering of the believers from Jerusalem, Thomas ended up in India preaching the gospel to those that were in India and died for his faith for the sake of Christ. That doesn't sound like somebody who's always going, "I don't know. I don't know."

Be encouraged by that, that this man of doubt endured in faith and eventually, listen to this, even though doubt had rented a room for a while, Thomas ended up saying, "Hey, the rent's due, doubt." Doubt said, "I can't pay." He said, "Goodbye." Now he's a man of faith who's not overwhelmed by doubt but is now walking with Jesus. He's going to another place, another country, into another people, and he's preaching the gospel even unto his death. How about Peter? You want to talk about a dude who doubted. I'm not just talking about out on the water. I'm talking about when Jesus is about to be crucified and Peter's saying, "I don't even know him. I don't even know him. I don't even know him." He's scared to death. He's denying Jesus. He's doubting everything that he's come to know because this is not the way that Jesus is supposed to act. This is not the way that God's Messiah is supposed to fulfill everything. I can't believe this is happening.

That contradiction that's going on in his heart led to him doubting and ultimately to denying Jesus. That same Peter was not only restored by Jesus but ended up leading the church of Jesus Christ in the known world in the early first century and leading the church of Jesus Christ to be a bunch of people, listen to this, who turned the world upside down. This same one who denied his Lord ended up being put on a cross and he said, "I'm not worthy to die in the same manner as my Lord. Turn me upside down." He was crucified upside down. That should encourage us because his faith didn't go away. It endured. When we press our nose into the word, here's what we see even in the midst of our doubt. We see people just like us who were also doubting but who endured by faith and didn't live in that space for the rest of their life.

There's another reminder in here we've got to embrace. We've got [inaudible 00:39:00] each other. We're not only embracing endurance and embracing encouragement, we've got to embrace each other. Listen to how Paul said it in verse five, "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Listen carefully. Aren't you glad that God showed you grace and has shown you mercy in times of you doubting in your soul? We've all been through it. We've all walked through it. It's all been a challenge sometimes for us. Aren't you grateful that in those seasons, those kind of dark seasons, that God has shown you mercy, that God has shown you and I grace in the midst of that? Well, since he's done that, we should do that for one another. That's what we should do for one another.

You remember what Jude said in verse number 22? There's only one chapter, but Jude said, "Be merciful to those who doubt." You see, here's the thing. This is why we continue to beat the drum of saying you need to be in community with other believers. I'm not just talking about in a worship environment. I'm talking about in kind of a small group or a mentoring environment. You need to be in community with other believers and here's why. You need each other because there's going to be seasons where you're going to walk through some difficult times and your brothers and sisters are going to be in a better place and they're going to help you endure and walk through that season.

There's going to be times where your brothers and sisters are in a difficult place and they're struggling and maybe they're wrestling with some doubts. You're going to be able to walk with them through that difficult season. We need each other. That's why we have to have the same mindset with one another. This is not a scenario where in the church if you're dealing or you're struggling with something that you are to keep it locked away, tucked away, and put away because you're nervous. It seems like everybody else has everything together around you. Let me go ahead and just bust that bubble. I know these people. They do not have everything together. I know this guy. He doesn't always have it all together. This is life with humanity. Sometimes we're frail. Sometimes we have questions that we don't know how to answer and work through. Listen to this. We just need to show mercy to one another as God has shown mercy to us when we've had doubts. We've got to embrace these things. Why? Because doubt can be fertile ground for hope if we let it.

I've got this pear tree at my house, not the kind that actually has pears that you eat, but like flowing pear. It's on the corner of our house. When we moved into our house in 2002, the house had been built in 99 and apparently they planted that tree just thereafter. In 99 or 2000, they planted that tree and it was right on the corner of the house and it was small. There was not much to it. It was kind of little and tender and young and all those kinds of things. We moved here in 2002 and tree had probably grown just a bit since it was planted a couple years before. It was like, "Oh, nice. A little pear tree right there." It wasn't huge. It wasn't big, but it was nice. When I moved here in 2002, we had a pretty bad winter that winter. Part of the reason I contend that we had such a bad winter is because I prayed for it.

You see, when I got here, I was absolutely sick of everyone. I moved here in August of 2002 and everybody was like, "Oh, man. I don't know if you're going to make it through the winter. You came here from Florida and you lived in Georgia." I'm just like, "You don't think I'm going to make it to my 33rd birthday? What is happening right now? Are you telling me I'm going to die? What is going on right now?" Everybody's all, "You've never seen winter till you lived here." One day, I stood up in church, for those of you that were here, and I said, "Here's what I'm going to do. To shut everybody up, I'm going to pray and I'm going to ask Jesus to give us the worst winter that we have had in a really long time so that I don't have to listen to, 'You should remember 1970-blah. You got to remember.'" I was just like, "I'm not having it. I want to be able to look back on something with you and go, 'That winter was awful.'" I prayed and God delivered. We had a really bad winter that winter, 2002, 2003, that winter.

I remember during that winter, that poor pear tree, it looked awful. It was terrible. It's coming out of the winter, it's bare. It's all Charlie Brown Christmas tree-looking, just all gnarly-looking, terrible. Then the spring started springing some stuff, some blossoms and all that kind of stuff. Okay, cool. Started to grow over the next few years. Then, in October of 2006, we had the October storm. Everybody remembers it, right? Half a billion dollars of damage in western New York. Almost all of it was to my pear tree, almost all of it. That thing looked atrocious, branches that had broken off. I mean, it was embarrassing. This thing, it started to grow and now it's just shredded. This thing was destroyed. I'm thinking to myself after once we kind of get to the spring or whatever, we're probably going to have to chop that thing down. We're going to have to uproot it and just throw it away. Sure enough, went through the winter, looked awful still. Spring comes around, little branch poking out, little flower on there, little bud on there, all that stuff. I'm like, "This thing is making a comeback."

Today, Edie and I are talking about we got to, in the next number of weeks, we got to get a tree person over to our house. This thing owns our entire house now. It's like on the corner. It's like up on the roof. The branches are all scraping against our bedroom window when we're trying to sleep at night and we feel like there's monsters out there going (noise). It's like eating us up now. This thing is huge and beautiful and awesome. What I realized, I'm not a tree guy, I don't know anything about any of this. What I realized is that as those winters got really difficult, that tree's roots got deeper. The deeper those roots went, the more even a storm like the October storm snapping it all off and making it look atrocious, but those roots were so deep that it had the opportunity to come back and to blossom and to be fruitful. You see, ladies and gentlemen, that's what happens to us when we press our noses back into God even in the midst of times of our doubt. What we're doing is we are growing deep roots so that when these things come and they snap us around a little bit, we can bounce back and be fruitful because our roots are so deep.

I just saw a tweet. I'm not on Twitter. I'm not on social media because it's just too much for me to manage, but I saw a tweet just from this last week from Kay Warren, who is the wife of Pastor Rick Warren out in California. As you may know, you may have heard, some years ago, they had a son that committed suicide, a very difficult thing for them to walk through. Just this last week, listen to what she tweeted. She said, "Someone recently asked how I survived my son's suicide. I told them I've sent my spiritual roots deep into the character of God for more than 50 years. Circumstances tried to brutally rip out the tree of my faith, but the roots held." You see, that's what, ladies and gentlemen, that's what I'm talking about.

When we face the trials that we face in this life, including doubt brought on by whatever circumstance, when we've been faithful to continue to keep our nose in the revelation of who God is, we will be a people whose faith will endure. We will be encouraged by the endurance of those that have come before us. We will be there for one another so that even if we look a little broken up on the outside, it's just a season in that moment because we're coming back on the other side and we are going to sprout fruit, we are going to blossom because our roots are so deep in the character of God. This is what we have to remember. Doubt can be a fertile place for hope if we let it. Would you bow your heads with me?

As our heads are bowed in this moment, two things. One, if you're here and you've never before entrusted your life to Jesus Christ, then my prayer is is that you would recognize that you have a need of him. You can't do it on your own, nor will you have every question answered, but when you put your faith in the one who is the way, the truth, and the life, you can have forgiveness of sin and you can have new life. When we turn from our sin and put our faith in what Jesus has done in going to a cross as a sinless sacrifice, taking upon himself the judgment of God on our behalf, rising from the dead so that when we put our faith in him, we can have our sin forgiven and conquered and dealt with forever and have new life in him. This is what we've been called to. This is what God desires. This is why God sent his Son.

If that's your need, when we dismiss in just a moment, I ask you to come by the Fireside Room. It's just out in the atrium. You can see it clearly marked. We'd love to talk to you for a few minutes about what it looks like to entrust your life to Jesus. For the rest of us, I want to do something briefly, very briefly. I'm going to ask you all over this room in the East Worship Center if you'll just stand to your feet for a moment. Just before we're dismissed, just stand to your feet. In a moment, I'm going to pray over us all. I'm just going to ask God to help us in just a moment. Here's what I'd like to do. I want to sing just a verse over ourselves to one another to remind us of the faithfulness of God even in the midst of our times of doubt. Let's sing it to him, but let's sing it to one another. We've already been singing it today. Let's remind ourselves again of that truth.

Father, you've heard these words that we confess in faith to you. Even when doubt sometimes will come in and rent a room, we realize that we've been made new and that we will remember what you've done and what you've said and we will still put our faith and confess our confidence in you because you're faithful and you're good and you're true and you're loving and you're right and that will never change. You are God and you do not change. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Even when we are on a rollercoaster of emotion and circumstance in dealing with the pains and the joys of life, while we continue to change, you do not. You are steadfast, you are strong tower, where the righteous run to you and we can be safe. God, I pray that you would help us to never doubt in the light what you've shown us, that we can recall those times where we were walking in the light and you have shown us the reality of who you are. May we never doubt in the darkness what you have always testified to us about yourself while in the light.

Give us a faith that grows even in the midst of our doubt. Give us a faith that grows and roots that deepen as we plant our roots deep in the character of who you are as the unchanging God so that we might be a people who are like trees planted by streams of living water that blossom and that grow and that develop. Would you do this for your glory? Would you do this for the glory of your namesake in and through our lives? Would you help us to be there for one another when we walk through these seasons in each other's lives? Let us be there for each other because we will need one another as we endure and we find encouragement. Lord, we love you and we thank you for being who you are even in the frailty sometimes of who we are. May you continue to show Jesus through us, that, in our weakness, we would be made strong because of the grace that you've given to us. Thank you for loving us this way in Jesus's name. Amen.

More From This Series


Pastor Jerry Gillis Part 1 - Jul 1, 2018


Pastor Jerry Gillis Part 2 - Jul 8, 2018
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Pastor Jerry Gillis Part 3 - Jul 15, 2018


Pastor Jerry Gillis Part 4 - Jul 22, 2018

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