THE GOOD NEWS: Doubt is nothing to be ashamed of

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
Kevin Wendt

In Luke 7 we learn that, of all people, John the Baptist had doubts about Jesus.

John had been imprisoned for preaching God’s law against the immoral lawlessness of King Herod. And John knew his prison cell was on death row.

With that mortal reality he reacted to word of Jesus’ miracles by sending two of his own disciples to ask Jesus a nagging question. It’s what a man will do when his mortality is staring back at him.

John had no doubt his birth was authored by God. John had no doubt his death would lead to eternal life rest with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But John had serious doubt about his purpose in living.

Once he was sure he was to prepare the way for the promised divine-human savior to come and to point to Jesus as the Lamb of God fulfillment of that promise. But in prison John was no longer as sure.

It is what a man will do when he is alone, victim of injustice, persecuted, stressed and under duress. A man naturally will doubt the Word of God.

Doubt does not mean faith is gone. You’re not either a believer or a doubter. You can be both. In fact, every believer is a doubter. Faith can exist alongside doubt. And doubt does exist alongside faith. In doubt it is not that a believer necessarily stops believing. It is that he needs added help believing.

So John used his disciples to express his doubt to Jesus. He had them ask his nagging question. “You, are you the one coming? Or shall we be expecting another?”

It does not read like a particularly impassioned question until you consider what it meant for John to ask it. If Jesus was not the promised divine-human savior to come, God’s Word to John was not true. And if God’s Word to John was not true, the purpose of his life was not true. And if the purpose of his life was not true, then the assurances of where John came from and where he was going when he died were two more lies.

John’s doubt was threatening to unravel his sense of security about his entire life and afterlife. His conscience peace rested on Jesus’ answer to his question.

Jesus loves doubters and so he answered John’s question. “Go, report to John what you saw and heard: blind are getting back sight; lame are walking; lepers are getting cleansed; and deaf are hearing; dead are rising up; poor ones are receiving the Gospel. And blessed is whoever shall not be trapped in connection with me.”

Jesus’ answer was quotations from Isaiah chapters 35 and 61. Jesus spoke the Word of God and sent men to speak it to John. For his doubt, Jesus sent John the Word of God.

Here is the point: By the Word of God alone God first brought John to faith. It was not John’s willpower or decision to believe. It was God’s gracious power through his Word to make him a believer.

And, by the Word of God alone, God overcame John’s doubt to keep him a believer. It was not John’s willpower or decision to stop doubting. It was God’s gracious power through his Word to keep John in faith even as he doubted.

This is the good news for you and me!

The greatest of God’s prophets wrestled with his mortality, loneliness, rejection, injustice, anger, bitterness, stress, and ended up doubting who Jesus Christ was. And Jesus loved him to keep him in faith by the Word of God.

Of course you and I doubt. John the Baptist doubted! And yet also, in the prison cells of our sin, on the death row of this world, we remain secure in life and the afterlife not by dreams or visions or signs or ecstatic experiences or so-called prophetic words but by hearing the Word of God, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

For “faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

This is the good news because God’s Word is not only audible for us. It became flesh for us. The Word of God, Jesus Christ, became flesh to take his place on the death row and to be executed on a cross for us. And then, as we confess in the Nicene Creed, “on the third day he rose again from the dead, according to the Scriptures,” that is, according to the Word of God.

You see, Jesus loves us as much as he did John the Baptist. He does not get angry with us either for our doubting. Instead, as with John, he has lovingly given us his Word. So we need not hide our doubting. Rather, we can confess it, express it to Jesus, and receive his love and forgiveness for doubters. You can take his Word for it.

Kevin Wendt is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Destin. He can be reached at pastorkevin@gracedestin.com.