Have you ever doubted the effect of the finished work of Christ in your life? If so, you are now officially to be considered with the other 100% of Christians who also have as well. Like it or not, we live in a society of skepticism. Truth is subjective and relative, and everything is guilty until proven to be innocent, but only by what standards are decided to be measured against by someone who arbitrarily deems that the standard is Truth.
This past summer, our church and others from our area saw God move in and perform a massive reviving of His children. Lives were changed forever, homes put back together, and over 200 people were gloriously saved — many of whom were already faithful church members and workers. Just down the road about an hour and a half, another revival which lasted for nearly 3 months took place in which over 1000 came to Christ. No doubt, many of them had also been raised on a church pew.
During this amazing time of revival, God saw fit to lay it on the heart of our Pastor TWICE to preach on the subject of doubt. Allow me to share a moment of gratitude for a pastor who is in tune with God, and who begs for direction when it comes to leading his flock. God knew exactly what many needed and were feeling. As me and other members of the church watched some of the most upright, “Christian-esque” people admit that they had been living a lie, and for the first time, come to a saving knowledge of Christ, doubts in some of our own hearts began to rise about the authenticity of our salvation. I will raise my hand to be included. I know, without a shadow of a doubt that I was saved at the age of 4 years old, and I knew it before and during the revival.
Here is and was the mistake: we often attempt to measure the grace that has been bestowed unto us by the Lord Jesus against the measure of the grace that He has bestowed on someone else. For example, I may become “jealous” of the experience one of my fellow church members has had because God saved him out of a life in which he smoked and sold over $200 worth of pot and other drugs on a daily basis, all while failing to realize that perhaps the miracle performed inside of ME (to be saved FROM the philosophies of a world that teaches complete and total opposition to the things of God), was potentially a greater miracle – just one that does not produce such overwhelming visible evidence.
This really got me thinking about the role that doubt does and should play in the life of a Christian. Before I dive into the real argument, let me provide two verses which I believe appear to contradict themselves. This will introduce us to the issue at hand and give us some perspective as to how we should solve this seeming conundrum.
- 2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
- Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
Here we have before us one verse which says we should examine ourselves, and thus using our own knowledge and feelings, come to a reasonable conclusion as to whether or not we know our own selves enough to realize that we are living in the faith of God. And then, we have a verse which seems to completely abandon this thought, and tells us to trust only in the Lord, evidenced by leaning not unto our own understanding.
So the question before us is this: Can I, as a Christian, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in His finished work and still doubt that the work has been done. I want to give you three arguments below which will aim to show you that doubt is actually a great sign that you are, in fact, in the faith.
Argument #1: Doubts Lead To Discoveries
A person who doubts is in a very unique position, and actually, has a very strategic advantage. The doubter is one who has a mind prepared to learn and to listen. Before I continue, I must provide some clarity as to the definition between simply a doubter and what we would consider a “skeptic.” A skeptic, by our contextual definition, is one who is doubts to the extent that they form a belief within their mind there is actually nothing absolute, and therefore approaches any process of debate or discovery with the presupposition that their discoveries will return void and thus remain false. A doubter, on the other hand, is one who is ready and willing to cling to the conclusion that makes the most sense based on the facts that have been presented for a given argument.
For example, one who is a skeptic (by the definition I just provided) might believe that Christ has not saved their soul because He is unable and unqualified for such a task. In this case, their philosophy has ruled out their capacity to believe, so until the Holy Spirit performs a miraculous work of humility in their heart, they will not be able to accept Christ as their Savior. The doubter, however, is convinced that Christ has the capacity to save, but is confused for any number of reasons as to how and/or IF that work has been performed in them. Based on these two definitions, I believe that 2 Corinthians 13:5 actually encourages us to be a doubter in this sense.
A person may doubt that they are worthy of the salvation provided by the death of Christ, they may doubt that they are the kind of person which Christ was looking to save, and they may even doubt that the grace of God is able to extend to a person who claims to love the Lord but disobeys repeatedly. These kinds of doubts can be addressed with the Scriptures, and to some degree, I believe we can assert that it would be a healthy exercise to doubt these things. I say that because once you make it your quest to find what the Bible really says in response to these doubts, your faith will be much stronger for it. My faith has never been stronger than now, and all it took was an honest, humble assessment of myself this summer to come to conclusion that of all sinners I was perhaps the least worthy of salvation, and yet when I got saved it was not ME who did the “doing,” but Christ.
I’ll leave this argument with a loose, common sensical quotation of something my pastor said in one of these tremendously helpful messages: “Doubting your salvation is a good indication that you are saved, otherwise, there would be nothing to doubt.”
Argument #2: Doubts Lead To Self-Awareness
Here I want to directly address the claim made in 2 Corinthians 13:5. If you’ll allow me to paraphrase, the essential message is that you have the ability, because you know yourself better than anyone outside of God Almighty, to determine whether or not you are in walking in the faith which you claim to believe. Directly, the verse asks us to prove our own selves. Now, what does that mean?
Doubting in your ability is both a blessing and a curse. For instance, there are a young people all over this world who have incredible issues with their self-esteem and self-worth. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that hundreds commit suicide each week because of a feeling of self-worthlessness. This is a curse. On that same token, the whole of Scripture seems to indicate that the person God is most willing and most apt to use IS the one who has no feeling of self ability — take Moses, Gideon, Paul, Peter, JESUS – the list goes on and on. So what we see here is that there truly is a fine line between the kind of doubt that is healthy and the kind of doubt that is costly. The one element of truth that applies to both the blessing and the curse is that the doubter has reached an incredible state of self-awareness. The healthy doubter says “Not I, but Christ!”, while the costly doubter says, “Not I, so death.”
The truth is that at one point in time, anyone who is a Christian and has truly been converted has experienced the healthy level of doubt at least once. The Bible teaches very clearly that in order to be saved, there must be a realization that the work of Christ is necessary in order to become one of God’s children, and therefore this person realizes in at least one moment of humility that this is not something that can be accomplished of self. Since this is part of our human nature, it is perfectly reasonable to believe that these doubts can and will surface later in life even after they have received salvation. So to summarize this thought, there are really only three kinds of people in this context:
- Those who doubt at a cost. Again, these people have no feeling of self-worth, and so their doubt drives them into a deep state of depression.
- Those who don’t doubt, but are skeptical. These people are skeptical of the fact that it will require an outside force to effect any significant change (and, by virtue, of the fact that any change is even needed), and therefore will not be able to be converted while in this dreadful condition.
- Those who doubt to their delight. Meaning, that their doubt has led them to conclude that by themselves they are nothing, but are not skeptical, so therefore are willing to accept that God has the power to work and intervene on their behalf.
Argument #3: Doubts Lead To Decisions
“Only in a world where faith is difficult can faith exist.” ― Lee Strobel
Finally, we see that based on the inevitable doubts that we will have as humans, and the doubts that are seemingly encouraged in the verse in I Corinthians, we can infer that a decision must be made based on what type of person we are. We will choose either to doubt ourselves insomuch that we hate ourselves and thus live in a deep state of depression, we will choose to doubt ourselves insomuch that we realize that only the finished work of Christ can truly make us the person that we were intended and created to be, or we will choose that there is nothing to doubt at all, and therefore rest confidently in the fact that we are limited only by what we ourselves can accomplish.
I believe that the reason why God encourages this self-evaluation in verse 5 is because He knows a decision will be made based on what we have found. Hopefully, this will result in one of two ways:
- We will see that we are, in fact, in the faith, and therefore can rest in that fact and enjoy the things of God, or:
- We will see that we are not living in the faith (based on what the Bible says it is like to be “in the faith”) and therefore beg God that He will save our wicked souls.
What happened this summer at our revival was exactly these two things. The messages were so powerful and the Holy Spirit conviction SO strong that we were forced to examine ourselves. Many found that based on the evidence, they were in the faith. However, many others found that they simply were not, and chose to ask God for forgiveness and to save them. Some even went to the extent of publicly apologizing to the church for the facade and the masquerade. That is true repentance.
In closing, here is what I am attempting to get across to you: do not let your doubt in Christ’s work in your life stop you from believing that He has the power and ability to do so. In this context today, only skepticism is to be avoided. If you are doubting your salvation and therefore examining yourself, you are only performing a regular duty that the Word of God not only permits, but encourages. That said, I will leave you with this thought:
If in doing this you have come to conclusion that you are not living in the faith which you claim, do not wait another second past right now to fix this. I will tell you that many of us were shocked to see some who had examined themselves and found they were not in the faith, but not one of them was treated with disrespect, apathy, or a degradation of dignity. Each one was embraced with open arms as if they had just been a random soul off of the street who had walked in and received Christ after hearing of Him for the very first time.
Do not let pride and ego get in the way of accepting Christ. No feeling or standing on earth is worth trading for even three seconds in eternal hell.