Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Just Stop It" and other terrible advice.


      I spend a lot of time driving, in fact, when traffic is bad, I can spend more than four hours commuting each day. While I am driving, I listen to the radio, I listen to a lot of radio, talk radio, sports radio, christian music, rock music, a little bit of everything. Often, on my drive home, I listen to a Christian call-in program, you know the kind, a caller has some question about faith or the bible, and they call, and then the host gives them his best biblical answer.

     Last week, as I was driving, I was again listening to the call-in program, to protect the innocent, I will not reveal the actual name of the program or  of the host. The caller sounded like a very sincere lady, and her question was genuine enough. She wanted to know how to deal with unbelief in her life. There were times when she was completely settled that she believed Christ, and that she was going to heaven, and then sometimes, she was not even sure she believed that there was a God at all. Her question, was I think one that many if not all followers of Christ could express at some point in their life, and how we deal with this says a lot about our theology.

     The show's host pointed his guest to the story of Thomas in John, chapter 20, I was hopeful, this might help her, I thought. But then he just glassed over the story and said, se
e Thomas doubted, and Jesus says "Just stop it, stop doubting and just believe". As if this was not bad enough, the Host felt the need to heap shame onto the already terrible advice. He pointed to the verse where Jesus says blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe, and said, "see, Jesus was shaming Thomas for not having enough faith, you don't want that, do you, just have faith".

     That was his solution to the whole problem of unbelief or doubt, just stop doubting and just believe. I was so utterly disappointed and sad, sad for the woman who will go away thinking this is the answer, sad for the pastor who really believes that this is an answer to doubt, sad for all those others in the audience who have ever experienced doubt but were afraid to express it as openly as this woman.  I felt my heart break for those who have spent all their energy trying to somehow work up enough faith to "just stop doubting and just believe", for those who really have tried, and yet the doubts still creep back in, especially in difficult situations, those nagging doubts. I know them, I have experienced them myself, times when you are left wondering how God could be all He claims and yet allow such horrible things, times when my situations left me wondering if God really cared about what was happening to me, if He was even there at all. Oh, I am familiar with those doubts, and I know that someone telling me to "just stop it", would not have been helpful in the least during these times.
     What did help? How did I come through these times of doubt and unbelief with my faith at least mostly intact? Through my times of doubt, I learned something about God's character, In Matthew 7, we find this,
 Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
  “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead?  Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!  So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
     Look back at the story of Thomas in John 20. When Jesus enters the room with the disciples, he does not call Thomas out for doubting, He simply offers Thomas his hands and side as proof. Its as if Jesus was saying, "I desire you to believe, and if this is what it takes, then come, touch my wounds, know that I am for real". Jesus never chastised Thomas or told him to "just stop", Jesus offered exactly what Thomas had asked for in proof. Sure Jesus knew that some would come along and believe without having to have the proof, but it was not shame or derision Jesus offered to Thomas, it was exactly what Thomas needed to come to faith. 

      And you see, this is the truth that the woman who called in to this show needed, that all those who struggle with doubt and unbelief need. The message is not "just stop it", but rather,  just admit it to God, just tell Him, and ask Him to help your unbelief. God is the great father, the best father, and he wants to give His children whatever they need, and he promises that all who seek WILL find, all who ask WILL receive and all who knock WILL have the door opened. God is not threatened by our unbelief, He is not sitting in Heaven telling us to "just stop it", He is coming to us, right where we are, offering us whatever we ask in order that we might come to know him. We should not be ashamed of our doubts, or try to somehow work up the faith on our own, but rather tell God, "I am having trouble believing you right now, I need to know you are real". I am convinced that He will honor honest doubt so much more than if we just shove our doubts down and pretend we can handle this faith thing on our own.

Pastor FedEx

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