Tag Archives: Doubt

God’s Tests

A Godward HeartWe cannot answer every why question. But there is always this answer: my faith is being tested by the Lord who loves me and will help me. And our Lord never wastes his tests. Whether we believe this truth is, in fact, part of the test. In the mind of Jesus, the promise that he would give them the crown of life was enough to sustain the Christians in Smyrna. I praise God that this has been, and pray that it always will be enough…

~ Excerpted from A Godward Heart by John Piper

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)

In other words: “Lord, as You grow our faith by stretching it through tests, may You protect us from the lies of the evil one who would have us doubt Your motives and trust in ourselves rather than in You.”

Abba, Father, help us trust You today!

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Adversity, Christianity, Doubt, Faith, God, God the Father, John Piper, Prayer, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Trusting God

God… where are you?

Why would he need to reassure them of God’s presence?

One of my favorite passages is Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save,
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

This passage has brought me comfort time and time again, especially the notion that God delights in us and quiets us with His love.

But last week as I was once again reflecting on it something new came to mind.

Why would the prophet need to reassure them of God’s presence?

For whatever reason they were not experiencing a sense of God being with them.

Ever been there? Ever wondered where God had gone and why He seemed to leave you when you most needed Him? I have.

Why would God not make His ongoing presence very obvious? Why does He allow us times of feeling abandoned? Larry Crabb offers this insight:

God’s restraint has a purpose. When He appears to be doing nothing, He is doing something we’ve not yet learned to value and therefore cannot see. Only in the agony of His absence, both in the real absence of certain blessings and in the felt absence of His Presence, will we relax our determined grasp of our empty selves enough to appreciate His purposes. ~ From Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb

Ever go to meet up with someone and end up alone because you misunderstood the agreed upon destination?

When we expect God to show up in a certain way and He doesn’t, it can feel as if He’s abandoned us when in reality we’re just looking for Him in a wrong location.

We often want God to show up and make a certain situation of life easier. If God determines that such an intervention would not be what’s best for us then He will not show up in that way. It doesn’t mean that He has abandoned us but that we are living with false expectations of how God will make Himself known.

Larry Crabb goes on to say:

Only when we want Him as we want nothing else will there develop in our hearts a space large enough for Him to fill. Because He longs to fill us, He hides His face long enough for us to discover how fervently and exclusively we want Him. When our discovery creates a secret space that nothing else can fill, and when we know that to be true, He enters. ~ From Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb

Until we die to all our lesser passions in life we will never come to experience the pure joy of simply resting in God’s presence.

May we come to discover that place deep inside that only God can fill with His presence!

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Divine presence, Doubt, Faith, Faithful, God, God's Will, intimacy with the Lord, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

Can we journey with God and wrestle with doubts?

The account of God using Gideon and just 300 Israelites to defeat over 200,000 Midianites is a great story, but it’s the irony within the story that has captured my attention. (Judges 6-8)

An angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and gives him God’s directive. But Gideon isn’t sure it’s really the Lord so he asks for some confirmation. God is agreeable and sends fire to consume a meat offering laid on a rock.

Gideon is awe-struck and agrees to go with the Lord on this special ops mission. But along the way he has some doubts. So he asks the Lord for another sign and places some fleece on a bowl before heading to bed.

God again privides the miracle and Gideon is convinced… almost! He wants another sign using the same fleece and bowl but in a different way. God does it again.

Then after whittling Gideon’s troops down from 32,000 to just 300 men God grants Gideon yet another confirmation. He allows Gideon to sneak into the enemy camp and overhear them talking about some strange dreams. In these dreams the Israelites roll down the hill like a large boulder and crush them.

Gideon’s weak faith is again bolstered and the battle is won in short order.

God’s rescue is amazing but even more amazing is how Gideon was used in spite of his doubts. God didn’t get angry with him or give up on him.

Does anyone else find that the least bit encouraging?

We can follow God… we can be used to carry out His kingdom purposes… we can do His work… and we can wrestle with doubts at the same time!

Faith is obviously a critical part of our journey with God and it is impossible to please Him without it (Hebrews 11:6). But that doesn’t mean we won’t still wrestle with some occasional doubts.

Every time I’ve struggled through a season of doubt I’ve come out the other side of it with a stronger, deeper faith. The important thing is to be honest with our questions and seek out some good people/resources to help sort it out.

The critical element in our journey with God is not our unwavering faith but God’s unwavering presence!

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Check out my Resources tab above for some good books on this subject. One of the best is Faith and Doubt by John Ortberg.

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Divine presence, Doubt, Faith, Trusting God

God of my… some things

At one time I trusted God with everything; my marriage, my family, my work, my friendships, etc. I was confident that His plans were better than my plans. Life and faith in God were simple and straight-forward.

But somewhere along the way things got out-of-hand.

  • Pressures of life began to squeeze our marriage and less time together meant less of a foundation to stand together against the various assaults that came at us. There were times when we were ready to throw in the towel and quit!
  • As the kids got bigger and ventured out into the world there were new struggles with kids that were cruel and situations that were unfair but beyond our control.
  • Unhealthy work environments began to sap my passion for ministry and without realizing it I slipped into “survival mode.”
  • And then there’s the issue of people! I know how messed up and hurtful human beings can be because I am one. Relationships that don’t get handled well don’t fix themselves or go away; they come back to bite you in the butt!

In short… life got messy and complicated!

What happens when our current faith in God gets trumped by our circumstances of life? Ancient believers referred to this experience as the “dark night of the soul” – a crisis of faith that either destroys our trust in God or drives us deeper into Him.

My first encounter with this was a bit daunting! But I’ve come to embrace this as a healthy and normal part of our journey with God. I’m learning not to dread such moments but to see them as an invitation from God to go deeper in my trust of Him.

The song God of My Everything by Bebo Norman has come to be a powerful reminder that no matter how complicated life gets or how out-of-control it might seem, I can still trust God with everything. If the video below doesn’t play then click here.

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Filed under Commitment, Doubt, Faith, Family, God, intimacy with the Lord, Life in General, Marriage, Music Video, Parenting, Trusting God, Work

Stealth Warfare and A Civil War Submarine

The Confederate Civil War vessel H.L. Hunley, the world’s first successful combat submarine, was unveiled in full and unobstructed view for the first time two weeks ago (Jan 12, 2012), capping a decade of careful preservation.

About 20 engineers and scientists applauded as they caught the first glimpse of the intact 42-foot-long narrow iron cylinder, which was raised from the ocean floor near Charleston, SC more than a decade ago.

In the summer of 2000, an expedition led by adventurer Clive Cussler raised the Hunley and delivered it to the conservatory on Charleston’s old Navy base, where it sat in a 90,000-gallon tank of fresh water to leech salt out of its iron hull.

The narrow, top-secret “torpedo fish,” built in Mobile, Alabama by Horace Hunley from cast iron and wrought iron with a hand-cranked propeller, arrived in Charleston in 1863 while the city was under siege by Union troops and ships.

In the ensuing few months, it sank twice after sea trial accidents, killing 13 crew members including Horace Hunley, who was steering.

On the night of February 17, 1864, its captain and seven crew left Sullivan’s Island near Charleston, and hand-powered the sub to the Union warship Housatonic four miles offshore. From a metal spar on its bow, the Hunley planted a 135-pound torpedo in the hull of the ship, which burned and sank. It then disappeared with all eight Confederate sailors inside.*

Stealth weapons and tactics have always been a part of warfare but no one is better at it than the devil. As Steven Furtick puts it:

The devil is a liar. That’s all he is, and he’s good at what he does.

In Ephesians 6:10-18 Paul reminds us to guard against the attacks of Satan. After listing various pieces of spiritual armor to put on Paul says:

In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.

Why a shield of faith? Because the enemy’s favorite tactic is to tempt us into NOT trusting God; and he prefers stealth mode. He sneaks up when we least expect it to plant a seed of doubt. If undetected, it eventually grows until we turn from God and take matters into our own hands.

Whatever it is that you are facing today remember…

you can trust God!

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* Adapted from a report by Reuters

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Filed under Choices, Doubt, Faith, Satan, Sin, Temptation, Trusting God

Honest to God!

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” ~ Matthew 28:16-17

Jesus had been arrested, crucified, buried and raised from the dead. He had appeared to hundreds of eye-witnesses after His resurrection. He ate and drank and cooked fish. Can you imagine a more significant demonstration of God’s existence?

But it’s time for Him to return to the Father. So the disciples meet Him on a mountain. Understandably, they worship Him. But did you catch those last three words? “…but some doubted.” They what? They doubted!

But they weren’t the first. Consider these others who walked by faith choosing to trust God and yet still battled with occasional doubts.

  • Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s promise for a child.
  • Abraham doubted God’s plans and on two separate occasions lied about Sarah telling others that she was his sister.
  • Elijah went toe-to-toe with 500 priests of Baal and watched God demonstrate His power and yet doubted God and ran from one angry woman – a queen – who made a threat against his life.
  • John the Baptist declared “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” when he saw Jesus. But not long after that he was in prison and sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the promised one or if they should look for another.

Or consider that 60% of the Psalms are laments with people screaming out, “God, where are You?” As Lynn Anderson observes, “Normal faith is allowed to beat on God’s chest and complain.”

But my favorite demonstration of faith and doubt co-existing comes from an account in Mark chapter 9. A crowd has gathered as a father tries desperately to get help for his son who is demon possessed. Here’s a portion of the dialog between the father and Jesus…

“How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief! ~ Mark 9: 21-24

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever find yourself facing a difficult situation where you trust God to be in control yet struggle with a few doubts? If you do then welcome to the club. You are not alone. In fact, you are in rather good company. And nowhere do we see God chastise any of these people!

“Lord, as we head into a new week with untold challenges and adventures around every corner, we profess our trust in You, but help us when we struggle with doubts.”

PS - Yesterday’s sermon “Is God real?” is posted on the sermon/audio page – check it out!

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Filed under Doubt, Encouragement, Faith, Trust