With characteristic humor, John Ortberg says that he is
“skeptical of reports that Elvis is alive and well and working as a short-order cook at Taco Bell. I don’t believe that aliens periodically land on earth and give rides to humans—how come they never seem to land at MIT to give a ride to a physics professor?”1
Similarly, it can be a good idea to doubt when unscrupulous or ignorant preachers make claims that contradict biblical faith: “Send a donation to my ministry and you will be healed.” “God wants you to be rich.” “The world is going to end next month.” With regard to these and other claims, it is not only a good idea to doubt but our duty to do so.
But there is a kind of doubt that is never advisable—doubting God and his clear promises. Entertaining such doubts can wreak havoc in our lives, sapping the energy and confidence God wants to give us. Still, most of us go through times when we find it hard to believe. Even Abraham, the father of our faith, had seasons of doubt. As Ortberg points out,
“This great paragon of faith in the Old Testament is not doubt-free. Abraham laughs in disbelief. He lies about his wife, placing her in jeopardy to save his skin. He sleeps with his wife’s servant because he wants to father a child at any cost. He gets a lot wrong. But he gets one thing right: He just keeps going. . . . Even when he doesn’t fully understand, Abraham obeys God.”2
And that’s the key. Even when we doubt, we need to obey God. That’s the only way to become the people God calls us to be.
Having courage doesn’t mean we have no fear. It just means we move beyond it. Similarly, having faith doesn’t mean we are free from doubt; it just means we do what God wants us to do in the face of those doubts. We may get a lot wrong. But let’s get this one thing right, realizing that obedience is not only the path to faith but also the path to peace.
- John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 215.
- Ibid., 215–16.