Doubt and fear is what I want to wrap up our series on making right and godly choices with. Doubt and fear are something we all face, every one of us, even if we have made the right choice, and that is doubt.
SHALL WE DANCE?
Second guessing the choices we make is commonplace for human beings, and the Bible likens it to dancing. We are not God, so we do not have infinite knowledge, understanding and faith. As a believer, how many times have you made a decision, then felt this nagging doubt creep up on you, questioning whether you made the right choice, whether it is God’s will, and if it is, will He even be faithful to you, and are you even worth it?
Doubt and fear are normal, but it does not make them right, because they are based in fear and unbelief. We might dress it up and call it different names, but it is doubt and fear just the same.
When you agree to buy something big, like a car or house, then on second thoughts you wonder if it was such a good buy, we call it “buyer’s remorse”. If a bride leaves the groom alone at the altar it is called “getting cold feet”. If we commit to something in church then pull out we call it “I just didn’t feel a peace in my spirit”, but all of these are purely and simply just doubt.
When Peter stepped out of the boat in the storm and walked on the water, and he did well until he stopped, rationalised and looked around and panicked!
Matthew 14:31 (ESV Strong's)
Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
The Greek word Jesus uses here for doubt is “distazo”, which literally means, “to doubt or to mentally waver.”
A similar Hebrew word is used by Elijah to the Israelites when taking in the prophets of Baal...
1 Kings 18:21 (ESV Strong's)
And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”
That word limping in Hebrew is “pasah”, which means “to hop, to limp, to waver or to dance.” What a brilliant description of doubt, where we make a decision and then find ourselves dancing between two opinions, hopping from one foot to the other.
We would like our choices to be right, godly, strong and decisive, yet often, despite our best intentions, we find ourselves weak, insipid and flipping between doubt and faith.
So let’s analyse our thought process around the doubt and fear that will assail us after we have actually made a decision…
DANCE STEPS- THE DOUBT AND FEAR TWO STEP!
You’ve made a decision, and it’s a good decision. You know it’s right, you know it’s good and you know it’s God, but there’s that nagging doubt. Welcome to the Fear and Doubt and fear Two Step… Shall we dance? Let me take you through the steps....
You started with reliance. You make a decision, you trust God, you have faith in the God who says He has plans for your life, to prosper you and not to harm you. You make a decision, take a leap of faith and trust God, believing that…
Psalms 27:1 (ESV Strong's)
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
However, the devil is not happy about your making a positive decision, and so he starts to subtly undermine the process with doubt and fear…
So the decision has been made, but there is a restlessness.
James 1:6 (ESV Strong's)
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
The Greek word for driven and tossed “rhipizo” which means “to agitate or stir up.” It is used to refer to fanning an ember into a flame, and so the doubts are stirred up like that, like wind whipping up the ocean, starting small but agitating into full blown faithlessness.
This uneasy, restless feeling causes you to reconsider. Like Peter, you look at your surroundings, at the circumstances, listen to the opinions of others and you begin to reconsider your initial decision…
Matthew 14:30 (ESV Strong's)
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”
How many of us make a decision, then get swayed by circumstances into reconsidering our choice?
As you reconsider the situation, you start to rationalise. You start to think things through in a different way. One phrase we often use in English for this particular dance step is that we start to “entertain doubts.”
What a curious but revealing phrase. We don’t look at doubt and reject it, we don’t slam the door in doubt’s face, we entertain it. We say, “Come on in, Mr Doubt, have a seat. Can I get you a coffee? Why not stay for dinner? In fact, why not move in?”
Proverbs 3:5 (ESV Strong's)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
When we lean on our own understanding instead of trusting God, we rationalise our doubt and fear and excuse them as inspired logic, and then we are not trusting God for that decision.
The next phase is panic… we want to cut and run, run like crazy to get away from impending disaster that our rationalise mind convinces us is imminent.
But the Bible says, in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything.” Paul tells us,
2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV Strong's)
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (Sound mind)
When you reach the point of panic, you have anything but a sound mind. Panicked people make irrational decisions, and most decisions made in the heat of the moment are bad ones. This leads to the next step...
6. REQUESTING HELP
Like Peter sinking in the waves we cry out, “Lord, save me!” In our panic, in our fear, in our entertained doubts, we look for salvation. We search for a way out, and if we are wise, we turn to the Lord again… and He says…
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV Strong's)
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
GOD CAN DEAL WITH YOUR DOUBT AND FEAR
God is big enough to deal with your doubts… of that there is no doubt! He doesn’t want pretence and bravado from you, He wants honesty. If you make a decision and you doubt, don’t try and hide as many Christians do behind the bravado of false hyper-faith… where we never face our fears and doubts, we just positively confess them away. People who do this often have little faith despite their brave and sometime foolish positive confession. If you are trying to convince yourself to have faith, your faith is not in the immutable, infallible and incredibly powerful God we serve, but in yourself. That’s not real faith, folks, and trying to muster it doesn’t work long term.
When I think of faith and doubt I always consider Abraham…
Abraham is described as the Father of Faith. When God told him he would have a son, he didn’t stick his head in the sand and positively confess. No, the Bible says he looked at the facts, he recognised the impossibility, but because God had told him…
Romans 4:20-21 (ESV Strong's)
No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
He didn’t waver, he refused to dance with the devil, he looked at the facts and recognised that his body was as good as dead at 100 years old. He was rational, he was logical, he stared Doubt straight in the face, but then he said, despite all this, “My God is bigger than you!”
Don’t ignore or gloss over your doubts. Don’t try and fake or muster enough faith in yourself… look to Jesus, feed your faith and your doubts will starve to death!
Let’s look at someone else you struggled with their faith…
GIDEON WAS FEELING GIDDY
Gideon is another great hero of faith as a warrior and a judge in Israel. He is often held up as a model of decision making, but he is not at all! He’s actually an example of God loving us through our doubts and fears. Gideon was one of those guys who danced between faith and doubt constantly.
Some Christians try to determine God’s will by “throwing fleeces” as Gideon did in Judges 6. You might remember that Gideon was visited by an angel and he was threshing wheat in a cistern, for fear of the oppressive Midianite regime. The angel then called him mighty man of God, but he replied that he was the least in his tribe, which was the least tribe in Israel. Clearly this guy had doubts and very little faith!
Then came the fleece throwing thing…
Judges 6:37 (ESV Strong's)
behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.”
This happened, but he still was not sure. So he laid a second fleece…
Judges 6:39 (ESV Strong's)
Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.”
He was testing and testing God, but God knew his doubts and loved him enough to allay his fears.
Some Christians say, “If X happens, then I’ll do one thing; but if Y happens, then I’ll do another.” This is a terrible way to make decisions and is little different from heads or tails! It’s spiritual two up! In most cases, putting out a fleece demonstrates not a robust faith in God, or a willingness to truly know and obey His will, but an unhealthy suspicion that God does not have our best interests at heart and He really can’t be trusted to fulfil His promises.
GIDEON WAS FLEECED!
God recognised that Gideon was a man of doubt and fear, but God loves him enough to tolerate the fleece throwing situation not once but twice. God did it to allow his faith build for the future.
- This is the only place in Scripture where this method is used
- Fleece throwing was Gideon’s idea, not God’s! Nowhere in the Bible does God authorise this practice or recommend it for knowing His will.
- Gideon knew God’s will at the start… he had had an angelic visit and a direct Word from God. He was not trying to make a decision, he was doubting God, and he did this twice to gain confidence for the battle ahead. He needed an extraordinary sign to build his faith.
I’m sure God would have preferred Gideon to have faith like Job, who despite all the circumstances going against him, he trusted the Lord with a strong and deep faith, a faith that said,
Job 13:15 (ESV Strong's)
Though he slay me, I will hope in him;
HOW DO WE STOP THE DANCE?
I know many of you have made deep and life-changing decisions in this series of messages. But I also know that many of you have doubts, second thoughts and cold feet about the decisions you’ve made. Today is the day you stop the dance of doubt and fear and make 100% sure of your choices and decisions.
You might have decided to become a Christian but then that voice whispers in your head, “You’re not good enough for that. God doesn’t want people like you.” Don’t listen to that voice, and don’t doubt, because God’s Word says,
John 5:24 (ESV Strong's)
Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
You might have made a big decision to get rid of a bad habit, or to make a positive change in your life. You might have made. Life changing choice but are doubting whether you can stick to it. We are here to love and support you, and together make that great decision stick for eternity!
You might have decided to come here to check out this church. You like what you see, but there’s that nagging doubt in your head. You might feel guilty that you want to leave another church. You may feel fearful because you don’t know where you can fit in. Let me allay your doubt and fear…
Ignite Church is called to be a safe haven, a spiritual home where my desire as a pastor and the desire of our ministry teams is to see you become everything you could possibly be in the Lord. My heart is to train and equip and then release you to become a mighty man or woman of God. I won’t force you to do things you don’t want to do, but as God loved Gideon and gently helped him into faith and belief, so our commitment here is not to condemn you but to love and build your faith too.
So let me finish with ways can you deal with the dance of doubt and fear and stop second guessing decisions?
1. BE SURE OF YOUR DECISION IN THE FIRST PLACE
Making the right choice, God’s choice for your life, is not always easy. As we’ve discussed previously, there are several tools you can employ as checks and balances to make sure you are choosing correctly…
Psalms 25:4 (ESV Strong's)
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
Sometimes circumstances open up and just show you God’s will in a choice, revealing the obvious and logical pathway to doing it. Sometimes God’s ways are obvious, but beware because this method is often not reliable. Just because it looks good, doesn’t mean it is necessarily God!
2. THE STILL, SMALL VOICE
We talked about the voices in your head a few weeks ago (check the app). Many time you can hear God’s voice if you know what He sounds like. I’m going to do a series coming up on hearing God’s voice, and Fiona has a course starting in July on hearing God’s voice.
Isaiah 30:21 (NIV-WS)
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
3. GODLY COUNSEL
When facing a decision, getting good advice and counsel from godly people can give you real insight. Not your mates at the pub or your Facebook friends, people at church you respect. I make all decisions in Ignite church consulting not one but many team members and leaders…
Proverbs 11:14 (ESV Strong's)
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety.
Sometimes, albeit rarely, God will lead you supernaturally, with a dream, a vision or an prophetic word. Never rely on this method alone, it is fraught with danger. Gideon met and angel, Pete saw a vision and prophets throughout the Bible spoke God’s words…
Haggai 1:12 (ESV Strong's)
… all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.
In our church, prophetic words are common, and much of the prayer at the front is prophetic, but these words should reinforce what God is saying, not be the only source of guidance!
5. GOD’S WORD
For me, the ultimate voice of God in my life is His Word. God will never contradict His written Word, and as I spend time with Him each day His Word comes alive, leading, guiding and lighting my path...
Psalms 119:105 (ESV Strong's)
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
So use a combination of those methods we’ve discussed to be absolutely sure of God’s direction when you make a choice or decision, especially a big one like changing jobs, Church or residency.
2. BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR DOUBTS
Some Christians are always trying to generate faith. I’m sick of Christians faking faith trying to generate enough faith to get what they want. Listen, if your will lines up with God’s will, faith is a lot easier. God’s not here to give you what you want. He is not your personal genie in a bottle. When you align yourself with Him, you don’t have to try to fake it, because you know that you know that you know God’s will in your choices. Seek first His Kingdom, and guess what happens!
God is not fooled by your false bravado! We all experience doubt, so please be honest, be open, and just as God loved Gideon, Thomas and others through their doubt and fear into faith, He will love you too!
Think of the father whose child was demon possessed…
Mark 9:24 (ESV Strong's)
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
This is a classic statement of the paradox Christians face in making godly choices… they believe, but still struggle with unbelief. They trust, but still can’t seem to trust enough. This desperate father wanted to believe, his heart said yes but his head said no! He was dancing with doubt and fear.
And some of you here are just like that. Heart says yes, but head says no. You’ve come to this church thinking your dreams are dead, they’ve gone, they’re finished. You can feel God awakening those dreams, you can sense that something is stirring, you even begin to believe and make the choice to follow God into what He has for you. But then you doubt, you second guess yourself, your heart cries yes but your head tries to logic you out of it! You believe, but cry “Help my unbelief!”
3. ANSWER YOUR DOUBTS WITH FAITH
Doubt knocked at the door. Faith answered. There was no one there! The answer to the dance of doubt, the second guesses, the fake hyper-faith and cerebral logic, is to build your holy faith…
Jude 1:20 (ESV Strong's)
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,
Praying in the Holy Spirit builds your faith, that’s why God gave us that gift. Reading God’s Word, studying it and memorising it, build your faith, that’s why God gave us His Word.
Faith is directly dependent on how well you know somebody. If you don't know someone, doubt and fear arise.
If Fiona asks me for $100, there’s no problem. I know her, I know she won’t blow it on alcohol or drugs. However, if some random guy in the street asks me for $100, the answer is “no way!” If I don’t know him, I can’t trust him. You get to know God and rely up and trust God by reading His Word and praying. When you know Him, your trust deepens and you stop second guessing!
Psalms 37:4-6 (ESV Strong's)
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
Today I want to pray for those struggling with doubt and fear. Today, faith will answer the door, and there will be no doubt there. No doubt, no fear, no second guessing, no anxiousness.
If you, like me, make decisions and then second guess yourself, if you decide then doubt, the Lord is calling you to respond today. Don’t stand there arguing with Him, if He is challenging you come forward and we will pray that doubt, fear and second guesses with be replaced by genuine, God centred, powerful, life-transforming faith. Look out mountains, you’re about to be moved!