Doubt Part 2: Description of a Doubter

Hello Friends,

This post is a continuation of my last post on doubting; a part 2 of sorts so if you haven’t read part one I would suggest going back and reading part 1.

James 1:5-8

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 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. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James describes what a doubter is like. He gives three descriptions.

  1. A doubter is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind

A doubter is not controlled by the wisdom of God but rather by his own emotions, by what those close to him say, and by popular opinion.

I don’t know if this is what James had in mind when he uses this simile of a doubting man and a wave of the sea, but it reminds of a story in Matthew 14:28-33.

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,  he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I love this story because in it you see the mixed emotions and struggling faith of Peter. Peter had faith enough to ask Jesus to command him to come into the water but his faith dissipated when we was right in the middle of the storm and he starts to sink. This is an incredible picture of what the life of a doubting believer in the middle of a storm of suffering looks like. And when Peter is sinking what does he do? He desperately sees his need, even in the midst of his doubt and cries out for his Lord to save him. And Jesus IMMEDIATELY reaches out and took hold of him and saves him.

But while Jesus is saving Peter he gives, what I imagine to be, a gentle rebuke along with a soul searching question. First he says, “O you of little faith.” Jesus points out Peter’s lack of faith and then asks him to evaluate the root cause of his little faith by asking him “why did you doubt?”

This is an incredibly good question for doubters struggling in their faith. I think sometimes we focus on the little faith part of it, and ask “what can I do to have a stronger faith?” and we try to believe harder, read the right passages, search for better more emotionally satisfying answers for the problem of our pain and suffering, or the problem of hell, or the problem of sovereignty and human will or whatever problem your doubting seems to revolve around.

Instead what many of us should be doing is examining our sin of doubting and asking ourselves, “why do I doubt God?” And at its root we will almost certainly find pride, fear, and/or, anger. As long as those sins remain our faith will always be “little”. The first step to strengthening our faith is facing our doubting and the sins of pride, fear, or anger that often lurk beneath our doubt.

Now I don’t want to miss the point if this story. Because the main point of this story isn’t Peters faith and doubting, although I think we can learn about faith and doubting in it. The point of the story is that Jesus is who he says he is and can be trusted! He is the Son of God! He is God! All wise. All powerful. And as we see in this story, ever gracious to those of  us who see their desperate need for Him in the midst of our doubting, and call upon him to save us not just from the storms of life destroying us, but from our own doubting within those storms.

  1. A doubter is double-minded.

When we ask God for wisdom, but doubt that God is wise or doubt that he is wise enough to keep his promise to grant us wisdom we are double-minded. It’s a very literal description of what’s going on in the mind and heart of a “believing-doubter.”

James uses this word “double-minded” again in chapter 4.

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

I will not take the time to break-down this whole passage right now, but I want to draw your attention to verse 6 where James says that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. After he makes this truth statement he gives a list of what we are therefore supposed to do in light of this truth and the last thing on his list is for the double-minded to purify their hearts. This is part of where I get the biblical connection between pride and doubting- which is double-mindedness. If God opposes the proud and we are therefore supposed to purify our doubting hearts and minds it would make sense that pride and doubting are connected and each feeds the other.

And so how do we purify our hearts from our double-mindedness? The answer is in verse 6 and vs. 9-10….we humble ourselves before God in repentance (we become wretched and mourn and weep; a picture of what we become and what our response should be when God gives us a glimpse of the heaviness and seriousness of our sin and pride against a holy God) And when we do this, when we humble ourselves in repentance, His immeasurable grace is poured out upon us, and in his grace HE provides the faith we need to reject our doubting.

  1. A doubter is unstable in all his ways.

The nature of a doubter is that he is driven NOT by the solid, stabilizing, unchanging truth of God and his character, but rather by his own emotions and thoughts, and by the thoughts of those he might deem as being wiser than God (scientists, Hollywood, friends, false teachers etc.). People change, our emotions can wildly change, and when we doubt God we become unstable, tossed by the winds of suffering, tossed by the winds of current popular opinion, and tossed by the winds of our own shifting emotions. When our minds, beliefs, and allegiances are unstable, our actions and attitudes and all our ways, will reflect that instability.

Compassion and Wisdom

I want to close out this discussion of doubting with a few passages that speak of God’s inscrutable wisdom as well as his compassion and grace to restore his children who doubt. I will not comment on these passages, I want to simply let them speak for themselves and pray that God would use his Word to convict, teach, and speak grace to you.

Romans 11:33-36

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Isaiah 28:29

This also comes from the Lord of hosts;
he is wonderful in counsel
and excellent in wisdom

Isaiah 33:5-6

The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high;
he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness,
and he will be the stability of your times,
abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.

Psalm 94:8-15

Understand, O dullest of the people!
Fools, when will you be wise?
He who planted the ear, does he not hear?
He who formed the eye, does he not see?
10 He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke?
He who teaches man knowledge—
11     the Lord—knows the thoughts of man,
that they are but a breath.

12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord,
and whom you teach out of your law,
13 to give him rest from days of trouble,
until a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the Lord will not forsake his people;
he will not abandon his heritage;
15 for justice will return to the righteous,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.

Isaiah 10:12-13

12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. 13 For he says:

“By the strength of my hand I have done it,
and by my wisdom, for I have understanding;
I remove the boundaries of peoples,
and plunder their treasures;
like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.

Micah 7:14-20

Shepherd your people with your staff,
the flock of your inheritance,
who dwell alone in a forest
in the midst of a garden land;
let them graze in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old.
15 As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt,
I will show them marvelous things.
16 The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might;
they shall lay their hands on their mouths;
their ears shall be deaf;
17 they shall lick the dust like a serpent,
like the crawling things of the earth;
they shall come trembling out of their strongholds;
they shall turn in dread to the Lord our God,
and they shall be in fear of you.

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
from the days of old.

Isaiah 55:6-13

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12 “For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Jude 1:17-25

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Colossians 2:1-5  

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

I Corinthians 1:18-31

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

II Corinthians 2:6-16

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

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