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Discipleship

Of Faith and Doubt

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
How one can overcome the fears, worries, hurts, and doubts of life and have more faith! Faith gives us hope, meaning we can have confidence in God for our future that is in His hands, and how we can also have confidence because He will lead us out of our past.

How one can overcome the fears, worries, hurts, and doubts of life and have more faith!

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10: 35-36

Struggles are real and are not often easily answered by reason or study to those who are hurting. There are no quick answers even though there seems to be an abundance of shallow annotations from others or empty prayers meant to suffice ones ills. In the midst of our dire times-our confusion and loss of hope-our outlook can become skewed as we are consumed by both our past and current circumstances as well as our fears of the future. We wonder if we can really do this; can we have real, effectual faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? Can we live up to this? Can we do as He has called us to do? Can we process and get beyond what is behind us? Can we go through what lies ahead?

This article is not an apologetic; rather, it is meant to be a help to those in the midst of trials or fears or who may be fixated upon past hurts. There is too much cheap messaging going on in our churches while our people are hurt and confused and desperately in need of something solid to chew on to build their faith. We need wise council, not shallow connections and ineffectual sound bites. We need a better, effectual way to navigate ourselves in the Christian life more effectively, not the answers of prideful pastors and charismatic leaders who seem not to know or care for us, our struggles, or God's Word. An ear tickling message that we get as a response to our struggles gives no real reprieve, and a deep, theological study seems to only annoy most of us. We need more reality and the veracity of what is God telling us in the here and now so we can move ahead in our faith and life. So, what can we do?

We need to realize that Christianity is about who Christ is and what He has done, not about us and our lives. At the same time, the application of our lives in Christ is also about our real lives in the world and how one relates to a loving and caring God who is there and cares. The question we need to ask God and ourselves is, can I see Him, can I relate my life to Him, or am I too busy looking at myself and licking my wounds? If not, how can we have a real effectual faith, even when we can't see it or even the possibility of it?

We have to realize that life does not seem fair. Life hurts, life is unjust, life bites us back hard and leaves us maimed, distraught, confused, and in fear. Then, when we go to our church, we usually take away very little that can help us, so we form doubts. Our "sermonettes for Christianettes" leave us with more qualms and worries that starve out our faith and we become distant, depressed, and even hysterical, which causes us to lash out or just become confused and empty. What can we do? Look to the One who saves! Look through the floods of fear, the clouds of distrust, the rains of confusion, and the torrents of anxiety, and start to really see, to really know and comprehend who Jesus Christ is and what He has done. When we start to focus on the right target, we can have full confidence, trust, and assurance in our Lord even when it is not clear; what we do not see is still plainly there. We can seek a life that is about trusting and obeying so we can live out lives of hope and purpose and become a reflection of His work to others. After all, what is faith really about? Is it about me and my life or about Christ and the new life He brings me?

Let's look at what Faith is.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:1-2

For more about this, you can see our past articles on faith here Applying Faith, but for the sake of this journey of overcoming doubt, let's look right to God's Word in Hebrews 11. This passage gives us the answer to the question, "what is Faith?" It is both simple and profound, yet it is not simplistic or incomprehensible. Genuine faith is our full confidence, trust, and assurance that are exercised in that what we hope for will indeed happen. Christ has happened and His happening is happening in me! When we have more confidence, trust, and assurance, we can endure. Assurance is a like a title deed; it is substantial evidence, as in the Greek refers to an important business document in which we can trust. The key to this is the object of our hope and that is the person and work of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior! What we have in Christ has a real basis and foundation. In contrast, a lack of faith will lead one to hopelessness and despair, which leads to bad choices and/or living in past failures or hurts or future fears because of our sin or the sin of others converging upon us and then our refusal to place God first in our lives.

Faith gives us hope, meaning we can have confidence in God for our future that is in His hands, and how we can also have confidence because He will lead us out of our past. Faith sees what is ahead when our eyes and thinking cannot. If we see what He has done in the past, we can have hope for the future too. Also, our hope realizes that our temporary life on earth is not all there is; there is a future time when we will be with God for eternity. "Hope" is a Jewish metaphor for heaven, which also means an unshakable conviction in what must be, such as the North Star that guides ships and without which a ship would be lost; but we know the Star will not go away. This is where we find assurance, which is faith. Faith is not mere belief; it is real and tangible as in genuine and authentic so we are sure in whom (Jesus Christ as LORD) we trust and to whom we go to live in righteousness (1 Cor. 1:22-30)!

Our confidence in God for our future helps remove our fears and anxiety, because we and our situation are in His hands. This gives birth and fuel to the fact that our real, effectual faith is not just a reward; it is a duty on which we embark here and now. Our faith is based on the knowledge given by God through His Word, and evidenced in His creation and people's testimonies. Faith is not just simple trust; faith is not blind trust either, because we know the One who is leading! We, as people of faith, must live by faith as this is the only thing we can do to show to others that Christ is real and concrete. Then, this efficient and powerful faith of ours can give life to our passion and the conviction of our faith that Jesus Christ is real, even when we cannot see Him or what He has for us. Being certain (as in conviction) means that we can take it to the bank that God's promises are real and tangible even when we do not see them in the moments of our tyranny and stress (Rom. 1:16-17; 5:1-11; 10:14-17; Gal. 3:1-4; Eph. 2:8-9; James 2:14-26).

When we have faith working perfectly, it sees when we do not see, as our faith is valid and true. How can this be true in times of tension? Because; it is based on historical evidence, logical reasoning, and legitimate testimonies. Our faith is eternal, in heaven, and also what has not happened yet as this applies to those who are still living, that they may have confidence in Christ. This helps us come to the realization that the experience of our knowledge and practice is impacting and not merely an esoteric or academic idea. Christ is real for us, both in our daily lives and in eternity. Thus, we have authentic hope-the response of our faith-evidenced as we live out our lives. We also have the confirmation of God's approval through real, effectual faith. God did this for the people of old as well as for us, the people of now-for you.

Living by Faith?

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Hebrews 10:32

Have you stood your ground? The Greek wording in this passage is where we get the word "athletics," referring to when you are just about to finish a race but before it ends, you give up when you could have made it and even won. Here, God is saying to you, you can do it! The original readers seemed to have more faith during their Christian infancy than later as seasoned Christians. As they also faced the same persecutions before, this was a warning to not let go or allow themselves to be fed up. When we face challenges, we need to look back and see what God did for us as further motivation, and hold on to what He is yet to do as a part of our perseverance of faith. The original hearers of this passage had tasted and seen that the Lord is good; they had produced Fruit and had changed lives. Even in suffering and warning, God is there with His hands stretched out with comfort and encouragement that "you can still do it." So, do not be discouraged when life gets tough; hang on and in there. Jesus will get you through! Also, in context, is the importance of mutual faith and support to build one another up and persevere through tough times (Psalm 34:8).

Living by faith must have an object or it is useless and meaningless. Remember this very important fact: Christ is our object of faith, and our call is to pursue Him, not ideas or trends or situations! We are sojourners of faith in daily life, just as the Israelites drifted among the nations before they reached the Promised Land. The point is that we do not belong to humanity and culture. Rather, we belong to God. We are made for heaven and not for this world; our life here is just where we learn to practice faith. We can live out our Christian lives with eyes and trust upon Christ and not on circumstances. We can understand what is incomprehensible-such as the universe-when we know the One who made it and gave command to it. What is not seen can be seen by seeing Him-we have trust and faith for living.

This passage in Hebrews eleven uses biographies of people to show the various deeds, virtue, accomplishments, and endurance of people of faith. So, we have a multitude of various examples to encourage us to believe we can do it too! Redemptive history is filled with regular people who stepped up; the faith they had-we can have too. They were no better than we are other than they saw God and trusted in Him; they made mistakes, yet they persevered because of their convictions and confidence of faith. One example would be Able who brought a better sacrifice and showed righteousness when Cain displayed evil; even though he is dead, his legacy lives on. Enoch was another example; God took him up to heaven because he pleased God. We cannot please or serve God without exercising faith. Noah also demonstrated faith when his entire culture/people did not believe, yet God used him to build an ark to save humanity while He condemned the rest of the world's depravity (Gen. 23:4; Lev. 25:23; Jer. 29:13).

Scripture is telling us that without faith, it is impossible to please God. In other words, it is by faith we draw near to God; Christian faith is our occupation and righteousness is our journey and destination. This is also the true definition of worship-seeking to give our life and devotion and gratefulness to Christ as Lord (Rom. 4:13; 12:1-2; Phil. 4:8; 1 Thess. 2:4; Heb. 10: 35; 12:17, 28).

We should be motivated by God's Word and the examples of others so we can examine our attitudes to see if there is room (and there should be lots of it) for improvement in our relationships with both God and those around us! Our endurance will communicate encouragement for our staying power; it is contagious as in "you can do it, too!" When God seems far away and no one seems to care about injustice or your concerns, God is still there caring! He will vindicate and care for you, turning your suffering into His glory and a benefit to others, too (Ex. 33:11-23; 34:30-35; Eccl. 44-50; Acts. 7; 13:14, 42; 16:13; 20:7; Heb. 10:32-39).

Effectual Faith

But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. Hebrews 10:38

Can a regular person make it as a Christian today in a harsh, unfriendly world with a weak and shallow Church that does not back him/her up? Yes! The author of Hebrews is alerting regular folks that by faith in Christ, ordinary people became extraordinary and left an everlasting legacy, reputation, and example that we can follow too! The names given represent all kinds of people of faith who demonstrated that they-and we-can persevere and overcome harsh trials and afflictions through faith. These were people like us who, under stress and persecution, stood up and saw the object and loyalty to be the Sovereign Lord of the universe who is our full confidence, trust, and assurance. Those people we may regard as great were also regular folks, who, under great strain and situations, just exercised trust and faith in God. That is why they are great and why they persevered. We can do this! These people overthrew kingdoms and did great things, for they trusted and received God's promises. Some who had trusted in God were tortured and they still held hope and faith in God, for they knew this life was temporary and they held fast for the life to come. They were too good for this world; they stayed in the race to win the prize and receive God's approval and reward, as we will because of our faith in Christ. They are the examples that we can follow, understanding that we can indeed do it too. The audiences of this letter were originally being persecuted by Jewish leaders, and their families were being hostile to them too. They needed to rehear these examples as we do today, as they were being encouraged and even threatened to quit the Church that their society condoned as a cult, an offshoot sect of Judaism.

By faith is also an illustration that to be in Christ means we identify with Christ's work and receive His grace; and to mature, we bear His disgrace. Many of these great people of faith did just that, knowing their reward was not in this world, but would come in heaven. Our faith is steady when we are in Christ; we receive it from Him through His Spirit as revealed and described in His Word. It is a promise and a fact that is received. As it is revealed to us, we are to respond to it by building more. Faith is no luxury; it is our necessity for right Christian being and living. Faith is essential for us to know Christ, to worship Him, to be led by Him, and to lead others to Him. Without it, we are, at best, just a nuisance in the Kingdom, and perhaps even a distraction and ill. Real faith is planted in our hearts and minds and it is merely confirmed by our actions and attitude, as Christ is our Object and the destination for our faith. If we ignore our faith build-up, we will fall and sin (Acts 7:20-44; Rom. 10:17; 14:23; 15:4; Heb. 11:31-40).

This begs the question, what are you doing for the faith? Here are leaders of faith who persevered-and you can too! But; how? It all comes back to object and loyalty. In Christ, we have what is most important: deliverance; what we face in trials, frustrations, and life are merely temporary so we have to keep our eye on what is important. Faith is in the promise of Christ; our hope is in Him, not in what we have or want. What God fulfills is up to Him and His timing; through God's intervention and promise, we have His help and our fears and flaws can be overcome and used through His strength. Even when we do not have confidence in Him, we eventually will, even if it is not until eternity (Rom. 8:26-28; 2 Cor. 12:9; Heb. 4:10).

Christian living is about our lives being centered in Christ and trusting Him for our provision, yet not waiting around, doing nothing. Faith calls us to action, not to complacency or foolishness. Real, effectual faith is our conviction of trust and confidence-that we do not merely believe, for even the demons do that, but that we have assurance beyond doubt. It is the object of our faith that is paramount, and that is Jesus Christ. He is the substance that gives us hope. We do not have blind faith because what we seek and place first is evidenced and supported. As Christians, we do not have fables and myths; we have reality. The evidence is the reality of history, archeology, and personal, life-changing testimonies of countless people, as evidenced in this passage, throughout history, and today. We can be centered in Jesus Christ. Even science points to a Creator who is perfect in character, possessing the fullness in all the Omni attributes: Omniscience, Omnipotence, Omnipresence…and, in addition, God is not only righteousness-He is personal and involved in our lives, and calls us to be righteous in our thinking and living so we can take His lead and live a life that is all about trusting God. This does not mean perfection; it means we strive to do our best for His glory. Yes; we can! We can indeed do faith well; with our eyes and ears, we can see and feel His presence just as we can see what the wind does even when we do not see the wind itself. God leaves a visible wake that ripples through all times and peoples, which we can ride on by faith for our betterment and His glory. What He has for us is better than what we think we want (Psalm 119:142119:151; John 6:64 ; 7:5; Rom. 1:16-17; 5:1-11; 8; 10: 14-17; Gal. 3:1-14; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:5 ; 2:18; James 2:14-26; 2 Pet. 1:16; Jude 3).

You can have an effective faith, when your focus is on the One who creates, gives, and empowers us, and that is Christ. By faith, we receive Him and can continue to grow in Him. By apostasy or by fear, we gain nothing but bad consequences and despair. The bottom line is we can't rely on our prideful leaders or our shallow resources. We have to get busy, dig in God's Word, take His promises as certainty, grasp His hope, and let our faith see and live. We have to take it directly to our Lord in real, honest, surrendered prayer (Deut. 32:36; Psalm 135:14; Isa. 26:20; Hab. 2:3-4; Rom. 1:17).

For Jesus will wipe away the tears and fears because we already have victory in Christ and because God is true to his promises! God will achieve His purpose; we will inherit His wonders and blessings! This great axiom, that Christ will "wipe away every tear," must resound in us not only for our personal hope and comfort, but also to enable us to trust in Christ for all things and situations. We who are in Christ are His and His for all time; there is no fear or dread when we are with our Lord King. He is the Alpha and Omega. He will bring all things new to those who know and love Him, and judgment to those who fight Him. Thus we can be encouraged, as we have hope, reason, and purpose, to be faithful because of our confidence in Him, producing active faith that glorifies Christ and builds His kingdom. Our faith matters, because what we do and say does indeed echo into and throughout eternity. People are watching how you handle things and need your wise handling. Our spiritual growth affects our moral success and failures as well as influences others. We will give an account and He will wipe away our tears! (Psalm 23:6; 49:14; Is. 25:8; 35:10; 51:11; 1 Cor. 15:54; 2 Cor. 1:20; 5:10; Eph 1:14; Heb. 12: 18-29; Rev. 3:14; 7:17; 21:8)!

Is there a Promise of Heath and Wealth?

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. Hebrews 12:28

So many Christians have been tricked and deluded by false teachings from megalomaniac pseudo-pastors and pious, fraudulent leaders. We give to get and expect a miracle and get upset at God when things do not go our way. We have it all backwards. Being blessed by God has nothing to do with "health and wealth," as some like to say. Rather, we honor Him by our trust and obedience, after which we receive His blessings in His perfect timing. Divine commendation is having the approval of God because one chooses to take what He gives-faith-and live by it. Even when great faith is exercised, it does not necessarily mean that we get benefits in the here and now. Sometimes, we are martyred or have real setbacks and are not able to get out of our bad circumstances. Additionally, getting what we want is not a sign of God's blessing, especially when there is no Fruit behind it on our part. We have to trust that God's plan is working and our reward is certain, even when we do not receive it when we want it (Rom. 1:17).

Prosperity is not bad; it is meant to be a blessing and a tool, but too many people turn it into greed, power, control, and self-satisfaction. If one has wealth, he or she can be grateful and be an essential tool for the Kingdom, helping fund Kingdom projects and people who do not have these resources. The problem comes because most people who have means become selfish with them and worse-think they deserve it. Then, we place our faith and comfort in what we have or what we want, forgetting what is really important. Our real, true wealth is far more valuable than what we think we want and need; it is what we already have. What Christ gives-His redemption for our sins-is far greater than anything through which we could suffer!

How one views and handles money is a testament and testimony of one's faith. This is tested and approved by history and testimony, showing that faith is valid for our lives too. This is a call to live by faith, to persevere no matter what; he is able to carry us through because we are now complete in Him. We participate in God's promises that are real, substantial, and are certain to be given (John 11:25-26; Rom. 8:18; Eph. 1:9-10; Heb. 10:38; 12: 26).

Some have the resources of wealth; others have good health. The fortunate have both and many of us have neither. We all have different responsibilities and roles in the Kingdom. We, who are real true believers, whose trust and faith are in Christ as Lord and Savior have the real prosperity! We have Christ; we-not others-are responsible for our role, but we are to help and work together in unity. The bottom line is that money is not wrong, nor is it right; rather Jesus is the One who is planting His seed and giving us what we need. As a result, we help others receive His seeds and help one another cultivate the crops of faith and fruit. We may not always see what is at work or the final outcome and crops, but we can see and trust our Lord that our faith at work is a faith that is in play and that He will use it to its fullest and in His perfect time (Amos 9:13; John 12:23-24; 1 Cor. 3:6-9).

Our spiritual sustenance, our real nourishment, comes from above and helps us follow God's call of faith and obedience for us, not from our perceived needs, desires, or fears. It is the consummation of our salvation; it is received by faith and then applied to build more faith, producing righteousness-meaning we can have endurance and not give up. Take heed that you have the encouragement to see what is important, which is what we have in Christ and not what we have lost or could have had (Dan. 12:2-13; Luke 8:15; 21:19; Heb. 1:14).

Do Not Waste Your Faith!

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. Hebrews 10:39

Your Faith is your most valuable and precious commodity in the Christian arsenal of resources. God warns us of dire consequences if we waste our faith or throw it away. The benefits we have as Christians are extraordinary; we can go to heaven, and we can know God personally-all because of what Jesus did for us. If we continue to deliberately sin or make bad choices or focus on the wrong things when we know the Lord, we waste what He did, and there will be nothing to look forward to other than God's disappointment and judgment. In the Old Testament, if people did not obey Moses, they could be put to death; when we disobey Christ, we are guilty of so much more. We insult Christ and enrage the Holy Spirit; why would we want to do that? God has the right to judge and hold us accountable, and we have the obligation to obey. We can do so because of His shed blood spilt for us. Never forget what Christ has done for you personally; hold on to this as a part of your faith. Realize what He has done and from what He has led you; trust in Christ as you have in the past and as you still can do. These early Christians were exposed to immense public persecution and accepted it with joy; now, they had become tired of it as we all can be. We must remain steadfast in Him and not waver. What waits for us in eternity is well worth anything we can face here for a short time. So, let us continue the faith and do God's will. As righteous people, we must live by faith and never turn away from Christ, for our salvation is assured when we are in Christ!

Perhaps, we need to be kicked out of our complacency, booted out of our anxieties and concerns so we can embrace faith more and grow enough to go into the areas where we fear to go. The journey He has for us need not be feared, because Christ will not call us to an area or situation in which He is not guiding and providing. It is when we do not heed His call that we get in trouble, not because the call is too difficult, as He gives us all we need. We can give back to the Lord whatever is accomplished, and for however God has used us and worked in others' lives as well, we can be extraordinarily joyful and content. We can take heart and comfort that Christ is at work and in charge no matter what we face or have been through, so we can be happy in our work for Christ and that Jesus takes our sorrows and turns them into joy (Ruth 3:2-7; Isa. 9:3; Eccl. 2:18; Luke 15:7-10, 32; 2 Cor. 2:15-16).

Have hope! There is a certainty that we have in Christ; we have His promise as real, tangible hope for our daily Christian living. But, we have to receive it, know it, and exercise it so faith is our practice and righteousness is our goal. In so doing, God is glorified in both the ordinary and the extraordinary. Even when we do not see it or it has not been given, He promises to take care of our needs; this is a guarantee we can bank on. This is about our dependence on Christ; as our High Priest, He gives us so much, and we should never take anything for granted or ignore what He has done. Jesus invites us to go to Him at any time, a privilege that previously only the high priest had-and then only once a year-to be in the presence of God. So go to Him in prayer and in His Word; get busy! Do you know what He has done for you? You have access to God; a personal relationship is now extended to you that was only rarely dispensed in Old Testament times! If it were not, we all would be living the opposite of His call-that is, not having hope, faith, or confidence in Him so we could live for Him.

Yes, you can-by Faith!

Next part II, how to get out of doubt!

© 2009, R. J. Krejcir Ph.D., Into Thy Word Ministries, www.intothyword.org/

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