As you look into this very important subject with your students, make sure they realize, without question, that doubt is one of the most dangerous spiritual opponents we can face. Why is this? Because it strikes at the very root of what makes a Christian a Christian-faith. Without faith, we have no connection to God or to His Word. The Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Your students should see that faith is our lifeline to eternal life. Satan is well aware of the fact that faith is of inestimable value and importance to the Christian, and he purposes to sever that connecting line by any means possible.
Your students should be aware that doubts generally start very small. Satan will, at every opportunity, attempt to plant tiny seeds of doubt in the soil of our minds.
In dealing with this topic, you will want to be careful that the tone of your presentation is positive rather than negative. In recognizing that doubt is a deadly danger, the focus can be on the positive benefits of possessing a vibrant, living faith.
The students will be able to identify different characteristics of doubt and will know that, as they focus on a positive faith, they can overcome or avoid doubt in their own lives. They will be able to explain how doubt sabotages trust and faith in God.
Genesis 3:1-6; Joshua 6, 7; Matthew 14:25-31; 27:5; Hebrews 11:1,33; Romans 10:17
Question 1 - Doubting God and having faith in God are curiously related. As Christians, we have faith in God, yet doubt often tags along as a nagging reminder to question the moves we make. When a person doubts God, faith is shoved aside, and visible evidence becomes a necessary prop for believing. It is vital that we resist doubt and take to heart the command, "only believe." Consider the account of Peter in Matthew 14:25-31. He stepped out of the boat and walked on the water towardJesus until ... How did Jesus' comment to him reflect the relationship between faith and doubt?
Response 1 - Discuss with your group the frequent use of Peter as a scapegoat for Christians who doubt. We might think, After all, if Peter, the great Apostle, could doubt Jesus on such a grand scale, why can't we? Remind your students that none of us have walked on water like Peter did. In this account, the close relationship between faith and doubt is clear. One minute Peter walks on water by faith, and the next, because of fear or doubt, he begins to sink. Jesus clarifies what has happened when He says, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" Jesus inferred that Peter had a little faith but that doubt had prevailed. James 1:6 also brings out the dangers of wavering in our faith.
Question 2 - In our society, the level of trust has changed. Not locking your house used to symbolize a trust in your neighbors. Today, the multiple lock system on your door cries loudly, "I can't trust. I don't believe in people's integrity." Experience has taught us that locking our houses is the prudent thing to do. If you've been robbed once, you won't forget.
In the same way, if we trust someone, only to learn that we made a mistake, we are not as ready to trust that person again. The reverse is also true. If we trust someone and they prove trustworthy, we are ready to rely upon that person in the future. Following up on this thought, describe why we can be assured that our confidence in God is not misplaced. Illustrate your description with specific examples from your own knowledge or experience.
Response 2 - Your group should conclude that when we trust God, we do so based on His reliability. He has proved Himself unfailingly trustworthy. He has never broken a promise, and He never will. What He says will come to pass. Ask your class to relate examples of times in their lives when God proved Himself trustworthy. Answers may include God's promise of salvation, which He gives to those who come to Him in repentance. God promised, "I am the Lord that healeth thee," and it is likely that many in your group can tell about instances of healing. Deeper experiences, divine protection, guidance, the supplying of needs, and other promises we find in God's Word could also be mentioned.
Question 3 - At some point in life, most of us have thought: Nothing will ever change; This situation will never improve; These problems in my life will never go away. Think about it again! What were the circumstances surrounding you when you made your "Statement of Doubt"? Maybe you were burdened with the cares of this life, or were sick, financially overwhelmed, or fighting fatigue from too much work. Perhaps you were sensing inefficiency in everything you attempted, were disturbed about a problem on your job, or were frustrated by your children's never-ending needs. When you had those discouraging thoughts, were you doubting God's ability to reverse the circumstances? To forestall such thoughts from making inroads into your spirit again, list some unresolved areas of your life. Write possible remedies God might use in each situation, keeping in mind that God often works beyond our imagination. How can taking them one by one and including God in your dealings with doubts make a difference?
Response 3 - Don't ask your students to share their lists, but use this exercise to bring out the dangers of allowing doubt and negative thinking to take over in our minds. If this happens, we may easily feel there is no positive remedy for our situations. This is a typical ploy of the devil, designed to bring more doubting and inevitable discouragement. We must take the offensive! Making a list of this type is a good place to start. As your students document their concerns and identify areas where they might be inclined to doubt, encourage them to note specifically how God could change the situation. Then lead your group to consider the beautiful promise given in Romans 8:28. We cannot be sure that God will work out every situation as we think best, but if our trust is centered in God and we are determined not to doubt Him, we can be sure that God will work things out for our good.
Question 4 - It is possible for Christians, despite our sincere love for the Lord, to succumb to doubt. Satan won't necessarily tempt us to doubt the existence of God or the truth of the Bible, but he often comes with doubts about our own relationship with God. He might cause us to think, Have I truly received my Christian experiences? Is God really with me? Was that actually the healing touch of God, or am I just feeling a little better today? If doubts like this come to mind, what are our options?
Response 4 - As your group discusses this question, they will probably come up with several of the following thoughts: We can ask God to witness to our hearts, revealing where we stand in regard to our spiritual experiences. We might ask someone to pray with us about our concerns. We might look over our lives to see if there really is any sin or if this is just an accusation of the devil. We can resist the devil and go to God's Word for comfort. We can purpose to read our Bible more (maybe only an additional ten minutes ) and pray more. We can recharge our faith in God by rehearsing past victories.
You may wish to emphasize to your group that God is not the author of confusion. If we allow Satan to keep us in a quandary about where we stand with God, he will eventually succeed in destroying our faith.
Question 5 - Since the beginning of time, when the serpent tempted Eve, doubt has rallied the troops of unbelief toward questionable activity. In other words, doubt can lead to sin. Consider the story of Achan, found in the Book of Joshua, chapters 6 and 7. Achan doubted what he knew to be right and did what his people had been commanded not to do. How remarkable it is that he witnessed the walls of Jericho fall and still had doubt! What were the results of Achan's doubt and subsequent disobedience? How might our doubts have repercussions on others?
Response 5 - Direct your students' attention to Joshua 6:18 and 19. These verses document what Israel was told not to do. Specifically, they were not to take of the accursed thing but were to bring the silver, gold, and vessels of brass and iron to the treasury of the Lord. Whether Achan doubted that this was important-or simply refused to believe that Joshua had the right to make such a requirement-made little difference, considering the outcome. Achan and his family perished because of his sin. As your group discusses how our doubts affect others, the point should be clear that doubt can bring serious repercussions. It may cause others to doubt. It may bring confusion to those around us. Satan can use the doubts of just one person to take several families away from the Gospel-he has done it!
Question 6 - Doubt may not be packaged in a way that makes itself
obvious. If only it came with warning tags in bright fluorescent colors stating, BEWARE OF DOUBT: MAY CAUSE PERMANENT DAMAGE TO FAITH! How is doubt packaged? Let's look at one example: The Sunday evening church service has closed, and you make your way to the altar of prayer. While you pray, the thought once more comes to mind of something you feel the Lord wants you to do. No slower than the speed of light, every doubt harbored in the bay of questions fills your personal cove. You may think you're just being humble or that you're honestly assessing your own weaknesses. In actuality, you are doubting God's call or His ability to make you usable. How can you recognize this unwanted package of doubt and do away with it?
Response 6 - One way we can learn to recognize doubt is by asking the Holy Spirit to make us sensitive to His counsel. He will let us know whether a suggestion is from the Lord. Firmly fix in your mind that Satan is the author of suggestions that bring distrust or confusion. We can resist his advances by quoting an appropriate Scripture. (In the case cited, 2 Corinthians 9:8 or Philippians 4:13 would be appropriate.) We must give to Christ our temptation to doubt, just as we have learned to hand over other temptations to Him. We must ask God to give us strength to resist temptation.
Question 7 - Doubt seems insistent on absolute facts, figures, and visible proofs, whereas, "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11: 1 ). Faith depends upon God as our only resource. As we seek God for a specific experience or request, faith determines the course. Faith stabilizes, maintains forward momentum:, and, if uninhibited, presses on to the finish line. Are your convictions deeply grounded in the faith required? Write your personal statement of faith. Be brief and specific.
Response 7 - Ask for volunteers to share their statements of faith. Bring out that faith depends upon our willingness to trust in God regardless of the circumstance at the moment. Sometimes the answer is immediate, but there are times we have to wait for the help to come. Depending on the degree of need, waiting is undoubtedly the greatest test of our faith. Doubt would cancel our hopes for tomorrow. Ask your group to pinpoint some ways doubt can enter when we are waiting for an answer from God. They may mention such thoughts as: Did God really hear me? Does He care? Is there something hindering an answer from God?
Question 8 - Many years ago, Martin Luther discovered the amazing truth that "The just shall live by faith." He trumpeted this message to a world darkened by doubt, and through his message, faith was reborn in the hearts of men. Romans 10:17 tells us where faith comes from: "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Where does doubt originate? Doubt may present itself in a similar fashion to faith—we hear, by some form of communication, that God's Word is not necessarily true. We should recognize that Satan is the originator of doubt. Review Genesis 3:1-6, and note that Satan said to Eve, "Ye shall not surely die." This statement was not true, but as Eve considered what she heard, she doubted what God had said. Can you recall an incident when you doubted? What was the outcome?
Response 8 - After hearing some responses from your group, bring out that a person does not live a Christian life for long before he realizes that Satan opposes the submission of our will to God. James 4:7 is good instruction: "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." In the same vein, Peter says," ... whom resist stedfast in the faith." This leads us to know that we resist Satan by faith, not by doubt. Since faith comes by hearing God's Word, we need all of the Scriptures we can assimilate to have the necessary faith to please God.