Doubt and Death
My hand is on this person’s shoulder and words are coming out of my mouth. They are powerful sounding words. They are words that can be found in the Bible. I’m talking about his sonship, how through Jesus’ sacrifice, he has become an heir of God’s riches. And then I start praying for the miracle he is seeking in his life. I feel a slight lift in my belly. I feel the spiritual car that I’m driving in lurch backward a little as if my foot has come off the accelerator pedal. But, this is the very reason why I’m standing here praying with this man, to go after the freedom and complete healing we have been promised in Christ’s blood. This should be the focal point of the prayer, not when my spirit begins to check out. I push through and finish the prayer and hug the man I’m ministering to. As he walks away, I feel a stirring in my spirit I have not yet identified by its name. Doubt. This isn’t actually a specific story that I have lived. Rather, it’s a bunch of them all put together. There have been these moments in praying for the sick and/or afflicted when my being knows the authority given to us through Jesus’ blood, but there is still the parasite of doubt digging its hooks into some corner of my spirit. It has fashioned a construct that blocks my seeing the work of the Lord pour forth from heaven. It has locked me into a position of death.
Is it really that strong to say that doubt is death? Death came into the world on the back of doubt and unbelief. Adam and Eve doubted the promises of God and ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They stepped into a mindset that was in opposing agreeance with God... and anything that is in opposition to God is death.
"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him." (I Jn 5:14-15)
A big part of seeing God’s kingdom come to earth is to pray and declare his promises in agreement with his will. There are many people that believe that if God wants to do something on earth, then he can do it without our help. While that is true, it is within his power and ability, that’s not in his nature. God is a God of relationship, and desires to have our involvement in his supernatural works. Being in agreement with him is key to seeing his will come to fruition, because it means that we have come into a full understanding of his heart. This is what it means that prayer centers us in the will of God. As we spend time with God in prayer, we come to know him as a person and we come to understand that heart. Knowing God’s personality, we will know his will. It’s like trees and their fruit. If I know what kind of fruit tree I plant in my backyard, I know what fruit to expect out of it come harvest time. Unlike a tree, however, seeing God work in the miraculous rests on my agreement with him. Are there exceptions? Yes. But, is it the most common situation? No. If it were, we’d be seeing way more miracles, signs, and wonders than we see now.
When doubt is harbored in the believer’s heart, the will of God can be stopped up. Now, the will of God has been chalked up to being the hard-set plan of God on one’s life. However, just like alluded to with the fruit trees, as we come to know the Lord in our relationship with him, we become familiar with his desires. I personally believe that the will of God is simply that, his desires. God’s promise in 1 John can be phrased as, “if we ask anything according to his desires, he hears us.” Has God promised healing for the sick? (Ex 15:26; Ps 103:3) Has he promised freedom to the enslaved? (Gal 5:1; Titus 3:3) Has he promised life to the dead? (Job 33:4; Ps 36:9; Ezek 47:9) These are all desires of his heart, and so they are all parts of his will.
When our doubt rises up in situations of death and hopelessness, we are only feeding into the death that is already in the atmosphere. But, that is not the character we are called to portray. We are the light! (Isa 42:6; Matt 5:14) We are called to come against the darkness and death in the world. We are called to disagree with death and agree with life! We are called out of the spirit of doubt in order to fix ourselves into a faith unwavering.
I have not mastered this concept. I am speaking out of the eyes of a student as I am watching the hand scrawl on the chalkboard today’s lesson. This is what the Lord is teaching me today.
Doubt is a direct disagreement with the life that God wants to bestow on his creation. What is the decision that we are making in our spirits? We can certainly come alongside the doubt and cover it with the guise of reason. We can say that it isn’t that bad, or that it is just part of being human. But, oh how careful we have to be saying and believing things like that! There are many parts of our flesh that are hard to control, our tongue being one of them (Jas 3:1-12). The other decision is to reject doubt and come into agreement with the work of God. “The son only does as he sees the Father do.” This should be encouragement for us to trample over the doubt in our hearts and press into revelations of deeper faith. What is the Father trying to do, and how can I be a part? And if he is doing it, we can have to assurance that his power is enough to do it. We just get to obey and believe.
The power of doubt to inhibit the move of the Spirit is so strong that there are two cases given in the Bible where doubt has physically had to be expelled from the atmosphere for the work of the miracle to manifest. In Matthew 9:25, Jesus sends the crowd outside to bring the dead little girl to life. And then Peter did the same thing (Acts 9:36-43). Peter’s story is a little more telling.
Tabitha, a disciple, had become ill and died. The disciples there heard that Peter was near and called for him to come. It’s possible that they knew that Peter, with his amount of faith, could bring her back to life. Or maybe they just wanted someone there to console them. When he arrives, he is taken to Tabitha’s body, and there are widows standing around him, showing him the tunics and other garments that she had made when she was alive. The verse in ESV says, “while she was with them.” These women had accepted and agreed with the death of their beloved Tabitha. They had chosen a side already. Peter, however, has made a completely different decision. Instead of allowing these women to stand by and watch as he prayed for Tabitha to rise from the dead, he literally has to send the doubt outside of the room. It’s not until they are gone outside that he kneels down to pray. Then he looks at her and speaks to her saying, “Tabitha, arise.” And she got up!
This is the same attitude with which we have to confront the doubt in our lives. We need to have zero tolerance for doubt in our hearts. It is a powerful seed of death, that we need to face with discipline to overcome. There is not room for doubt in our space. It must be sent outside if we are going to completely agree with the will of God. We must drive doubt out of our hearts.
With something as intangible as doubt, it’s reasonable to be left in confusion when thinking about how to do that. First, our doubt is cast out by the grace of God. It is not by any work of our own that we change our character. It is by God’s power that we have been saved, and by that same power that we have been changed so deeply. It’s that same grace that shifts our internal atmosphere from one of unbelief to complete belief.
This metamorphosis brought by God’s power is ushered into reality through prayer and fasting. In Matthew 17, the disciples come to Christ to ask for his assistance. They just tried casting a demon out of a boy but were unable to. They needed the Master to take a stab at it. When he gets there and sees the situation, he tells his disciples they are “faithless”. In other words, he told them they were full of doubt. He casts the demon out. Afterward, the disciples ask him why they were unable to cast out the demon. Jesus goes into a sermonette about how faith is needed to cast out demons. And then he says, “but this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting.” There is a school of thought that points at this verse to say that one of the best tools to use to rid oneself of doubt is to go after God in prayer and fasting.
Doubt is sticky, and as Lou Engle says in his book, The Jesus Fast, fasting is the spiritual crowbar that can pry doubt out of our flesh. It is the tool that helps align our hearts with God’s unlike any other discipline we can practice. Our church culture today seems to have lost its value for fasting. This makes for the perfect storm that keeps the church body from entering into a powerful discipline that can provide freedom from the sticky fingers of doubt. While our doubt is first rend from our beings by God’s grace/power, it secondly requires our act of obedience to respond to God’s power.
Fasting is arguably the least favorite spiritual discipline of them all, and with good reason. It is uncomfortable and inconvenient. By denying the physical body food, and focusing on the spiritual, it invites our spirits to come closer to the surface of our consciousness. In such a state, we can learn how to interact with the spiritual that lies inside. Faith and doubt are both things that live in that spiritual realm. If you were to open the back of a broken watch to repair it today without any education or training, you’d probably end your reparation session by taking a hammer to your watch. There is so much detail that goes into clockwork, that without proper training, repairing a problem can seem impossible. If we only live in the space of the physical, addressing hiccoughs in our spirits like doubt will be nearly impossible. This is how fasting helps us see our doubt for what it is, and then attack it with prayer.
This only scratches the surface on the discipline of fasting. There are many other spiritual benefits to be reaped by fasting. I encourage you greatly that if you have not explored the discipline of fasting to do some reading on the topic. It is amazing that God has provided such disciplines that allow us to walk into deeper realms of revelation with him. And it blows my mind that he blesses something as silly and foolish sounding as fasting. Oh, the wonder of our God!
If you are interested in reading more about fasting, I would suggest any of these books: The Celebration of Discipline, by Richard J. Foster, The Jesus Fast, by Lou Engle, With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray.
I hope to whet your appetite to seek and explore your relationship with doubt. How has doubt formed your perceptions of the spiritual world? What lengths are you willing to go to rid yourself of your doubt in order to see the Kingdom of Heaven on earth? Do you find yourself agreeing with the limitations our natural world places on us, or the power that God has promised us in his word?