Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
We have considered the importance of right thinking, not just what is referred to today as “politically correct thinking,” but spiritually right thinking. It is extremely important that you, as Christian young people, are in the right spiritual frame of mind. It is important that you are established on the firm foundation of Bible truth.
But there is another matter we must not overlook. If there is one thing Satan hates, it is firm conviction in the truth of God’s Word. He will use many means to try to cast doubt in your mind as to your knowledge of the truth.
It is my purpose in this article to encourage you to strengthen your faith in the face of doubt and even, in fact, to take whatever doubts you may have and use them to strengthen your faith.
I dare say, without fear of being grossly inaccurate, that you young people are characterized, among other things, by being full of questions. That is not a criticism. To ask questions is the way of learning. Your questions do not merely concern natural things. Your school studies have dealt with many questions you had concerning the things of nature and the like. But you who are in the strength of youth are full of questions also about spiritual things. You have reached those years when a simple answer, or a simple “yes” or “no” from father or mother, is not enough to satisfy. You need to know more. That is true of doctrinal matters. That is also true when it comes to the everyday matters of how a Christian should live in the midst of this world which is filled with many options and many temptations. That questioning, in itself, can be most beneficial to your spiritual growth. I am most thankful for the young man or woman who will raise questions in catechism class or who will come to me with specific questions.
And let me remind the parents who are reading this article: Your calling is to provide an atmosphere in the home where your children feel free to ask those questions and where you as parents willingly answer them. Maybe you do not know the answers to all their questions. If so, you must seek those answers from the Scriptures, in order properly to carry out your calling to bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
But to return to you, the church’s youth, it is extremely important, in the face of your questions, that you seek answers for those questions. Because unanswered questions can feed an unhealthy attitude of doubt and even skepticism.
To doubt is to waver. It is to waver between the belief that something is true and the rejection of that assertion as true. To doubt, therefore, is to be double-minded. That is not to say that doubt is in itself sinful. Doubting might indicate a lack of faith, but not necessarily. Contrary to a common misunderstanding, doubt is not the same as unbelief.
Doubt has many faces. On the one hand, doubt is a champion when it is exercised toward that which is properly to be doubted. For example, when someone tells you something or calls you to behavior which is not in harmony with Scripture, your knowledge of the truth will immediately cause you to doubt and to refuse acceptance of the falsehood. In such a case, doubt causes you to sort out and clarify the difference between the genuine and the counterfeit, between what is certain and what is uncertain. But, on the other hand, doubt is that which causes the downfall of the skeptic. It is the enemy which attacks the faithful, striking fear in to their hearts. Doubt nags the soul, weakening one’s hope.
As you can see, then, doubt can either lead to a deepened faith, or break down to unbelief. But to doubt is to be at a crossroads. We must seek to clear up doubt in any area of life. To live in doubt is to live with a very unhealthy attitude. To act in doubt is to act in unfaithfulness. It is from that point of view that Paul writes in Romans 14:23, “He that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” In addition, to live in doubt is to live in instability. “For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed…. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6, 8). You need not be immediately alarmed when you find yourself questioning things, nor even when you find yourself doubting certain things. You only need be alarmed when you continue to live in doubt, not seeking the resolution of that which troubles you. Doubt tells you that you have a job to do – tackling the root of your doubt.
The doubter, the double-minded man as James calls him, is one who has a mind to lean upon himself and his own thoughts and to seek his strength and satisfaction in the perspective of the world, while at the same time having a-mind inclined to look to God and seek help and happiness from Him. But there is no stability. There is constant confusion. He is “unstable in all his ways.” And this characteristic of double-mindedness represents, sad to say, the spiritual state of many in the Christian church, including many youth. The evidence for that is the massive inconsistency of religion and daily life. We must not be “halting between two opinions”! We must not let doubt bring disruption and disaster to our Christian life and joy.
Understand, the devil wants us to live in doubt. He knows that faith is the stronghold of Christianity and of the Christian life. He would like your doubt to lead to unbelief. And, understand well, there is nothing more unstable and uncertain than unbelief. Satan would have you reject the truth to which your faith holds, and deny the certainty of that truth.
Christianity, and more particularly our Protestant Reformed understanding, is based upon assertions. And by assertions I mean positive declarations that are put forth without compromise. More specifically, we speak of the uncompromising doctrinal truth of the Scripture with all its practical application. Christianity is based upon the authoritative assertiveness of the Bible.
There are many who dislike that. I visited recently with a person who had rejected the teachings of Christianity and who consequently shunned religious assertiveness and disliked people who maintain certain ideas without wavering. Understandably so. The truth asserted by the Scriptures and by true Christianity is a truth which condemns unbelief. It is no wonder, then, that we face such opposition rather frequently.
But the fact remains, as Martin Luther wrote to Erasmus in the first part of The Bondage of the Will, “Take away assertions and you take away Christianity. Why, the Holy Spirit is given them from heaven, that he may glorify Christ [in them] and confess him even unto death-unless it is not asserting when one dies for one’s confession and assertion. Moreover, the Spirit goes to such lengths in asserting, that he takes the initiative and accuses the world of sin [John 16:8], as if he would provoke a fight; and Paul commands Timothy to ‘exhort’ and ‘be urgent out of season’ [II Tim. 4:2]. But what a droll exhorter he would be, who himself neither firmly believed nor consistently asserted the thing he was exhorting about! Why, I should send him to Anticyra!” So writes Luther. Anticyra, by the way, was a town on the Corinthian Gulf that was famous for an herb which supposedly cured insanity. Luther concludes that section by writing this: “The Holy Spirit is no Skeptic, and it is not doubts or mere opinions that he has written on our hearts, but assertions more sure and certain than life itself and all experience” (Luther’s Words, v. 33, pp. 19ff.).
In times of doubt, you must seek the Scriptures. The Scriptures alone open the door to understanding. So the psalmist learned by experience even in his youth: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130). Peter, too, says in II Peter 1:19: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.” He speaks of the Scriptures as light and all else darkness; and shall we then not make use of the light when our understanding is darkened by doubt?
So the writer to the Hebrew Christians writes in Hebrews 6:11, 12: “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
In Hebrews 10, there are a few verses that cling closely together, speaking of the very subject we are considering. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (vss. 22-25).
And the apostle Paul, speaking of the great conflict of his soul for those whom he was not able to meet face to face, spoke of his desire “that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2, 3).
When you face doubts, do not continue to wallow in them. Take your questions and doubts to God’s Word, and if necessary to your parents or pastor or an elder. For there alone will you find rest for your soul.