Friday, July 20, 2012

Doubt in the Life of the Christian

Recently, talking with friends, one asked me if I ever doubted Jesus' resurrection or the resurrection from the dead that Jesus promises all who turn from sin and believe in Him.

I had to answer honestly that the resurrection isn't something I doubt.

The facticity of Jesus' resurrection is supported by another fact, it seems to me: That the very first followers of Jesus were emphatic that Christ's death and resurrection were central to their proclamation about Christ. Something like 500 people staked their lives on the claim that they had seen the resurrected Jesus.

There was nothing in it for them financially.

There was nothing in it for them socially or politically.

In fact, by insisting that, as Jesus had taught during His pre-crucifixion and pre-resurrection ministry, Jesus
  • was born of a virgin, 
  • was both fully God and fully human, 
  • was sinless, 
  • suffered and died for sinful humanity, and 
  • was raised by God the Father in order to open a new, eternal relationship with God to all who died to self (repented) and entrusted their lives to Christ, 
the first Christians were putting their lives on the line.*

To confess all these things, was to subject themselves to ridicule, rejection, and persecution.

If they were all guilty of hysteria, you would have imagined that at some point in their lives--and some apparently lived a long while after Jesus' death and resurrection--the hysteria would have broken.

If they were involved in some financial conspiracy--and there is no record intimating that anywhere that I know of--that too, would have broken down.

In fact, if history, even recent history, shows us anything, it's that conspiracies almost inevitably break down, especially under the force of the kind of political and religious persecution to which Christians were subjected in the earliest years of the movement.

Of course, the weight of facts can't get you to faith. Faith comes to those able to say, "Lord, I don't understand it all. But I trust Jesus. I find Him credible. I want to turn away from a life without Christ and live with Him as the center of my life. I want to believe. Help me do that."

Faith, as I've said before, comes to those willing to believe.

But, that doesn't mean that doubts ever go completely away. We are human, after all.

For me, the doubts never revolve around Jesus' resurrection or His promise to raise me and all those who have believed in Him at "the last day."

Instead, the doubts that sometimes accost me revolve around today.

Despite a thirty-five year track record in which the risen and living Jesus has sustained, encouraged, and empowered me, I sometimes wonder whether He's going to sustain me in the next challenge.

The God I know in Jesus Christ has been so powerful in my life through the years and yet, when facing new challenges or hurdles, I wonder, "Are you with me, Jesus? Have you had enough of me?"

Just last week, I was facing a hurdle. I was feeling distant from Jesus.** But here's what happened: In prayer, I owned my feeling of distance with Jesus. The simple sharing of that reality in my life with Christ was the opening Jesus took to assure me of His presence and our intimacy.

Whatever our doubts about Christ or the new life He offers to those who surrender to Him, the antidote is always the same: To come to Him honestly. To surrender to Him again each day. When we do, we learn the truth of the New Testament when it tells us that nothing "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:31).

*And, by the way, recent studies indicate that the so-called diversity of Christianities of the early Church, in which it's supposed that the first followers of Christ had more diverse proclamations about Jesus than what are found in the New Testament, have proven false. The proclamation about Jesus clearly incorporated the above elements from the outset. Groups and documents claiming contrary things about many of the above points came later.

**It's important to remember that faith isn't contingent on our feelings or on our rationality. Christ is alive and the gracious Lord and refuge for sinners, whether, at any given moment, we don't feel or think those realities.

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