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Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for (Heb 11:1-2).
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27).
“I just can’t believe in ____.” “I just have too many doubts.” “I wish I could believe like ____.” How often do you hear these phrases?
Our society seems to think that belief and unbelief are things that happen to us. We’re simply put in situations and those are the entire basis for what we believe and don’t believe. You even have the New Atheists claiming that religious belief is a function of geography, not revelation. You’re Christian because you were born in America; Muslims are Muslim because they were born in a Muslim country, etc. Which is odd, since if that were true, no new religions (or unreligions, such as atheism) would have come into existence. There’s quite obviously more than mere geography going on here.
The simple fact is that belief and unbelief are a choice you make.
I’ll say that again: belief and unbelief are a choice.
When was the last time you thought of it that way?
You can see it assumed throughout the Bible that belief is a choice. If Jesus can tell people like Thomas to “stop doubting and believe,” then that must be something they have control over, right? I mean, if belief were just something that happened to you, it’s no use telling someone to believe. That would be like me telling someone to get hit by a meteor: neither they nor I have control over that.
I’ve talked about how we have to minister through times of doubt before, and I’ve felt God telling me lately to hit that up again. The fact is, all of us—even and especially ministers—face times of doubt. And just like you, we don’t get to just stop ministering to people because belief is difficult.
Belief is a daily, even hourly choice you make. From my own experience, I can say that some days that choice is easier to make than others. Some days, it’s easy “Okay, God. You and me today!” Other days, it’s quite deliberate: “God, doubts are piling up on me and I haven’t felt close to you in a while. But I’m choosing you now anyway.”
It’s so much like a relationship. Because it is a relationship. And as anyone who has ever been in a serious relationship can tell you, keeping that relationship is a choice, and some days you don’t feel like making it. Ask any married person you know well who will share with you honestly. They will tell you they choose his or her spouse daily, and some days it’s easier than others.
This impacts just about every area of your life. But the main focus I’m feeling for today is that of your prayer life. So revisit James 1 up top again.
Do you see how this plays out in James 1? A person who asks but doesn’t believe is “double-minded”—because they’re asking, which is a conscious choice based on belief, but they also don’t believe at the same time. They are of two minds. And as James says, this is unstable. Such instability will undermine all you do.
So it is no wonder that the person who asks and doesn’t believe should expect nothing from God. They are choosing to not believe God’s promises! So why would God give them what they ask? Unbelief in prayer becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: you ask, but you don’t believe, therefore you are given what you believe (nothing), which reinforces that unbelief.
Break that cycle! When you ask God for something, put doubt aside. Yes, there are plenty of things to doubt about, plenty of misgivings. You can choose to give them credence, and then not believe. Or you can choose to put them aside and believe God’s promises.
And belief is also a self-fulfilling prophecy. You choose to believe God’s promises when you ask in prayer, that he will give you what you are asking for. And so God gives it to you, because that’s what he’s promised. And so that reinforces your belief. It makes putting doubts aside easier.
So who will you serve? Will you serve God or will you serve doubt?
Pray courageous prayers! Don’t wimp out. Take your needs to God, single-mindedly, with wholehearted belief! Pray for big things! Pray for miracles! And see what God can do!