Faith Under Fire: Hope for Those Who Doubt
Every single one of us struggle with doubt to some degree, regardless of how strong our faith may be. We all come across new spiritual challenges and territories that demand we rise to new levels. We all question God and His ways at times when things don’t make sense. It’s natural for us to analyze and deliberate. It’s one of the best ways we can truly discover. Inquisition is not bad when the heart is seeking truth. If we never questioned anything, we would become simple-minded and foolish, being easily duped and gullible. Proverbs teaches us prolifically to get wisdom and understanding. One of the ways we do that is by questioning God with a healthy curiosity that says, “Teach me. I don’t understand this.”
When our hearts are probed by doubt, we may very well have a measure of active faith. Yet it’s under fire, meaning the scales are tipped in the wrong direction. If that describes you, I want to lend you hope and encouragement. For you who are struggling with doubt that puts your faith in jeopardy, Christ is able to both save and heal your faith. And although you are tempted to doubt, yet earnestly desire to believe, Christ comes to our rescue – as you will clearly see by the end of this post. In the following stories we will find Him being an avid and compassionate Defender of the Faith as well as a passionate advocate for the one afflicted with doubt.
In this post we’re going to discover three testimonies where Christ goes out of His way to protect the faith of those who were spiraling into the abyss of doubt. If you feel like your faith is under fire, I want you to encounter the Christ who will compassionately and boldly confront your doubt with hope, encouragement, and belief – delivering upon the faith you offer Him, however meager it may seem.
Jairus: Intercepted Faith
This man risked it all. As a ruler of the synagogue, he could have faced being thrown out for having sought Christ. But if any of you have children, it’s probably safe to say you would have done the same thing if you were in Jairus’ position.
The moment came in the story when Jesus was delayed in coming to Jairus’ house. Christ did precisely what Jairus asked Him to do – He came to heal her. That’s where Jairus’ faith was: Jesus had to be physically present and lay hands on her if she was going to live. Jesus met Jairus’ faith by following him to his house. Christ was fully prepared to fulfill his request. And we suddenly see this no-name, no-face woman – who is in a desperate situation – saying to herself that if she only touches the hem of His garment she shall be made whole. Christ met her where her faith was as well. That’s what she did – and she was instantly healed. However, this delayed Jesus’ coming.
I cannot imagine the angst Jairus must have felt in that moment when Jesus stopped and began to seek out who touched Him. This woman came forth and Christ turned to give her His full attention in blessing her and confirming that she was whole. And here is what happens next:
And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?
As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe (Mark 5:34-36, KJV).
Christ will go to great lengths to protect your faith, even as He did the faith of Jairus. There could be no worse news than to hear that your child died because someone else received their healing on your watch. Aside from fear, and as wrong as it may be, I would bet that Jairus felt sucker-punched in that moment. I bet his emotions were a rainbow of colors, including grief, shock, despair, fear, and perhaps even jealous anger.
But the LORD is so kind. He turns to him before Jairus had an opportunity to voice any of those things and said, “Be not afraid, only believe.” Christ knew what Jairus was feeling. He understood the horror of what had just happened. Jairus probably felt like someone stole his miracle.
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been in a situation when you were the one who was supposed to receive, only to find that someone intercepted your moment of reception, gleaning for themselves what rightfully belonged to you? This evokes strong emotions in us – especially when a trustworthy source from your own home comes to meet you with news that it’s too late – your daughter is now dead.
What would you do?
Jairus faith was intercepted: first by a woman who detained the LORD and received her healing, second by a report that struck him with his worst fear. How timely, right? This story could take any number of directions. There is a lot of rich content. But for the sake of this post the point is this: Christ will do whatever is necessary to protect your faith. He will intercept your doubt, fear and unbelief by defending your faith in giving you timely hope and encouragement, and by speaking life into you and your situation.
Christ didn’t turn around and say, “Well, sorry Jairus. Missed that one!” NO WAY. He turned and said, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Christ caught it before Jairus had time to respond to the report! That’s interception at it’s finest! And He continued to follow Jairus onward. Christ had a destination, and He made it clear that He was going to deliver the goods! The report did not alter His course one bit. He was going to complete what He had begun, and He stayed the course until He arrived at his house! And we all know the end of the story: “the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth,” (Mark 5:40, KJV).
He threw the mourners out.
Wow… I like that ending, don’t you? Christ will always finish what He starts. I cannot imagine what Jairus must have felt in that moment. I like to think of it as awestruck elation.
A Desperate Father: Wavering Faith
Again, we see an anxious parent who is at their wit’s end. This poor child had been possessed and tormented all his life – to such an extend that his parents had no ability to prevent or control it.
The disciples had tried their best to cast the demon out – all to no avail. Just imagine the commotion surrounding their attempts: A tormented kid, anxious parents, the crowd gathering… Finally, Jesus Himself arrives on the scene. And this is what He says:
O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him unto me (Mark 9:19, KJV).
This poor kid. It was time to get it done. So they brought the child to Jesus, and the spirit began to manifest, throwing the boy into seizures. Demons freak out at the presence of Christ. When He comes on the scene, they know their time is up. And so we find a brief interrogation. The questioning begins. Christ asks the father about the origin of this, and after a briefing the father says, “but if you can do anything…” And the LORD’s response is so awesome. He turns the table and says, “If you can believe…”
If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth, (Mark 9:23, KJV).
In other words He’s saying, “If you can believe, I can do what you’ve asked of Me.” That was conditional. And I love this father’s response. You can see his faith and desire to believe explode from a heart crippled by what he just witnessed – the collective inability of the LORD’s disciples to cast it out.
And straightaway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief, (Mark 9:24, KJV).
Was that faith enough?
Christ wasted no time. When the crowd began to gather He cast out the demon.
I have no problem understanding why this man vacillated between faith and doubt. His wavering is clearly confessed. He had just witnessed the disciples make one vain attempt after another – for who knows how long. How exhausting. The father’s faith is evident in the very fact that he asked. But the delivery in response to his request was exceptionally poor. Jesus was clearly not impressed. In fact He was obviously frustrated and disappointed. The disciples inability brought about a trial of his faith which we see Christ now having to remedy. Not good. As a result, we see Christ protecting his faith. This man and his child were in great distress. He cried out to Christ with tears! He was desperate, as any parent would be! And despite any doubt he may have had, Christ honored the wavering mustard-seed faith of this desperate father and delivered the child.
And He had a talk with His disciples afterward.
I don’t think there is any other story quite so poignant as Thomas’. Unlike our other examples, Thomas stands out distinctly. He had fully embraced doubt to the point that he was walking in blatant unbelief. He confessed it – and he stuck to it.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe, (John 20:24-25, KJV, emphasis mine).
Thomas laid out a clear map for his faith with precise conditions that he demanded be met. There were things he determined would have to be met before he would believe. It wasn’t as if seeing Christ face-to-face would be enough for him. No. He wanted to see and touch those areas where his Lord was wounded and pierced. He wanted to see and touch those places by which He was tormented and crucified. That’s significant. And only Christ Himself could deliver that. Thomas required evidence if he was to be persuaded that this was truly his Lord. So, we can discern what he was probably thinking: the disciples, in his estimation, had been duped. Thomas demanded evidence, and these were the marks that would set Christ apart from any impostor, as there were rumors circulating of such among the Jews following His resurrection.
Clearly, Thomas was at the edge of the cliff. I love what Christ did. He makes a second visit – no doubt for Thomas’ sake. This time it was intensely personal.
Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing, (John 20:27, KJV).
Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God,” (John 20:28, KJV).
However, we are not told that Thomas actually touched the Lord at all. Instead we hear an exclamation of faith at the very sight of Him. As it turns out, Thomas didn’t require as much evidence as he thought. His heart desperately wanted to believe. It leapt at the opportunity! What I find amusing is that Christ was willing to deliver the evidence Thomas demanded although it was not needed! This doubt and unbelief had to be rectified – because if it wasn’t, Thomas would have possibly gone astray from the others. Only after Thomas confessed his faith did Christ reprimand him and teach him the principle that the greatest faith is in those who do not see and yet believe.
Christ called him to the carpet. This was not any ordinary doubt. Jesus said he was ‘faithless’. Lesson learned, I’d say. I think Thomas ate some humble pie, don’t you? And I bet he did it with a smile. He was finally back in the game.
So, can we put demands on God? Should we put demands on God? I certainly don’t recommend it. God clearly prefers that you choose to embrace faith and believe Him.
Don’t make Thomas your example. His doubt and subsequent demand are not something we are called to emulate.
A Compassionate Defense
In the above stories we see Christ’s response to doubt, and how He boldly defended the faith of those who painfully wavered. He voices His compassion, His frustration, and even His reprimand. Yet every time doubt rose up within the hearts of His disciples or followers, He came to their rescue in defense of their faith – and did so immediately. He fiercely protected their faith by preserving it with compassion, hope, and encouragement.
Every single individual received precisely what they asked for – including Thomas.
What if Christ didn’t go to Jairus’ house?
What if He didn’t listen to the cry of the wailing father?
What if He didn’t visit Thomas?
Christ cares about each one of us personally. Intimately. He seeks and saves those which are lost. The one is always worth it to Him – whatever it takes. He knows what your faith requires. He is both the Author and Finisher of your faith, so He knows what it’s going to take to keep you in it. And He knows the damage doubt can do. If not remedied, it can graduate to unbelief. And that is a dangerous place to be.
The next time you struggle with doubt, don’t lose hope. The LORD will honor the faith you have and are able to demonstrate toward Him. And He will deliver you of the doubt that is threatening to rob you.
We all doubt from time to time. But when the scales tip, the LORD is both willing and able to come to your rescue. He knows what you need to believe! When your faith is under fire He will supply your need in the defense of your faith so you may believe and receive all He has for you!
Cheers & Shalom,