Dealing with Doubt

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”‭‭John‬ ‭14:1-6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Doubt has the ability to creep into the hearts of the most committed. Thomas, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, dealt with doubt in his relationship with the Lord. And sometimes we as Christians wrestle with doubt in our faith walk, but in today’s post I want to share some ways to overcome it.

Jesus explained to his disciples on multiple occasions how he would be crucified and rise again. But Thomas wasn’t certain. He had some doubts about his knowledge of what to do next. 

Have you ever doubted yourself? Have you ever been uncertain about your future, career, or your relationships? We’ve all had doubts at some point in our lives. Here are some tips to help you deal with doubts. 

Be clear about your doubts. 

Thomas expressed some details about his uncertainties but he didn’t accurately clarify his doubt. He was unsure about where Jesus was going and how to get there, but he didn’t clearly express his personal doubts. He doubted his ability to recall the teachings and follow through on the plan. 

If you’re having doubts, here’s a definition of doubt to help you get started clarifying your feelings. 
Doubt: a feeling of uncertainty, lack of conviction, or lack of confidence.

Now that you have a definition, ask yourself “What is making me uncertain? Why do I lack conviction? Why am I not confident?” Then, express it in one sentence. 

Get some help. 

Thomas did the right thing by talking to Jesus. Jesus was the one person who had the plan, and all of the answers. When you have doubts, it’s important to get the right help from the right people. I’ll admit, venting your frustrations may make you feel good, but venting to the wrong people doesn’t address your doubts. 

So, my advice is to go to the source. Go to the person you’re accountable to in the situation. Express your doubts and ask for their help. I have one word of caution though: go to them alone. Here’s why; Thomas expressed his uncertainty out loud in front of the other disciples and it spread. Look at verses 7-8. 

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
‭‭John‬ ‭14:7-8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Thomas’s doubt has spread to Philip who then expresses his uncertainty. Doubt can grow and gain ground in a group like weeds. I think they call it “sowing seeds of doubt.” Don’t be that person. Instead, go to source alone and give them an opportunity to help you overcome your doubts. 

Keep an open mind. 

This last tip is critical because your attitudes toward your doubts can be your biggest obstacle. Your faith can move mountains but your doubt can create them. 

Here’s what I mean by “keep an open mind.”

“The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
‭‭John‬ ‭20:25‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In this verse, Thomas refused to believe. He basically built a mountain of doubt and said only an earth shaking miraculous revelation could move it. If you’ve already made up your mind and put stipulations on your doubt as Thomas did, no amount of talking will help you. 

Thomas could’ve shared in the joy of the resurrection of Jesus with his fellow disciples sooner if he was more open minded. Instead, he held fast to his doubt until he was confronted by Jesus. 

“And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
‭‭John‬ ‭20:26-29‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Seeing Jesus put all of Thomas’s doubts to rest. He was convinced and affirmed his belief by praising Jesus as Lord and God. Even so, Thomas forfeited a blessing of faith. Jesus told Thomas “because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Don’t allow doubt to hinder your blessings. Doubt can sap your energy and steal your joy. Doubt can make you stagnant, afraid to step out in faith. Doubt can cause you to miss opportunities because you were too uncertain to seize the day. 

I hope this post helps you strategically overcome your doubts.

Find your wilderness

“However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.”‭‭Luke‬ ‭5:15-16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
In Luke chapter 5, Jesus healed two lepers and told them not to tell anyone. The Bible says “However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.” All of a sudden, Jesus’ ministry work became more demanding. 

Can you imagine what it’s like to personally minister to a multitude of people? The best example I could come up with is from my days working fast food in college. 

In college, I worked at an Arby’s restaurant that was located two blocks away from Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn University. On football game days, all five registers would be opened with all five lines stretching out of the lobby and through the opened double doors. The people just kept on coming. It was stressful, demanding work being pressed by such a large crowd. At the end of the day I was drained and fatigued. 

What do you do when life just keeps on coming? How do you handle the stress and fatigue? Jesus gives us the answer: withdraw and pray. 


We all need to withdraw and rest our bodies to help with physical fatigue. But we also need to withdraw our minds, hearts, souls, and spirits through prayer to help us deal with other forms of fatigue. Here are a few examples:

Decision fatigue – the mind is so overworked making decisions you either choose not to make a decision or all your decisions are automatically “no”. 

Emotional fatigue – your heart has experienced so many intense emotions (joy, anger, happiness, pain) that you’ve become numb and can’t empathize with others. 

Social fatigue – your mind is so overworked trying to fulfill all of your social roles (spouse, parent, employee, parishioner, neighbor) that you begin to act out of character at the wrong times. 

Sensory fatigue – you’ve been so bombarded with images, videos, sounds, and smells that you become annoyed by the hum of the motor on your refrigerator. 

Spiritual fatigue – you’ve wrestled with the devil and yourself so long in an attempt to live right that you’ve decided church isn’t working, and you’re just gonna let yourself go this weekend. You justify it by saying “I’ve been good so I deserve it.”

Prolonged exposure to these types of fatigue can lead you to snap on your kids, leave your spouse, quit your job, curse out your friends, quit your ministry, leave your church, or worse. 

The best way to respond to this fatigue is to withdraw and pray. Find or create your own personal wilderness where you can be alone with God. Get away from the noise and distractions so you can let God resettle you and recharge your batteries. 

My wilderness is my porch. That’s where I get alone with God to pray, think, and strategize. Sometimes I have to create a wilderness when I’m in public places by putting on my earphones with worship music, classical, or soft instrumental jazz. 

Let me encourage you to find your wilderness. Get alone with God. Let him help you process all of the issues of your life. He will give you to strength to move forward. 

Success doesn’t equal identity 

“Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:8-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

How much are you worth? We may not ever ask ourselves that exact question but thoughts and feelings of worth trickle through our minds from time to time. We subconsciously compare our material possessions with those of others. We may assign values to our businesses or ministries.

Honestly, we can’t help it. In our culture, we’re considered successful if we have accumulated money and things. In our capitalist society, virtually everything has a price and value. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The problem comes when we put prices and values on ourselves and make those values part of our identity. 

That’s what the devil did to Jesus. The devil showed Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He showed him the might, wealth, and riches of kingdoms and offered it to Jesus. 

This attack was really tricky. Instead of referring to Jesus as the Son of God as he did in the first two attacks, Satan appealed to Jesus’ humanity. He wasn’t talking to the “Son of God”. He was talking to the son of a middle class, blue collar carpenter who was never wealthy. His goal was to get Jesus to chase wealth and success instead of following God. 

Satan approaches us the same way. He shows us a never ending stream of new and better things to acquire. He distracts us with images of promotions and greater success. We don’t always realize it but the longer we look at the kingdoms and glory, the less we may think of ourselves. 

Don’t tie your identity to your success or material worth. You’re no less important to God if you don’t have a bigger church, nicer car, or better business. Your fame fortune or popularity are inadequate definitions for your identity. When we are secure in our identity toward God, we can put Satan in his place. 

Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”

Jesus was offended by Satan’s petty offer. When you’re the Son of God whose Father owns the world, the kingdoms in the world are a drop in the bucket. Literally. 

“Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, And are counted as the small dust on the scales; Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Only God can tell us what we’re worth because only God was able to pay the price for our salvation. Only God can determine our success because only he has the plan for our lives. 

Your title isn’t your identity. 

“Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ””‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:5-7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Ok, in the second scenario between Jesus and the devil in the wilderness, the devil attacks Jesus’ identity again. He says “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

Let’s unpack this statement. If you’re the Son of God, if you have that title, if you have that position, if you have that status, then throw yourself down from he top of the temple. If you’re really the Son of God then there’s no problem because you’re important. In fact you’re so important, God will dispatch angels to catch you. 

This tactic employed by the devil is still in use today. It’s easy for the devil to tempt us to believe our titles make us entitled. Sometimes leaders become intoxicated with positional power. They allow their titles to excuse reckless behavior and uncalculated decisions. Some resort to “title-mongering” where they justify their decisions by saying “I’m the leader, I’m the boss, I’m the pastor, or I’m the president.”

Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ”

Allowing your title to become your identity is dangerous. It can lead to pride which could cause you to fall. It can lead to stagnation if you refuse to give up the title. It can lead to depression if you lose the title. Worst of all, it could lead us to “tempt” or test God because we believe our titles make us so important. 

We’re not that important. We should never tie our identity to our positions. Any of us can be replaced. As my friend Abraham Snell once said “One monkey won’t stop God’s show. If he can’t find a monkey, he’ll use an orangutan.” 

Ability doesn’t equal identity

Last week, my friend Jeff Centers, pastor of Riverland Church, shared a thought with me. He said one of the primary ways the enemy attacks ministry leaders is in the area of identity. As we discussed this concept I began to believe Jeff was right. Immediately my mind went to the interaction between Jesus and Satan in the wilderness. There it was, as plain as day. So I’d like to explore this concept with you for a few posts. 

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:1-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬


In this first interaction, Satan challenged Jesus to turn stones to bread. He just challenged Jesus to do an impossible, miraculous task to produce an ordinary result. What’s so dangerous about this challenge is, the enemy ties ability to Jesus’ identity. 

If you are the Son of God, do the impossible. If you are who you say you are, then do the miraculous. Surely someone with your skills, talents, and gifts should be able to dazzle everyone with your power. Does that sound familiar to you? It does to me. 

I hear this; “if you’re the pastor, you have to go above and beyond to impress others.” “If you’re the ministry leader you have to be so talented as a leader that you grow the ministry to worldwide status.” “If you’re the preacher or speaker then wow us with your powerful words and compelling messages.”

If we listen to these ideas, we may begin to believe our identity and worth are measured by our abilities. We may even begin to compare our abilities to the abilities of others. We may find ourselves fixed on performance instead of faithfulness. Worst of all, we may become discouraged when we fail to work miracles for the pleasure of spectators. When these things happen, Satan keeps us bound and causes us to discredit ourselves. 

Don’t tie your identity to your abilities. You are not your skill set. You are not your voice. You are not your leadership ability. You are a Son or Daughter of God. Jesus reveals a truth we must all grasp in order to survive the enemy’s attack:

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Sons and Daughters of God live by God’s word. Our true identity is whatever God says about us. Our source of life is his word. The only one who can command us and empower us to do the impossible is God. Whether we perform miracles or not, we’re still his children. 

How to deal with unprofitable people

“And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:30‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Jesus tells a parable about servants making investments for their master. The story takes a turn when one of the servants decides he doesn’t want to make the investment because he feels he won’t get anything out of it. Ultimately, the master declares the servant is “unprofitable” (useless, good for nothing) and has him dismissed. I believe this master can teach us something valuable about our dealings with others. 

1. People connected to us should be profitable. They should add value more than they take away. Providing support, encouragement, believing in your dreams should be standard. People in your circle should be building their lives and helping you build yours. 

2. We need to evaluate the value of those connected to us. Basically, we need to know what value they bring, why it’s important to us, and be able to measure their effectiveness. Please note, these need to be real values, not superficial values. 

3. Unprofitable people should be dismissed. You don’t have time to take on a “project person”. For example, trying to change an unprofitable boyfriend or girlfriend never works. Dismissing them brings you closer to the right person. 

4. We need to be profitable also. When you encounter profitable people, don’t be a taker. Instead, find a way to add value to their lives just as they will add value to yours. People who are going somewhere, building their lives, and advancing their careers, are all looking to network and connect with profitable people. Be that person. 

The master had it right. He chose valuable servants worthy of reward and removed those who were unprofitable. We should do the same. 

God and Riches

““No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

This week in the message Turning the Tables Part 2 I talked about our financial priorities. One of the issues addressed in the message was the known tendency of African Americans to be influenced by name brands and luxury items. Simply put, sometimes our desire for luxury items and famous labels can lead us to make poor financial decisions more often than other races. 

Let me say something here. It’s not wrong to have the finer things in life. So don’t go sell your Mercedes and trade it in for a bicycle. Having nice things isn’t the problem. Jesus told the congregation at the sermon on the mount, they couldn’t serve God and mammon (wealth and riches). He says they will either love the one and hate the other. How does that apply to our financial decisions?

It all boils down to the decisions we make in critical moments and opportunities. 

Critical moments are the times when our finances are thin or have impeding obligations on them. Sometimes we’re enticed to make purchases in these lean financial times. If we’re ruled emotionally by our desires for luxury items, we will make ill-advised purchases. The end result is, we put ourselves in uncomfortable and unnecessary financial risk. 

Opportunities are the times when we can use money as a tool to put ourselves in a better financial position. These are times when we’re stable, our money isn’t obligated, and/or we’re blessed with an unexpected increase. When these moments come in our lives some of us immediately begin to imagine the things we can buy with the extra money. Then we spend it just as quickly as we received it. 

Both of these examples ended with decisions to serve our desire for riches. There is however another option; instead of serving riches, we could serve God with our riches. When we adopt a spiritual mentality that says “all that I am, and all that have belongs to God” our decisions are very different. 

In critical times, we would pray and make the choice to take care of our obligations. By doing so we relieve our financial stress and have a more abundant quality of life. From this position of stability we are free to minister to others instead of creating new financial problems in our lives so others need to minister to us. In times of opportunity we would pray for the Lord’s guidance. He could lead us to invest in ourselves by saving the extra money to carry us through the lean times. We could pay down debt, get ahead on mortgage or car payments, or invest it in ministry. 

We can’t serve God and riches, but putting God first and serving God with our riches can lead to an abundant life. Jesus said it best. 

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:33‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Focus on the Money

We’re in a series at GFMBC about personal finance entitled “Turning the Tables”. Yesterday I began with the story of Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers in Matthew 21:12-13. In that message I told our church to “focus on the money”. What does that mean? I’m going to explain but it may help to view the message to get deeper context. 

Turning the Tables Part 1

Focus on the money means: pay more attention to the true value of money instead of focusing our attention on the non-monetary values we attribute to the things money can buy. Non-monetary values can be powerful motivators that lead us to make poor money decisions. Here are some common non-monetary values. 
Emotional value: “If I buy this item, I’ll feel better.”

Social value: “If I buy this item, I’ll fit in.”

Esteem value: “If I buy this item, I’ll be perceived positively by others.”

Experience value: “If I make this purchase, I’ll have a special or unique experience.”

Physical value: “If I make this purchase my body will feel pleasure.”

Possession value: “If I purchase and possess this item, my life will be better.”

Adding these non-monetary values to our purchases can cause us to overvalue the things we buy. As a result, we may pay more for the items than they’re worth. “Time is money” but adding non-monetary values to the things we buy could cause us to make ill-advised purchases at the wrong times. We can be falsely motivated to make purchases while missing out on opportunities to make better use of our money for investments in our lives. 

We need to focus on the money, understanding it’s true value. In the long run, the money is more important than the things it can buy. When we focus on the money, we’re less likely to overspend. We’re less likely to be tricked by slick marketing or predatory sales practices. We’re actually more likely to save money and have money in excess. 

When we focus on the money, we are better able to reap the full benefits that money can provide. We’re better able to spend our money to take advantage of real opportunities. We are even better positioned to reward ourselves in ways that are meaningful and financially sound. We can even employ our money to make more money. 

Correcting with Grace

IMG_1532.JPG

When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Permit even this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. (‭Luke‬ ‭22‬:‭49-51‬ NKJV)

Every good leader wants team members who are competent, trustworthy, self-starters that don’t require a lot prodding to get things done. But sometimes those team members can go too far and the leader must take corrective action. How do you handle it? 

Jesus dealt with a similar situation involving his disciples. One of them, Peter, cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest when a group came to arrest Jesus. Instead of embarrassing or berating his disciples, Jesus corrected the action without harming them and healed the servant. From his example we can learn a few tips for correcting our teams. 

Know the Situation
Jesus was fully aware of the situation that led to his disciples’ actions. This knowledge was crucial to determining the appropriate response. Leaders should never make disciplinary decisions based on assumptions. Assuming in correction makes the leader look self-centered, incompetent, and uncaring in the eyes of the team. Gather as many facts as possible to help you make an objective decision. 

Correct the Action
When Jesus spoke after the man’s ear was cut off, he didn’t try to punish his disciple. Instead, he corrected their actions. When we set out to “fix” a problem we’re often tempted to project our frustrations toward a person. When we give in to this temptation we end up bruising the person which could slowly deteriorate the working relationship in the future. Instead, we should give grace with correction. We should use the correction as a teachable moment. We should speak the truth but do it in love so our team members won’t lose their confidence and we won’t lose their trust. 

Leverage Your Power
In this case a man’s ear was cut off and only Jesus had the power to heal him. For leaders, there will be times when our team members will create problems they are not qualified or equipped to handle. For these times, it’s important for us to step up and exercise our authority for the good of everyone involved. It may cost us initially but we gain in the long run. By stepping into the situation we can appease and retain disgruntled clients or members, mend broken relationships, and avoid future damages. 

No matter how bad the mistake or the problem, at the end of the day leaders must still value and honor their team members. We must do our best to separate the person from the actions by extending love and grace. 

Praise Through Anything

20140624-124323.jpg

Sometimes it’s difficult to be joyful when we’re facing hardships. But I can tell you from personal experience that praising God can bring us joy in the midst of our problems. I have endured the loss of loved ones and the challenges of life by praising God. Perhaps the best example of how to praise through any circumstance is Jesus’ praise from the cross. 

Matthew 27:46(NKJV) And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is,
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
 
In Matthew 27, Jesus is on the cross facing death. He is being wrongly executed as a criminal, most of his friends have fled, and he is bearing the burden of the sins of the world. He cries out “My God, My God, why have You Forsaken Me?”
 
It would seem that Jesus gives a cry in anguish. It would be easy to assume he was crying out in distress. That may be partially true but if we look closer we will notice Jesus isn’t just crying out in despair, but in praise. In his darkest hour, Jesus utters the first line of a song of praise.

Psalms 22:1(NKJV) My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?
 
Jesus quotes Psalm 22 which is a Psalm that parallels the Lord’s circumstances in the beginning verses but turns to praise and encouragement in the latter verses. By quoting this Psalm, while dying on the cross, Jesus is teaching us we can praise through anything. 

A song of praise can help us remember The Lord in the midst of our hardships. It can help us push away the darkness of despair with the joy of the Lord. We can encourage our hearts with songs that testify of God’s goodness. We can praise our way through anything because we know God is with us inhabiting our praises.