When In Doubt

“Christ never failed to distinguish between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is can’t believe. Unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty. Unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light. Unbelief is content with darkness.” – Henry Drummond.

Experiencing spiritual doubt can be a lonely experience, but according to a new study from Barna, it’s more common than you think. Most Christians have at some point experienced a time of spiritual doubt when they questioned what they believed about their religion or God. We desperately want answers to our questions, but we are afraid to ask. God actually wants us to come to Him with our doubts and questions.

Consider the people listed in Hebrews 11 specifically for their faith. We are told that by faith Noah built an ark, Abraham traveled to a distant land, Sarah had a son in old age, Moses left a life of royalty to lead God’s people to freedom, and Samson defeated the Philistines. Many of the people who are praised for their faith also had moments of doubt recorded in Scripture. Jesus wouldn’t have had a single disciple if doubt disqualified anyone from following Him. In fact, If we removed from the Bible every person who doubted God, it would be a very short book.

Jesus was no stranger to doubt. And even after His resurrection, Jesus had doubters amongst His followers. Matthew’s Gospel records how even after seeing Jesus resurrected from the dead, some of His first followers doubted while others worshipped: “When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!” (Matthew 28:17). Then there was Thomas. Jesus appears and convinces the others He is alive. Does Thomas believe their story? No. He had his doubts.

We should not be embarrassed by our doubts. We should embrace it as a regular part of the faith life and journey. Timothy Keller said, “Honest doubts, then, are open to belief. If you are really asking for information and good arguments, you might get some.” Doubt is an invitation to journey into a deeper understanding as we “ask, seek, and knock.”

 The Bible shows us that not only is it okay to cry out to God with our questions but that God longs for us to do so. While we may want to seek other people and sources to answer the questions that plague us, God wants us to seek Him first. God knows that even in a place of doubt and disbelief if we bring our questions to Him, He can do for us what He did for many other heroes of the faith.

Whenever they come and whatever form they take, we must each deal honestly with our doubts. To ignore them is to court spiritual disaster. But facing them can lead ultimately to a deeper faith. A faith that’s challenged by adversity or tough questions . . . is often a stronger faith in the end.

Discussion questions:

  1. Why do you think it’s difficult for some to admit they have spiritual doubts? What prevents you from speaking out about your doubts? What makes you feel safe and unafraid to honestly open up with others about your spiritual questions?
  2. How would it change things if you saw your doubts as opportunities to grow deeper in your relationship with Christ, and not a reason for alarm? 

God Will Finish What You Started

“At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” – Luke 2:25-26. 

In each of our lives, God has begun a work. A good work. And the work involves more than we know. We see our unfinished projects, goals, and assignments. But the underlying work also includes our transformation, our love for others, and our love for God. Even when we don’t see progress, God is busy behind the scenes. He not only has the will to make it happen, but He also has the power to do it. 

It doesn’t matter how long it’s been or how impossible it looks. Your mind may tell you it’s too late. You missed too many opportunities. It’s never going to happen. Don’t discount the process just because you can’t yet see the results. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. God will bring His plan to pass.

In Luke 2 we read about a man named Simeon. In Verse 26, the Holy Spirit revealed to him that “…he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.“ That probably seemed far-fetched, but you could imagine Simeon believing that God would fulfill His promise. You can imagine him waking every day believing and expecting God to keep His promise. 

Simeon didn’t see any sign of the Messiah for years. You have to wonder if Simeon became concerned that he had heard God wrong.  But many years later, he saw Christ born. The promise came to fulfillment.   

What God starts, He will finish. People can’t stop it. Circumstances can’t stop it. Medical problems can’t stop it. God is going to complete your incompletions. 

Remember you will always be a work in progress. Day by day God is committed to working in your life to make you more and more like Jesus. Lean into Him on the hard and good days. Read your Bible daily and pray. We can all cling to the truth found in Philippians 1:6. Here the Apostle Paul reminds us to confidently hold onto the promise that God will not only continue but finish the transformational work He has begun in us. Even though this may not be a present reality, we can trust in God who keeps His promises.  

God will finish what he started in your life.

Discussion Questions

  1. Does the fact that God will complete what He started encourage you?
  2. How will this knowledge help you to make changes in your life that you realize should be made?

God Will Meet Your Needs

“Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing.” – Psalm 34:10

You may have some great needs. You may have emotional needs or you may have physical needs. You may be wishing your kids were better behaved or your relationship with your spouse was better. You may be a senior who is watching his or her retirement nest egg shrink. You may be battling addiction. 

You may be asking, “Why hasn’t God provided for all my needs yet? What’s going on? Can I really count on God’s promises?” God’s promises to take care of you are often based on premises. In other words, they’re not just blank, checks. God says, “If you do your part in following me, I’ll do my part in taking care of you.”

The good news is God is aware of your situation, is working in the midst of it, and gives you what you need to grow more like Him. 

God has made some very specific promises to take care of your needs. One of the greatest promises in the Bible is found in 2 Corinthians 9:8: “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”  Philippians 4:19 says, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

God sees me. God sees you. He knows the burdens we carry and what we need to sustain us today. God knows what we need before we even ask Him.

Jesus told His disciples not to worry. He admonished them to “seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33) This is a promise and commitment, that we can claim. He promises to meet your needs when you faithfully obey and trust Him. When you are walking in step with Him, He assumes full responsibility for the answers to your needs, problems, challenges, and circumstances of life. We need to remember, however, that He will meet your needs according to His will, purpose, plan, and timing. And meeting needs does not necessarily mean meeting every desire that we have.  

God is infinitely wealthy and never lacks the ability to provide for those who trust in Him. His Word says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” (Psalm 37:4)

Romans 8:32 says, “Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32) God gave you the greatest gift He could ever give – the gift of his Son. God will provide for all of your needs.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is there a difference between needs and wants? 
  2. What are some examples of God meeting your needs? 

Got It All Figured Out…Think Again

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over. But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline; don’t sulk under his loving correction. It’s the child he loves that God corrects; a father’s delight is behind all this.” – Proverbs 3:5-12 (MSG). 

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track. Though that will not be easy, especially the “do not depend on your own understanding.” (NIV) 

The Bible is pervaded by teachings that God’s sovereign control is complete, not partial. It governs every aspect of nature, every aspect of history, national life, personal life — nothing, absolutely nothing, is outside God’s sovereign governance. Nothing in the universe is random or without divine design and purpose. We would not be human if we did not believe that we are right more often than we are wrong. So, once we have weighed the pros and cons of a decision, it is probably the right one. But so often we find out that we are not right and find ourselves in places we do not want to be in. Fortunately, we don’t have to figure things out on our own.

Moses had a heart of gold. He was a true servant of God who selflessly cared for the well-being of those he served. He was about to pay dearly for his personal sin. He would not see the land for which he had labored for forty years. But Moses did not bemoan his situation. He was more concerned about the future of God’s children. He wanted to ensure that they had a genuine person to succeed him as their shepherd. Numbers 27:15-17 tells us “O Lord, you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give them someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the community of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” That request was no surprise to God. God already had a solution in place in the person of Joshua.  “The Lord replied, “Take Joshua son of Nun, who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him.” (Numbers 27:18)

Every day of your life has been written in God’s book before it unfolds in the annals of history and time. God has your situation already figured out. Don’t live in anxiety. Don’t sweat the details of life.

Why? Because God has it already figured out!

 Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you decide which things you should control and which you should let go? Is this worth your time, attention, and energy to try to control the trivial and the unimportant?
  2. The more confident you are in God, the more comfortable you are with His control. Agree or disagree and why?

Why Does The Church Exist?

“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Matthew 28:18–20.

If you asked a group of people what they like best about their church, you would probably get a mix of the following answers:

  • I love our worship, especially the music.
  • I love our preacher – he speaks in a way I can understand better, yet apply in my life.
  • I love our devotion and work for Jesus Christ and His Lordship.
  • I love that people are being saved.
  • I love we are well grounded in the scriptures.
  • I love our KiDS programs.

If we were asked that question, our answer would based on the purpose or the mission of the church. I thought I would seek an expert opinion on that subject, C.S. Lewis. Mr. Lewis was kind enough to answer this question for us during the 1940’s when He wrote “Mere Christianity.” Mere Christianity was actually adapted from a series of BBC radio talks with C.S. Lewis during World War II, while he was at Oxford. But, I believe his insights are spot on for us today 70 plus years later.

It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, buildings, missions, holding services … the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ and that everything is to be gathered together in Him.” (C.S.Lewis, Mere Christianity)

If Lewis is right that “the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs,” that has to be the sole focus of our journey and the mission of Northstar. We can have a lot of really great things going on, but if it is not to “draw people into Christ,”  it is not the best use of our time.

There are a lot of great programs that we in the Church view as pillars of the church. But, if it’s not drawing people to Christ, it’s a luxury, not a necessity. Lewis goes on to say, “God became man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.” Jesus became a human for no other purpose, than to draw others to Himself.

“Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.” (C.S.Lewis, Mere Christianity)

That is why the church exists.

Discussion Question:

  1. Why do you think the church exists? How do I fit into the church? What do I contribute? In what ways am I improving in how I harmonize with fellow believers?
  2. What does it mean to make little Christs?
  3. Things to wrestle with: Am I prepared to explain the message of Jesus? Can I clearly convey to someone how to be saved? Do I believe that God could use me to share his message of hope to someone who needs Him? Am I ready to share what Christ has done in my life?
  4. Pray for Northstar that we will make “little Christs” each week?

He Is Able

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” – Romans 11:36

We’ve seen God do great things in our church, and we know that He’s just getting started. However, with all that’s been going on, it’s easy to feel like it’s a bit chaotic. Which is why I used this Sunday’s teaching to provide you with some information on what is happening in our church.

In the last few years, I have been constantly reminded of God’s ability to do the impossible. Webster’s Dictionary defines able as “having sufficient power, strength, force, skill, means, or resources of any kind to accomplish the object.” When I look back over the 17 year history of Northstar, it becomes all too apparent that God is able to do bigger things than we can imagine.

We see in Ephesians 3:20-21 that our Father is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Think about the future. I believe His plans for Northstar are beyond what we could even imagine. As are His plans for each of us individually. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” – Jeremiah 29:11.  It is for this reason we need to enlarge our vision. To think bigger than we’ve ever thought before and to dare to imagine all that He can, and will, do in us and through us in the remainder of 2015. Our God is truly able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think.

Our success at Northstar is because of what God is able to do. I’m not talking about what we’re able to do. I’m talking about what God is able to do. What could He do through us together as a local church? Does God want to get the gospel out like never before? Does He want us to reach more people than we’ve ever reached before? See more salvations? More people filled with the Spirit? More disciples?  The answer is yes, yes, yes and yes.

Our goal is not to limit God with small thinking. Our prayer is that we will not limit what God is desiring to do.

Here is my prayer for every member and regular attender of Northstar, that you will receive a fresh vision of His plans for you and for our church. That your heart will be stirred.. Job 8:7 says, “And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.” God’s saying to you that no matter where you’re at right now, no matter what you may be facing at the moment, there is hope for your future. He has a plan for you.

Dare to believe that He is able to do things that you’ve never seen before.

Discussion Questions:

  1. John Wesley said, “Our responsibility is to give the world the right impression of God.” How well do we do?
  2. Do we do enough to glorify God?
  3. What traits of a church glorify God above all else?
  4. How is God  at work within you on a day-to-day basis?
  5. Pray and ask God to show you your role in the vision of the church.