• Rev. Mark Tews

Stop Doubting

Have you ever thought about how we make God angry? The first thought that comes to mind of course is our sinful or evil behavior, but there is something else, something of which perhaps we are not often mindful. Read Deuteronomy 1:26–36 wherein you find verse 29: “Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them.’”

The context of these verses was Moses’ sermon to the Israelites as they gathered in the desert east of Jordan River, at the edge of Canaan. Forty years had passed. This new generation of Israelites, with Joshua and Caleb, would finally step into the Promised Land. Moses was delivering his final words to the people, giving them a flashback of what happened over the last forty years. He recounted the unbelief of their forefathers that led to their wandering in the wilderness. He reminds them that God was so angry with the people that He swore: “No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, except Caleb … because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.” (Deuteronomy 1:35–36). The entire nation of Israel came under God’s wrath because of their rampant unbelief.

The truth is, our unbelief angers God. The opposite is also true: our faith pleases God. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6). Moses reminded the Israelites that their unbelief was expressed in various ways: “You were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. You grumbled in your tents and said, ‘The Lord hates us; so He brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. Where can we go? Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear.’ They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’” (Deuteronomy 1:26–28).

When you lose sight of God, there are distinct symptoms: you are not willing to trust, you become rebellious, you grumble in your “tent” quietly, you misread God’s good intention, you become discouraged, and you see your problems as bigger than they should be. Sound familiar? Looking back, I now know that I went through such feelings when I dropped out of seminary. I know now these feelings were rooted in unbelief – doubt over whether ministry was really the right calling for me. I believe this happens from time to time in all our lives whenever we set our eyes on something other than God’s will. Unbelief sets in when our perspective changes from seeking to know and do His will and turns toward our own will instead.

What are you looking at, instead of God, most of the time? Jesus says, “Have faith in God!” (Mark 11:22). He is the OBJECT of faith and the FOCUS of faith. Anything else – the circumstances, the challenges, the giants before you – will give you reasons to DOUBT God. The Israelites had their eyes on everything else except God, despite all the signs He had given them. Their unbelief was not the result of a lack of evidence: ten plagues, release from slavery, the parting of the Red Sea, manna and quail in the wilderness. Their unbelief was not the result of a lack of assurances God had spoken.

Moses pleaded with them: “Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as He did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place. In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.’” (Deuteronomy 1:29–33).

God had spoken to them and God had performed miracles for them. There were undeniable signs of His presence and power, but the people chose to look somewhere else. They looked at themselves, their problems, their circumstances, and even back at the slavery that they had just left in Egypt. Ultimately, belief or unbelief is a CHOICE. Faith is an act of will. Are you willing to believe? The Israelites refused to trust God. People like to argue: “Show me the proof and I will believe.” The provision of proof removes the need to believe, the need for faith, and the need for God. Faith is not empirical. It is not science and is not anti-science. Faith is to believe in something that is true before you see it, because God has revealed it to be true.

What makes doubt and unbelief so appalling to God is that He knows the alternatives. The Israelites would rather have had slavery in Egypt as the alternative to freedom in Canaan! They basically said, “No thanks, God. We prefer the old life we had because we were used to it.” That rejection of God’s gift eventually led to death in their sin rather than life in the Promised Land. When we act like the Israelites, disbelieving and doubting God’s Will in our lives, God is hurt, disappointed, and angry. If we choose that path, then He will ultimately force us to stay in the “wilderness” – hell – for eternity.

How can we cultivate a willingness to trust Him? Simply watch for what God has been doing in your life. Read His Word and obey His commands. Trust Him and you will see the promises of God come true. We can’t have it any other way. We can’t be blessed without having to obey God. We are called to live our lives on His terms, not ours. He is the perfect God who knows the perfect way to the best life.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6). Too many people think this means: “God will reward those who seek a reward,” but this is not true. For example, we shouldn’t seek money if we need money. The Word says that we are to seek the Rewarder, not the reward. When we seek Him, we shall get what we really need. There are many unfulfilled needs in many lives because many seek the wrong things. The Lord our God assures us that everything we need is in Him. We need not fear, but simply trust and obey. Love Him for who He is. Nothing pleases God more.