Tag Archives: doubt

Are You Having a Crisis of Faith?

Peninsula Community Church 

Are You Having a Crisis of Faith?

April 8, 2018

Matthew 28:16-20 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This week I have been dealing with this question. After the resurrection what do we do? How do we deal with all that transpired? How do we get past the celebration of the event and move to an ongoing celebration of life? Last week, we celebrated the festivities of Easter, the clothes, and of course all of the food. Last week we had a great service. We focused on the power and the truth of the resurrected Lord. But here is a truth, we do not and we cannot continue to stand at the empty tomb and expect life to change. We must begin to live in the reality of the resurrected Lord. We must move beyond the tomb to live life to the fullest. While this is true, as I was preparing this message, I could not help but focus on the fact that while some worshipped Jesus others doubted. This occurred after His resurrection. It is that doubt that keeps many from moving forward to live a resurrected life.

Our tendency might be to judge or criticize those who doubted. This is so easy to do. In reality, doubt is often a result of difficult circumstances and problems. It is interesting that the word doubt means “to be hung in suspense.” It means that we are at a crossroad of decision making. Decision making can negatively impact us because the results of our decision are unknown or undecided. From a spiritual standpoint, doubt is a place where God seems to be distant or seems to be unaware of what we are going through. It is a place where have more unanswered prayers than ones that have been answered. It is my guess that we have all faced this kind of doubt. We have all encountered issues that seem to have no answers or at least any easy answers. We are faced with trusting God, and the promises of God, because we do not have solid answers and there is no hope found in the circumstances we face. 

For some of the disciples, as well as others, who followed Christ, the events of the last few days and weeks had left them in doubt and struggling with a crisis of faith. They were hung in suspense as to what had happened and what was going to happen. They were hung in the suspense of wanting to have the right answers. They wanted to believe but everything that had transpired for them was a bit more than they could handle. Some of those who doubted agreed with what Christ had done but they struggled with who He was. Others knew who He was, but they struggled with what He had done. Their vision of Christ did not match up to the reality of their heart or the teachings of Christ. What they knew and believed about Jesus had been shaken and now they were struggling to keep everything in perspective, even though He had risen from the dead. You see they were face to face with Jesus, and yet they still had doubts.

We too can face a crisis of faith when the trials we encounter cause us to struggle with prayers that go unanswered. We face the pressure of circumstances that seem to not change or in fact they get worse. This can cause us to be be shaken to the core of our faith. We can even begin to question the validity of our faith. We can begin to question whether or not we have been betrayed by God Himself. We can reason that we are doing our best but He is not doing His part. These unanswered questions nag at our hearts: Is God really who He says He is? Can God do what He says He can do? We have taught others that God is good, loving, and faithful and now we wonder if that is really true.

As we consider one’s crisis of faith, I believe there are some benefits to dealing with a crisis of faith. If we choose to follow God by faith and in obedience to His Word, our crisis of faith will lead us to a deeper understanding of God and who He is. Sometimes we need to choose to follow Him by faith, even when we do not have all the answers much less all of the questions. I love what we find in 1 Kings 18:21. Elijah made this challenging proclamation “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

The first benefit is that a crisis of faith forces us to take a hard look at what we believe. What a benefit that is. In our humanness, we can become comfortable with a belief system that may or may not be correct. For example, my faith in Christ has been tested many times. There have been times where I have needed a divine intervention from God but it did not seem to be happening. It seemed that He was delaying His answer and that He was not concerned. My faith crisis was in believing that God did not really care. I had the feeling that He had forgotten me? I began to question if I was good enough. When God did answer in His time, my view of God as the faithful One was strengthened, and thus what I believed about God was confirmed. 

Secondly, a crisis of faith leads to more authentic convictions. When we experience a crisis of faith the last thing we need to do to is deny it. Instead of denying the issue, lean into your crisis of faith and face your doubts. As a result, authenticity will be a characteristic of your life. Here is the deal, God knows your doubts already, so you might as well be honest with Him about them. Only when you face the truth about your doubts are you able to move forward toward a more authentic faith. If we allow fear to rule and we deny our doubts, our faith will not be as strong as it should be. God honors truthfulness and He already knows what we are thinking. 

Third, a crisis of faith invites you to a stronger and more deeply-rooted faith. By accepting that we are in a crisis of faith, we have the capacity to admit we need God. Can you imagine the children of Israel standing before the Red Sea? Behind them was an army rushing at full speed toward them. Ahead of them was a river that was impossible to cross with a million people or more. Their leader was an old man who has nothing but a stick in his hand. Do you think they had a crisis of faith? These and other stories have been recorded through Scripture to give us hope and help us to navigate life when doubt comes and we struggle with our own crisis of faith.

When the events we face cause us to believe we cannot go on serving God, what do we do? How do we keep the Easter story alive in our heart? I believe this passage gives us some answers. This may be a different look at this passage than we are use to, but here we go. First of all, we worship. Worship is a key component to living in the reality of the resurrected Christ and moving beyond our crisis of faith. The word worship is a great word. This word comes from the old English word “weorthscipe” which means to ascribe or give value to something or someone. As we give value to something or someone, we tend to worship or value that thing or person. When it comes to Christ, He is already worthy but we must value the gift He has given us. We must ascribe worth and value for who He is and what He is about. 

The second solution is to recognize that we have been called to a higher purpose. Notice that Jesus did not distinguish between the disciples who worshipped Him and the ones who doubted. He called them all with the same purpose and calling. No matter who you are as a believer, He is calling you to find a purpose. This gives us a reason to look beyond where we are and allows us to refocus on something greater than ourselves. Perhaps one reason we are facing a crisis of faith is that we have not determined our purpose in Christ’s Kingdom. 

What does He call us to do? Here Jesus issued this command. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Notice a couple of things here. First, we are to go. This speaks of action. We are to go people and not wait for them to come to us. To go means we have an outward focus on evangelism. He called them all to go into the world. Let me make a critical point here. We are all called to share Christ with those we encounter. By going our focus is shifted from our struggle with faith to seeing those who need of Jesus and those who need hope for a better day. 

 

The third way to counter our crisis in faith is to remember, He is with us all of the time. He never leaves us. He is, has been, and always will be with us. That brings us hope and inspiration to face a better day. It encourages us to move in obedience to touch those lives we encounter. 

So how are you today? Are you living with a crisis of faith? Are living with doubt? Maybe today God wants to show you are new purpose and a new reason to focus on Him. Maybe today, He wants you to worship Him regardless of where you are circumstantially. What about it? Are you ready to soar with faith?

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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He Rose – Conquering Unforgiving and Doubtful Hearts

Peninsula Community Church 

He Rose – Conquering Unforgiving and Doubtful Hearts

April 16, 2017

Luke 24:36-43 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you! “But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat? “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

Today is the day we celebrate the risen Lord who died for our sins but rose again so we could experience the fullness of all that God has given us. Too often, the problem for us is that life gets in the way of what Jesus has done. Our busyness, our fears, and our sin all seem to keep us from being the kind of person we ought to be. But we can realize that Christ’s gift to us covers a multitude of sin and wrong.

If you know the story, Jesus hung on the cross and he died there without much support from those who had promised to be with Him. They ran. They hid. After His death, they began to feel the realization of what they had done. They were filled with regret. Their hearts ached. They could not wrap their minds around the events that led to this moment in time. After His resurrection, it was in this environment that Jesus entered their pain and their emotional turmoil. It was here that Jesus showed up.

In our passage today we find that Christ provided a practical illustration of forgiveness by going to those who failed to stand with Him when it counted. During His ministry, He had preached the power of reconciliation and He had ministered the power of redemption and forgiveness. Now when the disciples where at their lowest point, He showed up. Jesus chose to go to the very ones who had denied and forsaken Him. I read a statement this week that said the cross reveals sin at its worse and the love of Jesus at its best. That was true then and it is just as true today.

In our study, we will look at three of the disciples who were a part of Jesus’ life. These three walked with Jesus, heard his teachings, saw the miracles, and witnessed His heart up close. Even with this history and experience with Jesus; Judas, Thomas, and Peter all failed in big ways. It is interesting that they were all called by Christ, they heard the same message, witnessed the same miracles, and yet they responded in different ways for different reasons.

The first of these men was Judas who was deceived. In this story, we find that Judas is a sad commentary of one who is misguided and deceived by the power money. It appeared that he loved money more than he loved people. He manifested a greedy heart and it was his greedy heart that eventually destroyed him. From reading the Biblical account you might remember that Judas was the treasurer for Jesus’ ministry. He handled the money and he often had a lot to say about the finances of the ministry. He was also very critical of how others handled their finances especially when he thought they were wasting their money according to his standards. He was critical even when they were providing a gift or an offering to honor Jesus.

It is noteworthy that Jesus knew his heart and He trusted Judas to handle the finances of his ministry. This was the same Judas who heard the teachings of Jesus on the rich man and how hard it was to get into heaven when one tries to serve two masters. Jesus had warned His disciples that they will serve one but not both because it is impossible to serve both God and money. Even though he heard this and other teachings, he lost focus and was deceived by the power of greed and money.

In the end, we find that Judas made an agreement with the religious leaders to give up Jesus for a mere thirty pieces of silver. We might think this was a great price but thirty pieces of silver was not much money in his day. In fact, thirty pieces of silver was the price of a common slave. Judas accepted the deal and put the plan in motion. Judas led the religious leaders to the Garden of Gethsemane where he betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

Immediately, he realized what he had done. He tried to go to the leaders to undo what he had done but they would know hear it. The deal was done and the price had been paid. It is amazing how often we realize the depth of our sin after we have committed sin. The depth of that sin haunted him until he found himself on a hillside where he threw himself into the cavern below and took his life. It is noteworthy that he died in the very field that had been bought with the thirty pieces of silver he returned. The leaders could not use the money as it was blood money so they bought a field for those who were destitute and poor to be buried in. It was here that the consequences of sin came full circle. It was here that Judas died alone, rejected, and tormented by his guilt.

The greatest issue here is that if Judas had waited, Jesus would have come to forgive and set him free. That is what Jesus does for us. The unforgivable sin is to not receiving the forgiveness of Jesus. Judas missed that because of the heaviness of his guilt. From a personal standpoint, Judas is not much different than we are. We sell Jesus out for much less than thirty pieces of silver. Let me ask you! What would you sell Jesus out for? Would it be for pleasure? Would it be for financial gain? Would it be for popularity? Would it be for some success? Would it be to cover up who you really are? But if we turn to Christ no matter how desperate or how much we have veered away from Him, He will receive us, forgive us, and restore us. Don’t wait to do that. Like Judas we might find that it is too late.

We now turn our attention to Thomas. He was known as the doubter. He doubted Jesus. He doubted his faith. He doubted the promises of Jesus. He lacked faith and therefore he missed much of what Jesus had done and He was doing in the moment. He struggled with his faith and often doubted his acceptance by Jesus.

For us personally, we can doubt. Many struggle to receive Christ and they struggle to receive His grace as a result of their doubt. The truth about doubt is that it is often based in fear. We doubt what we fear and we doubt what we don’t understand. The problem is that if we are not careful we can reject Christ because of our doubt. In contrast, our doubt can lead us to explore truth and in exploring truth we actually find Christ. Thomas doubted but his doubt led him to explore the truth. He wanted to touch and feel Jesus’ wounds. He was looking for the truth and he found it as he looked for the truth in Jesus’ wounds. Because he could touch the wounds of Jesus he trusted and believed that Christ was indeed the risen Lord.

For some, this may seem like an act of unbelief but in reality what Thomas was asking for is that Jesus would remove his doubt. By touching Jesus’ scars, he was assured that Jesus was real. Many today want to know that Jesus is real. In their doubt they are seeking truth. If that is you then I would suggest that you ask Christ to reveal Himself to you. If we ask, He will answer. He will show His grace and His power. So ask and you will receive. Touch His hands and His feet. Reach for grace and see that it is real and dynamic.

Now we turn our attention to Peter, the denier. Peter was one of those kind of people you would love to hate. He was tempestuous. He was arrogant. He was quick on the draw. He was quick to respond but was also quick to fall short. Whether it was walking on water, drawing his sword to cut off the soldier’s ear, or promising an undying commitment to Jesus, he made promises he could not keep. He had great intentions but his intentions fell short almost every time.

It is amazing to me that Jesus sought out Peter, yes Peter the one who denied Him. Jesus confronted Peter with the question, “Do you love me?” It is interesting that in the Greek language there are two words that are used for love. Two of those words are used here. The first word is “Agape” love which is the highest form of love possible. The second word for love is “Phileo” love which is friendship love. When Jesus asked Peter if he had the highest form of love possible for Jesus, Peter responded that I love you with a friendship love. I love you as a friend.

We might be quick to judge Peter for this but I wonder if Peter had learned his lesson about making statements and promises that he could not keep. Rather than responding in arrogance, he was now responding in humility. Notice that Jesus asked this same question three times, one for each denial Peter made. Jesus also on each occasion called Peter to feed His sheep. Jesus had forgiven Peter and was now calling him to a new ministry. It is noteworthy, as well, that Jesus not only called him to feed the lambs but also to strengthen his fellow brethren. Here the one who had denied Jesus three times was now being called to a greater ministry.

So instead of rejecting Peter, he was received by Jesus who gave him forgiveness and a new calling. How powerful is that? Rather than turning Peter away, he received him which healed Peter’s sense of betrayal and rejection. After the resurrection, we find that Peter became the new leader for this new fledging church. Peter the one who failed big time was now the leader of a new movement called Christianity.

So which of these characters best describe you. Are you a Judas who is selling Jesus for a few dollars or pleasures that will fade away and in the end be destroyed? Let me let you in on a secret, you may feel like a Judas this morning and you feel there is no hope but because you are here and the fact that you are alive this morning says that there is still hope. He is here now and is willing to forgive you of every sin and every wrong you have committed.

Are you a Thomas who is filled with great doubt and concern about what is truth? Instead of rejecting Jesus, use your doubt as a means to seek for Jesus this morning. Ask Jesus to come and prove Himself. If we ask He will come, He will prove Himself as the real Son of God.

Are you a Peter who has made promises that you have not been able to keep? You may feel that you have denied Him and that there is no hope for change. Because of your failure and broken promises you may feel that Jesus will not accept you, but I can assure you that Jesus is asking you the question of whether you love Him. He has a mission for you and He desires to give you a new calling and restore your destiny.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Easter the Power to Overcome – Do Overs

Peninsula Community Church

March 28, 2016

Easter the Power to Overcome – Do Overs

John 21:15-17 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

We are in the midst of a series on the strongholds and the mindsets that prevent us from being all that we have been called to or created to be. We started the series by briefly looking at some of the strongholds that are evident in our lives. Last week we were reminded that the debt of our sin has been nailed to the cross. We were reminded that the enemy of our souls loves to throw accusation, lies, and half-truths at us in hopes that we will take the bait and fall victim to his ways. But the cross reminds us that the debt of sin charged against us has been paid and the cross is the receipt of that debt.

Today, we will look at a second aspect of our life in Christ. As I noted last week it is important for us to establish an understanding of who God is before we move on to deal with the issue of strongholds and mindsets more specifically. That is why we looked at the cross last week and today we look at the results of the resurrection. While the cross reminds us that our debt has been forgiven, the resurrection reminds us that we have the power to begin again. The resurrection gives us the power to start over regardless of our past sin or our past failures. In essence we get a do over.

When I moved to New York, in 1979, I began to “try” to play the game of golf. When I first began to play, I played with some people who did not make the game very much fun. They continually corrected me. They criticized my swing, the way I was standing, the way I approached the ball, how I hit the ball, and on and on. They were so critical and such perfectionists that I wanted to give up the game which I did do for some time. But a number of years later I was asked to play again. After some persistence on their part and reluctance on my part, I agreed to play. I was surprised when there was a totally different environment this time. They gave instruction but it was done in a way that was not harsh or belittling. In fact, as we played I hit my normal bad shot. When I did that they said something that revolutionized my life in relationship to golf. One of the guys asked me if I wanted to take a mulligan. Of course I had never heard of that before because the people I had originally played with did not give mulligans. They were serious if not legalistic about their golf and they did not believe in such a thing. For those that may not know what a mulligan is, it is a second chance. It is a do over. You hit a bad shot and you have an opportunity to hit the shot again.

My message this morning is a message of do overs. It focuses on those around Jesus who failed and failed big time. You see when we talk about mindsets and strongholds in our life there is no greater place for this to occur than in the area of failure and blown opportunities. We feel life is over and there is nothing left to do. This comes as well when we have committed that sin or that thing that we believe has derailed us for life. The result is that we feel that our life has come to an end and there is no hope for a better future. You see this is much like the friends that took me golfing earlier in my life. Each failure was overly emphasized and I was reminded how horrible a golfer I really was. Instead of hope, I experienced disappointment and wanted to give up. But the resurrection is a reminder that we have a chance to start over. Because He lives, we have hope and we have a chance for a do over.

As we think about the resurrection and do overs we cannot help but think of the disciples who were negatively impacted by the events of Christ’s death. Think about it, the disciples who were by Jesus’ side for three years were nowhere to be found during His trial or the crucifixion. All of the disciples except for John ran and hid. Thomas doubted Jesus. Peter, as prophesied, denied his relationship with Jesus. We find the disciples are confused and when they received a report that Jesus is alive they reluctantly went to the grave site. This was in part because they struggled to believe the story that He had risen but also because they were afraid they might be arrested by the Roman guards.

Let me ask you this morning do you ever feel confused? Do you feel that you have been betrayed? After all Jesus said He would never leave them? Do you ever feel you have failed so big that there is no chance of forgiveness or opportunity to start over and make things right? Do you feel there are too many pieces to the puzzle of your life that are not fitting together? The fact is there are so many questions and so much brokenness around us. But we must hear the rest of the story to understand the day of new beginnings.

While all of this was happening we must be reminded that actions of the disciples did not prevent Jesus from being raised from the dead. That is the power of who Jesus is. Our lack of belief in Jesus or our sinful condition, no matter how bad it is, does not change who Christ is nor does it change what He has done on our behalf. We find in the story of Jesus that He rose again. Though He was dead, He now lives. But here is the amazing part of the story for me. As soon as possible, Jesus purposely goes to see the disciples. This band of believers who had failed to stay strong when it mattered most were in hiding but Jesus knew where they were. And most importantly, He knew the condition of their heart.

If you are familiar with the resurrection story you know that Jesus sought out the disciples. Jesus knew their pain. He knew the hurt, confusion, and rejection they were feeling. They should have known better but they still acted in a way that betrayed who they were. They failed to follow Jesus’ words and yet Jesus wanted to see them. It is noteworthy that while over 500 people saw that Jesus was alive, the scripture hones in on his visits to the disciples.

First, Jesus encountered Thomas who was a doubter. He doubted everything. How many have doubts today about your future and the hope you have? Doubt is such a robber of faith and it can cause us to be frozen in the past and in only what can be seen in the present. Notice that Jesus did not discredit Thomas’s doubt but gave him a chance for a do over. He allowed Thomas to touch His side and His hands and in so doing Thomas found a spirit of faith arise in him. He had a do over.

Then Jesus went to see Peter. He knew Peter’s rejection and denial. While Peter had failed, Jesus saw beyond his failure and saw his heart. If you remember, Peter was a passionate person. He was quick to speak out. Peter defiantly had promised Jesus that he would not forsake or leave His side. In that moment there was no doubt that Peter meant and believed what he said. He had ever intention of fulfilling his word but as we know from the crucifixion story, it was not long before Peter denied his relationship with Jesus, and he did so not once but three times. Can you imagine the heart of Peter in the moment when the rooster crowed? Can you imagine the guilt and the rejection he felt? What did Peter do, he ran and hid. Rather than heading to the cross, he headed to a back room in Jerusalem.

But here is the amazing part of the story. While Peter was confronted by Jesus and was questioned about his love of Jesus there is a greater story here. Notice that each time Jesus asked about Peter’s love for Him, Jesus commanded Peter to feed the sheep. That speaks to the fact that Jesus still trusted Peter to fulfill His mission. Peter was given a second chance. He was given a do over.

So what do we learn from this? First of all we see through the story of the resurrection that Jesus is always concerned about us and He is ready too give us a second chance. There is nothing that you can do to cause Him to stop loving you. Some of you who are here may feel that you have blown it and that there is no way that God could love you or forgive you. But here is the good news. He is seeking you out today. He wants you to know that He loves you and He desires that you come close to Him.

So how do we do that. We surrender your fears, your doubts, and your failures to Him today. In so doing, we must remember that our failures and shortcomings are not the end. They are a chance at new beginnings. There is hope and there is an opportunity to start over. Jesus is calling and He is coming to you today. He wants you to know that no matter what you might have done, life is not over. He loves you and He is extending His hand to you today.

Secondly, we must be aware that we need a do over. The problem too often is that we do not accept the fact that we need a do over when we have failed. We can be deceived into thinking that everything is ok, when it is not. It is also possible that no one has ever shared with you that you have the opportunity for a do over. Here is the fact we need to understand. Jesus has extended a hand of forgiveness. To go back to my golf analogy, there have been times where I have refused to take the mulligan and it cost me each time. Instead of being on the green in three or four I ended up with 7 or 8 strokes before landing on the green. The result was that my confusion and frustration was magnified. It did not have to be that way but I allowed it. So then the key is to recognize our need for Christ in our life and accept his do over.

And thirdly, confession is always a necessary process in this discussion. John was clear about this when he stated that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Paul also stated For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith (Romans 3:22a-25). Here is a fact we can live with. We all need forgiveness. We all need restoration. Because we have all blown it at one time or the other. But thank God for do overs.

So as we close do you need a do over? If so, Jesus is here and He is extending His hand to you. Will you take His hand and hear His heart? He is saying I am ready to give you a do over. It comes by way of confessing the issue that is at the core of your heart. And it requires you to make whatever change is necessary to never go back there again. Are you ready? Let’s pray.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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