Doubts can be debilitating. Hesitation is characteristic of the doubter. Uncertainty throws the doubter off balance and interferes with his or her decision making. James mentions the “double-minded” person as being unstable in all he or she does: “That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:7–8, NIV).
Yet it is not unusual for even a Christian to experience doubts. When the sincere Christian hears critics attack the Bible, there may be increased temptation to doubt God’s Word. In confusion over unanswered prayers, he or she may wonder, “Is God real? Does He really answer prayer?” When confronted with the reality of sinful, selfish desires, he or she may question, “Has God really saved me?”
In spite of this tendency to doubt, honest questioning can become the threshold to a more solid faith and a deeper commitment to Christ.
The opposite of doubt, of course, is faith. James encouraged those who were passing through trials to ask of God and to ask in faith (James 1:5–6).
We must remember that doubt can be an effective tool for Satan. He brought uncertainty to Eve by asking, “Has God indeed said . . . ?” (Genesis 3:1). He will afflict us with doubts where we are the most vulnerable. Spiritual disobedience, disappointment, depression, illness, and even advancing age can trigger doubts.
Those Who May Doubt Their Salvation:
1. Commend the inquirer for being concerned about something so important. God’s Word has real encouragement for the doubter.
2. If you discern that he or she has been trusting in things other than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, share the gospel – Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD
3. If the inquirer is convinced that he or she has previously made a genuine commitment to Jesus Christ, ask further:
A. “Are you being deliberately sinful or disobedient?” If this is the case, explain about Restoration – Christian Biblical Counsel: SEEKING FORGIVENESS AND RESTORATION. Emphasize 1 John 1:9.
B. “Have you been indifferent to spiritual things? Not faithful in attending church? Not reading the Bible? Not praying?” If this is the case, explain “Restoration,” – Christian Biblical Counsel: SEEKING FORGIVENESS AND RESTORATION. Emphasize 1 John 1:9 and Romans 12:1–2.
C. Encourage the inquirer to step out anew in faith, to believe God (Acts 27:25), to take a definite stand for Christ, to get into the Word of God, to learn the discipline of prayer, and to get to work for Christ in a local Bible-teaching church. Offer to send Your New Life In Christ Bible Study.
D. Pray for a stronger relationship with God by faith.
Those Disillusioned by Disappointments:
Disappointment can occur through divorce, a death in the family, a wayward son or daughter, unanswered prayer, or betrayal by another Christian.
1. Offer a word of encouragement. God does love and care for us. He wants the inquirer also to learn to walk with Him by faith.
2. Help identify the source of the doubts, emphasizing that it is not wrong to ask why in life.
3. Remind him or her that God has never promised freedom from adversity in life. It may be that the doubter needs to get the focus off his or her problems and back on God—to see beyond the circumstances of life to what God is trying to teach through those circumstances. God is faithful. The intrusion of doubts doesn’t mean that God has ceased to care.
4. The inquirer needs to reflect on God’s goodness demonstrated in the past, to remember evidences of God’s faithfulness in his or her own life and in the lives of others. This will help to reassure him or her. A renewal of faith is in order. He or she needs to begin to trust God’s promises again, to dwell on the Bible, and to believe God. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
5. Pray for renewal, asking that the caller confess any doubts to God and pray for a dynamic faith.
6. Encourage faithfulness in worshiping with God’s people. The cultivation of relationships with other Christians will be helpful. Getting involved in service for Christ through a local Bible-teaching church will strengthen commitment.
Reassurance for Older Christians:
For those who, due to a number of changes that accompany advancing age, need to be reassured as to their salvation and eternal relationship with God, there are three areas to remember:
1. Older people, like anyone else, can continue to trust unquestioningly the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39, NIV).
2. They can trust unquestioningly their relationship with their heavenly Father: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
3. They may also trust unquestioningly the Word of God: “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 119:89–90, NIV).
“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1–2).
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5–8).
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996