Rising 29,029 feet into the clouds, Mount Everest is the tallest peak in the world. For years people tried to conquer Everest without success, but on May 29, 1953, mountaineers Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first explorers to scale Everest. Two years earlier, Hillary had tried and failed to reach the summit. He reportedly shook his fist at the mountain and said, “I will come again and conquer you because as a mountain you can’t grow, but as a human, I can.”1

You and I will probably never climb Mount Everest, but we face other mountains in our lives—mountains called discouragement or addiction or loneliness. And we, too, can shake our fists at the mountains blocking our path, knowing that with God’s help, we can conquer whatever obstacles we face. As Jesus said in Mark 11:22–23: “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.”

However, notice the condition Jesus gave in verse 23: this promise is available to those who do not doubt. Nothing will prevent you from conquering mountains in your life more than doubt. If you learn how to move from doubt to faith, then you can truly be invincible.

Doubt Is Universal

As Christians, all of us have doubts from time to time—doubts about life, doubts about God, doubts about the promises of God’s Word. Some of God’s choicest servants in the Bible dealt with doubt:

• Moses doubted that he could deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh.

• David doubted that he could escape the murderous clutches of King Saul.

• Jeremiah had doubts about his call as a prophet.

• John the Baptist doubted whether Jesus was really the Messiah.

Maybe your child or grandchild has wandered away from the faith, and you doubt whether God can bring them back. Maybe you’ve lost something or someone important to you, and you doubt whether God loves you—or whether He even exists.

Doubt is universal. But if we water the seeds of doubt in our lives, they grow into unbelief.

Why We Doubt

Why do we doubt? Let me give you four common causes of doubt in the Christian life.

Unlived Truth

When you are living disobediently to what you say you believe, it causes doubt to take root in your life. It is impossible for a Christian to hold on to belief in God and disobedience to God simultaneously for a long period of time. You’ll either give up your disobedience or let go of your belief.

Unexamined Faith

There’s an adage that proclaims, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it!” We think that’s a model of great faith. But an unexamined faith is often shipwrecked when it comes upon the rocks of contradictions. When you hear or read something that seems to undermine God’s Word, if you don’t understand why you believe, then you are susceptible to doubt. We need to understand not only what we believe but why we believe it.

Unanswered Prayer

When we pour out our hearts to God, sometimes heaven is silent. We wonder, “Why doesn’t God hear my plea? Does He not care about me? Is He there at all?” If you are struggling with doubt because of unanswered prayer, I encourage you to examine your heart and motives, then trust that God will answer in His perfect time.

Undeserved Suffering

It bothers us that there doesn’t seem to be any difference between what happens to Christians and what happens to non-Christians. Both Christians and non-Christians contract terminal cancer. Both Christians and non-Christians lose their jobs. Both Christians and non-Christians have rebellious children. Both Christians and non-Christians experience the pain of divorce. If being a follower of Christ seems to make no difference, we think, Is God not as powerful as the Bible says He is? Does He even exist? That is what suffering can do to our faith.

Three Areas of Doubt

So how can we conquer doubt and keep it from turning into unbelief? Let’s look at a case study in doubt, starring the champion doubter of all time: the apostle Thomas.

Because Thomas admitted his doubts, we tend to look down on him. But I like Thomas! He was the type of guy who said what everybody else in the room was thinking, and God honored his sincere questioning. In the Gospel of John, we see how Thomas dealt with three areas of doubt that you and I face in our lives as well.

Doubts about Life

In John 11, Thomas had doubts about his life. We remember John 11 for the story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. But the events leading up to this miracle can teach us something about doubt.

In John 10, the Jews in Jerusalem picked up stones to try to kill Jesus, but Jesus eluded them and went away beyond the Jordan and stayed there. Then in chapter 11, Jesus got word that His friend Lazarus was sick. Lazarus and his sisters lived in Bethany, just two miles away from Jerusalem. So when Jesus announced that they would be returning to that area, the disciples said, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” (v. 8). In other words, “Are You really going to risk Your life?” What they weren’t saying was, “Are You really going to risk our lives as well?”

I love Thomas’s reply in verse 16: “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.” Thomas seriously questioned whether this was a wise thing to do. We, too, experience doubts about whether God is capable of leading us through the challenges we face. But Thomas expressed his faith by saying, “We’re going to follow You even if it means dying with You.”

Thomas’s words illustrate that doubt and faith can coexist. God said to the prophet Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. . . . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9). It’s hard doing business with an infinite God. Turning to God when we have doubts shows that we believe.

Doubts about Eternity

Thomas also expressed doubts about eternity. The next time we see Thomas in the Gospel of John, the disciples are with Jesus in the upper room the night before His crucifixion. Jesus reassured them, “Do not let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 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” (John 14:1–3).

Thomas raised his hand and said, in essence, “Jesus, we don’t have a clue where You’re going. How do You expect us to know the way?”

Jesus responded, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (v. 6).

It’s natural for us to have doubts about eternity, but Jesus assured us that there is a heaven, and He showed us the only way to get there—through faith in His death for our sins.

Doubts about God

Finally, Thomas experienced doubts about God Himself. After Jesus’s crucifixion, the disciples hid in fear that they, too, would be arrested and crucified. Then Jesus miraculously appeared in front of them. But John 20:24 says, “Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.” Where was Thomas? Because of his disenchantment with Jesus, Thomas distanced himself from the other disciples.

In times of doubt about your Christian faith, Satan will do everything he can to convince you to separate from other Christians. He’ll say, “You need to work things out on your own first.” No—if you do that, you will become spiritual roadkill. Doubt grows in darkness, but there is strength in numbers. Don’t make the mistake of distancing yourself from others when you doubt.

The other disciples found Thomas and told him they had seen the resurrected Jesus. But Thomas said, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (v. 25).

Eight days later, Thomas was with the disciples when Jesus appeared again. Turning to Thomas, Jesus stretched out His hands and said, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing” (v. 27).

Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28).

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus knew exactly what kind of proof Thomas said he needed? Jesus didn’t scorn Thomas because he wanted evidence; He gave him what he was looking for. That’s how God deals with people who sincerely seek answers—people who are looking for reasons to believe, not to disbelieve.

Dealing with Doubt

How do you conquer the mountain of doubt? Let me share three practical principles for moving from doubt to faith.

First, don’t deny your doubts; acknowledge them. We don’t like to acknowledge our doubts because we fear that our doubts are bigger than God’s answers. Don’t worry—God is big enough to handle your questions. Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Your questions are no match for God’s answers.

Second, don’t dread your doubts; analyze them. We dread times of doubt because we fear that our doubts will destroy our faith. Instead, we ought to analyze our doubts. Why are you doubting? Is it something you read? Is it because of unanswered prayer or suffering you’ve experienced? Is it because of disobedience in your life?

Third, don’t disguise your doubts; articulate them. Instead of hiding his doubt from others, Thomas verbalized why he was doubting and what he needed. Remember, doubt grows in the darkness. When you go through a time of doubt, express your questions to a mature Christian in your life. They will likely say, “I’ve been through the same thing, and here’s how I resolved it in my life.”

Above all, go to God with your questions. When you turn your doubts into prayers, God will encourage you just as He did Thomas by saying, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27).

Words of Faith

Thomas clung to those words for the rest of his life. Church tradition tells us that Thomas went to India and led thousands of people there to follow Christ. One day while Thomas was praying in a cave, he was attacked by a group of Brahman priests who were fearful that Christianity would overtake Hinduism. Mortally wounded, Thomas crawled to a nearby chapel, wrapped his arms around the base of a stone cross, and prayed, “Lord, I thank Thee for all Thy mercies. Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”2

Those are not the words of a doubter but of a person who finally conquered the mountain of doubt. And one day, when you come to the end of your life, Thomas’s final words can be your final words as well if you’ve learned the secret of moving from doubt to faith.

1. As quoted in Hazel Plush, “‘Life’s Like Mountaineering—Never Look Down’: The Wisdom of Sir Edmund Hillary,” The Telegraph, July 20, 2016.

2. As quoted in C. Bernard Ruffin, The Twelve: The Lives of the Apostles after Calvary (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1984), 117.

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