Deconstructing Doubt | Psalm 73
Brian Hedges | August 6, 2017
Thank you, worship team. Good morning, it’s wonderful to see all of you this morning. You’ll have to forgive me; I have a cold today, so if I’m coughing or need to take a drink of water please bear with me, and if I seem of slightly lower energy, you make up for it by listening more energetically. In all seriousness, let’s continue to pray that God will meet with us, send his Spirit to us this morning.
Probably about two months ago I was in a Barnes & Noble bookstore, as I am from time to time, and I was browsing the religion section, or the Christianity section, and I happened to notice the title of two books that were maybe two shelves away from one another. This is in the Christianity section. One book was called The Sin of Certainty, and another book was called Glorious Doubt. The Sin of Certainty, Glorious Doubt.
Now that just got me thinking about the age in which we live, the world in which we live, the time in which we live, where certainty is out and doubt is in. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, there was once a time when people were certain about the truth but doubtful about themselves, and now that’s exactly reversed. We are certain about ourselves, full of self-confidence, but we are doubtful about truth. Certainty is considered arrogant, doubt is considered humble.
This is the world in which we live. When people come to books and, not least of all, the Book of books, the word of God, that book is viewed as something which has meaning to be defined by the reader rather than by the author. When people make truth claims, those claims are generally viewed as power plays. By claiming truth, that gives someone power over someone else. Right and wrong, truth and error, are viewed as relative categories, not absolute categories. These categories are not God-given, they are socially constructed.
What that means is that what is true for one person is not true for someone else. What is right for one person or for one community is not necessarily right or wrong for someone else.
Now I know I’m broad-brushing a little bit, but you get the sense of what I’m talking about. This is the world in which we live, and this view of the world comes through virtually every film, every TV show, every popular song that we hear.
It is the air that kids breathe in most of our classrooms, and indeed, it has found its way even into the church, so that to be certain about something, especially in the realm of religion or morality, which entails claiming that some people are right while other people are wrong, to be certain or to claim certainty is considered proud, arrogant, perhaps even bigoted; whereas, on the other hand, to hold one’s views tenuously, timidly, with a full willingness to embrace anyone else’s views as equally valid, well, that’s humble.
Certainty is out, doubt is in.
Well, I want to talk about doubt this morning, and I want us to look at a passage of Scripture that addresses doubt head-on, and I want to acknowledge right from the get-go that of course believers experience doubts. But doubts are not something we glory in. When you look at doubt in Scripture, doubt is a crisis to be endured. It’s a crisis, a crisis of one’s faith; it’s a crisis through which someone passes and which God in his grace can cure, can bring a remedy to.
So the passage we’re looking at is Psalm 73, if you want to turn there in your Bibles, Psalm 73. And what I want to do is deconstruct doubt. It’s a little play on words there. In postmodernism, texts are deconstructed, beliefs are deconstructed, truth itself is deconstructed; I want to deconstruct doubt this morning by looking at how a biblical author who wrestled with doubt actually talks about his experience.
Psalm 73, this is “a psalm of Asaph,” beginning in verse one.
“Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
“For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.
And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
“But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
“Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
“Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
“For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.”
This is God’s word.
This psalm shows us a man who had been rightly oriented to God, and then he experienced something that disoriented him, and then the psalm recounts his journey through this disorientation back to a place of reorientation. It shows us a believer’s honest struggle with doubt.
Now, this is not the arrogant disbelief of the scoffer, this is not the struggling, cynical doubt of the skeptic, not doubt in that sense. It is, rather, the candid prayer of a man who almost lost his faith. And it’s a very helpful psalm, I think, in showing us what doubt looks like and feels like and also some of the causes of it, and then especially how to address it.
So three things I want you to see this morning:
I. The Crisis of Doubt
II. The Complexity of Doubt
III. The Cure for Doubt
I. The Crisis of Doubt
So first of all, the crisis of doubt. Here’s the basic problem in a sentence: the psalmist doubts what he believes because of what he sees, and you can see this worked out in verses one through three.
Verse one, this is what he believes: “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” But there are doubts, and he describes this doubt in terms of slipping in verse two: “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.”
Now why is this? It’s because of what he sees in verse three: “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
Here’s a man whose basic confession of faith is that if you serve God, God will bless you. God is good to those who are pure in heart; God is good to Israel. But he almost lost his faith. He’s like a man on a precipice who almost lost his footing and fell into the abyss because his experience did not match his expectations. When he looked at the world around him, it didn’t match up with his belief system, and so he finds himself in a crisis of doubt.
Verses four through 12 describe in detail what it is that he saw. He saw the prosperity of the wicked. And essentially what he’s doing here is wrestling with that age-old problem: why do good things happen to bad people and why do bad things happen to good people? Of course, good and bad people relatively speaking. We understand that all are sinners, but yet there is a difference between the wicked and the righteous. So, why do good things happen to wicked people and righteous people suffer so much? That’s the problem this man is dealing with in verses four through eleven.
I’m not going to read all those texts again, but just look especially at verses 12 through 14, which kind of summarizes his basic perspective. “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.” Here are these arrogant, wicked people who seem immune to suffering, they scoff at God, and they’re just prospering. They’re always at ease, he says, they increase in riches.
And then he says of himself, verse 13, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.” It’s just useless! “I’m trying to live a righteous life,” he says, “and it’s all in vain.” Why? Verse 14, “For all the day long I have been stricken, and rebuked every morning.” The wicked prosper, and I’m trying to live a good life and look at how much I’m suffering. That’s what gives rise to this crisis, to his doubt. This is what makes him almost slip. It’s a crisis.
So the first thing I just want you to get here is the experience of doubt here, described by this man. It is a real experience, and believers do encounter this, okay? We do, so let’s be honest with that. We do go through this. But it is a crisis. It is not glorious doubt, it is gut-wrenching doubt. It is not something to boast in, it is a burden to bear. It’s not something to celebrate, it is a crisis that is endured.
Think of it like this: doubt is like black ice. Have you ever been driving and you hit black ice? You can’t see it, and then all of a sudden you’re on it, and you’re swerving, skidding out of control. You’re trying to get control of the car again. You recognize that if you don’t get set right quickly you’re just going to course right off the road and crash.
Well, that’s what doubt can be like. “My feet almost slipped,” he said. It’s a crisis.
II. The Complexity of Doubt
So why is he experiencing this crisis? Why is he going through this? I want us to see that there are some complexities to doubt. It’s not simple, and that means that the cure is not simple either. There is complexity to doubt, and I want you to see this in several different ways.
(1) First of all, just note this, that doubt is a multi-faceted problem. There are usually intellectual and emotional and moral dimensions to doubt.
Now we tend to think of doubts as merely intellectual. It just has to do with what I believe. It just has to do with my beliefs and certainty, or lack of certainty about my beliefs; it’s just an intellectual matter. We don’t think of doubts as being right or wrong, we don’t put any moral value on them, and we often don’t take account of how our experiences actually shape the doubts that we have.
But it’s pretty clear when you read this passage that this man’s problems are emotional and intellectual, theological and moral; all of these things are involved. Now one clue to this is just the predominance of the word “heart” through this psalm. Six times he talks about the heart; verse 1, verse 7, verse 13, verse 21, and twice in verse 26. He is working through a disorientation of his heart back to a reorientation of his heart towards God. So doubt is, at least in part, a heart problem.
But he’s also having to deal with his perspective, his beliefs, his thoughts, his way of viewing the world. That’s involved in it as well. So it’s a multi-faceted problem. No one’s going to solve doubt merely by taking one approach; it has to be a multi-pronged approach to deal with doubt.
(2) Second point: doubt is not always innocent. I want you to notice how his doubt was a result of his envy in verse 3. I’ve already read this, verses 2 and 3, “As for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps nearly slipped.” Why? “For,” now he’s giving the reason, “for I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
Now there’s at least a root to the doubt. He’s envious of the wicked. That’s not morally neutral. Envy is a sin. He’s envious of the wicked, and that leads to doubt.
Derek Kidner in his commentary makes this comment: “Nothing is so blinding as envy or grievance. This was the nerve the serpent touched in Eden to make even paradise appear an insult.”
He’s envious of the wicked, and that leads him right into doubt. This is really important for us to see. We have to make this connection for several reasons.
It reminds us, first of all, that sins have consequences, and not only eternal consequences, punished in hell; or external consequences, when we get caught; but sin has internal consequences. Even a little sin like envy, it just eats away at the soul. It’s like a rot; it’s like rust. It eats away; it corrodes the inner world, the belief systems, the inner integrity of a person. That’s happening to this guy; that’s happening to him. He gives way to envy, and the envy leads him into a crisis of faith.
This is also important for us to see so that we’ll just note that beliefs are not morally neutral. Even so-called “honest doubts” have moral roots.
Now I just happened upon an illustration of this a few weeks ago. I was re-reading C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. I think it’s my favorite Lewis book, and I re-read it probably every two to three years. I wasn’t thinking about this sermon at the time, but I was reading The Great Divorce.
You remember the basic plot of the story? A busload of ghosts from hell are given an excursion into the borderland of heaven, and they’re given the opportunity to stay if they will just renounce their sins and embrace the reality of God and his world and the truth about their lives.
Well, one of the ghosts is a liberal Anglican clergyman. This is really interesting. I mean, C.S. Lewis was Anglican, but he obviously had a bone to pick with the liberal theologians of his day. There’s this liberal Anglican clergyman who meets one of his friends; Lewis calls him “the Episcopal ghost.”
This man is basically giving voice to the liberal theology of modernism in the first half of the 20th century. He doesn’t believe in the resurrection, he doesn’t believe in heaven and hell, he doesn’t believe in absolute truth, and he’s having this conversation with one of his friends, who’s now this glorified saint, this bright spirit, who is imploring him to repent and to believe. The Episcopal ghost claims, “But my opinions were honest!” You can’t fault him for his honest opinions. “My opinions were honest; they were sincerely expressed.”
And this is what his friend says: he says, “Of course, having allowed oneself to drift, unresisting, unpraying, accepting every half-conscious solicitation from our desires, we reached a point where we no longer believed the faith. Just in the same way a jealous man, drifting and unresisting, reaches a point at which he believes lies about his best friend. A drunkard reaches a point which, for the moment, he actually believes that another glass will do him no harm. The beliefs are sincere in the sense that they do occur as psychological events in the man’s mind. If that’s what you mean by sincerity, they are sincere, and so are ours, but errors which are sincere in that sense are not innocent.”
Many times, people’s doubts are a result of this long process of corrosion, where they have not dealt with the moral issues, the sinful issues in their lives, and it leads them straight to doubt.
But further into that conversation this Episcopal ghost says he’s willing to go further into heaven if he can just have certain assurances. He says, “If I can have a wider scope for my gifts, if there can be an atmosphere of free inquiry…” An atmosphere of free inquiry: in other words, “I want to still be able to explore all the options. Don’t lock me in to my beliefs. Don’t lock me into certain belief systems.”
And again, I just want to give you the answer of his friend. He says, “No, I can promise you none of these things; no sphere of usefulness, you are not needed there at all; no scope for your talents, only forgiveness for having perverted them; no atmosphere of inquiry, for I will bring you to the land not of questions but of answers, and you shall see the face of God.”
Well, doubts are not morally neutral, they weren’t for this man, and they’re not oftentimes for us.
(3) The third thing to note here is that doubt is often the fruit of a superficial grasp of biblical truth. In some ways this is right at the heart of this guy’s problem. He thought that purity of heart was a guarantee to a pain-free life. He looked at his life, “I washed my hands in innocence and yet I’m suffering.” He had bought into a lie; it was a superficial grasp of biblical truth.
Now, it’s true that generally speaking the Bible says godly people will be blessed, but if you define “blessing” as meaning no health problems, no financial problems, no family problems, no job difficulties, basically a life of ease, basically a life of health and wealth and prosperity, then you’ve completely distorted the biblical message. That’s not at all what the Bible means when it tells us that people will be blessed if they serve and love God.
But that’s what this guy seems to have thought. “I washed my hands in innocence. It’s all in vain. I’ve lived a righteous life, and it’s all for vain, because look at the wicked! They prosper, and I’m tormented. I’m in torment every day.” And that was his problem. He had become very short-sighted. He was looking at his present experiences, his present circumstances, and he was doing so with a very superficial understanding of biblical truth.
So doubt is complex. It has many different dimensions, intellectual, theological, but also emotional, our experiences, and then also this moral component.
III. The Cure for Doubt
So, what then is the cure for doubt, or the remedy for doubt? I hesitate to use the word cure; I don’t want to give the impression that you just take 15 minutes to work through four steps, all your doubts will be gone. That’s not what I mean at all. But what I do mean is that the second half of this psalm gives us an approach to addressing our doubts that I believe reorients us to God and gets us back on the sure footing of faith, away from the slippery slope.
So four ingredients here to the cure for doubt. These are really interesting, I think.
(1) Number one, pull out of your tunnel-vision. Pull out of your tunnel-vision. You see this in verses 15 through 17, where he has just expressed the doubt, but then in verse 15 there’s kind of a self-correction. He says, “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have betrayed the generation of your children.”
You know what he’s doing here? He’s actually stopping for a minute to think about how the expression, the free expression, of his doubts will affect other people. Isn’t that interesting? I think so many times when believers have doubts and the doubts get to the point where they’re ready to start leaving the faith, the last thing they’re thinking about, the last question they seem to be asking, is, “How does this affect everybody else?”
They think, “My beliefs are mine. My beliefs are my own; it’s up to me what I believe.” They’re not really thinking about other people. (I am sure there are exceptions to that rule.)
But here you see a man who actually checks himself. He’s been in this tunnel-vision, thinking only about his own experiences, and he stops and says, “Now wait a minute. If I speak this way, I will betray the generation of your children.”
“When I thought how to understand this it seemed to me a wearisome task,” then verse 17, “until I went into the sanctuary of God. Then I discerned their end.” So there’s a pulling out of his tunnel-vision, where he’s not looking mainly at himself, he’s looking at others, and he’s looking at God.
Kidner says, “The first step to enlightenment was not mental but moral, returning from the self-interest and self-pity revealed in verse 2 and 13 to remembering basic responsibilities and loyalties.” He remembers his basic responsibilities and loyalties to the people around him and to God himself. That’s the first thing he does.
So the first thing to do when you’re dealing with doubts, check for yourself and where those doubts could lead. Think about how they could affect others. Think about how voicing your doubt, your disbelief can affect your spouse, your children, your family, church family. Just pause. Think about that.
(2) Number two, get a wide-angle theology, verses 18 through 22. You know a wide-angle camera shows you more of a picture? I don’t know about you, but I like to see movies on a big wide screen; you know, this panoramic perspective.
Well, we need a panoramic theology. We need a wide-angle theology. We need a theology that takes into account not only present circumstances, but the ends to which different paths lead. A wide-angle theology. We need an eternal perspective. “Even the wise do not see all ends,” says Gandalf in Lord of the Rings.
We don’t see all ends unless we get a wide-angle theology, which we get from Scripture. That’s what this man gets, verses 18 through 22. He gets a changed perspective on the wicked. Verse 18, “Truly you set them in slippery places, you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself you despise them as phantoms.”
Now those are frightening verses in some ways. He essentially saying here that there’s a great reversal coming. The wicked, who seem to be at ease, they will find themselves in a slippery place. They will fall to ruin. They will be destroyed.
Kidner connects this to the shame and the everlasting contempt of Daniel chapter 12, verse 2, and the, “I never knew you statement,” from Jesus in Matthew 7, verse 23. He also quotes Lewis, from that great essay “The Weight of Glory,” where he says, “We can be left utterly and absolutely outside, repelled, exiled, estranged, finally and unspeakable ignored.”
There is an end to wickedness. There is a destiny: ruin, destruction. He remembers that. He remembers that. He remembers that yes, while the wicked prosper now, that’s not all there is. There is a retribution. There is retribution. So he takes into account an eternal perspective.
He also gets a changed perspective on himself, verses 21 through 22. He says, “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart...” there’s another part of his moral problem. His envy led him into bitterness, and in his bitterness he experiences doubt. Now he recognizes it. “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast towards you.”
Last week we talked about self-talk, and how we shouldn’t go around saying to ourselves all the time, “I’m stupid.” Here’s the one time when you do that! That’s why I paused. I don’t know if you remember; I paused in the sermon last week and said, “At least, not very often does the Bible give us that kind of language,” but here it does. “I was brutish. I was brutish; I was ignorant.”
When he came to his senses, when he realized that the things he was thinking were completely out of sync with Scripture, he says, “It was really foolish, the way I was thinking. I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast towards you.”
So get a wide-angle theology, where you’re viewing everything from an eternal perspective, you’re looking through the lens of Scripture. There is a theological corrective here. When we have a superficial theology, a crisis of doubt, a crisis of faith will oftentimes bring us to a place where we have to dig deeper or we lose our faith. It’s either one way or the other. You either have to dig deeper and actually get a grasp on, “This is what the Bible actually taught, and it’s not what I thought it was,” or you lose it altogether. That’s what he does.
(3) Number three, here’s the third thing we must do, relocate your good in God. Relocate your good in God.
Remember part of his problem here. “The wicked prosper while I’m suffering. They seem to get all the good perks out of life, and I’m suffering every day.” Well, until he goes to the sanctuary, until he gets a fresh glimpse of God and his purposes and his grace and his glory and his presence and he relocates his good in God, he begins to think again in terms of what God gives him, not just in terms of material blessings, but God in giving us himself.
Look at verses 23 and 24, “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will receive me to glory.”
So you see it right here; the cure for doubt is not only theological, it’s also personal, it’s relational; it’s reconnecting to God himself. He recognizes that God was with him, “I’m continually with you,” that God was holding him by his right hand, that God was guiding him, and was guiding him to (again, here’s the eternal perspective) glory! He is “grasped, guided, and glorified by God,” in Derek Kidner’s words. Tangible sense of God’s presence.
He’s redefining good around God himself rather than his circumstances. Look at verses 25 and 26: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Now that’s what changes the equation.
Now here’s the reality, folks: your flesh and your heart will fail, and that’s true for everybody. You’re going to die, your flesh and your heart is going to fail. You’re going to lose your health; if you live long enough you’ll lose your health. You might lose your mind, your cognitive abilities. Your flesh, your strength, will fail. No matter what your worldview is, no matter what your theology is, no matter what your beliefs and doubts are, that’s reality. Nobody escapes that. Your flesh and your heart will fail. Do you have something more to hang onto?
He says, “My flesh and my heart will fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion,” not just in this life, but “forever.” Forever he’s the strength of my heart! That’s what makes the difference! I have God, and if I have God I can deal with the suffering while the wicked prosper. I can deal with that if I have God; if God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Like the disciples in John chapter six, you remember how Jesus asked them, “Will you also go away?” And they answer him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we believe and are sure that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
I’ll tell you what: if you experience doubts, you’re not alone. I have, and I do, okay? I have experienced a lot of doubts; I’ve had lots of doubts in my Christian life, even as a believer now for close to 30 years, a preacher for 20 years. I still have those doubts sometimes.
I’ll tell you what I come back to over and over again. It’s this one, central truth of Scripture that I believe is verified in history and stands right at the center of the Bible, and it is this: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If he actually rose from the dead, if Jesus of Nazareth actually rose from the dead, it changes everything. It changes everything. It means there’s life beyond the grave, it means that death is not the end, it means that he was who he claimed to be, it means that all of his claims about truth and reality and God and the Old Testament, it means that heaven and hell are real; it has massive implications for everything else! And I just keep coming back to that.
I can’t think of any better explanation for what happened in the early church, the suffering of those initial disciples, most of them dying a martyr’s death, the existence of this new movement that sprung out of Judaism. (If I’m not careful, I’m going to preach an Easter sermon!) I can’t get over the fact of the resurrection, and that’s what gives everything else credence. If the resurrection is true, then God is the strength of our hearts and our portion forever.
I love those words of John Newton in his wonderful old hymn “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.” There’s a line that goes like this:
“Savior, since of Zion’s city
I through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity;
I will glory in your name.
Fading are the worldlings’ pleasures
All their boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasures
None but Zion’s children know.”
Fading is the worldlings’ pleasure! It’s fading. Sure, the wicked prosper. Sure, they have prosperity; sure, they have a lot of perks in this life, yes. We can all recognize that. But it’s fading; it’s not going to last. “Solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion’s children know.”
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Relocate your good in God.
(4) Number three; now number four. Re-engage in worship. Draw near to God.
You see this in verse 17, when he goes to the sanctuary, and then verses 27, 28. When he went to the sanctuary, that’s where understanding came. What’s the sanctuary? Well, he goes to the temple, and just think about what the temple represented. The temple was the place where sacrifices were made daily, sacrifices were made every day. It was a perpetual reminder of the reality of sin and of God’s provision for sin. God’s provision and atonement, a sacrifice to cover their sins.
It was a perpetual reminder, and then the temple was also the place where God manifested his glory. It was the dwelling place of God on earth. It was where God’s presence dwelt. So he goes to the temple, he goes to the sanctuary. He doesn’t tell us exactly what he saw, but somehow going there, going to the temple, brought him face to face with these central realities, and it brought him back to God himself. He drew near to God.
You could see this in verses 27 and 28, where he uses the language of those who are far and those who are near. “For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God. I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of your works.”
He re-engages in worship; he draws near to God. And he does so in the context of the temple, this place of sacrifice, the place where God’s presence dwelt.
And of course, we know from the New Testament that Jesus is the temple; he replaced the temple. Everything that the temple foreshadowed Jesus fulfilled; Jesus was the sacrifice, Jesus was the priest, Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, who pitched his tent among men, who tabernacled among us so that “we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
And so we re-engage our hearts in worship when we draw near to Jesus, when we see Jesus, the sacrifice he made; we see Jesus as the restoration of God’s presence among us. He is Emmanuel, God with us. When we come to Jesus our sanctuary, Jesus our temple, we draw near to him and we take refuge in him.
Now you see these four things that I’ve said are ingredients to a cure for doubt. These aren’t steps you go through in 15 minutes on a Sunday afternoon, right? This has to be a posture of your heart and of your life, where you are continually pulling yourself up from your self-pity, the tunnel-vision of your self-pity or self-interest; where you are continually reorienting your whole view of the world with Scripture, getting a wide-angle theology; where you are over and over again relocating your good in God, you’re reaffirming that God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever, and where you, day after day and week after week, re-engage in worship by drawing near to God through his Son Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, if you make that your lifestyle, even though you’re going to encounter some doubts along the way, if you make that your lifestyle, if that’s your way of living, when you come to the doubts you won’t slip, you won’t slide off into the abyss. You’ll have certainty; you’ll have a kind of assurance that comes from God himself through his Spirit witnessing to our spirits that we are his children, a certainty regarding the truths of the gospel. So I commend that to you. Let’s pray.
Our loving heavenly Father, we recognize this morning that our experiences of doubt are very complicated, and I’m almost positive that I didn’t touch every dimension to people’s experiences or needs this morning, but I pray that what we have seen from this psalm would be helpful to those who are struggling with doubt right now, and I pray that all of us, in our doubts, that you would help us to just honestly bring those before you, that we would submit our thinking to your word, and that your Spirit, through the word, would shape us in the way of truth and the way of faith.
May we be like the man who said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” So if we could pray nothing else this morning, I pray that we would be able to say that.
As we come to the Lord’s Table we pray this morning that you would minister to us through the Table, just as the word proclaims for us the gospel of Jesus Christ, so in the Table we have a proclamation of the gospel, the reality of our sin and yet the all-satisfying sacrifice of Jesus Christ, where justice was paid in full, where atonement was made, where there is a sufficient offering of sacrifice on our behalf.
So as we come to the Table, may we be reminded of that, and may we embrace it in a fresh way this morning through faith in your Son. And may we draw near to you and you draw near to us in these moments. We pray it in Jesus’ name, Amen.