How the Bible Preps Us for Doubt


Adam uses the acronym TAKE5 to help us respond to doubt. We can remain confident in Christ, our foundation, when our faith is challenged or our circumstances make us doubt that God is good, His Word can be trusted, and He loves us.

Adam TarnowAug 16, 2015Hebrews 12:1-2

It's the Adam Tarnow show today. I'm glad you guys are here. Glad you could make it. We have a lot of fun guests planned for today's show. Anyway, today is the third week of the Prep series. If you guys have been here the past couple of weeks, here's what we're doing. We are putting a lot of communicators onstage, talking about a lot of different topics. We're moving quickly, and it has been a lot of fun. Today is the third week of that.

What's going to happen this morning is you're going to hear from me and a couple other of my friends, and you're going to hear about different topics. We're going to move quickly through the topics. We certainly are not going to be able to talk exhaustively about everything there is to talk about the topics, but you're going to hear us talk about doubt, failure, and loneliness. So that's what's going to go on this morning. I'm glad you guys are here to experience this.

Here's what I want to do to start off my time this morning. I want to share with you guys a story about a conversation I had a few years ago. I was in college, and I was home working for the summer. I had just that spring become a follower of Jesus Christ. I had just become a Christian. I was home that summer working, and one of the coworkers I was working with was very intrigued about this newfound faith I had. She was very intrigued to know why I had decided to become a Christian.

So she said, "Hey, let's go to lunch." So we decided to go to lunch. We sit at a booth and order our food, and as soon as we ordered the food, she just goes, "Okay, tell me. Why? Why are you a Christian?" So I did as best as I could, being a new follower of Jesus, of articulating what was going on in my life and why I had decided to give my life to Jesus and why I had come to that understanding that Jesus was the Savior of the world and placed my faith in him.

I expected her reaction to maybe be one of two things. I thought maybe, at worst, her reaction would be to kind of pat me on the head and say, "Hey, that's really great for you. I'm certainly glad you found something to make you happy." I thought, at best, maybe her reaction would be something like, "That is the clearest and most articulate and most well-thought-out presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ I've ever heard, and I am ready now to give my life to him." Neither of those reactions happened.

What actually happened… I was completely caught off guard. As soon as I was done talking and telling her why I had decided to become a Christian, she just launched into reason after reason after reason as to why she thought Christianity was a joke, why she thought I was a fool for following after Jesus. Fortunately, I don't remember all of the things she said. I just remember I had no rebuttal to anything. I had no way to respond to anything she was saying, but I do remember very, very clearly her last point.

In her last point, specifically, she was saying why she would never trust the Bible. In fact, she was actually quoting something her dad had told her. She looked at me and went, "And here's why I don't trust the Bible. You know, if I were fasting for 40 days in the desert, I bet I too would hallucinate and maybe see a burning bush." To my shame, what I did not know is that she had taken the story of Moses from Exodus, chapter 3, who was in the desert for 40 years, and then God called him through a burning bush to go free the Israelites…

She had taken the story of Moses and conveniently mashed it together with the story of Jesus from Matthew, chapter 4, who had been fasting for 40 days and then was tempted by Satan and resisted all of the temptation. I did not know that, so when she said that, I remember sitting there going, "Oh dear Lord. That is the single greatest argument against Christianity I have ever heard. I don't know what to do."

It's like when I walked into that restaurant I felt like I was winning at the game of faith. I felt like my faith was rock solid. It was like this huge game of Jenga we have here. I felt like I was winning. There was nothing that could shake my faith. But as she continued to go through and list out all of these reasons she didn't believe, I felt like every argument I could not fight against or anything I didn't know what to say… I felt like these bricks were slowly being taken out.

I walked out of that lunch, and I did not feel like I was winning in the game of faith at all. I felt like my faith was one or two blocks away from completely toppling over. I don't know if you've been through a situation like that too, where maybe you've talked to a critic of the faith or a critic of Christianity and they've said some things to you that you too, like me, didn't know what to say, and it didn't build your faith. In fact, it took some bricks away from your faith.

Maybe some people have said some things to you about the Bible, like, "Hey, why would you believe that? That document is so old. It has so many outdated views of sexuality and marriage and different things it says. It's written by men. Why would you put your trust in that old document?" Or maybe some people have said to you, "You know Jesus never claimed to be God, and yet you're worshiping him like he's God. You know he never said that." You don't know how to respond to that.

Maybe you, too, have had some conversations with critics that have taken some bricks away of your faith. Or maybe for you it's not critics. Maybe for you it's circumstances. There are things that have come into your life that you're just having a hard time reconciling that there's a good God in heaven who cares about you, because you're looking at the circumstances.

These circumstances don't seem to be lining up, and these circumstances don't seem to make a lot of sense, and it's hard to believe there really is a God in heaven who loves you because of the circumstances. So whether it's the critics or whether it's the circumstances, I think the fact of the matter is for every single person who is sincerely trying to follow after Jesus, from time to time, doubts creep into our lives.

What I want to do this morning is share with you guys five things you can do when doubts creep into your life. We're going to move quickly through these five, but these are five things I wish I would have known years ago when I walked out of that lunch, things I still do today when doubts start to creep in. If you're taking notes, it's going to follow this acronym: TAKE 5. We're going to have a little phrase after each of those and some Scripture to go along with it.

1._ Take a look around_. The first thing we need to do when doubts start to creep in is not freak out. I felt so alone when I walked out of that restaurant, and what I wish I would have known is that every sincere follower of Jesus at some point or another has some doubts. That's normal. When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 10 and he said, "There is no temptation that seized us except what's common to man…"

That is one of those passages that applies to so many different areas of our lives, and one of them is when doubts arise. We're not alone. Our doubts are not a sign of weakness. You can make the argument that our doubts are actually a sign of authenticity. It shows that you're really thinking about your faith, that you're not just blindly believing what somebody told you is true. You're thinking about it. So we are to take a look around and understand we are not alone, and that can bring us comfort.

2._ Ask questions._ Ask your questions. To me, doubts feel like these things to be embarrassed about. They feel like these things to stuff or to hide or to sweep under the rug or just ignore, and if that's the way we handle our doubts, they are never, ever, ever going to go away. The way to handle doubts isn't to stuff them or to try to ignore them. The way for you and me to handle our doubts is to expose them, to bring them out in the open and ask questions. That's the biblical response to doubt.

That's what we see David doing all throughout the psalms. He's asking questions when something doesn't make sense. We see Job do that. We see Jesus himself on the cross asking, "My God, why have you forsaken me?" and we see one of his disciples, Thomas. The biblical example is to ask the questions. If you ask the questions, Todd and the elders are not going to show up in a Darth Vader costume at your house, knocking on the door, saying, "Hey, your lack of faith right now is disturbing to us." That's not going to happen.

Do you know what we do here? Here at the Dallas Campus, we want to help you with your questions. Every Monday night, from 7:30 to 8:30, there's a ministry that meets right over here in the South Community Room called Great Questions. You can show up any Monday night and just dialogue with people and go, "Here are the questions I have." That is one of the best things you can do to expose them and get them out there. If you can't make it on Monday, then there's an email address ( You don't stuff the questions; you ask them.

3._ Know God's Word_. For crying out loud. I would have saved myself months of emotional and spiritual turmoil had I known the basic story of Moses and the basic story of Jesus. That would have saved me so much trouble. I would have been like to my friend, "Hey, I think you got those stories mixed up. Let's talk about those." But no. I didn't know God's Word.

When we see the authors of Scripture, when we see in Joshua, when we see Paul in 2 Timothy 3, when we see the author of Psalm 119… When we see Scripture encouraging us to know God's Word, they want us to know God's Word so we can know God, but they also are encouraging us to know God's Word so that we're equipped and know how to answer questions. I'm always surprised at how many Bible critics have never read the Bible. That is not to be so with us. We are to know God's Word.

4._ Examine your heart_. I know there are times in my life where I hide behind doubt and use that as a reason to be lacking in my fervor or to be lukewarm in my faith. I'll just say, "Oh, I'm not really passionate in my pursuit of God right now because I have some things I'm thinking about. I have some things I'm doubting." I'll try to hide behind doubt as a reason to not be fully pursuing the Lord. I'll tell myself I'm doubting the facts of Christianity, when really what I'm doubting is the goodness of God.

So we have to do what the psalmist in Psalm 139 tells us to do. We have to pray and ask God to search our hearts and to examine our hearts, because our hearts will do funny things sometimes. We can try to hold up doubt, and really what we need to do is confess. Sometimes our doubts just need to be exposed, but sometimes they just need to be confessed, just going, "God, I am doubting that you're good right now, and I want to confess that."

5._ Sleep. I know what you're thinking. "That's a _5 not an S." But it looks like an S, doesn't it? And TAKE 5 is so much more memorable than TAKES. The last one is sleep. This is maybe one of the most profound things I've heard about doubt in the last five years. I got it from my friend John McGee, who many of you guys know, who leads the marriage ministry here.

He says when doubts really start creeping into his life, the first thing he does is he goes home and goes to bed. I love that. John knows that it's all connected. He knows that Psalm 23… When David says that God leads us beside still waters and provides rest for our souls, that's not just something once a year when we go on vacation. That's something that you and I need every single day, because David knows it's all connected.

When we're not sleeping…we know this…it doesn't just affect the way we feel physically. When we're not getting rest, it impacts the way we're processing life emotionally, and it impacts our spiritual life as well. So sometimes the best thing we need to do is just go home and get some rest. What we'll find is that our doubts are often best examined after we are well rested.

So those are five quick things we can do whenever doubts arise. I don't know where you were when you walked in here this morning. I don't know if you feel like you were winning at the game of faith. I don't know if you feel like your tower is huge or if you feel like it's wobbly, but one thing I do know is that it doesn't matter how we feel we're doing with our faith.

There's no winning or losing when it comes to faith. You could feel like your tower is way up to the ceiling or this whole thing could just come crashing down, and it wouldn't be that big of a deal. That right there is not the end. You don't lose. The reason is that we don't put our faith in our faith. The basis of our faith is not our faith. The basis of our faith is not the ability to answer critics or having good circumstances in our lives.

The basis of our faith isn't what we feel about our faith. The basis of our faith is the person of Jesus Christ. We put our faith in the foundation, not in the feelings or where we think our faith is. The author of Hebrews tells us that the founder, the author and perfecter of our faith is Jesus Christ. The Table is what holds up our faith. The foundation is what holds it up, and our faith is in Jesus, who lived, who died, who rose again, and who is still alive today.

How amazing is it that our God who we worship is not afraid of our questions, not afraid of the things we're asking, not afraid or frustrated or disappointed by our doubts, but that we worship a God who even uses our doubts to draw us closer to himself. How amazing is that?