Sunday, April 13, 2008 -
As we’ve seen, there are different types of doubts and they make their approach into our hearts in different ways. Some doubts (most of the ones we studied so far in this series) are caused by a poor or false start at the very beginning of Christian life. Under this type we looked at doubts caused by a poor foundation of understanding and doubts caused by a failure to replace old patterns of thought and activity upon conversion. These, and other, forms of doubt will complicate the whole Christian life needlessly.
This week (and last) we’re concentrating on doubts that arise later on in the Christian walk. Last week we looked at doubts caused by an old scar. Tonight we are looking at doubts caused by a lack of growth. I suppose these two kinds of doubts could be labeled start-up doubts and maintenance doubts. Tonight we’re looking again at maintenance doubts:
1) IF FAITH IS NOT CONSTANTLY EXERCISED AND NOURISHED IT WILL NEVER SEEM REAL TO ITS POSSESSOR
No book deals with this problem more efficiently than the book of James: - James 2:14-20 - “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,  and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!  Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?”
In contrast to what many think, James isn’t contrasting faith and works. Those two elements are never treated as enemies as long as they are each kept in their proper place. James is contrasting living, active faith with faith that is really only a religious memory. And his point is plain - faith that isn’t applied and active will serve no purpose in it’s possessor. He says it will be useless. And a useless faith - an irrelevant faith - will not long hold doubts at bay:
James 1:7-8 - “For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
2) FOR FAITH TO MOVE FORWARD, IT MUST BE THE WORLD-VIEW YOU FUNCTION WITH EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY
Your faith must be the dominant world-view - the framework through which you process and explain and choose the events of your day. It’s not the world-view you profess that counts, but the one you actually use at work, at home, and at leisure.
If you find yourself professing one world-view for your religious faith and activity while you use another for the rest of your life, your faith will grow quietly unreal and irrelevant. But it’s important that the real problem here is accurately diagnosed. It’s not that your faith is actually useless. God is no less real and the Bible is no less true. The problem is not a useless faith, but an unused faith. Those two are not the same thing.
3) ACTIVE IMAGES FOR BIBLICAL FAITH
a) A runner stretching for the finish line - 1 Corinthians 9:24 - “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”
b) A boxer preparing for a match - 1 Corinthians 9:26 - “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.”
c) A wrestler engaging a foe on the mat - 1 Timothy 6:12 - “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
d) A single-minded soldier preparing for battle - 2 Timothy 2:3-4 - “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”
4) WHAT TO DO TO GUARD AGAINST DOUBTS THAT COME FROM A LACK OF GROWTH
a) Be very careful about faithfulness in little, mundane choices and duties. There is always more at stake than first appears. Hebrews 2:1 - “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”Drifting is the key danger with these doubts.
b) Instantly obey anything God tells you to do in His Word - This is how the process of inward assurance is either established or corrupted in the human heart - Romans 8:16 - “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God....”The Holy Spirit testifies with our own spirit, but He never testifies against it. If our inner self - our human spirit - acts and feels like a fraud the whole process of assurance (which is the opposite of doubt) is short-circuited.
Never believe that small compromises are unimportant. Your faith must meet everything today or it will mean nothing tomorrow. Until we get to heaven the exercise of faith is like riding a bike. The only way to keep from falling over is to keep moving forward.