Do Not Let Doubts Destroy Your Faith
One day you think you are in good health. The next day you feel ill. Suddenly, you have no strength or vitality. Your head aches and your body is racked with pain. What has happened? Dangerous pathogens have breached your body’s defense systems and have attacked vital organs. Left untreated, these invading organisms may destroy your health permanently—even kill you.
OF COURSE, if you are not in good health when an infection strikes, you are even more vulnerable. If, for example, your body is weakened by malnutrition, your resistance “become[s] so low that the least infection may be fatal,” says medical author Peter Wingate.
That being so, who would choose to live in famine conditions? Very likely, you do whatever you can to eat well and stay healthy. You probably also do all you can to avoid exposing yourself to viral or bacterial infection. Do you, however, exercise the same care when it comes to remaining “healthy in faith”? (Titus 2:2) Are you, for example, alert to the danger posed by insidious doubts? These can so easily invade your mind and heart, damaging your faith and your relationship with Jehovah. Some people seem oblivious to this danger. They leave themselves vulnerable to doubts by starving themselves spiritually. Is it possible that you might be doing that?
Doubt—Is It Always Bad?
Of course, not all doubt is bad. At times, you need to suspend acceptance of something till you are sure of the facts. Religious exhortations to the effect that you should just believe and should doubt nothing are dangerous and deceptive. True, the Bible says that love “believes all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) A loving Christian is certainly ready to believe those who have proved trustworthy in the past. But God’s Word also warns against ‘putting faith in every word.’ (Proverbs 14:15) Sometimes a person’s past record gives legitimate reason for doubt. “Although [the deceptive talker] makes his voice gracious,” the Bible warns, “do not believe in him.”—Proverbs 26:24, 25.
The apostle John also warns Christians against blind belief. “Do not believe every inspired expression,” he writes. Rather, “test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God.” (1 John 4:1) An “expression,” a teaching or opinion, might appear to emanate from God. But did it really come from him? Exercising some doubt, or suspending belief, can be a real protection because, as the apostle John says, “many deceivers have gone forth into the world.”—2 John 7.
Yes, an honest, humble examination of the facts to establish the truth is often called for. This, however, is not the same as allowing unfounded, damaging doubts to develop in our mind and heart—doubts that can wreck our firmly established beliefs and relationships. This doubt is defined as an “uncertainty of belief or opinion that often interferes with decision-making.” Do you remember how Satan infected Eve’s mind with doubts about Jehovah? “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” he asked. (Genesis 3:1) The uncertainty created by that innocent-sounding question interfered with her decision-making. That is typical of Satan’s methods. Like the so-called poison-pen letter writer, he is skilled at using innuendo, half-truths, and lies. Satan has destroyed countless wholesome, trusting relationships through insidious doubts planted in that way.—Galatians 5:7-9.
The disciple James clearly understood the damaging effect of this kind of doubt. He writes about the wonderful privilege we have of freely approaching God for help in time of trial. But, James warns, when you do pray to God, “keep on asking in faith, not doubting at all.” Doubts in our relationship with God make us “like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about.” We become like “an indecisive man, unsteady in all his ways.” (James 1:6, 8) We develop an uncertainty of belief that leaves us floundering. Then, as happened to Eve, we become vulnerable to all sorts of demonic teachings and philosophies.
Maintaining Good Spiritual Health
How, then, can we protect ourselves from damaging doubts? The answer is remarkably simple: by firmly rejecting satanic propaganda and fully availing ourselves of God’s provisions to make us “solid in the faith.”—1 Peter 5:8-10.
Absolutely essential is good personal spiritual feeding. Author Wingate, mentioned earlier, explains: “Even when the body is at rest it needs a continuous supply of energy for chemical processes and for the work of its vital organs; and the materials of many tissues need constant replacement.” It is the same with our spiritual health. Without constant spiritual feeding, our faith, like a body deprived of food, will be progressively damaged and will eventually die. Jesus Christ emphasized this when he said: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—Matthew 4:4.
Think about that. How did we build a strong faith in the first place? “Faith follows the thing heard,” writes the apostle Paul. (Romans 10:17) He means that we initially built our faith and confidence in Jehovah, his promises, and his organization by feeding on God’s Word. Of course, we did not just blindly believe all that we heard. We did what people living in the city of Beroea did. We ‘carefully examined the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so.’ (Acts 17:11) We ‘proved to ourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God’ and made sure that what we had heard was true. (Romans 12:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:21) Since then, we have likely reinforced our faith as we have come to see ever more clearly that God’s Word and promises never fail.—Joshua 23:14; Isaiah 55:10, 11.
Avoid Spiritual Starvation
Now the challenge is to maintain our faith and to avoid any uncertainty of belief that can weaken our confidence in Jehovah and his organization. To do this we must continue to examine the Scriptures daily. The apostle Paul warns that “in later periods of time some [who may initially seem to have a strong faith] will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1) These misleading utterances and teachings create doubts in the minds of some and alienate them from God. What is our protection? To continue being “nourished with the words of the faith and of the fine teaching which [we] have followed closely.”—1 Timothy 4:6.
Sadly, though, some today choose not to be “nourished with the words of the faith”—even when such nourishment is freely available. As one of the writers of the book of Proverbs indicates, it is possible to be surrounded by good spiritual food, a spiritual banquet, as it were, and still not actually eat and digest the food.—Proverbs 19:24; 26:15.
This is dangerous. Author Wingate says: “As soon as the body begins to consume its own protein its health begins to suffer.” When you are starved of food, your body begins to use up fuel reserves stored throughout the body. When these sources are exhausted, the body begins to consume protein that is essential for continued growth and repair of tissue. Vital organs begin to break down. Your health then quickly deteriorates.
That is what happened in a spiritual sense to some in the early Christian congregation. They tried to live off their spiritual reserves. Likely, they neglected personal study, and they became spiritually weak. (Hebrews 5:12) The apostle Paul explained the danger in doing this when he wrote to Hebrew Christians: “It is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.” He knew how easy it would be to drift into bad habits if we “neglected a salvation of such greatness.”—Hebrews 2:1, 3.
Interestingly, a person suffering from malnutrition does not necessarily look sickly or thin. Similarly, it may not be immediately obvious that someone is suffering from spiritual starvation. You can have an appearance of spiritual well-being even when you are not being nourished properly—but only for a short time! You will inevitably become weakened spiritually, susceptible to unfounded doubts, and unable to put up a hard fight for the faith. (Jude 3) You know—even if no one else does—the true extent of your personal spiritual feeding.
Hence, keep up your personal study. Fight doubts vigorously. To ignore what appears to be a trivial infection, to do nothing about nagging doubts, may have disastrous consequences. (2 Corinthians 11:3) ‘Are we really living in the last days? Can you believe everything the Bible says? Is this truly Jehovah’s organization?’ Satan would love to plant doubts like these in your mind. Do not let a negligent attitude toward spiritual feeding leave you easy prey to his deceptive teachings. (Colossians 2:4-7) Follow the advice given to Timothy. Be a good student of “the holy writings” so that you can “continue in the things that you learned and were persuaded to believe.”—2 Timothy 3:13-15.
You may need help to do this. The writer quoted earlier goes on to say: “With severe starvation the digestive organs may be so injured by lack of vitamins and other necessities that they can no longer take up ordinary foods if they are provided. People in this state may need food that requires little digestion for some time.” Special care is needed to remedy the effects of starvation on the body. Similarly, someone who has grossly neglected his personal study of the Bible may need much help and encouragement to regain his spiritual appetite. If that is your situation, seek help and gladly accept any assistance offered to rebuild your spiritual health and strength.—James 5:14, 15.
Do Not “Waver in a Lack of Faith”
Considering the circumstances of the patriarch Abraham, some may feel that he had legitimate grounds for doubt. It may appear quite reasonable to conclude that he was ‘beyond hope of becoming the father of many nations’—despite God’s promise. Why? Well, from a purely human point of view, things did not look promising. ‘He considered his own body, now already deadened, and also the deadness of the womb of Sarah,’ the Bible record says. Still, he resolutely refused to allow doubts about God and his promises to take root in his mind and heart. The apostle Paul writes: “He did not grow weak in faith,” or “waver in a lack of faith.” Abraham remained “fully convinced that what [God] had promised he was also able to do.” (Romans 4:18-21) He had built a strong, personal, trusting relationship with Jehovah over many years. He rejected any doubts that might have weakened that relationship.
You can do the same if you “keep holding the pattern of healthful words”—if you feed yourself well spiritually. (2 Timothy 1:13) Take the danger of doubts seriously. Satan engages in what might be called spiritual bacteriologic warfare. If you neglect to take in good spiritual food through personal study of the Bible and through attendance at Christian meetings, you lay yourself wide open to such attacks. Make good use of the generous and timely supply of spiritual food provided by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45) Continue to “assent to healthful words” and remain “healthy in faith.” (1 Timothy 6:3; Titus 2:2) Do not allow doubts to destroy your faith.
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How well do you feed yourself spiritually?