Madison Church

Can Faith & Doubt Coexist? | Searching For Answers (Part 2) | Sarah Hanson

April 24, 2023 Sarah Hanson
Madison Church
Can Faith & Doubt Coexist? | Searching For Answers (Part 2) | Sarah Hanson
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever found yourself grappling with faith and culture, or facing doubt in your faith journey? Join us as we explore how the church can transform into a sanctuary of acceptance for everyone, instead of acting as a gatekeeper to God's love. We discuss the challenges in navigating the intersection of faith, politics, and culture, and the need for a safe haven to express doubt, ask questions, and engage in genuine conversations about subjects like biblical interpretation, sexuality, and racial reconciliation.

Discover how to embrace doubt in order to deepen your faith, as we share practical steps in working through doubt and maneuvering the tension between certainty and uncertainty. Learn how trusting Jesus with your doubts can guide you towards authentic faith and how small groups and prayer play a vital role in the process. Let's dive into this crucial conversation and remember – God isn't put off by our doubts, but instead, wants us to explore him more fully.

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Thanks for having me back. I'm excited to be here. I wanted to share that sometimes there's kind of an elephant in the room. You know, I'm talking about right? Like, it's something that's so obvious to everybody, but nobody brings it up. Maybe it's because it's embarrassing, or it's a sensitive subject. Maybe people are avoiding it, because there's potential for conflict. Or they know that if they bring it up, they have to be part of the solution. And they don't want to do that either. But the elephant in the room, it usually occurs because it's socially uncomfortable. Well, you guys, maybe this could be my secret for today. I am socially awkward. If you've met me more than once, you know that already. I'm socially awkward. I can regularly be heard and during a conversation with saying something like, I'm just gonna say it. Anybody else? I feel like maybe this side of the room. Anybody over here? No? Just the side, okay. Excuse me. But this might make me on comfortable and awkward. And this might make it the last time I get to speak here. So I'm gonna make it good. But you guys, I just have to say it. People are leaving the church. Have you noticed? People are leaving. And I'm not talking about just necessarily Madison church. We're talking about capital C Church, the worldwide church, church in general. They're leaving in droves. And I bet there's nobody here who hasn't? If you haven't felt that yourself. You've at least heard somebody say, I have faith, but I don't do that whole organized religion thing. Right? This is okay. See the side of the room? That's where I got them. Okay, great. Now, now we can be friends. But everybody's heard that right? I have faith. But I don't want to have anything to do with organized religion. And I think it's because we're tired. We're tired of the cultural wars. We're tired of Christianity getting tangled up with political power, and all the politics. I think it's embarrassing. Do you guys think it's embarrassing? I think it's embarrassing, because on one hand, I want to be loud and proud about my faith. On the other hand, I don't want to be associated with this group of people who displays hate towards my loved ones who are in the LGBTQ community. I don't want to be associated with people who shame people for making medical choices. I don't want to be linked to those people who proudly wear the label of Christian nationalists, and say weird things about space lasers starting forest fires. No, thank you. We don't want to have to choose between science and religion, or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. We long for churches to be a safe place to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it's uncomfortable. We want to talk about tough things. We want to talk about tough things like you guys get to talk to talk about soon. I didn't know this. So this is exciting to me. But biblical interpretation, right? That's important. We want to talk about that. I want to talk about sexuality. We want to talk about racial reconciliation, social justice. But we don't want it to come with those predetermined conclusions. Are all those simplistic and rote answers, want real conversation? We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and our minds behind without having to put on this facade, pretending that we are blessed to be going through this struggle right now. If you heard Christians say that, Hi, I'm going through a struggle, struggle, but I am blessed. Bless the Lord. He is going to make me stronger in this and yes, he will. But you know what, when something like that happens, I really want to just curl up on the couch and watch Netflix and eat ice cream. You guys want to do that too? Right? Yes. Yes. We're tired of church leaders being gatekeepers. We're tired of church leaders deciding which sins are worse than others. And we're really tired of church leaders calling out sins when Jesus never called them sins to begin with. We're tired of church leaders who get to decide who gets the freedom or forgiveness and who gets to clean themselves up before they can come through the door and be part of our church family. When our LGBTQ loved ones, and then our loved ones who are struggling with addictions, or homelessness, or some other really tough thing When they aren't welcome at the table, we don't feel welcome either. Am I right? These are more than just minor inconveniences. They're more than just hurdles to overcome their actual barriers. They are walls. Because when I hear about, excuse me when I hear verses that are quoted out of context that justify how I can treat my neighbor differently than how I would treat this neighbor. It makes me cringe. But it doesn't just make me cringe. It can mess with my faith, it can cause doubt. Does the Bible Really say that? Am I the one that misunderstood? Does God really feel the way that person feels? And then I go to do I even want to follow a God that displays disdain for people. Do I want to be a part of a group of people who don't actually accept me? It causes me to pause. And to wonder if this Jesus following thing is really what we all want here. We can't be wooed by better worship bands. Although worship bands are great. We can't be wooed with fog machines, fancy lighting, although it is great. And we can't even be wooed with the best coffee in the city. But I do appreciate a good cup of coffee. We don't come to church to be entertained, though. We want authenticity. We want Jesus. We want community and we want family. We want the kind of church that we can read about in the book of Acts in chapter four. Starting at verse 32, it says, all the believers were one in heart in mind, no one claimed any of their possessions was their own. But they shared everything they had, with great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them, that there were no needy persons among them. So let's not fool ourselves into believing that the early church didn't have some of the same relational problems that we can have today. They were people to it, they still found a way to love one another. Well, they still found a way to do life together. Now, I am a nerdy research junkie. I am curious, and I'm a questioner by nature. And I don't like to live my life without finding answers. I approached my faith the same way that I approached the rest of my life with research. The first time I read through a Bible, I put post it notes on pages where I had questions. I cannot even tell you how many hundreds of post it notes were sticking out of my Bible. It was a lot. It was very colorful in there. And I began doing that to start my journey of finding answers. And at first I found people around me that would say things like, well, you just have to have faith. Or the Bible said it says it. So that settles it. And I couldn't just get on board with that it didn't understand. So I just kept asking questions. And for a while I drove two hours each way to attend a weekly small group, because they weren't afraid of my questions. Do you have any idea how ridiculous that is? I mean, first, it's ridiculous that my drive for answers led me to this like two hour excursion one way. But also why do we as church people, why do we make it so difficult for people to ask questions? As I started to find out some answers, my belief grew. And as my belief grew, I found I had more questions. This has happened to other people, right? Yeah, it's not just me. People started sharing with me how to look things up how to find answers for myself, which is so powerful to be able to have the tools to do that. So I'm excited you guys get to learn that later in the series. If you don't know it already. Probably some of you know a whole bunch of it. But maybe you'll learn something too. Because it's very powerful. I didn't just want to do an internet search in my in my look at the Bible because I knew everybody, anybody can put anything out there. And I don't trust people and I'm a real research nerd. So I used actual books. But I wanted to be able to fully believe, but I needed to understand. And once I understood, and my belief was really strong. I felt like I could defend my belief. I could answer questions that other people had and If I couldn't answer it, at least I know how to find the answers. And I felt really safe and secure in my certainties. I felt like I knew God because I knew about God. And to some extent that was really true. Until it all began to unravel. Until I began to struggle with a tension between the comfort of my certainty and the very uncomfortable doubts I started having. And while the church can be helpful, loving life giving, the church can also lie, injure damage, exclude. Every church has people with flaws. Every church has people like me, and people like you. There's the struggle to make sense of the purpose of church. Why is church here? Why do we exist? There are days of doubt, and doubt is unnerving. I keep saying like, I studied, right, I researched I investigated, I didn't come to the conclusion of faith in Jesus lightly. I didn't pick my denomination without great thought weighing pros and cons, and counting the cost. Yet here I am. Sometimes feeling the shadow of doubt over casting all that confidence and once had it's unnerving. It causes me to start though back at the beginning, looking for answers, searching for safe places, to ask questions, being willing to have my entire world turned upside down, when I find and when I'm shown the truth. I found that I needed to move from that certainty that I held on to, through that doubt, to get back to faith. And I'm still on that journey. I believe it's a healthy journey. And one that I don't think it's going to conclude and resting on knowledge, like all my certainty did. I believe we should all have times of questioning on no doubting and act 17, were told that there was a group of people, they were called the Bereans. And they had doubts about what Paul was telling them about how to follow Jesus. And they kept going back to verify what he was saying, then comparing it to the Scriptures. And they wanted to know is Paul really just off his rocker? Is he contrary to what it already says? And they found the truth. In verse 12, it tells us, many of them, therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. So the men and the women who had questions and they had doubts, but they didn't just blow off Paul, right? They didn't just go, That guy's nuts. They looked it up. They spent time asking questions. I imagine they talked amongst themselves as well. But they were willing to leave behind the certainty of their job, their Jewish faith, to walk through that doubt, to find themselves with a strong faith in Jesus. And the Bible tells us that the Bereans were more noble than others. They didn't get shamed for their doubt. In the eyes of God, they were actually applauded, they were more noble. Because they didn't get stuck in their certainty. They didn't get stuck in their doubt. They continue to ask questions, until they found a place of belief. So this is good for us to remember today, that we can apply that to our lives. Let's not get stuck in blind faith. Let's not get stuck in the faith of certainty. Let's not get stuck in the question and doubt phase, but continue to seek safe places. Continue to ask questions, continue to discover and rediscover the Bible. Rediscover Jesus, the truth, the Holy Spirit. Now, some people are discouraging this. Some people are afraid of what has become known as deconstruction. But I just have to ask why is it unsafe to ask questions. When I was in college, I was taught to always know where the opposing viewpoint is coming from. How can you adequately form an argument or state your case if you don't know what they're thinking or how they're going to be looking at it? You have to look at both sides to draw conclusion. But in church, I was taught to stay away from those who would harm my faith by casting doubts and creating fears by asking too many questions. In other words, don't let people ask you questions that you don't already have answers to. But isn't God big enough to handle questions? Isn't God big enough to handle our wavering faith? Did I think I was the first one to struggle? I might have. In Matthew 16, verse 21, it tells us that Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and then he must be killed, and on the third day be raised again. And we know about this, right? Because it was just Easter a couple of weeks ago, or resurrection day, what however Christian you are, you can call it either one. And that first resurrection day, the disciples weren't quite celebrating yet, because they misunderstood Jesus, they still thought incorrectly, that Jesus was going to overthrow the Roman government, and set up an earthly kingdom here. And they believed that with certainty, so when they saw Jesus crucified on the cross, their hopes and their dreams were destroyed. As they saw the spikes, being driven into his hands, being driven into his feet, they hoped for last minute miracle. But no miracle happened. Their King was dead. The disciples never saw the crucifixion coming. And that left them stuck in this tension between faith and doubt. And then three days later, when Jesus was, was resurrected, and the tomb was empty, we know this part again, because we just celebrated right? What happened. The tomb was empty, and everyone was immediately rejoicing, right? Not quite. Now quite. Luke 24, one through 12 tells us that the women who went to the tomb to tend to the body of Jesus found themselves face to face with a couple of angels, who had to look at us look at them, like I don't know why God puts up with you annoying humans. But here we are. And they had to explain to them what Jesus had said. And then they realized all the things that Jesus had been saying all along. And when these women, these very first preachers, right, the very first people to share the gospel, they went in, they ran to the other disciples. They wanted to share the good news that Jesus had risen, Hope was restored. They didn't believe them, because their words seem to them like nonsense. It's a bit shocking to me anyways, to realize that the first disbelievers of the resurrection were the apostles themselves. This tension between faith and doubt that we see here in these first Jesus followers seems really out of place. We expect to hear that there was this huge celebration of these people had the opportunity to see Jesus face to face and to touch him to hear his voice. He told them, this was the plan. But here they were doubting everything they once believed. Once they worked through that doubt, everything changed than that. I want to tell you that your doubts are not the enemy of your faith. Your doubts can actually lead to a deeper, greater, greater faith. But as some of you no doubt can also make you feel shock, afraid and stuck. So how do we live in this tension between faith and doubt? Some of us in the season of deconstruction, where we're questioning everything that we once believed, some have even walked completely away from faith. You probably know a few people. We come to doubt what we've been taught about faith. And it's difficult. For some, it was the experience of the pandemic that kind of pushed them away from their faith caused them to look at things differently. They simply stopped going to church or stopped praying and didn't really see a reason to come back. And for some people, it's been this, it's been because of a leader, or another Christian, another Jesus follower who disappointed them. A church conflict that went unresolved or a sense of being hurt by the church itself, that made it feel like they just couldn't go back. And sometimes it can feel like there's just too many reasons to doubt. And I find what people are leaving is a picture of the church and a picture of Jesus. That's not biblical in the first place, leaving a picture of the church that was not good. theologian, pastor and author, Greg Boyd says this. The self serving certainty seeking faith that these folks are choosing to pursue is not faith, as it's taught in Scripture, the faith. The faith that God's people are called to embrace is one that encourages people to wrestle With God, to not be afraid of questions, and to act faithfully in the face of uncertainty. That's why I'm here to say, let's step into this moment. Don't shy away from that tension, that that tension between being certain of our faith and our doubt, work through the doubt, get to the place of authentic faith. And that's easier said than done. Right? We give you a couple of practical steps. The first thing that we can do is we can express our doubts, don't keep them and express them. When we let our doubts just stew in our minds, they can overpower us. A great way to navigate doubt is to express it to somebody else. Doubt is not an enemy to faith, but unexpressed doubt, can be. So if you're struggling, find a safe person to tell them what you're thinking. And if someone comes to you with doubts, don't be fearful. Listen, ask questions, and seek to understand your listening ear will be more valuable than anything that you might feel compelled to say. In Galatians, six, two, Paul tells the church to carry each other's burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. We were never meant to live life alone. We need the love and care of others, as much as we, as others need us in the same way. And this is what we expect from church, right? A great place for something like this to happen is a small group. And if you aren't already part of a small group, don't wait. Just join a small group. I think we're gonna Oh, there it is. We got a QR code, take out your phone right now. And scan it, this is your commercial interruption. Take out your phone and scan the QR code and sign up for your small group right now. There's some new ones starting in May. But seriously, get get into a small group, you guys, it doesn't do me any benefit to tell you come join my small group, it's two hours away. Don't do that. Go ahead and sign up with with one with your phone here. But they're powerful in a in a small group, you get to process things with other people who maybe they have doubts to. Maybe they've already navigated that part of their faith. And it can help you it's encouraging, isn't it when you find out that not everybody at church has this certainty that other people have doubts, and that they can relate to you, as a small group is a place for a group of people to just learn together, and to learn how to follow Jesus together. I can't stress enough the importance of following through on your doubts, to not stay stuck in that deconstruction area. But continue through it. Another thing that we can do during in times during times in our life, when we go through periods of uncertainty is to trust Jesus with our doubts. It doesn't have to be super complicated. You can pray something really simple. Like Jesus, if you're real, make yourself real to me. And then just wait around and see what happens. Trust Jesus with whatever you're going through, and look for Him to reveal Himself to you in ways that you may maybe didn't expect. Jeremiah 2913 says, You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. So seek Him. Recognize recognise your doubts, risk putting your whole heart into it. Ask him to make himself real to you. Ask Him to show you the truth. That is not put off by our doubts. He wants us to wrestle with that truth, to discover him more fully, to explore, to learn to grow in him. And Jesus loves us right in the middle of our struggles with doubt. He wants us to move from certainty through the doubt and then to this place of authentic faith.

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