This episode is part of my podcast series DEAR ATHEIST… If you prefer, LISTEN NOW.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim 4:3-4).
The Bible talks about people who depart from the Truth, seeking false teachers who will tell them what their itching ears want to hear. This is usually applied to teachings of immorality, particularly sexual immorality. However, I think it applies to teachings of unbelief too, which is a growing trend. It was a clanger to me recently when I read Revelation 21:8, and learnt that the “unbelieving” will also be cast in the Lake of Fire. Is that surprising to you?
Atheists like to accuse Christians of only believing strongly in our Faith because of ‘Confirmation Bias’. They seem oblivious to the fact that confirmation bias exists in their camp too. People who are losing faith or who have lost faith usually talk of their connection with those who lost faith before them. They talk of the books and blogs they read to know more, to learn “the truth”. And the materials they seek are comforting, soothing to their experience of losing faith. They confirm that what they are going through is normal and right and a progressive change, and not a destructive and diabolical move, as Christians would suggest.
And aside the Traitors, who support their loss of faith journey, and even speed it up with their own stories, there are the staunch Atheists, who were probably responsible for instilling doubt in the first place! Of course, they are happy to have the Backsliders in their camp, and quickly affirm that they are now thinking rightly. They give them all the supportive information they need, so that they can be deeply rooted in their new state of unbelief! Confirmation Bias anyone?
According to Wikipedia, confirmation bias “also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias).
Many of those losing faith express how hard it was to get to the point of actually letting go of the idea of God. I can imagine it would be hard. It would be like searing your conscience with a hot iron – by yourself (1 Tim 4:1-2)!!! They lament that though they cried out for Him and waited for Him and were desperate for Him, He didn’t answer them…so they had no choice but to walk away and believe that He was never real.
You know, the Bible says that “there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it…” (1 Cor 10:13) Doubt is a very common experience. God’s silence is an even more common experience! Do you think the Prophets of old heard from God every single day? Yes, they prayed every day, but He didn’t always answer them. There were no doubt long periods of silence. They too were plunged in doubt and despair…but they hung on to faith, and God spoke to them at the right and appointed times.
Consider Job. Job was someone who should have lost faith. Suddenly, he was attacked for no reason. He had always believed that God would never forsake the righteous, but God had forsaken him (Psa 37:25). He had his friends and wife peddling their false ideas to him, accusing him of sins he hadn’t committed, and tempting him to curse God. But Job, even in his darkest hour, held on to his REVELATION of God.
He knew God. God wasn’t just an idea to him. God was his Friend. Yes, He was silent now, but there had to be an explanation for what was happening to him. He gave God the benefit of the doubt. He trusted God. And at the appointed time, God spoke up and revealed Himself again.
If you like, accuse God of being childish or reckless or whatever, but God tries our faith, not for His own pride, but that we may be strengthened in our faith, no matter the season of life we are going through. It is easy to have faith in the good times. But God knows that for our character to grow, for our understanding to increase, we will need to suffer hardship and grow in faith and grace through them (Rom 5:3-5).
You may or may not have been going through any special trial when you began to doubt God. Maybe, it was just one day you realised that you hadn’t heard from God in a while…and then you panicked. Or maybe an agent of the enemy had instilled doubt in you, and you decided to put God to the test to answer you or convince you otherwise. Or maybe losing faith was the only way for you to justify your lifestyle which the Bible condemns and it was either that (spiritual suicide) or actual suicide… The fact is, at the point that you began to doubt, you began to stink!
“…let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord…” (Jam 1:6-7).
The Bible says that we shouldn’t go to God with doubt, but whoever goes to Him must know that He exists and He is good… These are two UNQUESTIONABLE truths for genuine faith. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb 11:6). Also, it says “My righteous one will live by faith, and if he turns back, I will have no pleasure in him…” (Heb 10:38) Think about that for a minute.
You might think you still had “faith” because you prayed…and you expected Him to answer. But God heard your accusations. The ones you didn’t utter. God knew you were reveling in unbelief. God knew your heart was taken in sin that you were not ready to surrender. When you asked God to show Himself, your expectancy was not truly that He would. And each day, your doubt grew and stank all the more. And you shut Him out with the stench of it.
You see, there is no faith without trust, and you stopped trusting Him the moment you began to doubt Him… You became fearful of being deceived…and not by the liars, but by God Himself. Your reasoning became superior to His revelation, and so no revelation will ever suffice, if it must align with your reasoning… In your search for peace and confirmation, you flowed with the tide of unbelief, until you found yourself at the shores of Atheism.
I am not saying this for nothing. Like I said, doubt is common. If there was absolute certainty, there would be no need for faith! You are not the first, nor will you be the last. I have struggled with doubt, and God has helped me and taught me…but He still tries me. I wrote a piece not long along called “The God Who Helps Me Write” at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It was so that the next time I was giving in to doubt, I will remember that we’ve been there and done that and HE IS REAL.
And, I thought that would be it for me… That I would never doubt again. But as long as we are human, who live in this physical realm, we are prone to doubt the invisible. God is not an ATM, or candy machine or genie, who answers our every plea. He is sovereign and wise, and He realises the importance of us not always getting our way…for us to truly be surrendered and reliant on Him. If we are to share in the glory of our Lord, we must also know that we will share in His sufferings and be purified through all sorts of trials…just as His first disciples did (Phil 3:10, 2 Tim 3:12)!
Days after I wrote another piece “The God Who Heals Me“, I was also given to doubt again. Can you just imagine? I thought maybe I had spoken too soon, or misrepresented God. And my communication with Atheists brought offense into my walk with God. I was doubting and judging Him in my heart, while desperate for Him to show me that He was real again.
But He has already shown me. Times without number. How could I doubt Him still? Imagine how Jesus’ felt when after walking with Him and seeing ALL His mighty works for three years, His disciples still exhibited doubt!!! He said He was weary of them (Matt 17:17). But yet, He strengthened Peter (Luke 22:31-31), and showed His scars to Thomas, so he would believe (John 20:24-29).
So what did it take for me to realise my error this time…? Confirmation Bias! Thank God for positive confirmation bias! This is why it is so very important to have and maintain fellowship with other Believers, especially as the days get more evil (Heb 10:23-25). We reinforce each other’s beliefs, we edify one another and strengthen our faith and witness with unity!
I am currently reading a book about Hell by Bill Weise, and the way he wrote about his experience and communication with God reminded me of mine. He is also a man who hears God, and I was pricked in my conscience because I should have known better than to doubt my relationship with God. I prayed after that, and my prayer was without the offensive stench of doubt. And God taught me the lesson I am sharing with you today.
“And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:16-17).
If you have been stained by doubt, maybe your faith was offended by an interaction with Atheists, and so you began to see God through their eyes, you are not going to be able to believe like a little child anymore (Matt 18:3). That’s what you need to do. That is the sort of faith that pleases God and moves Him to action.
You can’t be in doubt and be in faith too. You have to reject doubt, wash it off you, and forsake your pride and be a fool for God again. You need to REPENT of your unbelief and ask for His grace to have faith again (Eph 2:8). And He will make Himself known to you again, because He is gracious and long-suffering, and His desire is that all may be saved (2 Pet 3:9, 1 Tim 2:4).
“Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer 29:13).
You can call it confirmation bias or whatever, but we all NEED IT for reassurance, to belong. It is either you seek to belong with the haters of the Faith who are flirting dangerously with the Devil (Jam 4:4), or you seek to belong with the lovers of the Faith, who the Father calls His children (John 1:12-13). You decide whom you will believe.
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh 24:15).
“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” (Heb 10:35-36).
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matt 7:7-8).
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