James 1 – What about doubt?


James 1:6 “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt,”

Is doubt a sin?  Can you walk by faith and have no doubt?  Is James basically telling us we might as well give up because God is not going to give us anything?

“That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.”  – That’s what James says.

I don’t believe that is is a case that all doubt is sin or that the reason all of our prayers aren’t answered is because we have doubt.

There are two different concepts of doubt that we need to clarify.  First – there is doubt that doubts all things – except it’s doubt.  It is unbelief, disbelief, rejection, denial, agnosticism, faithlessness.  Yes, this kind of doubt is definitely a problem when we are dealing with God.  It’s a defiance to God that says, “Regardless of what evidence you show me – it will never be enough!”

But there’s another kind of doubt that is not necessarily sinful.  It is uncertainty, lack of confidence, reservation, problematic, misgivings, skeptical, questioning,
wavering, or seeing things as indeterminate.

The New Testament uses several Greek words that are translated as “doubt” in English.

Diakrino:  This is basically uncertainty on what to believe.   It comes from uncertainty in knowing what to believe.  It is often shown in words like “How do you know?” or “Are you sure?”   1 Corinthians 14:29 NIV says, “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully ( Diakrino) what is said.”  Here Paul is teaching about judging the truth of the prophets and exposing any lies in a prophecy or teaching. This process of discerning was to protect the truth from being corrupted.

Distazo: which is found in James 1:6.   This is RE-considering whether or not something you’ve believed can or will occur.   It is a form of skepticism that is due to a lack of commitment to the choice you’ve already made.   This is giving up your conviction of faith based upon what you see or feel.

Apistea:  This is weakness of faith or a form of unbelief that shows a lack of a confidence in God to do what He has promised.  It requires repentance, not more evidence.  It is  a conscious choice to doubt.  We see it in Matthew 14:31 when Jesus reaches out to Peter, sinking in the water and said, “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”.

Apeitheia: This is being obstinate, rebellious, refusing to believe, or being apathetic.   When Jesus taught in his hometown, it says in Matthew 13:58, “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”  This is the hardest form of unbelief.  It is someone who has dug in their heels and refuses to believe even if he knows he is wrong.  This hardness of heart needs to be repented from in order to be right with God.

Not all “doubt” is sin – but some is.  When we think of “Doubting Thomas,” remember – Jesus didn’t condemn him for his doubt.  He offered himself as further proof.  Doubt can be proof of faith in some cases.  By questioning your own belief, you’re affirming the foundation of your own beliefs.

So can you doubt and still receive from God?  That’s where we started in James.  It all depends on what kind of doubt you are dealing with.  If you are committed to following God regardless of where the path leads and you’re just not sure where God is leading – then doubt (asking God for further direction) is not sin.  BUT – if you’re committed to going your own way – regardless of how God guides – then as James might put it today – “You’re screwed!”  You shouldn’t expect to receive anything or any help from God.  Good bye and good luck.

I’ll close with a quote from my favorite author, C.S. Lewis: “We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

Like most of my thinking and writing – this is not original.  It is a distilling of the thoughts from Daniel Slack: http://www.true2ourselves.com/forum/theology/2209-what-doubt-sin-how-biblical-translation-may-confuse-issue.html

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