“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children.” Deuteronomy 29:29

You cannot have faith without questions for the very simple reason that God has chosen to keep many secrets.  There are certain things God has revealed—that’s what makes faith possible, and there are certain things God has kept secret—that’s what makes faith necessary.

Paul says, “Now I know in part…” (1 Corinthians 1:12).  We know in part and that is why we walk by faith and not by sight.  Just as it is part of Christian faith to say we know what God has revealed, it is part of Christian humility to say we do not know what God has kept secret.

The world will often say to believers, “How do you explain this?” as if faith depended on having all the answers.  But if you had all the answers, you’d have no need of faith.  The day will come when we’ll know fully, even as we’re fully known (13:12), but on that day faith will no longer be necessary.  Faith will be turned to sight, and we’ll behold Christ!  Until then, faith with questions will be the normal experience of the Christian life.

You can only doubt what you already believe

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”  Mark 9:24

Doubt is not the absence of faith; it is the questioning of faith.  You can only doubt what you already believe.  When a Christian doubts, he fears that God may not exist.  The Christian believes that there is a God, and when he doubts, he questions what he believes.

When an atheist doubts, he fears God may actually exist!  The atheist believes there is no god and so, by definition, a doubting atheist would be someone who was questioning his unbelief. Doubt presupposes some kind of faith.  Doubt is faith with questions.  That is what doubt is and it is one of the most common struggles in the Christian life.

Doubt is very different from unbelief

“I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” 1 Timothy 1:13

That’s how Paul described his persecution of believers.  In other words, “I could not understand the truth”—that’s ignorance, and “I was deeply resistant to the truth”—that’s unbelief.  Unbelief involves spiritual blindness and a determined resistance towards God. 

It is very important to grasp the difference between doubt and unbelief.  “Doubt” is questioning what you believe.  “Unbelief” is a determined refusal to believe.  Doubt is a struggle faced by the believer.  Unbelief is a condition of the unbeliever.

The only cure for unbelief

“Who are you, Lord?” Acts 9:5

The only cure for Paul’s condition was what happened when he was wonderfully converted on the Damascus Road.  When Paul saw the risen Christ, he was so overwhelmed by His glory that he fell to the ground and his first words were “Lord…”  Lord!?  The man has been humbled.  He is no longer the captain of his life.  

Once Paul discovered that Jesus is Lord, the whole disposition of his soul was changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  He moved from a position of unbelief to a position of faith as God worked a miracle in his life.  That may be precisely what needs to happen for you, and God will give you that same gift if you will ask Him.

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This LifeKey based on the message “Defective Memory,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith, September 8, 2002, from the series “Faith With Questions: Dealing With the Darkness of Doubt.”

Colin currently serves as Senior Pastor of the The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He is committed to preaching the Bible in a way that nourishes the soul by directing attention to Jesus Christ.