Have you experienced doubt and despair as a believer in Christ? Many have!
Hymn writer Johnson Oatman Jr (1856-1926) understood this condition and resolved to overcome it as he followed Christ. He wrote:
1 I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining ev’ry day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith, on heaven’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
2 My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground. [Refrain]
At one point in their pilgrimage, Christian and his companion Hopeful stepped aside from the true Way into By-Path Meadow because it looked easier and seemed to be going in the same direction as the Way. They realized their mistake and began the journey back towards the Way. As they traveled, they slept one night on the grounds of a castle. However, it turned out that this was Doubting-Castle, owned by Giant Despair. When the giant found them, he threw them into his dark and nasty dungeon, and they suffered terribly.
As pilgrims traveling through this life following Jesus (I Peter 1:1-2) we face spiritual conflicts from the world (I John 2:15-17), our own sinful desires (Romans 7; Col. 3:1-11) and the devil (Ephesians 6:10-20). As we face this threefold battleground, it is easy to become discouraged by doubt and despair.
Doubt is not trusting. It is not committed to live for God, to not acknowledge dependence upon God and to not worship the One, True God of the Bible in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Doubt is uncertainty and having a lack of conviction for what you believe and to what and whom you are committed.
Despair is a lack of confidence in God. It is no longer having confidence in what God has promised in His Word. It is hopelessness, disheartenment, discouragement and desperation because of circumstances and situations. Doubt and despair can occur at any time if we are not watchful. Doubt and despair can occur because of any situation if we are not careful to rest in the truth from God.
As Christians of conviction, we must continue to fight for our biblical liberty in Christ. Yet, in the final analysis, we must always remember that ultimately we fight not against men but against the spiritual forces of evil (Eph. 6:12). Ultimately, we fight on our knees, praying for all who are in authority over us (1 Tim. 2:2).
In this world, we are citizens of our nations, but ultimately we are citizens of Christ’s kingdom. As such, we can pray for national leaders even when we must vote against them (I Tim. 2:1-3). We pray for the persecuted and for our persecutors. We love our enemies while praying for their defeat—their coming to the end of themselves in repentance and faith (Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:13; 1 Cor. 4:12–13).
In the face of persecution, we must not lose hope. We must not fear our enemies but fear the Lord as we stand our ground in the battle. Jesus told us we would be persecuted, but He also told us He has overcome the world (Matt. 5:10–12; John 16:33).
Regardless of whether we ever die as martyrs for our faith, we are all witnesses of Christ. Though our enemies may imprison us, shun us, despise us, or kill us, they can never really hurt us. For we conquer by dying—humbly dying to self that we may, under any persecution our Lord sovereignly allows, boldly proclaim Christ and Him crucified. And when we are persecuted for Christ’s sake, not for being obnoxious, we can count ourselves blessed.
“Christians are not so much in danger when they are persecuted as when they are admired,” explained Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon.
Meditate today upon 2 Corinthians 4:1-18. Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!