Christians can and should wrestle with what the Bible teaches about submitting to the Bible. Wrestling with the Bible in earnest is not only an intellectual exercise but involves the heart. Studying the Bible at only an intellectual level alone leads to knowing the right answers without applying the truth of God’s Word to one’s life. Grappling with the Bible means engaging with what it says intellectually and at the heart level to experience life transformation by the Spirit of God and bear fruit for God’s glory alone.
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Is It a Sin to Question God?
To question the Lord is not wrong itself. Habakkuk, the prophet, had questions concerning the Lord and his plan, and rather than being rebuked for his questions, he got them answered. He ends his book with a song to the Lord. Questions are put to the Lord in the Psalms (Psalm 10, 44, 74, 77). Although the Lord does not answer questions in the way we want, the Lord welcomes questions from hearts seeking truth in His Word.
However, questions that question the Lord and impugn the character of God are sinful. Hebrews 11:6 states clearly that, “anyone who comes to him must believe he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” After King Saul disobeyed the Lord, his questions went unanswered (1 Samuel 28:6).
Having doubts is different from questioning the sovereignty of God and impugning His character. An honest question is not a sin, but a rebellious, untrusting heart is sinful. The Lord is not intimidated by questions and invites people to enjoy close fellowship with Him. The main issue at stake is whether we have faith in Him or have unbelief. Our heart attitude, which the Lord sees, determines whether it is right or wrong to question Him.
So, what makes something sinful?
At issue in this question is what the Bible declares explicitly to be sin and those things the Bible does not directly list as sin. Scripture gives various sin lists in Proverbs 6:16-19, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and Galatians 5:19-21. These passages present activities they describe as sinful.
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What Should I Do When I Start to Question God?
The more difficult issue here is determining what is sinful in areas that the Scripture does not address. When the Scripture does not cover a certain subject, for example, we have the principles of the Word to guide the people of God.
It is good to ask whether something is wrong, but it is better to ask if it is definitely good. Colossians 4:5 teaches the people of God that they are to “make the most of every opportunity.” Our lives are but a vapor, so we should focus our lives on “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29).
To test whether a thing is definitely good and if you should do it in good conscience, and whether you should ask the Lord to bless that thing, it is best to consider what you are doing in light of 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” If you doubt whether it pleases God after examining your decision in light of 1 Corinthians 10:31, then you should abandon it.
Romans 14:23 says, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” Every part of our lives belongs to the Lord, for we have been redeemed and belong to Him (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The previous biblical truths should guide not only what we do but also where we go in our lives as Christians.
In considering evaluating our actions, we need to do so in relation to the Lord and their effect on our family, friends, and others. While our actions or behavior may not harm ourselves, it may harm another person. Here we need discretion and the wisdom of our pastors and mature saints in our local church, so we do not lead others to violate their conscience (Romans 14:21; 15:1).
Most importantly, Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of the people of God, so nothing should be allowed to take priority over the Lord in our lives. No ambition, habit, or recreation should be allowed to have undue influence in our lives, for only Christ should have that authority in our lives as Christians (1 Corinthians 6:12; Colossians 3:17).
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What Is the Difference Between Questioning and Doubting?
Doubt is an experience everyone experiences. Even those with faith in the Lord struggle from time to me with doubt and say with the man in Mark 9:24, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Some people are significantly hindered by doubt, while others see it as a springboard to life. Others still see doubt as an obstacle to be overcome.
Classical humanism says that doubt, while uncomfortable, is vital for life. Rene Descartes once said, “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life, you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” Similarly, the founder of Buddhism once said, “Doubt everything. Find your own light.” As Christians, if we take their advice, we would have to doubt what they said, which is contradictory. So instead of taking the advice of skeptics and false teachers, let’s examine what the Bible says.
Doubt can be defined as a lack of confidence or to consider something unlikely. We first see doubt in Genesis 3 when Satan tempted Eve. There, the Lord has given a command regarding not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and specified the consequences of disobedience. Satan introduced doubt into Eve’s mind when he asked, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:3).
Satan wanted Eve to lack confidence in the command of God. When Eve affirmed the command of God, including the consequences, Satan replied with a denial, which is a stronger statement of doubt, “You shall not die.” Doubt is a tool of Satan to make the people of God lack confidence in God’s Word and consider His judgment unlikely.
The blame for humanity’s sin does not fall on Satan but on mankind. When an angel of the Lord visited Zechariah, he was told he would have a son (Luke 1:11-17), but he doubted the word given to him. His response was one of doubt due to his age, and the angel responded, telling him he would be mute until the day God's promise was fulfilled (Luke 1:18-20). Zechariah doubted the ability of the Lord to overcome natural obstacles.
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The Cure for Doubt
Anytime we allow human reason to overshadow faith in the Lord, sinful doubt is the result. No matter what our reasons may be, the Lord has made foolish the wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 1:20). Even the seemingly foolish plans of God are wiser than the plans of humanity. Faith is trusting in the Lord even when His plan goes against human experience or reason.
Scripture contradicts the humanistic view that doubt is essential to life, as Renee Descartes taught, and teaches instead that doubt is the destroyer of life. James 1:5-8 highlights when the people of God ask the Lord for wisdom, they are to ask for it in faith, without doubt. After all, if Christians doubt the Lord’s ability to respond, what would be the point in asking Him? The Lord says that if we doubt while we ask Him, we will not receive anything from Him, because we are unstable. James 1:6, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”
The cure for doubt is faith in the Lord and in His Word, for faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). The Lord uses the Word in the life of the people of God to help them grow in the grace of God. Christians need to remember how the Lord has worked in the past because that defines how He will operate in their lives in the future.
Psalm 77:11 says “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” To have faith in the Lord, every Christian must study the Scripture, for it is there in the Bible the Lord has revealed Himself. Once we understand what the Lord has done in the past, what He has promised for His people in the present, and what they can expect from Him in the future, they can act in faith instead of doubt.
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Who Were Some People in the Bible Who Questioned God?
There are many examples we could use of doubt in the Bible, but some famous ones include Thomas, Gideon, and Sarah and Abraham laughing at God's promise.
Thomas spent years witnessing the miracles of Jesus and learning at the feet of Jesus. But he doubted his master had been raised from the dead. An entire week went by before he saw Jesus, time for doubt and questions to creep into his mind. When Thomas finally saw the risen Lord Jesus, all of his doubts went away (John 20:24-29).
Gideon doubted the Lord could use him to turn the tide against the oppressors of the Lord. He tested the Lord twice, challenging Him to prove His reliability through a series of miracles. Only then would Gideon honor Him. The Lord humored Gideon, and through him, the Lord lead the Israelites to victory (Judges 6:36).
Abraham and his wife Sarah are two very significant figures in the Bible. Both followed the Lord faithfully throughout their lifetimes. Even so, they couldn’t bring themselves to believe one promise God made to them that they would give birth to a son in old age. When they were given this promise, they both laughed at the prospect. Once their son Isaac was born, Abraham’s trust in the Lord had grown so great that he willingly offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice (Genesis 17:17-22; 18:10-15).
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We can have confidence even in the things we cannot see because God has proven Himself faithful, true, and able.
Christians have a holy charge to proclaim the Word of God in season and out of season, which requires thinking seriously about what the Bible is and what it teaches. God has provided His Word for Christians to read, study, meditate upon, and proclaim to the world. As the people of God, let us dig into the Bible and ask our questions from confidence in the revealed Word of God so we can grow in the grace of God and walk alongside others who struggle with doubt in our local churches.
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Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the Host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. He received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, find him on Facebook at Dave Jenkins SOG, Instagram, read more of his writing at Servants of Grace, or sign to receive his newsletter. When Dave isn’t busy with ministry, he loves spending time with his wife, Sarah, reading the latest from Christian publishers, the Reformers, and the Puritans, playing golf, watching movies, sports, and spending time with his family.