By Dr. David Jeremiah
There’s a battle for your faith going on right now.
Without a belief in your mission, you’ll give up and be defeated. Too much doubt, disillusionment, and discouragement—and you’ll give up.
It’s easy to find testimonies of former atheists who have become Christians, and some have become leaders among Christian intellectuals. But sometimes the process works in reverse, and we occasionally hear of those from Christian backgrounds whose faith erodes and who collapse in doubt, disillusionment, and discouragement.
Contending for the Faith: Fighting Earnestly for Belief
If you find yourself defeated in this battle, Satan receives glory, for your unbelief will affect others. Think of how the ten spies faltered in their faith and infected the entire nation of Israel with fear in Numbers 13. Your faith can strengthen others, just as your unbelief can weaken them. Our spirituality, or lack thereof, is contagious.
The book of Jude tells us “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). We must keep our doctrine pure, and we must grow in our faith in the truth. In fighting this battle, it helps to know our enemy and to recognize his tactics. He’s a master at using doubt, disillusionment, and discouragement to tear down our faith. Once we understand these tactics, we can learn how to combat them.
The First Source of Doubt: Intellectual Attacks on Biblical Truth
Doubt can arise from two sources. Some people are troubled by intellectual attacks on biblical truth. In 2014, for example, newspapers around the world reported the story of a Jewish archaeologist who claimed to have disproved the authenticity of the book of Genesis. He based his claims on carbon dating of camel bones, which, he said, proved camels weren’t domesticated in Bible lands during the days of Abraham. The references to camels in the book of Genesis, he said, were therefore mistaken, which demonstrated that Genesis was a largely fictional account written centuries after its traditionally ascribed date.
Newspapers everywhere, including The New York Times, ran headlines like: “Genesis Disproved” and “Archaeologist Demonstrates Genesis Fabricated.” But skeptics had made the same claims years ago and had been soundly refuted by other archaeological evidence. Camels are mentioned in other ancient documents, and there are significant indications that wealthier people used camels in the patriarchal age. For some reason, the media only presented one side of the story. Newspapers reported the accusations as if they were factual while ignoring the refuting evidence.
What to Remember When Intellectuals Try to Disprove Biblical Truth:
It bothers me to know Satan will use those headlines to plant doubt in the minds of many nominal Christians and church-going young people. It should teach us all a lesson: When the media attacks the Bible, don’t assume the journalists have it right. When scholars are quoted, bear in mind that the secular press highlights the skeptical voices while ignoring the best scholarship.
The Second Source of Doubt: Personal Loss of Confidence in God’s Plan
The other source of doubt is more subjective; it’s personal. When things don’t go as we’d like, we sometimes lose confidence in God’s providential control. This happened to the disciples in the storm on the Sea of Galilee. According to Matthew 8, “Suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’” Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and the waves, and the sea became calm.
What to Remember When You Lose Confidence in God:
The gospel stories involving the storms on Galilee provide a series of pictures of our own responses during times of fear and crisis. In the middle of a storm, we’re prone to panic. Doubt comes naturally. It may be momentary questioning. It may be logical fear. But these are human responses that, though natural, are unworthy of faith. Though they’re logical, they are only logical if we forget the power and promise of the Master. If we allow these doubts to linger, they will grow into disillusionment.
What Is Disillusionment and How Does it Lead to Discouragement?
Disillusionment is a terrible state of mind to be avoided at all costs. Just look at the term itself. When we become disillusioned, it implies we once had a great dream or love or passion or goal. Now we’ve decided it was never real to begin with—it was an illusion. We were tricked or fooled, and we are giving up on the illusion. We are disillusioning ourselves.
This often happens in a marriage. When a couple falls in love, it’s a great dream coming true. It’s the culmination of a lifetime of searching for the “right person.” For a little while we’re carried along by the euphoria of “being in love.” But as time goes by, we see one another’s faults. We doubt the love we once felt. We become disappointed with the other’s behavior. How many marriages have collapsed because people didn’t know how to turn disillusionment into determination; their disillusionment turned into discouragement and defeat.
The same can happen to our Christian lives. God moves in mysterious ways, and sometimes He doesn’t respond as we expect. Our prayers aren’t answered as we’d planned. The storms soak us to the skin and we feel we’re sinking without a trace. We begin doubting our Lord, and the doubt grows into disillusionment. That leads to discouragement.
What Is Discouragement? And How Do We Battle Back When We Are Discouraged?
Discouragement is the collapse of our courage, of our faith and stamina. While everyone goes through discouraging periods, the Bible takes an unusually hard line against giving in to discouragement. Perhaps you’re discouraged now as you read this article. Your doubt and disillusionment have ripened into discouragement. It’s normal to feel discouraged, but it’s unwise to stay that way. We have to battle back. We have to fight with the words of Scripture.
Read these words as though God were speaking them personally to you: The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged…. Haven’t I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go…. Don’t be discouraged, for your work has a reward…. So then I ask you not to be discouraged…. (Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:9; 2 Chronicles 15:7; Ephesians 3:13, HCSB).
Remember Your Basic Training:
In your battle of faith, stay focused on the basics. Remember your basic training: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Keep your eyes focused on the Victor and your mind filled with His Word. There’s a tremendous force to faith, and when Satan pulls out his big guns of doubt, disillusionment, and discouragement, we can bring out the weapons that prevail.
Remember the battle cry of 1 John 5:4…
And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.