New Hope Notes

When In Doubt

Pastor Elwin Ahu
November 25, 2007 - W0747

It is the crazy shopping weekend after Thanksgiving! Everyone has a shopping list. Even my little son Jared has a toy list in his head! The Top Ten List for Christmas Gifts this year includes flat screen high-definition TV as number one! It is OK to have a wish list for Christmas and not have it all fulfilled but it feels very different when it comes to real life issues.


What happens when your prayers are left unfulfilled long after the holidays are over? What do you do when there is no healing after prayer and your loved one dies? What is next when you have prayed for reconciliation but your marriage ends in divorce? What do you do when you lose custody of your child though you prayed with all your heart? Often, after we have prayed and prayed but still we did not get what we thought we needed, we begin asking. “Where is God?” We begin to doubt God.


This is an important message before Christmas because if we do not control our doubts then it will lead to bad decisions. Did you know that, in Hawaii, there is a suicide every 3 days or 123 suicides per year? Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of violent death in Hawaii, more than car accidents. And, there are 12 attempts at suicide for each actual committed!  Uncontrolled depression is the leading cause of suicide. Unfulfilled prayers and wishes can cause us to doubt God and lead to disappointment and depression. It is important to manage our doubts because if we do not, it can lead to bad decisions and tragic results.

Today’s lesson comes from the Book of Mark. The Book of Mark tells us of Jesus, His 12 disciples, their healings and their miracles like feeding the 5000 and then feeding the 4000. In one story, Jesus took the disciples up the mountain and left the other nine at the foot of the mountain. When Jesus eventually descended from the mountain, He found the nine disciples He had left there arguing with a crowd that had also gathered there. The crowd was arguing with the disciples because they had asked the disciples for healing and it wasn’t happening.  One father approached Jesus and told Him that His disciples had failed to exorcise the spirit from his son. I can imagine that father’s disappointment when he came to the mountain and found that Jesus was not there, then to ask the disciples to heal his son and to not have that done after praying for so long.

Jesus told the father to bring the boy to Him. The Bible continues
, “And when he saw [Jesus], immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling about and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And it has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘”If You can!” All things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father cried out and began saying, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief’” (Mark 9:20-24).


Note that the father confesses some doubt or unbelief to Jesus. Often we say that we have been praying and praying but nothing happens. The reality is that we are saying that we believe BUT we cannot follow God’s will completely or we have some doubt. For example, “All things are possible through Christ Jesus BUT…” “He is willing and just to forgive BUT…” “I know the plans He has for me BUT…” I believe that it is our big BUTS that stand in the way of God!


The father with the possessed son was an unbelieving believer. It’s an oxymoron – like “jumbo shrimp” or “freezer burn” – but Jesus healed that man’s son anyway. But aren’t miracles only for believers? Isn’t there supposed to be belief without doubt and then, and only then, God’s blessings are to follow? Not necessarily. The father was not unfaithful but rather honest about his doubts. So remember…



That father was asking the Lord to take what little faith he had and to use it according to the Lord’s will. He trusted that God knew what was best. Jesus did not say that the father had too little faith so that there would be no miracle. The Bible continues, “And after crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead!’ But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up” (Mark 9:26-27).


We often pray and still do not get the response we want. We should remember that only when the father confessed his weakness then God was able to strengthen his faith. He was in effect saying that he did not know everything but he would be fine with whatever God did with his life. By admitting his doubts, he showed his real trust in God. It could be said that he had a child-like faith as the Bible favors. Knowing everything before you follow God’s will is not faith.


A child wrote that God’s first job was to make people and his second was to listen to prayers. He is said that it is good to believe in God because God is the only one that can be with you everywhere. See how simple kids think? We should be more like children and not analyze so much because as it is written, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways; and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Is. 55:8-9).


In other words, God’s thoughts are so far beyond ours, why even try to analyze with our limited brains? But it is so easy to blame God when prayers and life do not go the way we want. It is easy to give up searching for closeness with God when we do not get what we feel we need. It is easy to fall into demanding that God conform to our ways but disguising it as prayer...




There are two ways we can relate to God; we can pray and trust OR we can demand and expect from God. If we do the latter, we are walking on tenuous ground. Demanding instead of trusting God will lead to much trouble for us. My little son Jared gets very upset when we discipline him by denying him dessert. He will say that he does not like me when I discipline him in that way. That is Jared’s way of trying to manipulate me into getting what he wants. It is that way with us and God, too. We try to manipulate God into giving us our way. We get angry with God for not blessing OUR way.


It is written, “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why
could we not cast it out?’ And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you. [But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.’]” (Matt. 17:19-21).


Some people will say, “If nothing is impossible, then why not ask God for everything? Why not pray to God to escape punishment for our bad behavior?” Well, Jesus was really saying that there is an amazing power He wants to give to you. Prayer is very powerful but the power is only given IF God can trust you and the prayer conforms to God‘s priorities. The disciples had not prepared themselves to have that power to heal. As the Bible says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). We need a relationship with God in which He can trust us with that power.


Sometimes we misperceive prayer as a simple four-step formula leading to things we want instead of having true faith. I may say that I enjoy my wife and spending time with her but if in reality I spend all my time doing something else then am I not a hypocrite? Is it like that with us and God? We talk about our faith in Him but by action do we treat Him as unnecessary? We should build our relationship with God through prayer, devotion and action everyday, not only when we want something. When we have doubts and do not understand we should still trust God with what we do not understand. You must …



There will always be unanswered questions about God and life. We can consume our whole life asking why when tragic events happen to us or we can simply trust God. We have to remember, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). On March 4, 1998, after a long bout with cancer, my dad committed suicide. I was a new Christian at the time and I had always intended to bring him to Christ but I never got around to it. I was devastated and of course asked God, “Why now?” And God answered me. He said that it was not a question of why but a question of what: WHAT was I going to DO in response to this tragedy, now?


Sometimes we can be doing the best we can – praying as faithfully as we can – and still nothing turns out the way we want. Even so, we are still obligated to follow God. We are supposed to trust God in our darkest hour. Take for example Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego…three faithful believers who were sentenced to be burned alive for their belief in God. When told that they would be burned, they said, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not…we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image…” (Dan. 3:17-18).


My Christmas prayer is that though we may not know what our future holds for us, that we do know who holds our future. I pray that we trust God in all things and pray for Him to help our unbelief. I pray that He sees our the prayers and our faith and says that is the faith He wants to honor. That is the faith we should have.


We all have doubts at some time in our lives but being honest with our doubts will lead to a greater faith. We cannot understand everything about God because His ways are too far above our limited minds. But even when we have doubts and tragic disappointments, we should not allow those doubts to degenerate into demands to God.


True faith and prayer are very powerful. We should live by what we do know and trust God with what we do not know. And even if we do not get what we want, we should still trust and obey Him.




1.      How does being honest with your doubts lead you to a greater faith?

2.      Tell about a time when you were honest with your doubts to the Lord.  What happened?

3.      Tell about a time when you disguised your demands as prayer.  What happened?

4.      Have you ever prayed for the wrong thing?  When did you realize it was wrong?  What should you have prayed for instead?  Did you?  What happened?

5.      Share about a time when you prayed for the right thing but it did not happen?  What did you do after that?  What did you gain from that experience?



"All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong with our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17 NLT)

 Sermon Notes Ministry: Debbie Chang, Leighton Loo,

                                                Doreen Rabaino & Jay Tsukayama