God invites us to come to him just as we are. He accepts us just as we are. He meets us in our doubts, mistakes, brokenness and loneliness with grace and with truth. In this series we are learning from different characters from God’s story about how God met them and how he can meet us. We will learn what it means to extend the same acceptance he gives to us to others and how we can be a church that invites people to come and join us just as they are. We will also be challenged by the God who says “come as you are” that we don’t have to stay that way.
Do you ever put on a mask to ensure people don’t see who you really are or what you really think? John Burke author of a book about church called “No Perfect People Allowed” says this: “When we pretend we’re perfect – we’re stuck. But when we allow each other to be a work in progress, we find the support we need to authentically change.”
Do you ever have doubts? Doubts about relationships, career, value, worth and whether you are accepted? What about God? Do you ever have doubts about God? If you’re a Christian do you ever have doubts about your faith? What about when the storm comes or the crisis hits or you lose someone that you love?
If you’re not a Christian maybe the reason why you haven’t taken that step is because you have doubts and you think everyone else around you doesn’t have them so you couldn’t possibly be a Christian.
The Bible is full of characters who wrestled with God and faith and today we look at one of those, someone who had less reasons than most to wrestle but still did. His name was Elijah and he had some amazing encounters with God. At a place called Mount Carmel he sees God do an extraordinary thing as he defeats the prophets of the pagan god Baal. But immediately he is challenged by the King’s wife Jezebel and he starts to have some serious doubts. You can read the account in the Old Testament book of 1 Kings in chapter 19.
Despite the extraordinary things Elijah has seen God do in his life and through him he has doubts…why…because there is a fight brewing. Elijah is afraid and he is isolated. Fear and isolation are so often the precursor to doubt and Elijah is afraid. His doubts and fears are so crippling that he wishes he could just curl up and die. This is what doubt can do.
So what happens? Well first God provides practical solutions…rest, food, strengthening and energising. But Elijah also has to wait. He has to wait for 40 days and 40 nights. Then God invites Elijah to open up about how he is feeling. God already knows exactly how Elijah is feeling but he wants him to open up about it. He invites Elijah simply to stand in his presence and then and only then does he begin to speak. He meets Elijah in a gentle whisper.
Here we find the secrets to dealing with our doubts and fears. We need to drop the mask, open up and stand in the presence of God.
What next steps might we take? If you have doubts about the Christian faith and want to explore more about it in a friendly and relaxed environment why not sign up for the Alpha course which starts in October. You can sign up via our church website or via the Next Steps are at our hub on a Sunday morning. We can all make a priority of our Sunday services where we get to stand together in the presence of God and hear him speaking to us? You could also join a small group where you will have the chance to open up in a safe and relaxed setting.
We are also recommending a book and small group resources called No Perfect People Allowed by John Burke. Each chapter includes questions for discussion in small group settings.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion (on your own or in your small group)
Why do you think we feel the need to put on masks to cover up who we really are or how we really feel?
Do you ever experience doubt about things going on in your life or about your faith?
Why is it so difficult for us to admit our shortcomings to God?
Why do you think Elijah fled immediately after such a powerful encounter at Mount Carmel? Why wasn’t it enough for him to have seen all the things God could do?
Why do you think he just wanted to curl up and die? Does doubt ever have this kind of impact on you?
Why did God ask him what he was doing there?
How did God meet with Elijah? What does it say about God that he was prepared to meet with Elijah powerfully but gently?
- What next steps are you going to take to help with doubts you may be experiencing now or will be experiencing in the future?