Doubts! doubts! doubts! Just a company of them around me all the time worse than Job's miserable comforters. What can I do with them? I should like to dismiss them, but it seems I can not. They make me much trouble, but it seems I can not get them to leave me. Especially are the doubts concerning my entire consecration aggravating, and those, too, concerning my entire cleansing. I fear to come out boldly and declare that I believe that Christ fully saves me now. I believe He can and will, but the words die on my lips when I attempt to bring it down to the present moment. Yet I know these doubts are dishonoring to God, who has made such great and glorious promises. Can you give me some instructions on what to do with doubts? How did you overcome yours? Please help me, in Christ's name.
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Pilgrim Sincere lives in what I hear is one of the best parts of Canaan. He had a great encounter with old Giant Doubt; so let us pay him a visit. We have met the old Giant already, and we have no hesitation in saying that if there is a worse giant than he in Canaan, we are not eager to meet him. Pilgrim Sincere may tell us something about him that it will be of profit to us to know.
Here! We are at Sincere's place already. There is no question of his victory over Giant Doubt. Such a shield of faith as his is I never saw before!
"Pilgrim Sincere, we have been talking with pilgrims and residents of Canaan, and now we have come to see you. Will you tell us something that will enable us to gain a freehold in Canaan? We have met many poor pilgrims who say they have never yet gained a clear title to a home here. They have been driven here and there by this or that old giant. We are eager not to be defeated in this great adventure in Canaan."
"If you will give all honor to Immanuel and none to me, I will relate my experiences -- a few at least. There are many giants in Canaan, very many of them. There is Giant Lust, who has slain thousands. Poor souls! Giant Puff-up, who causes pilgrims to act as foolish as did the toad that saw an elephant and burst itself trying to be as large; Giant Lethargy, who operates an opiate factory in a hollow that runs directly down into Egypt; Giant Covetousness, who decoys pilgrims to the silver-mine run by Balaam and Demas; Giant Pride, an evil giant who has troubled pilgrims for time out of mind; Giant Liar, who uses an abundance of camouflage; and others [Galatians 5:19-21]."
"My, you almost scare us naming them! Can it be we must fight all of them? Is not this that rest-land!"
"My dear pilgrims, this is Beulah-land, and Sabbath-land. Here is the true rest. But remember, Canaan has its giants, more so than the wilderness; the true rest is found in overcoming them. Do not be frightened. Look at the armor with which you are equipped."
"Sincere, the armor is all right, but it is ourselves that we are doubtful of. Can we use the sword and the shield as they should be used?"
"Indeed you can, pilgrims, no doubt of it. Why, when I got into Canaan I was so weak I nearly lost my life fighting."
"Tell us about it."
"About twenty-five years ago I entered Canaan. It was a great day for me! At last the long journey through the wilderness was over, the deep, wide waters of Jordan passed! Canaan was my own! I praised Immanuel and began to possess the land [Joshua 1:2, 3].
"Not long after that I met a lean, white-whiskered man named Legality. He said he was my friend. He looked venerable and sincere, even if he did appear rather stern and immovable! 'Now friend Sincere,' he said, 'I have something here that will help you walk safely and straight,' and with that he slipped a peculiar jacket over my head and buckled it up pretty tight around my waist [Galatians 5:1].
"'There,' he said, 'that jacket just fits you. You are in Canaan now, and must walk, oh, so straight and carefully! Why, if you make even ever so little a mistake, you will be punished, I fear, dreadfully. But that jacket will help you and keep you from doing anything far out of the way.' And with that he left me.
"Well, I wanted anything that would help me, so I kept the jacket on. It bothered me considerably. It was made of stiff, iron stays, woven in with rough haircloth, both of which were made, so Mr. Legality said, by one Mr. Over-Conscientious Scruple who lives in the town of Sensitive.
"Every move I made was retarded by that jacket. By and by sore places appeared where the end of the stays engaged my flesh. I met Mr. Legality once and told him how bad the jacket was treating me, but he said the cure was to buckle it on tighter. Oh, my, how it did hurt! But he said it would be dangerous to take it off. So I continued to suffer. I could not act freely in any matter.
"Just about this time old Giant Doubt met me. He carried a book and a big pencil. 'Sit down here while I give you an examination; that is my business,' he said. 'My lord has commissioned me to do this work.' Something inside me told me that here was an enemy; but he spoke with such a show of authority that I passively sat down. And he began.
"'How do you feel?'
"'I do not feel very good, just now.' I said.
"'I thought so. No doubt there is something wrong with you. Have you gained an established home in Canaan yet?'
"'No, I haven't,' I replied.
"'Well, you never will; at least there are serious doubts about it. It is my business to make sure that pilgrims possess the land. Did you put up your memorial stone!'
"'Yes, I carried a stone out of the middle of Jordan and set it up. I suppose it is there yet.'
"'That stone was no good, a little rough rock it was. Why didn't you select a nice large stone such as Pilgrim Joyful carried out?'
"'I did the best I could; that was the only stone I saw in passing through. I noticed it was not like Pilgrim Joyful's, and not like Pilgrim Honest's, either.'
"'No good, no good! Too small! I doubt if it is really stone at all. Did you leave all the wilderness luggage on yonder side Jordan?'
"'I intended to. I dropped the whole bundle as I stepped into the Jordan.'
"'I doubt it. I believe you have considerable wilderness trappings in your possession. More than that, I doubt whether you left all your load when you crossed the Red Sea. Did you?'
"'I thought I did,' I replied.
"'I doubt it. How do you feel now?' said old Giant Doubt.
"'I feel bad, worse than before the examination began.' I replied.
"'I see you do. Something is wrong with you. You have passed a poor examination. It is my business to carry you out of Canaan as unworthy to be in this good land. Come on,' and with that he arose and advanced toward me with both hands extended. I trembled violently, but seemed powerless to resist. He picked me up and started off with me. Just then I spotted a sturdy post with a sign-board nailed to the top. I eagerly sought to read the legend. 'Beware!' it began. 'At this place a certain old giant, named Doubt, has a habit of stopping pilgrims and taking them through a pretended examination. He claims to hold a commission from his lord to do this work. His commission is true; but his lord is Beelzebub. After the examination, he usually carries off the pilgrim who allows him to question him. Many have fallen to his devices. He is a cruel, old giant, and he carries his victims to' -- and here I could read no more.
"We soon left the main road and entered a dark valley called Vale of Destruction.
"'Let me go,' I shouted.
"'I will not, you are not fit to be in Canaan,' he replied.
"I struggled and shouted for help with all my might. He held me close, however, and the vale grew darker and darker.
"'O Immanuel, do send me help! Oh, deliver me from this cruel giant!' I cried. Just then there appeared ahead a stream of light, which came in from one side of the valley. When we reached the light, I saw a beautiful mansion built high up on the sides of a valley that broadened out in a beautiful vale named Hope. Some people were singing on the lawn of the mansion. Either they caught a glimpse of the old giant carrying me, or my loud shouts for help reached them. At any rate, I saw two of them start toward us [Galatians 6:2].
"Old Giant Doubt attempted to run faster, as he also caught sight of them; but a periodic rheumatism attacked him, and he made little progress. The two pilgrims, who I found were Valiant and Faithful, rushed to my rescue.
"'You wicked old Giant Doubt,' they shouted, 'let go of Pilgrim Sincere.' And they attacked him with their swords.
"'Sincere,' they cried, 'take your sword and use it!'
"By this time my arm was free enough to grasp the sword, and I gave the giant a close thrust. At this he dropped me and ran as fast as he could.
"'Poor pilgrim,' said Valiant. 'How fortunate for you that you shouted! We heard the call. Praise and honor to Immanuel.' And Valiant reverently lifted his hands and eyes heavenward.
"'Where did the old, evil giant overcome you?' asked Faithful.
"'Back at a place where there is a sign warning pilgrims against Giant Doubt. But I did not see the sign till he started off with me.'
"'I wonder if we can not mark that spot more plainly, so that no pilgrim will ever allow Giant Doubt to hold his false examination there?' asked Valiant.
"'No,' said Faithful. 'It has been tried over and over. No sign except the one that is there ever remains even if it is put up.'
"'What kind of garment is that you are wearing around your waist?' asked Faithful.
"'This is a jacket that Mr. Legality gave me to wear.' I answered.
"'The crafty villain,' exclaimed Faithful. 'Put it away from you!'
"But I was afraid to do this, and told them so. They related how that same jacket had caused them much trouble. They further said that no one could unbuckle it but me, as there was a secret lock on each jacket that no one but the wearer could work.
"After this I got back to the main highway again. But the first thing I knew was that old Giant Doubt was with me again [Matthew 14:28-31]. And he began to talk to me just as if he had never said anything to me before. I wondered what I should do if he attempted to carry me away. And then I remembered what I read on a monument just after crossing the Jordan: 'Every pilgrim must overcome the giants for himself.' But just how to do this I did not know. So I had another encounter with him.
"'Do you still think you are a pilgrim in Canaan?' he said. 'More than likely you will never find rest. I doubt it very much. See how bad you feel. And you are always saying or doing something that hurts you. Pilgrims should live better than you do.' And with that he grabbed me in his big, burly arms and nearly squeezed the life out of me. I couldn't fight at all. The jacket held me so rigid that I could not even use the sword or hold up the shield. In fact, Mr. Legality told me his straight-jacket was a better protection than any sword or shield; and I had gradually grown into dependency on it.
"Next day Giant Doubt assailed me again. This time he unmercifully beat me with his wormwood club. And after cuffing me about until I was nearly dead, he again left me. Then he came every day. It is peculiar how long he kept my company. Or, rather, it is strange how long I allowed him to be with me. And every day I found myself weaker; and when the old giant threatened to throw me into the sea of the dead, I had very little resistance in me -- just enough to keep him from his purpose.
"I found that every time I used the sword ever so little it scared the old giant; and when he shot hot darts, I found that the shield would stop them if I held it up. But that old jacket was very much in my way.
"At last I said to myself, 'I believe this jacket is a nuisance. Off with it!' and I pulled it off and threw it as far as I could down into the crevasse of Worn Out Laws [James 1:25].
"After this, I met Giant Doubt again. But my wounds had become well, and I determined to fight for my life and my liberty. I told the giant that, Immanuel helping me, I should not let him travel with me another step of the way.
"'Oh, yes I will!' he said. 'You can not travel without me. I'm your friend.'
"'You are no friend,' I cried, 'but an enemy. You have made my journey miserable. You have driven away my peace; you have killed my joy; you have beaten me, deceived me, and threatened me with death, and have indeed nearly killed me. Go! Get behind me! you enemy of my soul' [Matthew 4:1-11].
"And at this I smote him with the sword of truth. He ran away and got out his arrows to shoot at me as before; but I simply held up the shield, and not one hurt me [Romans 16:20]. Then I ran after him with all my might and chased him away -- and I haven't had a real encounter with him since."
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The cure for doubts is faith; not prayer, nor fasting, nor working -- just faith. Faith is believing God, believing just what God says. God has said many things and made many promises. Faith expects God to fulfill His word. Trust is faith holding on and waiting.
We are sanctified by faith; we enter into complete soul-rest by faith. There is no other way. We must come to God and simply ask Him to work His complete redemption in our hearts and fill us with the Spirit. After we give ourselves wholly to Him, after we lay all on the altar, there is nothing more that we can do except trust and obey. It is God's part to complete in us the work for salvation; our business is to trust Him to do it. We trust carpenters and builders to build our houses, we trust bankers with our money, we trust men every day and hour of our lives; shall we not trust God?
In all battles with doubt, go back to basic facts. Allow no confusion of mind, no agitation of spirit; calm every fear and find out just where and how you are. First, ask yourself if you are all the Lord's. Do you now lay on His altar your all? Do you now choose His will? Do you intend to serve Him? Do you answer, "Yes"? Put that down then as a settled fact. Never allow yourself to doubt a point that has been settled. Let it stay settled. Next ask yourself if you believe God is true to His word, if you believe He will do what He promised. If you say, "Yes," let that point be settled also. Stand by it. If you have met the conditions upon which God promised to cleanse and fill you, you must believe that God does these things for you.
Doubts have a way of coming in early in the morning. They are like bad neighbors, they come when they are not wanted. Doubts may arise because you do not "feel" as you should like to, or because you have made mistakes; or simply because you have been sorely tempted. You must learn that feeling is no true gage of your spiritual experience.
An encounter with doubts may be something like this: You awake in the morning and are possessed of a feeling that is utterly non-religious. You do not feel one whit as though you are fully saved and trusting, but just the opposite. Not having learned to pay no attention to this, but instead to jump up and praise and thank God for all His goodness, you begin to question, "Am I really and truly consecrated? Where are all my joyful feelings? Why do I feel this way? Surely something is wrong."
The longer you think, the more doubtful you become, and at last discouragement takes charge of your whole soul.
There is no harm, but good, in examining ourselves; it is all right to put hard and searching questions to our hearts as to our standing with God. But when doubts lead to such an examination, the result is usually disastrous.
Doubting gets to be a bad habit; one very hard to break. It is a sort of self-depreciating, self-deprecating, self-condemning habit. Doubting becomes easy and natural after the habit is formed. A chronic state of discouragement follows. You are as miserable as you can be. And yet the idea of abruptly cutting off the whole bad thing fills you with dismay. You are afraid to do it. A sort of up-and-down life seems preferable to a bold, upstanding victorious life. A sort of weakness or spiritual cowardice follows, too; and one habitually doubting prefers to be a pygmy, a dwarf, for Christ, rather than a real man, a warrior in Him.
Doubt has a dreadful reaction on the soul and mind. Its influence is deadening and damning. It shrivels and dries up the joy and spontaneity of service. It makes one feel inferior and weak. Instead of causing one to fight, doubts lead one to give up the fight; instead of prompting resistance, doubts make one lie down and get wounded and bruised. Doubts make us failures. They blight, mar, and drag down. They are the devil's own poison to kill off God's people.
There is only one thing to do to overcome doubts: have faith in God. Kill the doubts, or they will kill you. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4).