Daily Excerpt taken from Doubt: Trusting God’s Promises by Elyse Fitzpatrick

DAY 2

The Doubting Father of Our Faith

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?” (Gen. 17:17)

We’ve all heard how Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (see Rom. 4:3, 9). He’s referred to as the father of those of faith (see Rom. 4:12; Gal. 3:9), and he had great faith when he trekked up Mount Moriah to sacrifice Isaac. Hebrews 11 describes him this way: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son. . . . He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead” (vv. 17, 19).

When asked to sacrifice the one on whom all the promises of God were fixed, Abraham thought, God gave me this son; if he dies, God will raise him up. Abraham seems like a man who never struggled with doubt, doesn’t he?

Thankfully, the Bible never paints false portraits of God’s children. Sure, there were times when Abraham’s faith shone, but . . .

  • Abraham doubted God’s protection, so he told his wife to lie . . . twice (see Gen. 12:11–13; 20:2).
  • Abraham doubted that God would give him a son, so he suggested that God use his servant instead (see Gen. 15:2–3).
  • after believing the promise of a land as an inheritance, Abraham doubted and demanded a sign (see Gen. 15:8).
  • Abraham gave in to Sarah’s unbelief and fathered a son, Ishmael, by her servant (see Gen. 16). Again he tried to substitute Ishmael for the promised one (see Gen. 17:18).
  • both Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s word and laughed at his promise (see Gen. 17:17; 18:12).

While Abraham did have shining moments of certainty, most of the time he was trying to fight off doubt and unbelief. In fact, it wasn’t until after the birth of Isaac that his faith grew strong. Both Abraham and Sarah seem to have had a much easier time walking by sight than by faith. Did they believe? Yes. Did they doubt? Yes. They were just like us. Doubt didn’t disqualify them, and it won’t disqualify you, either.

Think back over the story of Abraham and Sarah’s life. If you’re not familiar with it, take time to skim Genesis 12–20. Perhaps you’ve heard sermons about Abraham’s great faith and you’ve surmised that there’s something innately wrong with you because you can’t picture yourself sacrificing to God like that. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Even if God is asking a difficult obedience from you, he has also promised to be with you. Perhaps part of your doubting has to do with what you fear God might ask of you. Don’t test the strength of your faith in imagined scenarios. If God calls you to a difficult time of sacrifice, he will strengthen you for it.

Make a list of the steps of faith that God is actually calling you to take today, and then pray for grace to begin to obey. What he wants from you today is simply a heart that says, I’d like to believe and obey. Please help me.


Excerpt taken from Doubt: Trusting God’s Promises by Elyse Fitzpatrick


 

Excerpt taken from God for Us by Abby Hutto

This excerpt was taken from pages 29-35 of God for Us: Discovering the Heart of the Father through the Life of the Son by Abby Ross Hutto.


2

A God for the Skeptics

J O H N  3 : 1 – 2 1

 

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,

that whoever believes in him should not perish but

have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into

the world to condemn the world, but in order that the

world might be saved through him. (John 3:16–17)


Skeptic’s Ordered World

Skeptic was the youngest child in a large family. With so many “parents” telling him what to do, he survived by becoming an expert at reading people and learning their rules—not necessarily to obey them but in order to gain some sense of control over his world. All this rule navigation made relationships feel like a lot of work, so he kept most people, including his few friends, at arm’s length.

Skeptic flew under the radar during his adolescence, going through life without being bothered (or truly known) by anyone else. He figured out what he could get away with and stayed out of major trouble. His carefully ordered world afforded him the predictable life that he wanted. But something happened to turn all that on its head—during his freshman year of college, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. Skeptic’s sense of security fell apart as he faced his inability to assess, forecast, and control every situation. He felt exposed in his weakness.

The day his mother died, as the rest of his family gathered together, Skeptic slipped out the back door to seek refuge where he was most comfortable: in nature. As he stood in his place of solace, he wept. His ordered, predictable life had left him completely and utterly alone. He had no one to turn to as he tried to make sense of this unforeseen pain. He spent most of the summer withdrawn and isolated in his loss.

Skeptic had gone to church some as a child, so he had grown up with a vague sense of God’s benign existence. But something shifted inside him that summer. Tragedy showed him that, unlike everyone else, God didn’t have a rule book to help Skeptic to anticipate what he would do next, and Skeptic realized that he couldn’t control what God took away from him. By the time he returned to college, Skeptic’s heart had hardened toward God. He had the proof he needed to believe that God was not good.

How could Skeptic maintain an ordered life in a world that was ruled by an unpredictable, powerful Being? He had always tried to manipulate the rules to keep trouble at bay. But what had his careful planning gained him in the end? Grief and pain had still found him. In his anger, Skeptic decided that God did not get to control his choices. In fact, he would stop being controlled by anyone else’s rules; his appetites and desires would take control instead. He would live however he chose, no matter who he used or hurt in the process.

Like Skeptic, we all learn by making observations and then interpreting the world based on what we have seen. Do you ever judge God’s character based on his “behavior”? Knowing the intention of God’s heart is so important! If, like Skeptic, you don’t have a good understanding of his character and nature, you may begin to build a case against him. You may make decisions about who God is based on what you have experienced or seen in life. When pain enters your story, you may be tempted to become wary and suspicious of God. Sometimes life makes so little sense that it’s easier to live as if God didn’t exist at all.

Our hearts naturally distrust God. We humans tend to be suspicious of anything that tries to control us, and we prefer to rely only on ourselves. But when we come face-to-face with our inability to manage every aspect of our lives, we are left with questions. When we suffer loss, when doubt creeps in, or when we feel lonely, where do we turn? Who can we trust?

We need a God for the skeptics.

 

Darkened, Skeptical Hearts

John wrote his gospel to challenge the assumptions his readers had made about God’s character and nature. Even in the way he introduced his readers to Jesus, he was calling them (and us) to question our thoughts and beliefs about this Son of God. The other gospels begin in ways that feel expected. Matthew starts with a genealogy that outlines Jesus’s family tree. Mark starts with a prophecy, then launches into the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry. Luke tells of the miraculous circumstances surrounding the birth of the Christ child. But John opens his book with a poetic preface rich with symbolism and meaning. He describes Jesus’s coming almost like a comet of light that streams out of heaven to land on a darkened planet.

Whenever darkness appears in John’s gospel, it is linked to spiritual darkness.*1 The darkness does not respond well to the light. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). John uses an intentionally ambiguous word for overcome.*2 It means “to seize.” So we can understand this verse to mean that the darkness did not “seize with the mind,” or comprehend, the intention of the light. But the word also has a sports connotation: as one wrestler seizes another to bring him down, so the darkness tries to wrestle the light.*3 But the light will not be brought down and snuffed out.

In using this word, John describes the natural tendencies of our skeptical hearts. When God shines the light of who he is, it becomes immediately clear who we are not. When his mother died, Skeptic saw that God alone was the giver of life—Skeptic could not control who lived or died. The illumination of God, and our self-realization that follows, causes us to squirm. Our natural inclination is to try to wrestle down the light. Some of us, like Skeptic, do this by trying to assert our control. Others try to extinguish the light by ignoring it altogether. When we cannot “seize” God with our minds, our darkened hearts turn toward skepticism.

 

An Expert in Darkness

As we see in the gospel of John, skeptical hearts don’t intimidate God. Jesus interacted with people who were full of doubt, despair, and even defiance. He didn’t avoid conversations with these people or try to bully them into agreeing with his point of view. Nor did he approach everyone the same way. He tailored his conversations to get to the heart of each person’s need, because he was interested in knowing each one and being known by them. One person he engaged with in this way was a man named Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was a man of prominence: a member of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee,*4 and a leading scholar and teacher of the Old Testament.*5 He spent his days instructing others in the law of God and his evenings debating its interpretation. He was an expert—an educated man who knew his subject well and was dedicated to keeping Israel’s religion pure. I’m sure that, like most experts, Nicodemus was confident in his understanding of his area of expertise. He was more familiar than most people were with the ancient writings of the Old Testament. He was the authority.

As a respected scholar, Nicodemus would not have been impressed by every new would-be Messiah. He would have analyzed their claims against Scripture. That’s most likely what brought him to Jesus’s door that night. Jesus spoke with authority, and he did incredible signs and wonders that had not been seen in Nicodemus’s time—signs and wonders that lined up with the prophecies of the Old Testament. Jesus also challenged the status quo, pushing his hearers to rethink their view of God. He used disruption to give people an opportunity to see things differently. Jesus was unsettling.

God often disrupts and unsettles us. When God allowed Skeptic’s world to turn upside down, he gave Skeptic a chance to rethink the assumptions he had made about God’s character and nature. God gave Nicodemus that same opportunity. This prophet from Nazareth could not be easily explained. His teachings had made Nicodemus uncomfortable enough to seek an audience with him. Nicodemus had questions, but unlike Skeptic, he leaned in to the disruption in order to seek understanding. The man to whom everyone else went for answers sought out the young prophet.

Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night, and John emphasizes this in order to tell us something about the state of Nicodemus’s understanding. As Jesus later says, “If anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him” ( John 11:10). Even with his expansive knowledge, Nicodemus was stumbling in the dark. He had mastered the Scriptures but missed the message. He was a teacher with more to learn.

 

Not More Information, but a New Birth

Though one was a lawbreaker and the other a lawkeeper, Skeptic’s and Nicodemus’s hearts were the same. Both men lived in spiritual darkness, one clinging to his passions and the other to his religious activity—neither grasping for God himself. They analyzed the rule books that governed their lives; they wanted control and a guarantee for the future. Neither wanted to be caught off guard, but God blindsided them anyway. Not content to leave them stumbling alone in the dark, God allowed disruption into their lives.

Nicodemus came to Jesus certain of where he stood. Jews of that time believed that you had to be exceptionally bad (an apostate Jew or a terribly wicked one) to be kept out of the kingdom of God,*6 so Nicodemus assumed that God would accept him because of his race and religious heritage. It never occurred to Nicodemus that he might not enter heaven after making a reasonable attempt to keep the rules. In his mind, salvation was a guarantee.

Nicodemus’s main problem was not a lack of information. He was an expert! He needed to understand that he was not in control. So Jesus unsettled him by revealing that simply being born into the nation of Israel was not enough. Being a Jew who tried to live according to God’s law was not enough. In fact, being a leading theologian and teacher of the law was not enough! A moral, well-ordered life does not gain a person entry into God’s kingdom. “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit,” Jesus told Nicodemus, “he cannot enter the kingdom of God” ( John 3:5).

Neither Nicodemus, who kept religious rules, nor Skeptic, who carefully navigated the rules of others, could control their lives or their standing before God. That requires a new birth—something that no human controls.


  1. See D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 186.
  2. Carson, 138.
  3. See James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John, vol. 1, The Coming of the Light (John 1–4) (repr., Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 47–48.
  4. The Sanhedrin was the ruling body of Israel. It was made up of seventy men who functioned as the “supreme court” and made judgments and rulings for the Jews. Pharisees were a highly influential sect within Judaism known for their lawkeeping (which included over six hundred laws based on the Old Testament), strict adherence to the Jewish calendar, and obsession with piety. Jesus addresses their pious lawkeeping by saying that even though their lives looked good on the outside, they had missed the heart of God by neglecting justice, mercy, and faithfulness (see Matt. 23:23).
  5. See Bruce Milne, The Message of John, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 74, 76.
  6. See Carson, The Gospel According to John, 189.

Daily Excerpt — Come to the Waters by James M. Boice

April 4

Trust in God

Psalm 56:1–13

In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. Psalm 56:4

There are two parts to David’s confidence:

1. Confidence in God. The first is that he is confident in God. He trusts God. Not man! Not circumstances! Not his own cunning, as useful as that seemed to have been at Gath, the occasion for writing this psalm (see 1 Sam. 21:10–15)! He trusts God: “In God I trust.” It is because of this that he could ask, “What can flesh do to me?” and expect the answer, “Nothing.”

So let me ask, Do you trust God? If you are a Christian, you have trusted him in the matter of your salvation. That is the greatest thing. God has saved you from sin, hell, and the devil. If you are a Christian, you believe he has done that. But if he has done that, can you not also trust him in lesser things like loneliness or even those sometimes dangerous circumstances that cause fear and desperation?

2. Confidence in the Word of God. There is another aspect to David’s confidence in God—it is based upon the Word of God. What is this “word of God” to which David refers? Clearly it is the entire self-revelation of God in Scripture given up to that time—the Pentateuch (the first five books) and possibly Joshua and Judges. This is only a portion of our Bible, but it was enough to make God’s character and desires for his people known. David therefore praises God for his Word, recognizing it as one of the greatest of all God’s good gifts to men and women.

It may also be the case, however, that David is thinking specifically of the words of God that were brought to him by the prophet Samuel, assuring him that he would be king over Israel (see 1 Sam. 16:1–13). That must have seemed a long way off when David was in Gath or hiding in the cave of Adullam. But no matter! It was the word of God, and though the fulfillment of that word might be long delayed, it was nevertheless absolutely certain. Therefore, it was not only in God but also in the specific words of God that David trusted.

You and I do not have individualized revelations from God delivered to us today by God’s prophets. We have the Bible. But the Bible we have is more extensive than David’s. It contains all we need to know about spiritual things. Equally important, we have the Holy Spirit to give us understanding of what has been written as well as the ability to apply it to specific areas of our lives.


This excerpt was taken from Come to the Waters: Daily Bible Devotions for Spiritual Refreshment by James Montgomery Boice.


3 New Releases Today!

Today is launch day for:

Indispensable: The Basics of Christian Belief by David Cassidy

Work: Its Purpose, Dignity, and Transformation by Daniel M. Doriani

Our Ancient Foe: Satan’s History, Activity, and Ultimate Demise edited by Ronald L. Kohl


Indispensable: The Basics of Christian Belief by David Cassidy

$14.99 | 240 pages | SAMPLE CHAPTER

A God-Man, a Holy Spirit, a breathtaking sacrifice, an unbreakable bond, a daily fight, an unshakable hope . . . each is indispensable to our salvation and to the shape and purpose of our daily lives. Do we understand their true importance? Pastor David Cassidy’s engaging, conversational exploration of the essentials of the Christian faith brings clarity and hope amid the confusion and uncertainty of daily life.

“What a great resource! . . . Provide[s] clarity to individual readers, as well as creating a foundation for good discussion when studied in a group setting.” —Nancy Guthrie, Bible Teacher; Author, Seeing Jesus

“[Presents] the eternal verities of the Christian faith in a clear and conversational style, without theological jargon or any ifs, ands, or buts. Indispensable is just that—both indispensable and a treasure.” —Steve Brown, Author, How to Talk So People Will Listen; Founder, Key Life Network


Work: Its Purpose, Dignity, and Transformation by Daniel M. Doriani

$15.99 | 248 pages | SAMPLE CHAPTER

Providing historical background and inspiring stories of God-honoring workers, Daniel Doriani explains the Bible’s teaching on the nature, glory, misery, and eventual restoration of work. You will learn what it means to be faithful at work, even in risky places, and what steps you can take to transform your workplace and the world. Work matters. And because it matters, it’s worth reforming. God knows the good you do when you work faithfully, even if you don’t see it yourself. 

“The last few years have witnessed a flurry of books that treat a Christian view of work. This is the best of them. Well written, historically comprehensive, theologically informed, exegetically sensitive, this is now the ‘must read’ volume on the subject.” —D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“An important contribution. . . . Provocative and helpful.” —Timothy Keller


Our Ancient Foe: Satan’s History, Activity, and Ultimate Demise edited by Ronald L. Kohl

$15.99 | 168 pages | SAMPLE CHAPTER

Christians are at war with an enemy who delights in rendering believers powerless, ruining their testimonies, and destroying their lives. But are we taking Satan seriously? Are we on guard against his agenda? Here respected pastor-scholars shine the light of Scripture on our ancient foe and how he operates, equipping you to “resist the devil” in the power of Christ. 

Contributors and Chapters:

R. Kent Hughes — Satan in the Garden

Thomas J. Nettles — Knowing Satan

Ronald L. Kohl — Malevolent Methodology

Derek W. H. Thomas — The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

Roger Nicole — Conflict with Evil

R. Kent Hughes — Deliverance from the Evil One

Joel R. Beeke — Persevering in Satan’s Sieve

Thomas J. Nettles — The Final Demise

Sinclair Ferguson — All Things New