"To counsel the doubtful" is a lofty-sounding goal that might put most of us off from attempting to do it at all. But I am not one of those who thinks that the spiritual works of mercy apply to some of us and not all of us. All of us, I believe, are called at various times to counsel the doubtful in the same way that we are all called to instruct others in the faith to the best of our abilities.
Who has not been doubtful about their faith at some point in their lives? I certainly have. Satan loves nothing better than to bring doubt to our minds. Isn't that what he tried to do with Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11)? Satan said, "If you are the Son of God, . . ." Starting off with "if" was meant to sow doubt. Obviously Jesus didn't need anyone to counsel him away from doubt, but he had just come off of 40 days of fasting and prayer. Plus Jesus was well versed in the Word of God.
Doubt about our faith does not come from God. When we come across someone who is doubting, what should we do? Let's take them in the reverse order of what Jesus did with Satan's temptation. Remind them of what Scripture says. Pray with and for them. Fast for them. And if we need to refer them to someone who can answer their questions more completely, we can do that too.
The same approach works if we are the one who is doubting. Read Scripture, pray, fast, consult an elder in the faith.
For Reflection: Times of doubt come and go. What do I do when I am doubtful? When I come across someone who is doubtful, what is my response?
Let us pray. "I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me. Save me, O Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues" (Psalm 120: 1-2).
Immediately upon his public ministry, Jesus began to perform miracles. Luke gives these accounts in his gospel to show that Jesus is the anointed one of God, the Messiah. Because people had seen him casting out demons and healing people, more and more people gathered to hear him preach.
Jesus had already healed Simon's mother-in-law of a high fever, when he sits in Simon's boat to preach to the people on the shore. Following the message, he told Simon to go out into the deeper water to fish. It was not the right time of day to fish and Simon knew it. But he went out anyway because Jesus asked him. They caught so many fish that one boat couldn't handle them all. So James and John bring out their boat to help (Luke 5:1-11).
This miraculous catch of fish, mid-morning, convinced Simon(Peter), James and John that Jesus was someone worth listening to. They hadn't asked Jesus to help them with fishing. Although they hadn't caught anything that early morning, and had no doubt missed out on a day's wages, they didn't complain. It seems Jesus arranged that miracle just to impress them. It worked. They began to follow Jesus.
For Reflection: Jesus may move in unexpected ways. After all, what does a carpenter know about fishing? Where will I see Jesus working today? If He calls me to do something I've already tried and failed at, will I try one more time?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the master of everything above the earth, on the earth and under the earth. All creation owes its existence to you.
Let's rejoin Elijah in his triumph on Mt. Carmel. Elijah prays. God sets fire to the sacrifice and the people are convinced once again that the Lord is God (1 Kings 18:30). Ahab and his false prophets are defeated. In fact, Elijah has the false prophets put to death.
When King Ahab reports to his wife Jezebel what happened on Carmel, she is none too happy. In fact, she threatens Elijah. By the same time tomorrow she intends to see him dead.
Elijah, fresh off the high of God's success on Carmel, and just having seen the 3 year drought ended (1 Kings 18:41-46), is so afraid of Jezebel's threat that he runs away and hides in the desert.
For Reflection: Elijah was a man of God, but still a man. He was subject to highs and lows, triumphs and defeats. We can ask ourselves why, when he had just seen how powerfully God worked, was he afraid of Jezebel. But the real question is, would I do any better? When I know God's power, why am I afraid?
Let us pray. God, it seems we all doubt you at some point in our lives, even when we know better. It must be frustrating for you. I'm sorry that I doubt you, sometimes on a daily basis. Lord, I believe. Help me to overcome my fear and unbelief (see Mark 9:24).
As we grow in maturity in Christ there are things we must "put off" according to Paul. Since Paul is fond of lists, let us list here the things we are to put off: your old self, deceitful desires, falsehood, anger, stealing, unwholesome talk, grieving the Holy Spirit, bitterness, rage, brawling, slander, malice, sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking, darkness, drunkenness (Ephesians 4:17 - 5:20).
Paul gives, of course, another list of what we are to "put on": our new self, righteousness, holiness, truth, wholesome talk (psalms, hymns and spiritual songs), kindness, goodness, compassion, forgiveness, love, thanksgiving, light, understanding, the Spirit.
Many of these have to do with our words, what we say to one another. As James says in his letter, if we control the tongue we control the entire person (James 3:1-12). If we change the way we speak, we will change the way we act.
For Reflection: If we don't find ourselves more in the second list from Ephesians than the first, can we find a way to immerse ourselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs?
Let us pray. I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly. . . . I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth . . . . (Psalm 40: 9-10).
Wouldn't it be wonderful to have Jesus himself explain the Scriptures to us? All those little things (and big things) we've wondered about would be explained. He could tell us exactly how Moses and the Hebrew people crossed the Red Sea. What got into King Saul to make him want to kill David? Why did He choose to be born at that particular time?
Jesus explained many of those things to some of his disciples after he rose from the dead. When Jesus was walking with two of his followers on the road to Emmaus, Luke (24:27) tells us that "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." What a privilege!
For reflection: What Scripture would I most like to have explained by God?
Let us pray. Jesus, I ask you to give me new insight into that Scripture today. Just as you explained things to your disciples on the road to Emmaus, help me with that passage today.
Jeremiah, like Moses, made objections to God's call. Jeremiah's excuses were "I do not know how to speak" and "I am only a child" (Jeremiah 1:6). I don't know how old Jeremiah was when God called him, but being young seems like a good reason to postpone being a prophet. However old he was though, God did not accept that as an excuse. In fact, God said, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you" (Jeremiah 1:7-8).
As with Moses, God promised to tell him what to say. As with Moses, God promised to be with him. As with Moses, God sent him to a hostile audience. God did not promise that Jeremiah would not suffer for being a prophet, but he promised to rescue him. "Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you," he assured Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:18-19).
On the outside, it might look like Jeremiah was a failure because, on the whole, the kings and the nations did not listen to God's word through him. But in God's eyes he was successful because he completed the task God gave him; he fulfilled his calling; he was obedient. He did not let his original excuses - I don't know how to speak and I'm too young - hold him back.
For reflection: How obedient am I to answering God's call? Do I trust God to give me the words to speak when I need them?
Let us pray. Lord, here I am. I trust you not to call me to do anything you will not enable me to do. I place my trust in you.
How hard was it for Joseph to believe the angel who told him Mary was innocent? It is an incredible thing to believe - that Mary is having a child by the Holy Spirit. Even today it is one of the hardest things to credit that God became man through a woman. And yet it is a founding pillar of Christianity.
It helps that it had been foretold that God would send a Messiah, a Savior. More specifically, Isaiah prophesied that "The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). Did Joseph remember that prophecy? Did he ever doubt?
For reflection: When I have doubts, do I turn to God for answers and reassurance?
Let us pray. "To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. . . . Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior" (Psalm 25:1-2, 4-5).
"I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11). The Lord spoke those words to people in captivity. He was encouraging them to live their lives to the full - to build houses, plant gardens, marry, have children and grandchildren - while they were in captivity. "Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper" (Jer 29:7).
Like a good father, even when he is punishing his children for misbehaving, he wants them to do well; he is on their side and planning to help them do better. He also encourages them to make the most of a bad situation. Don't sit and sulk. Don't give up. Do what you can to improve your own life and the lives of those around you. If you work for the peace and prosperity of those around you, you too will benefit.
For reflection: It has been 2500 years since this encouragement from the Lord was spoken. These are still words to live by. What am I doing to increase the peace and prosperity around me? Do I have a tendency to sulk or to keep moving forward, knowing that God has good plans for me?
Let us pray. Father, I know that you have good plans for me, plans to prosper me and not provoke me. Help me to keep holding on, moving on, going forward, working for the betterment of all. May peace and prosperity surround me wherever I go.
It is not easy to have the faith to believe that God will do what he says or that he will fulfill a promise, or enable us to do what he has called us to do. I'm sure the early disciples had their moments of doubt, so we are not alone when we doubt too.
In Hebrews 11 there is a terrific discourse on faith which is very encouraging as it goes through a list of ancient people and what they did by faith. First it gives a definition of faith - being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). There's the rub. How can we be certain of what we do not see?
Let's take one of the examples given in Hebrews 11. God promised Abraham and Sarah a son. They were not young when the promise was made to them, and it didn't happen for several years. It's no stretch of the imagination to think that there were times when they were not sure or certain. Do you suppose Abraham went around bragging to his relatives, "I'm going to have a son"? Maybe he did. But what might the reaction have been when he said this year after year, with no evidence, and he and Sarah not getting any younger? Thankfully, God continued to reassure them and provided the proof for their faith. They had Isaac. God had further promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. Abraham's faith extended to that promise, but he never saw the fulfillment during his lifetime. It was faith that enabled him to be certain of what he did not see.
For reflection: Even people known for their great faith struggled to be sure of what they hoped for and certain of what they did not see. Faith depends upon knowing God and trusting God to fulfill his promises. The evidence given in the Scriptures is that God is trustworthy. What evidence have I seen of that in my own life? Am I sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see?
Let us pray. Father, I know the promises you have made to me. Some of them I have seen come to pass, and some not. Today I need encouragement and reassurance so that I can continue to have faith.
Healings continue to be reported in the Acts of the Apostles as we return to Peter's life and ministry in chapter 9:32. Peter healed a man named Aeneas who was paralyzed. How? Simply by saying to him, "Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat." There is no long drawn out prayer. There is no, "Oh Lord, if it be your will." Instead there is a statement of faith, "Jesus Christ heals you" followed by a command, "Get up and take care of your mat."
Who knows how many people Peter witnessed Jesus healing? No doubt quite a few, so he learned from the master. Jesus healed simply by command. Jesus knew it was the Father's will to heal people; so Peter knew it was the Father's will to heal people. Both acted out of complete faith, with no doubt of what the Father wanted done.
For reflection: How often am I able to act confidently, out of complete faith? Do I know that it is the Father's will to heal?
Let us pray. Father, sometimes I lack the faith to do the things I know you want done. Sometimes I am afraid of being ridiculed. Or I am just afraid of doing things "wrong". I am the one in need of healing today, Father. Heal me physically, spiritually, emotionally. Heal my unbelief.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.