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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes

Head on straight

On-point. Focused. Intent. Aimed. Purposeful. Decisive. Resolved. Missional. And, there are many other synonyms used to describe someone who is single-minded about their mission. They are also antonyms to being distracted, unfocused, wavering, uncertain, inattentive, or vague. Or, you might say, double-minded.

James wrote about double-mindedness. It was in the context of asking God for wisdom but can be applied to just about any significant area of believing God in faith. James wrote---

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without

reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting,

for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the

wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the

Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 1:5-8, ESV

Questions about double-mindedness shadowed my thirty-five years in pastoral ministry. Sometimes they were actually verbalized. Just as often they were unspoken for fear of exhibiting unbelief. Making the distinction between doubt and unbelief was always a subtext of preaching the promises of God and discussing the incredible nature of belonging to Christ by faith. Of course, unbelief is the absence of faith. Faith and unbelief are incompatible because light and darkness cannot exist together. Doubt, on the other hand, is basically untested faith, areas of personal belief that have not been proven to the individual in personal crises or issues that call for actions based on faith. So, James isn't condemning unbelief in the instance of asking for wisdom. He is expressing the difficulty of someone asking something of God when they have doubts about receiving it. You know, like doubting Thomas. He was a Christ follower who had to touch the nail scars to accept the resurrection of Jesus.

My most significant battles with genuine doubt involved the two most difficult personal crises of life, diagnosis with stage four transitional cell carcinoma, and the murder of our son, Brain Eliot Holmes. In both instances God gave Harriet and me promises about them. The cancer verse God gave Harriet was---

For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD... Jeremiah 30:17, ESV

On the evening of Brian's death this promise came to us---

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you

up in due time.

1 Peter 5:6, NIV

When these two verses were shared with the church and our family there were immediate questions. Did we really believe I would be healed of that cancer, and did we really believe God would lift us beyond grief at some appointed time in the future? They were a critical hours of ministry for us, the times when our faith, though genuine, was tested. What I remember about those days was the predicted outcome of James' warning. I was unstable in all my ways. While those doubts were hounding us, I couldn't get my head on straight. The foundations of faith were shaken. He taught us the old fashioned PUSH formula, to pray until something happened. He took away our doubts about both.

Part of that reflection was the discovery that one moment of doubting his incredible provision for life and the promises he had given us placed them all in question. The cancer threat was eleven years ago. Today I am totally cured. We still haven't received the promise regarding Brian's death but know we will. In his time, he will lift us beyond that veil of grief that covered us in those initial weeks and still hangs over us today.

No, I am not a paragon of faithful responsiveness to God or his promises. There are still times when we must re-encounter his promises and renew our faith. Like everyday. But, in counsel with so many others, I can attest to the unstable ways of being double-minded and how that doubt, although momentary, affected every aspect of my life. It was the further discovery that doubt was often the result of my own human fear and not disbelief in the one who holds the whole world in his hands.

And the point? Verbalize your doubts to him. Let him lead you to the point of certainty about what he says so that life and ministry is built on the solid foundation of his word and not the flimsy fears of human ability. It's about keeping our heads on straight.

Now. Let's go change the world.

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