One of the things I’ve always loved about the Bible is the whole concept of it being the “living word”. There has always been a kind of metaphysical funkiness to the Bible that, to me, sometimes caused it to feel like a living organism in my hands. We’ve all experienced it to some degree or another—we’re reading through the Word, dutifully doing our devotions while we sip our morning coffee, trying to drown out the kids screaming in the background, trying to do our spiritual discipline, probably expecting this to be just like all those other Bible-reading moments (uneventful, yet we feel good for having done it), when suddenly we read something that we have probably read a hundred times, yet for the first time it takes on a new significance, a new edge, and it’s as if we have never in our lives read this particular verse before.
I am currently reading through the entire Bible, and in my handy dandy plan that came with my Bible, it has me actually reading the New Testament twice within the year. So that means that I already read this particular verse once before just a few months ago, but of course it meant little to me back then. Guess I wasn’t ready for it. How God has infused the Bible with this ability (yes, yes, I know, it’s His Spirit that is opening my eyes when they need to be opened, not the actual words on the page) is beyond me. It never ceases to amaze me how I can read something one week and just gloss over it, then read it the next week and it bursts to life. I assume this has something to do with our individual journeys and how our current experiences and circumstances intersect with this living word and cause it to apply to us here and now, whereas the first time we read it, our experience and circumstance was different, pulling our attention to something else we were reading at that moment. The thing of all this that perhaps blows my mind the most is when, say, I have not read the Bible in a few days and I miss my “assignments” for a few days, then, when I pick it back up, what I was supposed to read last Tuesday hits me right between the eyes on this particular day, in my current circumstance. It’s almost as if God kept me from reading it on Tuesday so I would read it on Friday instead, because He knew I would need it then, at that precise moment, to speak life into me. I don’t think I’m willing to say just yet that God keeps me from reading my Bible, but hopefully you see my point.
So the other day I’m sitting in my “comfy” chair in my studio (being the boss has a few perks—namely, I get a comfy chair) reading in Matthew, at the very end of the book, and I came across this little gem.
“The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted.” – Matthew 28:16-17
Now honestly, I must have read this particular verse at least a hundred times in my life, but for whatever reason, this time those last three words jumped off the page and lodged themselves in my brain. I just stared at them, and I think I even wondered if someone had snuck into my Bible and put them there, because I was certain I had never seen them there before. As I have just mentioned, it seems our circumstances in life often open the doors for the Spirit to speak to us through the living word, and this was no exception. I recently read a review of my book, Filming God, where the reviewer mentioned something to the order of, “Whether or not you believe Darren’s encounter with an angel…” For some reason that stuck with me. I wasn’t upset (I rarely get upset by people questioning me or calling me a liar or whatever—I always tell people it’s easy to be called a liar when you know you’re telling the truth) but more…surprised. You would think I wouldn’t be so naive any more! Why wouldn’t you believe me? It happened. I remember it as clearly as anything else in my life. But then again, I can’t really fault anyone for thinking I’m making it all up. I suppose if you look at what has come from this encounter, two successful films, two more on the way, an awesome production company and an even more amazing team helping me create the films of my dreams, yeah, I guess you could accuse me of making it all up to try and jump start my little media empire or something. Obviously that’s not what happened, but being a former skeptic and cynic, that’s probably how I would have viewed it in an effort to get out of having to take someone at their word and possibly change my own behavior and beliefs.
So when I read this particular verse in Matthew, I guess it resounded with me in a way because I was dealing with the concept of doubt in my own life. For the last four years, I’ve constantly had people doubt what I say. They doubt the miracles in my films because they didn’t actually SEE them with their own eyes. They doubt the stories they hear because they don’t know these people. They doubt my experiences because they think I’m trying to use them to make a few more bucks. It is just so EASY to doubt, and apparently, it always has been. I mean, look at the context of the doubt in this verse. The 11 disciples travel to Galilee, back to where it all started for them, they go to the place Jesus told them to go, then He shows up, the resurrected Christ. I mean, they see Him with their own eyes! They worship Him. Yet, immediately after this seemingly mind boggling, doubt-destroying encounter that THEY THEMSELVES HAD, they doubted. Was it real? Perhaps we ate some bad mushrooms. Was it all just a dream? Wishful thinking?
Let’s just be real. We all have doubts all the time. I know I do. Here I have become a spokesman of sorts for the supernatural and God moving on the earth today, yet I have just as many doubts as anyone. Sometimes I’ll even doubt my own experiences! As time goes by, and as voices come in from the outside accusing you of lying or saying that you didn’t really see what you think you saw, you begin to wonder if that experience you had was real or if it was all just your imagination. Luckily, God has seared that experience in my mind and heart, and I also took notes the moment after it happened, so I can always return to my own testimony.
I don’t think we are bad people if we harbor doubts sometimes. I think God fully understands our limitations and our weaknesses. If you continue reading that passage in Matthew, look at Jesus’ reaction to this doubt—doubt, might I remind you, that is coming from his closest friends and confidants. These are the disciples, for heaven’s sake!
“Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
That’s my Jesus. His dearest friends are in the midst of doubting the greatest moment in human history, doubting what their own eyes are seeing, and He doesn’t even address their doubt. He overlooks it. He comes near to them. Here I always felt bad about my doubts, thinking they would cause some kind of rift between me and God—after all, Jesus was always so big on belief and faith and having ears to hear and eyes to see. But instead, Jesus takes the offensive, and He comes near to them. He approaches them and tells them they’ve got work to do. He doesn’t address the doubt, because the doubt will be destroyed by His presence. He gives them…us…our marching orders, then reminds us that even in our doubt and our weakness, He will be with us always, forever and ever.
Presence overcomes doubt. Always. Nothing else could have changed my heart other than a real encounter with the living God. No amount of theorizing or proofs or evidence would ever be enough to break through my logical mind. Only an encounter could. Only His presence could. When doubt creeps in, here is your answer. Seek His presence. Ask for a new encounter. A fresh encounter of His love. Doubting in and of itself isn’t the worst thing you can do, that much is made clear at the end of Matthew. Living there certainly is, though, because when you live in a constant state of doubt, you keep stepping back with each step He makes towards you. Just stop, set aside your disbelief for a moment, and hear His words. Let them enter you and come alive, because that is what the word of God does. It lives.
“I am with you always, to the end of the age.”