I have written extensively on this blog on the issue of Christian doubt. I have avoided talking about it’s connection to personal sin in our lives not because I don’t believe that the root of doubt can be sometimes traced there, but because, in the minds of some, personal sin is the only reason for doubt. I have argued against this. However, I do think it is important for us to realize that doubt is very often rooted in our sinful choices. In fact, crossing the line of disobedience consistently will tear apart every aspect of our faith.

Let’s start at the beginning: Disobedience is a choice. Faith is not. Well . . . what I mean is that I cannot just decide to believe like flipping on and off a switch in my head. It is more complex. However, disobedience, from a biblical standpoint, can and does rob us of faith that we have. Habits in our lives form faith connections. Once that line of disobedience crossed, it gets easier and easier to cross it again. We have all been there. What we have to understand is that when God says to do something and we decide not to,  it eventually becomes habit. These habits necessarily create connections of unbelief. Why? Because they are performing acts which mirror unbelief. And like with any habit, it gets easier and easier to disobey. Once it is a habit, we begin to find excuses for our waywardness. We become very good at finding ways to justify our disobedience. How do I know? Because I am an expert. Don’t get smug; you are too.

“My anger outbursts may be bad, but at least they are not as bad as his.”

“I am entitled to spend all this money on myself. After all, look how hard I worked.”

“I made all the right decisions. I deserve to think more highly of myself than I do of that person, who can’t get it right.”

“Why should I share? This is a tough world. Either eat or get eaten.”

“You don’t buy a car before you test drive it. Why shouldn’t I live with my girlfriend before marrying her?”

“After all I have been through, I deserve to get drunk.”

“So many bad things have happened to me, I have the right to worry.”

These types of justifications for our sin are a reflection of our humanity. They are emblematic of the flesh. We will hear this type of rationale (from the devil on our shoulders) until the day we die. But knowing what is right and not doing it is destructive to every aspect of who we are, especially our faith. Justifying our sin leads to further disobedience and, ultimately, to a loss of faith. Some of you reading this are suffering significant doubt because you are disobeying regularly and justifying your disobedience in one way or another. It has become a habit.

James tells us that when we know what God says but do not act accordingly, we are in danger of having our faith paralyzed.

James 1:22-24
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.

This tells us that there will be a battle within us for our whole lives; we will be fighting to graduate from hearing God’s truth to doing God’s truth. But when we don’t obey – when we don’t change the problems we see in the mirror – we will develop a condition of toxic disobedience.

Christ told a parable that many of you are familiar with. It is often called “The Parable of the Seeds,” but should probably be titled “The Parable of the Soils.” It appears in Luke 8:5-18. In essence, we have the seed, which is the word of God, and the soil, which is our heart. The seed is spread liberally. Some of the seed falls on the path, and Satan picks it up before it can take root. This reflects a person who did not believe at all. Other seed falls among rocks, where it finds some root, but due to the persecution involved with following Christ, it eventually dies. Other seed falls among the thorns. This seed finds root for a time, but dies as well, due to prioritization of the things the world has to offer over caring for the nascent faith. Finally, there is the last type of seed. It falls among good soil, takes root, and bears fruit that lasts.

Unfortunately, many people see this parable only in regards to one’s salvation. In truth, it is written to both believers and unbelievers. It illustrates the way we all believe. The soil of our heart must be prepared. Every time God speaks, his “seed” falls on one of these four types of soils. Every time God’s word is given, these are our options. True faith is represented only by the soil that is not mindful of persecutions or worldly pleasure.

But this is not why I include this parable in this post. What comes next is the most telling and the most important part of the story. Christ concludes the parable this way:

Luke 8:18
So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.

Notice here he says take care how you listen. This is very interesting. The parable is not concerned with “what” we listen to. We already know it is the word of God. The issue is “how” we listen. If we listen to God’s word and are not prepared to obey, it would be better off if we did not listen at all. Christ says that the one who has shall be given more. What does that mean? It means that the one who listens and obeys will be given more. More what? More faith. That is the subject: how we believe. But when we don’t obey, even what we have will be taken away. So what will be taken away? Our faith. In other words, when we build a habit of hearing God but not obeying God, our faith will turn into doubt and shipwreck our life. Even the faith that we had will be taken away.

I come across people all the time who wonder why their faith is failing. They wonder why they doubt so much. Please don’t take this as judgmental condemnation (as I often find myself here), the the reason why doubt often exists is not due to some intellectual or emotional difficulty, but because there is disobedience in our lives. We have known what God’s will is yet consistently turned their backs on him, rationalizing our disobedience. In the country of disobedience, faith is no resident. Once disobedience becomes a pattern, even what you have will be taken away.

If your faith is suffering significantly, if you conviction is not so strong anymore, if doubts have infested your reading of God’s word, there may be a pattern of disobedience that has taken hold in your life. The solution is terribly difficult and terribly simple at the same time: obey. Build patterns of obedience. Make a commitment to act upon everything God says. When you fail, don’t rationalize it. Ask for forgiveness, pick yourself back up, and try again. If you fail a thousand times (which – join the club – you may), pick yourself up a thousand and one times. Don’t ever settle for rationalized disobedience. In this sense, faith is a decision.

Having trouble with doubt? Visit my ministry www.dealingwithdoubt.org.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    7 replies to "Doubt and Disobedience: Is there a Connection?"

    • Donnie

      If I’m not mistaken, J. Piper did a series in which he concludes that all sin is a result of unbelief, specifically unbelief or lack of faith in Gods promises. It is interesting that you have stated, and I think rightly so, that unbelief, or doubt, or lack of faith, is a result of sin, specifically the sin of disobedience. God gives faith, so we can obey, he gives more faith, so we can obey more, and he gives more faith…Sounds like even after justification, we are still responsible, and he is still pouring grace on us.

    • TDC

      Part of the difficulty (for me at least) is the lack of consistency and communication. When my faith faded away, I was struggling with sin, of course. But they were no different from the struggles I had for years.

      The only thing I did differently was deciding that I needed to be intellectually honest and read opposing views. As a convert to Catholicism, this meant reading Protestants. Than, I realized I needed to read non-Christians as well. Unless you categorize that as sin, of course.

      I will say that my disobedience got much worse as my faith died, and it lead to a downward spiral in which each lead to each other, but it is hard to see disobedience as the initial cause of the disbelief. It was more the other way around.

    • Val

      Not sure, I certain feel some doubt is caused by our sin/disobedience but I think that a lot of false faith is built up in believers too. People put God in a box all the time (unintentionally) then, when something challenges their box, they attack it, instead of examining their faith. Some have tied their view of God to a particular view or belief – and when that false view is exposed, they “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and walk from God completely.

      A careful examination of our faith is essential, and very, very freeing. Too much of evangelical Christianity is about silly assumptions that God’s word (which is actually Jesus, but people call the Bible this) says this or that. When they realize it doesn’t they have a crisis. I’ve seen it with evolution, traditional marriage (if you follow this formula, you will have a great marriage – oops, no guarantees), healing, and heterosexual’s views on homosexuality.

      Truth is, beyond the apostle’s creed we really don’t have absolute biblical assurances other than opinions and preferences. Most protestant doctrine is a reaction to something else in society (whether it be Catholicism, or the protestant denomination/identity they are trying to break away from), not what really matters as a christ follower.

    • […] another blog I follow rather closely. In this one, C. Michael Patton shares some thoughts on the connection between doubt and disobedience. While doubt definitely does cause disobedience, he shares with us how disobedience can cause us to […]

    • Rich

      There is most definitely a relationship between faith and obedience. The bible teaches us a hearer of the word of not justified but a doer of the work is. If we believe, we will obey. If we are not obedient to the word of God, the bible teaches we will be punished with everlasting destruction. I also believe obedience is necessary for blessing. If we obey God, he will bless us. Unfortunately, many do not understand the blessing contained in the word of God. God teaches us that Christ became poor, that we could become rich through his poverty. This is found in the bible. If they only knew that obedience to every word of God would end in prosperity and riches for them, more would be obedient and would no longer stuggle in poverty. That being said, I encourage all to obey the word of God entirely. How can you say you believe God and do not do what he says, this is hypocrisy. When you disobey, you are denying Christ. That being said, the bible tells us to “give and it shall be given unto us, pressed down, shaken together and running over shall men give into our bosom”. And again, the word commands us to “give to him that asketh, and for him that would borrow turn thou not away”.

      I ask for all who want to obey God to donate to my ministry of prosperity in truth. Please give as much as you can spare to help me further the truth and free others from poverty. The bible is true, and Satan is fighting people to disobey the scriptures in order to keep them under the curse of poverty. Please click on my name above and donate at my blog titled “Bible Prosperity”.

      If you do not obey the scriptures, you are not in the faith period. I believe that many professing Christians will read this and refuse to donate. There are many professing Christians who rebel against God and refuse to obey his word because they are seeking to serve God and mammon which will not profit. If this is not of God, let God be the judge. Our only responsiblity is to obey God.

      Again, I ask that all who wish to obey God and further the gospel to donate to my blog found by clicking on my name above. Please give as much as possible that we together can reach more people and free them from poverty with the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is a gospel of prosperity. However, God will only prosper us when we live by every word of God, refusing to rebel. If you refuse to give, and it is in your power to give, then you are not obeying the scripture that tells us to give to him that asketh. Please obey God, and please partner with me to further the gospel of Jesus Christ. God bless.

      Remeber the bible is clear that we will reap what we sow. If we sow to the spirit, we will of the spirit reap life everlasting and God will supply all our need according to his riches. Give and watch God bless.

    • Theodore A. Jones

      Paul is much more sharply precise and defining of what the word that James is referencing really is.
      “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.”Rom. 2:13 Therefore it is not a mystical struggle within, as Patton conjectures, but it is fully understanding why you must have the faith to obey this word of law correctly or not be declared righteous by God. To my knowledge there has never been or will be any theologian who will teach you the correct Way to obey this word of law.

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