The James Webb Telescope has been in the news for weeks. Its images are stunning almost beyond verbal description, and its potential for space exploration and understanding appears to be unprecedented.
However, there’s a downside to its remarkable design: its gold-plated, flower-shaped mirror is the largest and most expensive ever sent into space. And now one of its eighteen segments has suffered “significant uncorrectable damage” due to a micrometeoroid that impacted the telescope in May. A “micrometeoroid” is a particle smaller than a grain of sand. The good news is that engineers were able to realign Webb’s other segments to adjust for the damage.
Closer to home, zebra and quagga mussels are spreading through US rivers, lakes, and bays. They are only the size of a fingernail, but they are clogging water supply pipes and altering the food web.
Both stories illustrate the fact that tiny objects can affect massive objects. The same is true spiritually: doubts can affect and afflict faith in ways that weaken our relationship with God, hinder our witness, and undermine our ministry.
To be sure, doubts are an essential part of faith. Frederick Buechner calls them “the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” From Job to Jesus, the most innocent people in Scripture have some of the gravest doubts. It is normal to have questions about any relationship, including our relationship with God.
It is not helpful, however, to allow our doubts to linger without addressing them. The longer they accumulate like mussels on the hull of our souls, the harder they can be to remove and the more damage they can do.
Today, let’s consider one response to doubt that can be foundational to our faith and our lives.
Filling Texas with silver dollars
Scripture promises, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). We can “know” with absolute confidence and settled assurance that we have eternal life. How?
By trusting the Bible, the “testimony of God” (v. 9). Why should you trust it? When doubts come regarding the Bible, what do you need to know?
The Bible is God’s word because it keeps its promises.
For instance, the Old Testament makes at least forty-eight specific predictions about the coming Messiah, each one fulfilled completely by Jesus Christ.
The odds of Jesus’ fulfilling just eight of these predictions, as calculated by mathematician Peter Stoner, is one in ten to the seventeenth power. That’s a one followed by seventeen zeroes.
To get the picture in your mind, fill the state of Texas two feet deep with silver dollars, mark just one, and give me a chance to find it blindfolded. My odds are the same as those for Jesus’ fulfillment of just eight of the Old Testament’s predictions about the Messiah. The Bible keeps its promises.
The Bible is God’s word because it agrees with itself.
Comprised of sixty-six different books written over fifteen hundred years by at least forty authors, with no discrepancies regarding doctrine or faith practice—this is clear evidence of the trustworthiness of God’s revelation to us.
And the Bible is God’s word because it has been transmitted accurately to us.
The ancient world wrote on papyrus, a thin paper that disintegrated in time. As a result, we have no originals of the Bible, or Caesar’s Gallic Wars, or the Histories of Tacitus, or the work of Aristotle, or any other ancient book. But we have copies. How accurate are they?
We have five thousand ancient Greek copies of the New Testament, and ten thousand in other ancient languages. These copies go back to forty years after the originals were written.
Compare the Bible to Caesar’s Gallic Wars, with only nine or ten manuscripts, none earlier than nine hundred years after Caesar. The Histories of Tacitus were fourteen books; only four and a half remain, none closer than nine hundred years after Tacitus. Of Aristotle’s books, only five manuscripts remain of any one work, none earlier than fourteen hundred years after Aristotle.
Some scholars estimate that the Greek New Testament we have is 99.2 percent the original, and the remaining .8% affects no matter of faith or practice.
Trust the Bible because it keeps its promises, it agrees with itself, and it has been given to you accurately. Examine your doubts in its light. Find what God says on the subject and know that it is true. And many doubts will disappear in the light of the word of God.
My favorite prayer in the Bible
My favorite prayer in the Bible is recorded in Mark 9:24. After a father pleads with Jesus to heal his demon-possessed boy, Jesus says, “All things are possible for one who believes” (v. 23). And the father exclaims, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
You can pray that prayer today, and Jesus will hear you and help you. One way he will answer you is by speaking to you from his word.
- I. Packer called the Bible “God preaching.”
When last did you listen to one of your Father’s sermons?