How Do I Handle My Times of Doubt? - Mark 9

A service plan focused on Christians' struggle between certainty and doubt, viewing Christ as the foundation on which our faith rests, in a series addressing life's toughest questions for Christians.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Certainty, even in the face of doubts that surface, is the theme of this service. We are honest about the questions that arise, and the doubts they create. But we do not stop there. We look to God's word and particularly to the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the certain foundation on which our faith rests.


WE GATHER TO MEET GOD

Prelude: "If You But Trust in God to Guide You", J.S. Bach [organ]
"How Firm a Foundation", Haan [organ]
or: "If You But Trust in God to Guide You", Lowenburg [handbells]
or: "How Firm a Foundation", David [piano]

The Call to Worship

*Opening Songs: "I Am the Lord Your God (PsH199)
"Lord God Almighty" RN40, SNC9

*God's Greeting and Congregational Amen!

*Song for Encouragement: "If You/Thou But Trust in God to Guide You" PH282, PsH446, RL151, TH670, TWC636


WE ARE RENEWED IN GRACE

The Call to Confession

Knowing that our hold on God is often much less than it ought to be, let us look to the Lord and ask that he hold on to us firmly and graciously.

Our Prayer of Confession

Compassionate and faithful Lord, we come to admit this morning that during recent days our faith has faltered, our trust of your promises has grown too thin, our love for you has been crowded out by our selfishness, our hold on you has not been very firm, and alongside of our belief there is unbelief.

We come in our weakness and ask for your grace. Please forgive us for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son. And hold us firmly in your grace. Amen.

The Assurance of God's Pardon - Psalm 46:10,11

Song of Gratitude: "You Are My Hiding Place" RN107, SNC180

God's Guide for Grateful Living - Matthew 22:37-40

The Children's Moment


GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS WORD AND WE RESPOND

The Reading of Scripture: Mark 9:14-27

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The Prayer for Illumination

Sermon: How Do I Handle My Times of Doubt?
(Life's Toughest Questions - #4)

*Song: "Faith Begins by Letting Go" SNC172
or: "We Walk by Faith" PH399, WOV675

*Our Affirmation:
We believe that the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who out of nothing created heaven and earth
and everything in them,
who still upholds and rules them
by his eternal counsel and providence,
is our God and Father
because of Christ his Son.
We can be patient when things go against us,
thankful when things go well,
and for the future we can have
good confidence in our faithful God and Father
that nothing will separate us from his love.
(from Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 26,28; © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI, 1-
800-333-8300. Used by permission.)

Anthem: "Be Strong in the Lord", Fettke

The Pastoral Prayer

Sermon: How Do I Handle My Times of Doubt? (continued)

The Reading of Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Our Affirmation:

As our substitute
[Jesus] suffered all his years on earth,
especially in the horrible torture of the cross.
He carried God's judgment on our sin;
his sacrifice removes our guilt.
He walked out of the grave, the Lord of life!
He conquered sin and death.
We are set right with God,
we are given new life,
and called to walk with him
in freedom from sin's dominion.
(Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony, art.27, ©1987, CRC
Publications, Grand Rapids MI, 1-800-333-8300. Used by permission.)

The Offertory: "Come to Us, Beloved Stranger", Held


WE GO OUT WITH CONFIDENCE

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Benediction:

Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you now and always.
Amen!

*Song of Faith: "Come to Us, Beloved Stranger" (Beach Spring) SNC153

Postlude: "Come to Us, Beloved Stranger", Wood [organ] or Porter [piano]

* You are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

It is helpful to give Christians the freedom and right to admit that they live with questions and doubts. Some will be more comfortable than others in admitting that, but those who are conscious of such struggles often find the struggle more intense because others don't seem to give them the right to have it. It is important to give folks the right to ask "why?" about matters of faith.

Two important considerations should surface early in this message. "Doubt" needs to be defined and distinguished from "denial". To doubt is to examine and question something; to deny is to reject. There is a big difference. Secondly, it's OK to have doubts and not necessarily a sign of weak or endangered faith.

The story of the father in Mark 9 puts us in touch with a man who lived with faith and doubt, belief and unbelief, side by side. He had both and he came to Jesus for resolution of the struggle. Others experienced the same thing - Peter (Matthew 14:31), Thomas (John 20:24,25), and even the disciples near Ascension Day (Matthew 28:17).

It is important to notice how Jesus responds to people with doubt. There is no evidence of impatience or rebuke. He accepts them, encourages them, and calls them to a higher level of faith that will hold on without clinical evidence.

But there is one "clinching certainty" that rises above all others and the second part of the sermon focuses on this. It's the historically verified fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12, presents a very cogent and logical argument that all of our Christian faith would collapse if it were not true that Jesus was raised. But the certainty of his resurrection gives us the right to look questions and doubts squarely in the face and then go on to certainty in faith because of Christ's resurrection. We stake our faith on such a reality!

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

  1. The prelude suggestions can be found in the following sources:
    -"Six Organ Chorals" by J.S. Bach (Schubler, ed. Reimenschneider), published by Ditson [1952] (M)
    -"Four Hymns of Rejoicing" by Raymond H. Haan, published by Morningstar MSM-10-518 [1998] (E-M)
    -"If Thou But Trust in God to Guide Thee" by Kenneth Lowenburg, published by AGEHR AG-23005 [1992] (for 2-3 octave handbell choir)
    -"Here I Am, Lord" by Anne Marie David, published by Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7566-5 [2002] (M).
  1. Notice the nature of the dialogue in the opening hymns - God speaks to us, we call one another to worship and we praise him. If your congregation is not familiar with "Lord God Almighty" we encourage you to use a soloist or ensemble on the stanzas with the congregation joining on all refrains.
  1. We've included the suggestion of "We Walk by Faith" because it uses the language of the sermon text. This hymn can also be found in Gather-Comprehensive, The Faith We Sing, and The 1982 Hymnal (Episcopal). It is interesting to note that each of these hymnals pairs this text with a different tune.
  1. The anthem "Be Strong in the Lord" by Tom Fettke is arranged for three-part women's voices and is published by Hope [1994] (E-M). It can also be found in a congregational hymn format in "The Worshiping Church" No. 661.
  1. The offertory music for organ can be found in "Seven Settings of American Folk Hymns" by Wilbur Held, published by Concordia 97-5829 [1984] (E).
  1. The postlude music can be found in:
    -"Woodworks vol. 2" by Dale Wood, published by SMP KK400 [1989] (E-M)
    -"Day by Day" by Rachel Trelstad Porter, published by Augsburg 11-10772 [1996] (M)

Liturgy Notes:

1. You will notice that we have not included the "Declaration of Trust" in the opening of worship ("Our help is in the name of . . ."). We have, instead, reserved it for the conclusion of the service so that we express such trust as we receive God's parting blessing.

2. The presentation of the sermon is scheduled in two parts. The first sets forth an empathetic presentation of the reality of doubt in the Christian's life, helps us to identify the tension we feel because belief and unbelief exist side by side in us, and shows us that we are in the company of many others who have felt the same. Some of that tension remains even while we affirm our faith and engage in prayer together. The second part of the sermon explains 1 Corinthians 15 and its teachings of the sure resurrection of Christ as the "clinching evidence" and foundation of our faith.

3. The two affirmations of faith come from the confessional statements of the church. The first is from the historic Heidelberg Catechism. The second is from "Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony", which was written by a Synod-appointed committee of the Christian Reformed Church and included in the Psalter Hymnal (p. 1027). For copyright permission, please contact CRC Publications at (616) 224-0819, 1-800-333-8300 or info@crcpublications.org. The Heidelberg Catechism also appears in the Psalter Hymnal (pp. 870-871); to use this version, contact CRC Publications.

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