In spite of our intellectual comprehension of the good news of the Kingdom as taught by Jesus – that God is the Father of every man, and that all men are brothers with a heavenly destiny – a faith-son may experience occasional bouts of self-doubt and insecurity with regard to their individual standing before the Father. While they may firmly believe that God has sons on earth, they find it difficult to believe that they themselves are among that number. Some view the privilege of sonship to be so lofty that a common person simply could not qualify. This is especially true for those who have long been taught that they specifically are not and could not be sons due to timing, age, gender, race, and even righteousness.
Even those who can accept their sonship and do experience the witness of the Spirit find that when encountering the pressures, difficulties and other perplexities of life, the witness of the Spirit is not always palpable. As a result, insecure feelings rise as to their heavenly inheritance even to the point of questioning whether they have unknowingly sinned in some way that would cause the spirit to withdraw. One day they are rejoicing in their hope, and the next day they are forlorn and despondent.
We want our brothers to know that these feelings of insecurity are common and not at all signs that the Spirit is not with you. We believe that once you understand how the witness of the Spirit operates, many of those feelings of doubt and insecurity will dissipate and you will truly begin to understand, not only the workings of the Spirit, but the operation and profound power of faith itself. And you will know for a certainty that you are indeed a son of God, in spite of all things to the contrary.
Doubt is defined as a feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or the nature of something. Thus, doubt originates in a lack of the ability to confirm a matter. Mortal man confirms matters through his sensory organs. He confirms matters by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or touching them. And when he cannot perceive a matter through his senses, he has doubts about its reality. This is not a bad thing. It is the way man was made. His body is his means of exploring and experiencing his environment, and he encounters his environment by his sensory perceptions. Therefore, we could say that doubting is human. It is neither good nor bad; it is status quo in the reality of being human.
Thus, when we seek to conquer doubt about our sonship, we are really seeking to conquer the limitations imposed on the mortal human being. The conqueror must therefore seek something better, something more than human. The conqueror must seek the spiritual because a spiritual man does not need to rely on his physical senses to confirm his spiritual reality.
“But a physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know [them], because they are examined spiritually.”
– 1 Corinthians 2:14
Yet, doubt serves the important purpose of challenging the veracity of so-called knowledge. Healthy skepticism exposes false and spurious teachings that may deceive us. It purifies information so as to cull together true facts, and it releases us from unfounded fear and superstition. So doubt, up to a point, is an asset to the mature spiritual mind.
Nevertheless, doubt itself is not a reality. It’s only a tool, as described above, to be used by us. Properly managed, we control the doubt, doubt does not control us. But if we accept doubt as a reality – if we believe that doubting itself is substantive and has power – it will grow into unreasonable fear and will pursue us in all our endeavors.
For example, we may find that once we allow doubt a place of lodging in our minds, we experience a domino effect of negativism. We not only doubt the first idea, but as we consider each consecutive idea, the doubt is compounded. At first, we only doubt our sonship, but in short order we begin to doubt our value as a father, a mother, an employer, a congregation servant, a teacher, etc., and we end up with a feeling of complete worthlessness. But as we said, doubt is not a reality; it is only an illusion. It can be conquered by faith.
Faith is a small word with huge implications. As John said 'the conquest that has conquered the world, is our faith.' (1 John 5:4) Faith is the all-powerful conqueror of doubt, and it is easily applied.
Think of faith as the light switch in a dark room. When you switch on the light, the darkness dissipates. There is no struggle between light and dark fighting for possession of the room. Once the light is switch on, light wins! It is the same with faith. Once we exercise faith, doubt is immediately destroyed. There is no struggle – doubt cannot contend with faith. We simply say: “I am a son of God ” or “I have faith in Jesus’ words that I am a son of God” or “I accept God’s offer of sonship,” etc., and hold that faith in our hearts, then doubt disappears. Brothers, it really is that simple. And as long as we hold that faith thought, doubt cannot find a place. The only potential struggle is the struggle to flip the faith-switch.
That faith is the first step toward confirming our sonship was expressed by the Apostle Paul when he wrote:
“The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.
- Romans 8:16
The “spirit itself” is, we believe, the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13), and “our spirit” is the Spirit of God that dwells within us. (1 Corinthians 3:16) These are the two witnesses that confirm our sonship. Notice that the ‘spirit itself’ is a confirming witness. In other words, it seconds the witness of ‘our spirit.’ So first, we must exercise faith that we are sons of God, then the Spirit of Truth can manifest and add its confirmation of our sonship as a further witness.
Understanding this sequence of events helps us understand why a person who is waiting for a witness from the Spirit before he has faith in his own sonship will be waiting a long time, even forever. We will find ourselves famished while in the very presence of the bread of life. (John 6:40), searching for the very God who lives within us. We will seek for the treasures of the kingdom with yearning hearts and weary feet when all these things are within our immediate grasp if only we could exercise a living faith.
The first leap of faith instantly puts us into a different mental paradigm. Since we are no longer waiting for manifestations that can be perceived by the body, we become spiritual men and women who are led by faith. And then we begin to examine our reality from a spiritual perspective, with the mind of Christ:
“However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things, but he himself is not examined by any man. For “who has come to know the mind of Jehovah, that he may instruct him?” But we do have the mind of Christ.”
– 1 Corinthians 2:15-16
When we have accepted within ourselves that we are sons of God, then we can expect the Spirit of Truth to bear witness.
The Spirit’s Witness
So many of us assume that the witness of the Spirit will be perceived by our physical senses, thus we begin to look for signs. But as noted above, spiritual matters are not examined by the physical senses. When we look for signs, we are returning to the flesh – the physical man.
Jesus wants his followers to operate on the faith level, instead of the physical level where signs and indications are required. He understood that the Jews of his day were a fleshly physical minded people who needed signs to prove spiritual matters.
We can look to the occasion when Jesus fed 5,000 people with 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish. (John 6:1-13) One would think that after performing such a miracle, the people surely would know he was sent from God. And at first, it appeared they did:
“Hence when the men saw the signs he performed, they began to say: “This is for a certainty the prophet that was to come into the world.”
– John 6:14
But the very next day, the same crowd viciously rejected him because they could not put up with, nor understand, his teachings. (John 6:28-71) Jesus knew that the performing of miracles would not have the effect of making true disciples; only listening to and accepting his teachings would. He earlier said:
“Most truly I say to you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate from the loaves and were satisfied. Work, not for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains for life everlasting, which the Son of man will give you; for upon this one the Father, even God, has put his seal [of approval].”
– John 6:26-27
This also explains why Jesus often told those he healed not to tell anyone. (Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 7:31-37; Mark 8:22-26) Signs and miracles rarely make real disciples.
Having said that, we do acknowledge that the realization that one is a son of God may bring with it a profound emotional reaction or experience. Recognizing that we are a child of the ineffable Father of the universe can be an overwhelming joy. But that experience is a human reaction, not a manifestation of the Spirit.
Neither make the mistake of expecting to become strongly intellectually conscious of the outpoured Spirit of Truth. The Spirit never creates a consciousness of himself, only a consciousness of the Christ. From the beginning Jesus taught that the Spirit would not bring attention to itself.
“I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present. However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to you.”
– John 16:12-14
The witness of the Spirit, therefore, is not to be found in your consciousness of the Spirit but rather in your experience of enhanced fellowship with the Christ and in your exhibiting the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) which are a natural consequence of your spirit adoption. If we today are looking for signs from the Spirit confirming our sonship, we are going about it the wrong way. It is not the signs that prove our sonship, it is our faith.
So when we are feeling insecure about our sonship, we need only turn on the light of faith by openly declaring our sonship with God “without wavering” (Hebrew 10:23), and all doubt dissipates. Then the Spirit of Truth will bear witness by guiding us into all truth, especially truth about ourselves. We can also bolster our faith by putting on the complete suit of armor:
“Stand firm, therefore, with your loins girded about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and with your feet shod with the equipment of the good news of peace. Above all things, take up the large shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the wicked one’s burning missiles. Also, accept the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word, while with every form of prayer and supplication you carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit. And to that end keep awake with all constancy and with supplication in behalf of all the holy ones”
– Ephesians 6:14-18
Confusion, being puzzled, even sometimes discouraged and distracted, does not necessarily signify resistance to the leadings of the Spirit. Such attitudes may sometimes connote lack of active cooperation with the Spirit and may, therefore, somewhat delay spiritual progress, but such intellectual emotional difficulties do not in the least interfere with your status as a faith-son of God with the certainty of heavenly adoption. Ignorance alone can never prevent survival; neither can confusional doubts nor fearful uncertainty. Only conscious resistance to the Spirit’s leading can prevent it. (Matthew 12:31)
Does this appear too simple? Too presumptuous? That merely having faith that you are a son of God is all that is needed to be a son of God? If so, you have fallen victim to fleshly thinking. Do not let the flesh separate you from your hope. Put on the ‘mind of Christ’ and ‘let the dead bury the dead.’ (Matthew 8:22)
Remember the saying ‘its always darkest before the dawn.’ In the same way, your doubts always most stubbornly assert themselves just as they are about to crumble. Instead of succumbing to doubt, turn on the light of faith and the darkness will flee.
Having started out on the way of life everlasting, do not fear the dangers of occasional human forgetfulness and mortal inconstancy. Do not be troubled with doubts of failure or by perplexing confusion. And above all, do not falter or question your status and standing as a faith son of the incomprehensive Father of All, for in every dark hour, at every crossroad in the forward struggle, the Spirit of Truth will always lead us, saying, "This is the way." (Isaiah 30:21)
For more discussion about our sonship see: Foreordained from the Founding of the World, Freedom of the Children of God, Hold Fast to the Sacred Secret, Moving Forward in Faith, and Who Are Led By Spirit?.