“Beware The Third Big D: Doubt!”
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12: 2 (The Message)
[Note: Read “Beware the Big D: Distractions!”, May 2020, and “Beware the Other Big D: Deception!”, July 2020, at http://www.MediaSavvyKids.org]
Our current culture is filled with doubts! For example, vaccine advocates tell us to “trust the science”, that vaccines keep us safe from COVID-19 and its harmful complications. Those opposed to the vaccines point to various ramifications and concerns about the injections, including possible unknown side effects that might not yet be noticeable. Both sides present their cases – over and over! We are left with doubts. How can both positions be true?
Joe Biden received the largest number of votes in the November 2020 election – more than any other presidential candidate in American history. Was the 2020 presidential election manipulated? How can we know? Doubt creeps in when we hear opposing views, each supported by seemingly reliable authorities.
As political candidates run for office, the public is bombarded with so-called “facts” that support each candidate’s viewpoints, often contrary to their opponents’ positions, and the result for the voters is often confusion and doubt.
“Breaking news” on news networks is used as a hook to catch viewers’ eyeballs, but frequently contains sensationalized headlines with unsubstantiated information.
Doubt can cause us to question, analyze, and dig deeper to learn the truth. But sometimes doubt causes us to be more than just a wise skeptic… it often leads to cynicism, paralysis, or a purposeful abandonment of useful information, such as “I’m tired of the confusion presented by the news, so I just won’t watch or read any news anymore.” Doubt can be a powerful motivator to learn more, or it can deceive us into believing lies or even becoming apathetic.
Doubt reared its deceiving head in the Garden of Eden.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
[The serpent didn’t tell Eve that God was lying; he simply planted doubt in her mind. This confused her and caused her to dismiss God’s warning.]
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
And just think: this all happened before today’s polished propaganda and media-saturated lifestyles! But Satan still prowls and uses doubt to cause many to turn from God’s ways and live self-centered lives.
“Two studies conducted by both the Barna Group and USA Today found that nearly 75 percent of Christian young people fall away from the faith and leave the church after high school. One of the key reasons they do so is intellectual skepticism.” (www.gotquestions.org/falling-away.html)
“Of course, there are those who struggle with doubt. Maybe they aren’t so sure about the resurrection or that Jesus really is the Son of God. Perhaps they’ve got doubts about the Bible. This could be honest doubt, and that needs to be expressed in an open community. Doubt can be a great pathway to growth and learning. Doubt could also indicate a lack of discipleship–they’ve never really been taught or lead to grapple with the basics of faith. But doubt can also be a smoke screen for sin.” (“10 Reasons People Turn Away From Faith in Jesus”, tomgreentree.com)
So, how do we know what we know? How do we free ourselves from the turmoil of doubt? It’s not enough to read posts on social media or hear information from friends, family, or coworkers. It’s necessary to make decisions based on supported facts from a variety of sources… or one good source: God’s Word – the grid of Truth.
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
Children and teens watch their parents and other significant adults in their lives. They take their cues from the words and actions that align with the viewpoints and beliefs of these adults. When they see patterns that resonate as truth, it enables them to claim these as boundaries or foundations for their faith.
Stimulate conversations with these open-ended discussion-starters:
• “Jesus was asked, ‘What is Truth?’ by Pilate. How would you answer this question?” (Read John 18:37-40)
• “How can you know what is accurate or true?”
• “What types of subjects or topics do you have doubts about? What can you do to remove doubts?”
• Discuss this thought: “Doubt causes fear.” Ask why.
• Discuss this scripture:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:5-7)
• Spend time reading scriptures together and discussing their meaning for today’s Christ-followers. Allow questions and share answers or suggest that you’ll find out the answers and report back.
Note: Share this blog with your church’s youth pastor as a lesson for youth group gatherings.
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Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
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