25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:25-33 (NIV)
Many people say that faith is the opposite of doubt. Certainly looking at verse 31 here, this appears to be the case. Yet many people who are thought of as pillars of the Christian faith throughout the history of the church were perplexed by nagging doubts. In fact, to doubt our ability to fully comprehend truth without error seems normal and human given the finiteness of our experience, knowledge, and reason.
Maybe the problem lies in our definitions of faith and doubt. Think of Faith as certainty of the will or volition. Lack of doubt is certainty of the mind or cognition. One has to do with decision-making, one with thoughts and ideas.
We are saved by Faith in Christ, not in lack of doubt. No wonder James said that faith without works is dead. It is not that faith is not enough, needing to have works to tip the scales in our favor. No. Lack of actions is inconsistent with a decision to live by faith.
In verse 31, the Greek word translated “doubt” would be more literally translated, “double standing” or “double minded”. If faith means your will is focused to do and be one thing… its opposite is a will that is not… it is divided… double.
Let’s look at the story of Peter and Jesus. When Jesus said to come, Peter got up and climbed out of the boat. What was the state of his mind at that point. His great faith is shown by his decision to climb out of the boat. However, since he had never walked on water before in his life… he must also have had much doubt in his thoughts.
More Faith + More Doubt resulted in walking on water
The passage further states that as Peter was walking he began noticing the rough waves and began to sink. He wavering in his faith. But he certainly had less doubt than before, since it is easier to think you can walk on water if you have done it and are doing it.
Less Faith + Less Doubt resulted in floundering in the sea
As he cried out, Jesus rescued him. Jesus asked Him why he lacked faith… why he was double-minded. Those on the boat cried out, “Truly you are the Son of God!”
Jesus seeks those who live by faith, but doubters are always welcome!