When in Doubt, Don’t!

We’ve all done it…the sniff test. Whether it’s the jug of milk a day or two beyond expiration date or that previously worn shirt, a quick sniff tells us if were “good to go” or should make another plan. However, sometimes we’re just not sure.

H.A. Ironside told the following story:

Sandy was a thrifty Scot who objected to needless laundry expense, so when he wore a dress shirt to a banquet, he put it away carefully for future use. On one occasion when dressing for such an event, he took a used shirt out of the drawer and examined it with care, hoping to be able to wear it that evening. Not being quite sure of its strict cleanliness, he took it to a window, where he was looking it over under a better light than the room afforded.

His wife, Jean, noticed him shaking his head as though fearful that it would not pass careful scrutiny. “Remember, Sandy,” she called to him, “if it’s doubtful, it’s dirty.”

That settled it. The shirt went into the discard and another – a fresh one – took its place. Jean’s words may well speak to every believer concerning things about which conscience raises any question whatsoever. – Illustrations of Bible Truth

In Romans 14, Paul is advising the church on how to relate to one another in areas in which the Bible give no clear instruction. In those areas we are to exercise freedom, but not judge others who don’t share our convictions. Paul says:

20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.                                              (Romans 14:20-23 NASB)

Paul affirms that the Christian life is not as burdensome as some legalistic followers were making it in his day. However, one’s freedom is sometimes set aside for the benefit of a weaker brother, whose differing conviction in a debatable area is such that your freedom may sidetrack them.

IMGP6293In the end, however, it is important to have our “own conviction before God.” If we are doubtful about a matter and we do it, then that doubt turns into guilt (the conscience condemning our action). So, when in doubt, don’t. In other words, if you don’t have a firm conviction, avoid the activity until you get some conviction on the matter. Then, stick with that conviction.

So, here is a sniff test to apply to those debatable areas of the Christian life. When something comes up that is not clearly spoken of in Scripture, put it to the test:

  1. THE WORLD TEST. Is it worldly? Will it make me worldly to do it (John 15:19; 1 John 2:15-17)
  2. THE QUALITY TEST. Is it good for me physically, emotionally, and spiritually (Romans 12:9)
  3. THE TEMPLE TEST. Can I do it when I remember my body is God’s temple and must not be marred or misused (1 Corinthians 6:19)
  4. THE GLORY TEST. Will it glorify my Lord, or will it on the other hand possibly bring shame to His name (1 Corinthians 6:20, 10:32)
  5. THE BLESSING TEST. Can I honestly ask God’s blessing on it and be sure I’ll not regret doing it (Proverbs 10:22, Romans 15:29)
  6. THE REPUTATION TEST. Is it apt to damage my testimony for the Lord (Philippians 2:15)
  7. THE CONSIDERATION TEST. Am I being considerate of others and the effect this might have on them (Romans 14:7, 21)
  8. THE APPEARANCE TEST. Will it look bad? Does it have the appearance of what is wrong or suspicious (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
  9. THE WEIGHT TEST. Could this slacken or sidetrack me in running the Christian race (Hebrews 12:1, 1 Corinthians 9:24)
  10. THE COMING OF CHRIST TEST. Would I be ashamed to be found doing this when He comes again (1 John 2:28)
  11. THE COMPANION TEST. Can I invite Christ to go with me and participate with me in this (Matthew 28:20b, Colossians 3:17)
  12. THE PEACE TEST. After having prayed about it, do I have perfect peace about doing it (Colossians 3:15a, Philippians 4:6-7)*

*Taken from Basic Bible Beliefs, Bible Baptist Church, Auburn, WA, 1975, unpublished. From Training Manual for Local Church Visitation, Eugene A. Wood, DTS, ThM Thesis, 1980.

8 thoughts on “When in Doubt, Don’t!

    • Thanks, William. I was just talking to Cindy Y. about the great benefit of photos to blogs. I spoke of the lengths to which you go to add appropriate, “permission granted” photos to your blog. I thought I should at least provide a visual of the “sniff test.”


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