From Doubt To Confidence
At the very core of each and
every one of us we are a people that want to believe. Everyday of our lives we
believe all sorts of things and act on that belief. When we sit down, we
believe the chair will hold us up. When we flip the light switch we believe
that the light will come on. When we go to the doctor, we believe the doctor
will do what he can to make us feel better. When we put our key in the door we
believe that it will open.
In reality we don’t have
much of a believing problem. It is amazing what we have the capacity to believe,
and it’s also amazing what we have the capacity to doubt. For example, if you
tell a man that there are 14,581,678,934,341 stars in the universe, he’ll
probably believe you. But if he sees a sign says “Fresh Paint,” he has to touch
Belief and doubt are funny
things. I have often thought that faith grows through creative doubt. It’s ok
to doubt, if you explore that doubt.
I want you to look with me
this morning at out text, it is found in John
20:24-29. This morning we will look at someone who walked with Jesus,
heard His teachings, saw the miracles, and still struggled with the
resurrection. While he had every reason to believe, he also had every reason to
doubt. (Read Text)
This chapter begins with
Mary, Peter, and John finding the empty tomb. Then after the apostles left,
Jesus appeared to Mary and then later that day, to ten of the remaining eleven
apostles behind locked doors.
But there was one apostle
missing. Thomas wasn’t present. We don’t know why, but I have a pretty good
guess. Where do you go when you get depressed? Do you run from others? Do you
hide? Do you get away from it all? Do you pretend it’s not happening? When we are
depressed we usually isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. Thomas was
absent because he was depressed and in hiding.
When Thomas finally joined
his friends I doubt the conversation went like this; hey Thomas, did you happen
to notice how much cantaloupes are going for at the market? Oh and we’re all
going fishing later, you want to come? And by the way, we saw Jesus a little
while ago, and he looks pretty good for someone they crucified three days ago.
How much did you say the cantaloupes were?
No, they fell all over one
another telling Thomas about the greatest event in all human history, the event
that turned the world upside-down. The Lord Jesus Christ had risen from the
dead. He was alive!
Even when the Apostles told
him, he was not ready to break free from his depression. As much as he wanted
to believe, he could not simply accept the accounts of others without proof. Thomas
was the CPA of the apostolic faith. Thomas wants to make sure everything adds
up. Everything has to be exactly right. Thomas is always saying, "But why?
How did you come up with that?"
So when they saw him the
apostles said, "Thomas, we have seen the Lord!" We can almost see
Thomas folding his arms. And saying, "Peter, how gullible can you be? You
are in denial! Snap out of it! Jesus is dead! We saw it for ourselves!"
Thomas dismissed the news of
the resurrection in the same way people today dismiss what they read in the
National Inquirer. And it was easy for him to dismiss it. The first reports of
the resurrection took place in the dark early morning hours. The first
witnesses were women who were emotionally strained from the horror of the
With their eyes full of
tears, their hearts full of sorrow, and their minds full of confusion, how
could anyone expect them to see and to think clearly? So Thomas concluded,
"The women must have found the body stolen. Or maybe they imagined the
Even the experience of the
ten disciples could be explained away. Perhaps the pain of losing Jesus was so
great that the disciples desperately needed a reason to keep their hopes alive.
And so they convinced themselves that they had seen a vision of Christ.
And so when Thomas is
approached by his friends with news that their master is alive, he replies with
an honest expression of doubt: "Unless
I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and
put my hand into His side, I will not believe it." He refused to
believe the gospel even with the combined testimony of his ten best friends!
People he had grew to trust, men who had never let him down before.
Before we get too hard on
him, we need to realize that Thomas wasn’t asking for any further proof than
had been already offered to the other apostles. In verse 20, when Jesus
appeared to the ten apostles, he offered them his hands and side as proof. So
when Thomas said, "I won’t believe
until I see it," the proof he was looking for was no different from
what the others apostles had already had. So he remained in his disbelief for a
solid week until Jesus appeared to him.
You know doubt is not the
opposite of faith. Unbelief is the opposite of faith. I am suspicious of folks
who tell me that they have never doubted or that they are immune to doubt. We
all have doubts that pop up from time to time. Doubt is not a sign of failure,
failure is determined by what we do with our doubt.
I love the fact that even as
Thomas was looking for proof, proof came looking for him. Behind closed, locked
doors of fear, Jesus once again appeared. He met the confused and frustrated
followers where they were, not simply waiting for them to rise to His level.
Jesus looked right at Thomas
and singled him out. Just as with Mary, Jesus approaches him in the midst of
his doubts and says, “Friend, what will it take to cause you to believe? What
must I do to end those doubts in your mind? What will it take to bring you back
I heard about a man who was
driving his SUV when he came to a detour sign that read, "road under
repair." Now this guy’s got an SUV. He’s not going to let a little
construction stop him. So he throws it into 4-wheel drive, drives around the
sign and gets through the construction site with no problem. His success
continued for about 10 miles until he came to a huge gorge with no bridge the
absolute end of the road.
The guy had no choice but to
turn around and retrace his route back to the detour sign. When he approached
the same construction sign, he read what someone had written on the back of
sign: "Welcome back stupid."
I’m sure glad that’s not the
way Jesus welcomed back Thomas. Jesus meets Thomas and his doubt with openness
and love. I can even picture Jesus smiling; smiling to the point of being near
laughter because of the look of surprise and joy on Thomas’ face when he
finally sees that Jesus is truly risen.
And when Thomas saw all that
Jesus was offering to Him, he believed. He cried out, “My master and my Maker.” He said, “All I have I give to you, because You gave it to me first.” You
see, Thomas wasn’t a doubter; he just wanted something to believe in. He wasn’t
content with what others said, he had to experience it himself. He wanted to
use his eyes and be sure of what he was going to commit his life to.
The Faith of the Doubter
Like I have already said, it’s
not wrong to doubt. Doubt is a natural part of life. Frederick Buechner once
wrote: "Were there no room for doubt,
there would be no room for faith, either." If we’re honest with
ourselves, I think we would admit that there is a doubting Thomas inside each
one of us!
We doubt whether or not God
loves us. We question our salvation. We wonder whether or not all things work
together for the good of those who love God. We question if the Resurrection
really took place. Sometimes we even doubt the very existence of God!
We want to believe. We want
to believe with all our hearts. But we also wonder, ’what if?’ ’What if God
really doesn’t care about me? What if Jesus is still buried in some unmarked
and forgotten tomb? What if the Bible isn’t true?’ When we see Thomas we see a
reflection of ourselves. A part that we do not like. A part that we wish wasn’t
We all have had doubts at
one time or another. And most of us suppress our doubts because we’re
embarrassed. We don’t want to admit it to ourselves. And we certainly don’t
want to admit it to anyone else! We think, "What kind of a Christian would
question these things?" But:
The Lord says, "I’ll give you a way of escape," yet
we still stumble and sin and then try to justify our weakness by saying,
"I just can’t help it."
The Lord says, "Take no thought about tomorrow,"
and not only do we spend a great deal of time giving thought, but that thought
drifts into worry and anxiety just as He knew it would.
The Lord says, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God...,"
and yet we spend so much time wondering how God could possibly love us.
The Lord says, "Lo, I am with you always...," and
yet we spend so much time feeling alone and isolated.
We betray our faith, and we
know it. It’s so easy to look at the proofs of our weak faith and become
hopelessly discouraged. But we see in Thomas the great difference between
"imperfect faith" and "faithlessness".
As we close this morning I
want us to pick some of the low hanging fruit in this passage. I believe that
there are some important lessons we need to learn from this powerful story.
Number one: Don’t be afraid to put your doubts out
It is better to doubt out
loud than to disbelieve in silence. We must trust that God has the power to
relieve our doubts. But before He can relieve them, we must be honest enough
with our doubts to bring them to His throne.
Secondly we need to be loving and patient with the
Thomas’ in our lives.
We all have loved ones that
are skeptical, unbelieving, or we wish that they were more devoted to Christ
and the church. Sometimes you feel like shaking them and saying, "What’s
the matter with you? What part of ’God loves you’ do you not understand? Why
won’t you put your trust in Christ?
We get frustrated when and
forget that God has been patient with us for all these years! There have many
times in our lives when God could have said, "I’m tired of your doubting
and your lack of faith. I’ve had it with you! But we’re told in Exodus 34:6
that the Lord is the compassionate and
gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. That’s
the way He was with Thomas. And that’s the way we should be with the people in
Finally we need to know that
one of the most wonderful things about Christianity
is that it invites you to check it out.
I usually chuckle when
someone tells me that Christians are mindless followers. That’s not the
Christianity I read about in the Bible. We are never asked to base our faith on
stupidity or ignorance. The Bible always invites us to come and see. Look!
Investigate! Examine! Check it out! And when we have, then we’ll come to the
same conclusion that Thomas reached, "My Lord and my God.
The faith that saves is not
a perfect or flawless faith without doubts and fears. It is rather a loyal
faith. It is a faith that accepts Christ as its center. And while the
expression of that faith may stumble and stagger a bit, it never loses sight of
I think it’s interesting
that the name “Thomas” means “twin.” We don’t know who Thomas’s twin was, but
maybe this morning you could claim to be his twin. Maybe you have doubts about
the resurrection. Maybe you have doubts about God’s power. Maybe you have
doubts about God’s concern for you.
I don’t know what the
situation with your faith is this morning. But I do know that if you are honest
enough to admit that you are struggling with your faith, that’s the time and
place that Jesus will show up behind the closed doors of your life, and say, see
how deep My love is for you?
This morning Jesus wants to
be as real to you as the person you’re sitting beside. He wants you to know
that you matter to God. You are important to Him and if you are really seeking
Him, He will go all out to show Himself to you.
For You To Consider
Read Proverbs 20:6-7 and
Both of these passages call
for Faithfulness in Children of God. What would you consider signs of a
faithful follower of Christ?
Describe someone who has
Did you ever see them
struggle with doubt?
did they handle that struggle?
Revelation 2:10 says we are
to be “faithful even to the point of death.”
How would that work in South East Texas in 2011?
This morning we discussed
Jesus appearing to Thomas (John 20:24-29).
Why do you think that the
first thing Jesus said to the Disciples was “Peace be with you”?
Describe the change in
Thomas’ attitude before and after Jesus appears to him.
Can you understand what he
What is significant about Thomas’
confession in verse 28?
What can we learn from that
encounter that will help us in our doubt?
On what evidence do you base
How does a knowledge of God
make faith real?
How can your past
experiences with God make your faith real?