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Thomas – From Doubt To Confidence

John 20:24-29

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 it.

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 crucifixion.

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 whole thing."

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 to faith?

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 there.

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 there.

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 our lives.

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 its center.

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.

 

Questions For You To Consider

 

Read Proverbs 20:6-7 and Revelation 2:8-11.

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 modeled faithfulness?

Did you ever see them struggle with doubt?

How 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 was feeling?

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 your faith?

How does a knowledge of God make faith real?

How can your past experiences with God make your faith real?  



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