DOUBTFUL FAITH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Have you ever heard the statement, “I have to see it to believe it.” Parents of teenagers – “He cleaned up his room! I have to see it to believe it.” Employees – “We’re getting a day off! I have to see it to believe it.” Church folks – “The pastor ended on time! I have to see it to believe.” It actually comes from the Bible where one of Jesus’ disciples was reluctant to believe that Jesus was alive. He said, “I have to see it to believe it.” There are a lot of people who live with that mantra. They consider themselves sophisticated, scientific, and rational. Today’s message titled “DOUBTFUL FAITH” will help us with this problem, even in the Christian life. Here’s the premise – “Faith is not the absence of doubts. Doubts, apprehensions, and skepticisms are normal and even good. Faith is overcoming doubts based on the evidence already received and moving forward knowing that more evidence will follow.”
John 20 26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your handhere,and putitinto My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessedarethose who have not seen andyethave believed.”
Question: Do you have trouble believing that someone who died 2000 years ago on a cross has the power to change your life today? Get ready! God is about to open your eyes to the truth. Christian – do you struggle with doubts? I do. Let the Holy Spirit through God’s Word teach you to walk by faith and not by sight.
Background: Listen again to verse 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.” That was not a complement but a reprimand. Why did Jesus reprimand Thomas? Because eight days earlier Thomas had a very different reaction when the disciples told him that Jesus had just visited them. 25“…he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Why would Thomas say something like that?
I. THE REALITY OF DOUBT
Let’s look at it from Thomas’ perspective– Three days prior on Friday Jesus was unjustly accused and brutally nailed to the cross. The disciples watched helplessly as their Master breathed his last breath in physical pain and emotional agony. All they could do was betray, deny, and desert him. Then he was taken down from the cross and placed into a tomb. Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, put him in a new tomb that he probably had hewn for himself and Nicodemus, another rich man, brought 100 pounds of spices and wrapped Jesus’ body in it with linen strips. The spices were meant to control the odor and help the decomposition process. All this is to say that Jesus was really dead. It was really all over. He was a wonderful man who spoke wonderful words and did wonderful things but now he was a dead man lying in some grave in the Judean hillside. He was not coming back to life. Plus, three days had passed. If anything was going to happen, it would have happened by now.
Can you imagine the range of emotions that Thomas and the other disciples were feeling?Shock, Trauma, Sadness, Grief, Anger, Fear, Disappointment, Confusion, Questions, Blame (Self and Other), What ifs, Back to the old life, Looking for a new normal, etc. But just then, on the third day, reports start circulating that people had seen him – “He’s alive!”A group of women went by the grave this morning and saw him, Mary Magdalene even talked to him, Peter saw him, two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus and Jesus walked with them and explained the scriptures to them. Then that same evening Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples who were hiding in a house in Jerusalem. He even showed them his nail pierced hands and his spear pierced side. Guess what Thomas! We’ve seen Jesus! His response – “I have to see it to believe it!” That was his natural reaction. That would be my reaction.
Listen carefully – Doubts are natural. They’re not sins. It’s our natural response to extraordinary events. Don’t be ashamed of them. I have doubts too. Os Guinness, famous author and Senior Fellow at the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics, once said, “The shame is not that people have doubts but that they are ashamed of them.” Why do people have doubts?Many reasons – your personality (skeptical), your experiences (disappointments with God over pains, hurts, and unanswered prayers), exposed to other views (questions unanswered), afraid of commitment. If you struggle with doubts, don’t be ashamed. Seek out answers. Trust me when I say to both Christians and non-Christians – “There are answers to every doubt that you are facing.”
II. THE MERCY OF CHRIST
John 20 26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your handhere,and putitinto My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
This is such a comforting passage to me. Jesus did not abandon Thomas because he had doubts but he came and found him. Jesus was under no obligation to do that. This was only because of his mercy. He saw the spark of hope in Thomas’ heart and he was not going to let it extinguish. Matthew quotes Isaiah the prophet in 12:20“A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” In other words, even though the hypocritical Pharisees were plotting against him, he was not going to quench out the hope of them being able to find life. If he would do that for those Pharisees, how much more towards us. The point is this – “If you are struggling with doubts, Christ will not abandon you. He will meet you where you are.” Just like a mother that picks up a child that falls while running away from her, so also Christ comes and picks us up.
III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF FAITH
Listen again to verse 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessedarethose who have not seen andyethave believed.” First, Jesus was talking about the generations who will come and not have the privilege of seeing Jesus physically walk on the earth, heal the sick, feed the hungry, preach the gospel, die on the cross, and raised from the grave. They will not have the privilege of being firsthand witnesses to Christ. They will have to take God’s Word for it, believe, and be saved. All of us fall in that category. Although that’s true, I believe that Jesus had something more in mind when he made that statement. He was talking specifically to Thomas. He was telling Thomas that he had lost out on the blessing of faith. There is a blessing that comes when you take God at his word and refuse to give in to doubts. There is a blessing that comes when you say, “I have enough proof to step out in faith. In time, God will give me more proof but I will not wait on more proof in order to step out in faith. Faith is not a leap in the dark. Faith is affirming that if so far there is solid ground under my feet, God will keep the solid ground coming even if I can’t see it right now.”
Did Thomas have this solid ground to believe that Jesus rose from the grave without having seen him?John 14 1“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.2In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it werenotso,I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, thereyou may be also.4And where I go you know, and the way you know.” 5Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”Thomas had every reason to believe without seeing.
Illustration: Unlike Charles Templeton, Billy Graham chose to believe God and his Word.
Invitation: You say I believe in this religion or that philosophy or nothing. Are you sure you’re standing on solid ground? Are you ready to take the step forward? What if there is bottomless pit waiting for you?Are you willing to place your doubts before the living God and take him at his word? This is to Christians as well as non-Christians. Just like a train moves forward and the light keeps shining, so alsoGod will guide you. Come to Christ and be saved. Pray like that father did whose son was tormented by an evil spirit. Jesus told him in Mark 9 23“If you can believe, all things arepossible to him who believes.” 24Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”