070. “From Doubt To Belief!” John 20:19-31.

Have you ever noticed how our strength can become our weakness?  Because we rely upon our strength in a particular area, it can become an area in which we are found wanting. A footballer who relies upon his normal fitness, and who doesn’t train hard, finds that as the game continues he can see the opportunities but his body is not fit enough to respond. Or it might be a person blessed with good health who fails to undergo the precautionary medical tests that could warn of impending trouble.

It could be the very gifted preacher who relies on his natural speaking ability and fails to wait on God for the message God wants him to speak. He speaks well but there is no power or authority behind the words. Ministry is more about availability to God than about our natural ability.

1).        THOMAS’ STRENGTH.  He had a strong will

His strength was that he wasn’t willing to be swept along in any religious movement. He wasn’t gullible. He wouldn’t be easily deceived. The world needs people like that who can look at all the options and then make the right choices. They are not easily carried away on the spur of the moment. We see this in Thomas earlier in the ministry of Jesus, when Jesus told them that He was going to wake up Lazarus from sleep. He meant that He was going to bring Lazarus back to life. Thomas recognized that Jesus would be walking into dangerous situation.

With either pessimism or with a clear view of reality, he told the other disciples, “Let’s also go with Him, that we may die with Him.”  Thomas looked at all the options and expected the worst, he could die along with Jesus. But he was still willing to go with Jesus.  He may have been a pessimist, but a courageous one.

But Thomas’ apparent strength was also his weakness. When Jesus appeared to the 10 apostles on that first Easter evening, Thomas was for some reason absent.  We’re not told why he wasn’t there. Some have speculated that he may have felt that he was strong and didn’t need the fellowship of the others. Others have thought that he may have been disillusioned because Jesus had been killed, and it looked as though the whole Jesus movement was going to end. Perhaps He wondered whether he had been deceived after all. He may even have thought that if the plan was to kill Jesus, then the disciples would be the next to go. It was safer not to be near the other disciples.

What we do know is that he wasn’t there when Jesus appeared to these 10 apostles, and showed them His hands and His side. He missed out on seeing the wounds in His hands and His side which showed them that this was Jesus of Nazareth risen from the dead. When Thomas later heard that the 10 had seen Jesus, and that they had touched His hands and His side, Thomas’ strength again became his weakness. He wouldn’t believe them unless he could personally put his own finger into the wounds in Jesus’ side and hands. (Verse 25.)

2).        THOMAS’ SINCERITY A GOOD VIRTUE

The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” Verse 25.  But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” That is, “I won’t believe until it becomes my personal experience.”  No second hand faith for Thomas.

We read that one week later Jesus again appeared to them in the upper room, and this time Thomas was with them. Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst, and then singled out Thomas. He answered all of Thomas’ demands.

Thomas’ specific demands a week before
Jesus’ specific answers (commands)
1. Unless I see in His hands the prints of the nails.
1. See my hands.
2. and put my finger in the mark of the nails    
2.put your finger here
3. put my hand into His side.
Place your hand in my side
4. I will not believe
4 Be no longer unbelieving, but believing
For each demand of Thomas there was a command of Jesus.

There may be doubts that come into our minds from time to time, but we are meant to deal with them and not let them continue on.  For every doubt in our minds, there is a corresponding truth in Jesus. Does that mean that we can be sincere doubters, Doubting Thomases, and God doesn’t mind? No! Jesus said, “Be no longer unbelieving (a doubter), but now believe.” That is “The time for doubting is over, Thomas; you have been confronted personally with the truth. Now you are commanded to believe.”

One of the great sadnesses in the latter part of last century was a book written by a senior Bishop in England in which he expressed many of his doubts about the Christian faith. It was a book that should never have been written by one in a position of leadership in the church. God doesn’t want His church leaders to parade their doubts publicly, but to deal with them in private. Then when they are free of their doubts, they can once again affirm the great truths of the Christian faith.  If they don’t deal with their doubts they shouldn’t continue on in ministry. When such leaders go public about their doubts, it endangers the lives of missionaries working in countries hostile to the gospel. It also makes it so much more difficult for a faithful wife and mother to try to bring up her children in the faith when  the leaders express doubts.

How did Jesus treat Thomas? He didn’t say to Thomas,” Good to have you on side as one of my followers. Sorry that you can’t really believe that I am risen from the dead, but just tag along with the others anyway.” No! His word was uncompromising. “Don’t continue in unbelief, but be believing. You have been confronted with the evidence, now act on it.” God never says in the scriptures, “Please try to believe in me if you can. But if you can’t, I’ll respect your sincerity.” 

No! He says in His word, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,  31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31. There’s enough evidence around to convince any sceptic of the truth of Christ, if they act upon the truth they have available to them.

3).    When Thomas Was Sure, He Committed Himself Fully. 20:28

Thomas cried out, Jn 20:28. “My Lord and my God.” It was not, “You are the Lord, the Ruler of the Universe.” Nor was it, “You are the God, the maker of the world and of all mankind.”  Rather he cried out, “You are MY Lord. You are MY God.” He was submitting himself to Christ as his personal Lord and Maker.  It was more than believing the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead. There is a massive difference between “believing about” and “trusting in”.

For example, Jesus is the Saviour of the World, but He doesn’t become MY Saviour until I admit that I need a Saviour and ask Him personally into my life. In Hebrews. Jesus is described as the new and living way into the presence of God. But I can’t come into the presence of God until I enter into that new and living way through Jesus. There is no other way.  Christ died for the sins of the whole world, but I am forgiven of nothing until I ask Christ to be my sin-bearer and personal Saviour. Christ has offered to share with us His love, His joy and His peace, but they don’t become mine in my experience, until I receive Him, and open myself to receive these blessings in Him. God offers to answer our prayers, but we only get the answers when we pray with belief and with no doubt. “James wrote, Jas 1:6-8 “When a person asks, he must believe and not doubt…..”

How does this passage relate to us? Jesus said we as believers are blessed. He pronounced a blessing upon those who would not see as Thomas did, but who would nevertheless believe. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jn 20:29. That’s you and me, if we hear the truth about Christ and choose to act upon that truth. The truth that He is risen from the dead. The truth that He is alive. The truth that He can be alive in us by His Holy Spirit who  comes to indwell us when we trust in Christ. The truth that He can impart His life to us, so that we can say with all sincerity, ” I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in this human body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Sometimes we sing an old hymn which has the words. “I serve a Risen Saviour, He’s in the world today I know that He is living, whatever men may say, I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him, He’s always near. The chorus ends, “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.” Doubt goes when we personally commit ourselves to Jesus the Risen Lord, and make Him the Lord, Master, of our hearts.

Any doubts about Jesus? Time to get rid of them, to repent of sin, and ask Him into your life. Then and only then can He fill you with the certainty of His love and His presence. Notice how John ends this chapter, Joh 20:30-31  Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; (31)  but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The evidence is there. It is there for us to act on. Jesus is the Christ. He is the Son of God. He is the Saviour of the world. But He only becomes those things to us when we receive him into our lives by an act of faith. Believing brings life, eternal life, God’s life in us

Blog No.070. Jim Holbeck.  Posted on Tuesday 17th April 2012

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
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2 Responses to 070. “From Doubt To Belief!” John 20:19-31.

  1. Pingback: INDEX of blogs by Jim Holbeck based on date posted | holbeck

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