Here's where we left off last week:
Do not disbelieve, but believe. - John 20:27
That's what Jesus said to Thomas. The Greek used here suggests that something already existing is to stop. Thomas is being asked to change his attitude.
So we're at the point where John gives us four distinctly different examples of faith:
The Beloved Disciple comes to faith after seeing the burial wrappings, but without seeing Jesus.
Mary sees and believes after Jesus calls her by name.
The disciples see the Risen Christ and believe.
Thomas also sees and believes but only after insisting on proof.
Which leads to Jesus introducing another example of faith:
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. - John 20:29
For us, faith in Jesus Christ is characterized by forward movement. We are choosing to walk in faith. We are choosing to trust God no matter what we experience or go through in life. We are choosing to serve the needs of each other and our community. We are choosing to give generously because we trust what God is doing through the mission and ministry of Covenant Church. Faith is forward movement.
Here's an example of what forward movement is like. Here's an example of what it means to move forward in faith.
When you were a kid, did you ever do that thing where you walked up the down escalator? Fun times, right? The moment you stopped walking up the down escalator, what happened? You lost ground. You have to determine to walk in faith and then you walk. As long as you're walking, you're making progress. But if you stop, doubt creeps in. And doubt, if it takes root, is always backward movement.
Now, don't misunderstand. Doubt, in and of itself, doesn't mean you're an unbeliever. It doesn't mean that God doesn't love you anymore. It doesn't mean you're not going to heaven. What doubt means is you can't serve God like you want to and experience His love like you need to. When you doubt, it doesn't mean you've lost your salvation. It does mean you're losing your grip on becoming the person God created you to be.
Jesus looked at Thomas and said, "Do not disbelieve, but believe." It was a matter of the will. Thomas had to decide. And Thomas did. And in that moment, Thomas made the most profound confession of faith in the gospels:
Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" - John 20:28
That is such a powerful confession of faith, we're going to break it down word-by-word. As we do, we'll see our fourth way to handle doubt:
4. Renew my confession of faith.
The word "my" is a personal word. Thomas isn't speaking for someone
else. He's speaking for himself. Faith is something that happens in your life. Thomas isn't speaking for anyone else's faith right now. He's only speaking for himself.
Thomas says "my Lord." Thomas is saying that Jesus Christ is the manager of his life. Its literal translation is the Lord of me. Jesus is the director of his life. He will always look to Jesus for guidance. That's what Lord means. Jesus is the One who is going to set the pattern for your life.
Next, we come to "and." Thomas doesn't stop at "Lord." There's always more. You cannot contain the power and the person of Jesus Christ in one word. Jesus is Lord but he's more than that. He's Creator, Master, and Friend. Jesus means so many more things to us. So even in five short words, Thomas confesses the greatness of Jesus Christ.
After that, Thomas uses "my" again. That's not a usual way of talking. You probably wouldn't say, "My son and my daughter." You'd say, "My son and daughter." Like that. But this shows how powerfully personal faith is. My…my…my. When we worship together, we sing. Our voices sing together. We pray The Lord's Prayer together. We draw on a community expression of faith. There's solidarity in that. But when it comes down to it, nobody else can trust in Jesus Christ for you. It has to be your decision.
"My God." What a powerful confession of faith. Thomas looked at Jesus, and he saw the Risen Christ. But he also saw the man he had known for three years. He had heard him teach. He saw the grace and mercy Jesus had shown others. The miracles. The healings. Thomas saw how Jesus challenged the hypocrisy of religious leaders and pastors. Thomas was with Jesus for three years. And now he sees the truth about who Jesus is. Thomas sees that Jesus just isn't the Messiah from God. In a way even Thomas himself didn't understand the fullness of, he confessed Jesus as God. As Creator. Jesus is the One who's in charge of everything. "My Lord and my God." Jesus is the powerful, personal Creator we look to.
A Christian magazine did an article on where people say they find God. One demographic was middle school students. Here are some of their responses:
"I find God in nature."
"I find God in babies."
"I find God in sports."
"I find God in myself."
"I find God in dogs because dogs are full of love."
The right answer is from Thomas. "I find God in Jesus Christ." Let's say that together:
I FIND GOD IN JESUS CHRIST.
That's where we find the truth. Nature can point us to God. A dog can point us to God as we marvel at His creation. But never mistake what was created for the Creator. We can only find God in Jesus Christ. One of the middle schoolers summer it up best when he said, "All of us are alike because all of us are looking for God."
And so Thomas says:
MY LORD AND MY GOD!
And then there's Jesus' response. Notice Jesus doesn't say, "No, I'm not God. Don't worship me. God's up in heaven." No, Jesus says:
Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.
Jesus received Thomas' worship because that's who he is. He is my Lord and my God.
Here's how Paul encourages us in Romans 10:9-10:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Finally, here's the fifth way you handle doubt:
5. Receive Jesus' blessing.
That's exactly what Jesus says in verse 29 - "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
In other words, you are going to be filled with doubt if you think you're not a good enough Christian for Jesus to bless your life. Or if you think you have to earn Jesus' blessing. The fact that you are blessed by Jesus Christ is what builds faith in your life. His blessing keeps your faith going. So receive the blessing of Jesus Christ.
Make no mistake. People who believe live a blessed life. Not a perfect life. Not a life without problems. But when you know you are blessed by Christ, you have a satisfaction and fulfillment in your life that wipes away fear and doubt and worry. It is the blessing of Jesus Christ which transforms lives.
Here's what we've seen so far. In looking at Thomas in John 20:24-29, we've seen five ways to deal with doubt:
Admit your doubts.
Drop requirements for belief.
Don't withdraw from fellowship.
Redirect your will.
Receive Jesus' blessing.
Now some practical ideas:
1. Write down your doubts on a piece of paper.
You need to see in writing what's going on in that brain of yours. And understand your doubts aren't anything Jesus hasn't already seen or heard before. He will help you redirect your will. Spend time reading the gospels and you will find Jesus words for you doubts. That will help you decide which way to redirect your will.
2. Take time to renew your confession.
Start your day with a few simple words about what the Bible says about Jesus. My Lord and my God…Savior…Wonderful Counselor…The Good Shepherd…Mighty God…Risen Christ…Prince of Peace. You could also start your day with a Psalm. We've been praying through the Psalms in worship for over a year, and it's been a real blessing. A great way to confess what we believe. Or go online and find some confessions of faith to focus on at the end of the day.
3. Be alert to the way Jesus blesses you this week.
I'm not drifting toward the dangerous waters of the prosperity gospel. No, I'm simply talking about recognizing the ways in which you have been blessed by God. It could be something challenging as being blessed to carry a burden with grace and dignity so the love of Jesus can shine in your life. Or you have been blessed with the love of your family. Or you have been blessed in a way to serve the needs of others. There is no guilt attached to celebrating our blessings. While we admit that none of us deserve any of our blessings, we give God thanks for His grace, from which they flow. Take a few minutes this week to write down your blessings.
These are three, simple, practical things we can do to build our faith. Let God fill your mind with faith, to crowd away any doubt. In Jesus Christ, it will be so.