Have you ever felt like you could really believe even more in Jesus if you could have an experience with him? If you have ever felt this or anything like this you would be in good company with Thomas.
I think that Thomas gets a bum rap. Whenever someone mentions Thomas, they don’t just say “Thomas”, they always say “Doubting Thomas” as if there were a bunch of people named Thomas in the Bible and it is necessary to say “Doubting” to get the right one. I have a news flash for you. Thomas is the only Thomas in the Bible. Thomas is enough. The guy has caught grief for 2000 years. I really feel for the guy. He is often singled out as having an inferior faith because he actually expressed his doubt in the resurrection. He made his reservations known out-loud. And because of that he the poster child for skepticism.
It is important to note that Jesus was not offended or angered by the request Thomas made. Jesus responds with love and kindness.
WHAT ABOUT DOUBT? (John 20:24-29)
Thomas struggle with doubt is found in John 20:24-29. This is Jesus’ 6th appearance after His resurrection, exactly one week later. The rumors had been flying, but many people still claimed to have seen Him, including most of His disciples, except Thomas. Thomas had not been around when Jesus appeared to the other disciples behind locked doors 7 days before recorded by Luke. Note that they doubted too!
Jesus said, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see. Luke 24:36-39a
Maybe Thomas just didn’t know where the disciples had gathered. They were scattered after the arrest and were in hiding. It is easy to imagine that Thomas had gone off on his own and had not found his way to the rest of the group. Thomas was probably Galilean. I would not be surprised if he left the city entirely, maybe he even went home, and did not come back until he realized that none of the others had left. Maybe he was with the group, but had left on some errand.
24 One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came.
I Will Miss Opportunities To Experience Jesus If I Separate Myself From The Community Of Faith.
I am not sure where Thomas was but I do know one thing. When we separate ourselves from the community of faith, it is not unusual for us to miss an experience with Jesus. We talk about finding God when we are alone with nature, but the reality is that we are more likely to encounter God when we are with other believers.
I thought about this in my own life, experiences with God, how he helps me with messages, gives me direction, convicts me of sin, but the greatest experiences by far were when I was gathered with other believers. There have been profound insights I learned in church, Sunday school, Growth Groups, times when I felt the Holy Spirit so strongly. Here at The Ridge Fellowship I often have a tear of joy, gratitude or are moved deeply when we sing. I was talking to someone this past week that came here and then has not been in a while and they described coming and feeling the Holy Sprit all around them. I’ll never forget when I felt the Jesus knocking on the door of my heart and I accepted him at a revival service when I was 11 years old. Or when I was baptized, when I was called into the ministry, (by the way at the time some of these things didn’t make a lot of sense to me until later) but I could not deny the experience that God had showed up. These incredible experiences were in the company of others, not on some lake fishing or on a golf course somewhere. This is how Jesus works.
We don’t know where Thomas was that first day. Perhaps due to fear, depression, disillusionment, discouragement, withdrawal seemed to be his only method of dealing with the supposed loss of his friend and master, Jesus.
When you get depressed, where do you go? Do you run from others? Do you hide? Do you get away from it all? Do you pretend it’s not happening? Or do you get with others who could help you? It’s OK to hurt, to be disillusioned. It’s OK to be depressed from time to time. It’s OK to not be perfect, or functioning perfectly 100% of the time. You certainly don’t need to escape from reality for long periods of time when you’re hurt. It has been my experience that this is a church that people can turn to in troubles, not run away from. When you separate yourself is when you miss Jesus.
25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
- It’s Ok To Have Legitimate Doubt.
Notice how Thomas deals with his doubt. He brings it into the open. He isn’t hostile or unpleasant. He just doesn’t believe it and he says so. He says, “Show me.” He also doesn’t leave the group. Even though he is now something of an outsider, he hangs in there and gives things time to work themselves out. This is not some excuse. He is willing to be shown. That’s why I say “Legitimate Doubt” some people claim to have doubt but it’s a smoke screen or an excuse to live the way the want to live. In other words deep down they would say, “I would rather live my life the way I feel like it than follow Christ. I would rather be a material girl and spend all my money on me then to follow Christ.
Let’s play a little game. I’ll put a word, and you think of its opposite. Don’t be shy just think of the first word that comes to mind.
Up ______, Black______, Girl ______, Faith ______
That last one is tougher isn’t it? What exactly is the opposite of faith? Lee Strobel says the opposite of faith is NOT doubt. The opposite of faith is unbelief, or unwillingness to believe. All people of faith, have times of doubt or areas of doubt in their lives. All the heroes of faith struggled with doubts, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses and David, Job and Jonah and on and on.
Imagine for a moment that you are a teacher. One student spends the day staring out the window or nodding off to sleep. The second pays attention but not fully because they have the uncanny ability to regurgitate everything back on exams. The third is full of questions and obviously wrestles with everything you say. They test and try to see if what you say is true especially during homework. Which student will actually believe what you have taught? The second student may get the better grades, but the third student is the one who has internalized the lesson. Doubts and objections are a sign that the student is engaged and growing.
Doubt can be like a fork in the road. We can use our doubt as an opportunity to mature our faith and grow in our relationship, or we can use it as an excuse to isolate ourselves and pull away. “Doubting Thomas” became “Believing Thomas” because he stayed with the other disciples in spite of his doubts. He was rewarded with a closer knowledge of Christ.
What about you? Are you discouraged? In your relationship with the Lord, has something happened to bring doubts into your mind? Are you looking for proof of Jesus’ love, of God’s power, of the Spirit’s usefulness in your life? Well, the good news is, even as Thomas was looking for proof, proof came looking for him!
26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said.
- Am I Seeking Jesus? …He Will Find Me.
Behind closed, locked doors of fear, Jesus once again appeared. He met the confused and frustrated followers where they were at, not simply waiting for them to rise to His level. And something very encouraging Jesus looked right at Thomas, the one who loved Jesus but got lost in doubts, and singled him out. If you are lost, Jesus is looking for you. The Bible says He would leave the 99 to find the lost 1. If you were the only one who needed it, He would come looking for you.
I stick up for poor ole Thomas. And I think his reputation needs a little polishing. He really wasn’t such a bad guy. In fact, he was no different from the other disciples; he was just a week late! The other disciples also needed a personal encounter with the risen Jesus JUST AS MUCH AS THOMAS DID. Until Jesus appeared all of them reacted with fear and disbelief.
Faith and understanding began only after Jesus made himself known personally to each of them. And isn’t it exactly the same for us. We remain with doubts and fears until the Lord comes through the locked doors of our hearts. The miraculous news in all of this is that Jesus searches and finds us. The stone door that sealed the tomb couldn’t stop him. He had conquered death and he was going to make it known to his friends and to the world. And no flimsy wooden door could stop him from coming into the disciples’ room! And when they saw him they were changed. We all need a personal encounter with the Lord before we can declare, “my Lord and my God.” A second-hand Jesus just will never do. We need God to break into our locked hearts and to give us that encounter. That’s what Jesus did for Thomas and that’s what he wants to do for you.
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
- Jesus Invites Me To Experience Him
Jesus responds to this in a way that many churches would not. So often in churches, we’re quick to get an attitude. “If you don’t believe like we believe, take a hike! Hit the road! Adios! Happy trails loser! And yet Jesus doesn’t do that. Look what He said:
“Put your finger in there. Look at my hands. Reach out your hand, and put it in this hole in my side. TOUCH IT… EXPERIENCE IT… LIVE IT… BREATHE IT… EAT IT… SLEEP IT… LIVE IT… And once you experience me, it will result in faith it will result in your believing.
Jesus was saying, “Whatever you have to do, do it. Whatever it takes for you to get to the place of faith do it. He was saying, “I’m opening the door. I’m giving you the leeway. I’m giving you the opportunity to substantiate this faith for yourself, to explore every logical line of thought. I’m giving myself to you, to find out what you need to find out, in order that your faith might be perfected.”
That’s really what He’s looking for anyway. He’s got enough half-hearted followers. He’s looking for someone who really wants to experience Him. He wants someone who wants to live for him, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’re all in God’s employment. But He’s looking for career Christ followers. He’s had enough weekend warriors, part-time employees. He’s had enough fill in work. He’s had enough seasonal labor. He’s looking for someone full time, all the time.
And I’m going to be honest with you unless you’ve had a Thomas kind of experience, you can’t be that kind of Christian; unless you’ve had an intimate experience with Him; until you’ve familiarized yourself with the scars that liberated you; until you’ve seen the place where the blood flowed; unless you’ve seen the nail prints that bought your freedom; until then, you can’t live the way He wants you to.
Jesus has a heart for a generation like Thomas, a generation that has to touch Him. For a generation that isn’t just going to settle for the story they have to live it for themselves. I see that in many in our church. They help and make a difference, teach the children, help with the youth. We have high percentage of people involved in serving. We are not just going to talk about missions or send money we are going to go! It is truly amazing that a church we have gone to Mexico, Alaska, Guatemala, India, Nepal, Uganda, Kenya and this summer to Trinidad. Jesus has a heart for that generation.
I’ve got news for you. Jesus wants you to experience Him! “Reach out with your finger.” In other words, “Your exploring this is okay. I welcome your curiosity about my divinity.” “Look at my hands.” In other words, “EXAMINE ME. I can stand up to your inspection. “Put your hand in my side” In other words, “Delve into me, if that’s what it takes you to figure me out.”
Are you a Thomas? Is seeing believing for you? I’m inviting you to a Faith that is HANDS ON. This isn’t just a story that’s demanding a blind faith. Look what happened in Thomas, He walked in with doubt. He TOUCHED CHRIST. And He walked out with an intimate relationship.
28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
- What’s Keeping Me From Believing In Jesus?
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 to see what he could commit his life to. He wanted to be sure of what he wanted to commit his life to.
And Jesus wants to do the same for you. He wants to show up behind the closed doors of your life, and say, “See how I died for you,” and then call you to live for Him, a life fuller and more abundant, more prosperous and useful. He wants to take you past the doubts in your life that hold you back from serving Him with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength. He is calling you to a cause bigger than yourself. The risen Lord Jesus is calling you to new life following Him. And if you don’t live with a passion and purpose, meaning and fulfillment, you haven’t found all that Jesus died to give you.
What will it take for you to trust Him in faith in all issues in your life: financial, emotional, spiritual, sexual, relational, or marital?
What will it take for you to believe that you matter to God? What will it take for you to believe that if people need Jesus not only for eternity but also for today? What will it take for you to believe that God made you to be included in the process to bring them back to Him? What will it take for you to believe that church is not a matter of do’s and don’ts but of relationships? What will it take for you to believe that God loves you just exactly the way you are, but loves you too much to let you stay that way? What will it take for you to believe that He wants to take you further in your walk instead of letting you stagnate like maybe you’ve been doing for too long? What will it take for you to believe that there’s more for you than coming week after week, festering in that critical nature, judging all that happens around you, sitting back waiting to be entertained?
I want to encourage you to deeper walk of faith, for some of you put your MONEY where your mouth is, for some of you get in the game, SERVE. I am calling you to step up in faith. Trust His Word on all levels. Take Him at His Word. He is calling you to fall in love with Him. And He’s calling you to do all you can for as long as you can to help others fall in love with Him.
Are you still living with regret? Living in the darkness? Jesus is here today to warm your heart, to show you the light and he asks you to join him in a cause that is exciting and life changing. Reaching people for Jesus, helping them KNOW Him, and helping people GROW like Jesus. Perhaps you can relate to Thomas. Will you give your missed opportunities to Jesus? Will you say Jesus, I do want to know you, help me to see you help me to experience you.