Seeing is Believing

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

“Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” ― Paul Tillich

Another wonderful sermon on Sunday. We were reminded about “Doubting Thomas” who had to see in order to believe.

Faith and doubt is difficult to write about. We all believe right up until we start to doubt. Our doubts can  help us to keep a check on our faith, never taking it for granted. You can imagine the theological discussions that Thomas must have had with his fellow disciples after he declared he’d have to see to believe.   

“If you don’t have doubts you’re either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants-in-the-pants of faith. They keep it alive and moving.”― Frederick Buechner

Our doubts center on how far we should wade in. How much are we willing to risk by stepping out and living parts of our life according to our beliefs. Doubt describes this tension between risk and trust.

Poor Saint Thomas. More like all the rest of us than perhaps any other disciple. At least during this event. He had been left out of the visitation of the Risen Christ, off doing something else and had missed the glorious moment. What must he have been thinking, what could have been more important? He’d been left out of the big adventure and must have felt lonely, angry and/or even discouraged.

Maybe we spend too much time being miserable about our past mistakes. Future hopes and dreams can dull the here and now. We miss so many chances because we’re not living in the present. Thomas was literally absent. So to can we be absent from our faith and miss the very presence of Christ.

Sometimes God will come and get right in your face. Jesus certainly did that with 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!” – John 20:27

Thomas paid attention to his encounter and it changed his life forever. He was ready to believe.

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. – John 20:28

I’m afraid that I’ve too often been looking in the wrong direction. Too often filled up with myself. Thomas put all that aside and reached out with faith and grabbed a hold of his Savior. What about you? Are you always ready to believe?

The Christian faith is a lot like that encounter Thomas had with Jesus. It’s very “hands-on.” You can’t coast along on the faith of someone else. You can’t sit in the pew for too long and hope to make it when that 800 year flood hits. You have to get up and wade into your belief.

Thomas was challenged to stick his fingers into the very side of the Risen Christ. What must he have thought as Jesus looked him in the eye and grabbed his hand? If you are going to follow Christ, you are going to have to take some risks and even get uncomfortable. Where are those boundaries in your life?

Thomas had to see with his own eyes. He had heard the words of faith for for three years. Now it was time to put it into real practice. He just didn’t realize the time was now. Everything was moving so fast. Walking in faith is often like that, it can sneak up and suddenly challenge us to get out of the boat and step into the storm.

Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” – John 20:29

Are you becoming one of the blessed?

There’s nothing wrong with doubts. Jesus didn’t reject Doubting Thomas, he made a special visit to assure him. God isn’t mad because we don’t believe enough, he’s instead offering so much more, encouraging us to believe more and more each day.

For we live by believing and not by seeing. – 2 Corinthians 5:7

It all makes me wonder, why am I not demonstrating my faith so that others have something more to see? What might walking and talking my faith produce?

  1. It would increase my own eternal health. Each time I take a step of faith, I confront my own doubts. I reassert in my heart and mind why belief is so crucial.  Putting faith into practice confronts my own weakness and lethargy of spirit.
  2. Instead of blending in all the time I could provide an alternative. I can live my life as an example to the unbelieving elements of my culture. My life choices can serve as a beacon.
  3. My walk of faith can inspire the faith of others. There are people in my path who need to be encouraged to live a life of faith. I can be like Thomas to those around me and demonstrate doubts converted into undying faith.

 

“It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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Walking to Emmaus Part 5

road-to-emmaus

 

 

 

 

 

Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.  – Luke 24:25-27

Has anything really changed? Is it still just as difficult to walk in faith today?  Has our generation really grown up that much more than those two standing in that dirt road listening to a stranger explain it all?

That discouraged couple represents us all. Maybe that’s why Jesus came back and made sure he caught them before they got home. He’s acting like the father of that prodigal son or the shepherd searching for that one lost lamb. He’s caught them as they move in the wrong direction and he challenges their lack of faith. They seem to know the truth, but because they’re in retreat, they don’t believe the truth.

Jesus takes them to an “A-Ha!” moment of belief. It sounds like they knew their Scriptures. He helped them to connect the dots. He showed them where the story was leading. Later in this account they tell each other that their hearts were on fire as he taught them. Their faith was ignited as all the pieces of knowledge and their own experiences came together.

Right now the Holy Spirit resides in all believers to do this same thing. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26).

At this point in the story, I’m left with some big questions

  1. Why couldn’t these two remember all those lessons they had learned while growing up? Sometimes I wonder if what I’m learning is getting filed away as just “interesting information” and not real truth that I should be living out loud. Are your beliefs all tucked away, safe for a rainy day, folded up neatly in that Bible, never once to see the light of day (or heat of battle)?
  2. What did these two eyewitnesses do with the Jesus they had just seen and heard – maybe even watched die on the cross? It’s usually safer to just walk away and not say or do anything. I mind my own business too often or worse I mind other people’s business way too much. It’s safer to play by the rules. It’s risky to love, to turn the other cheek, to give up, to sacrifice, to become invisible and die. Are you living a life that’s in retreat?

 

“Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable?” 
– Francis Chan