A Faith That Helps Us See the Truth
Is there a moment in your life that was sort of a game changer in your faith? Can you think back to a moment that maybe solidified everything for you and made your faith really real for you? Or maybe it was a person that came along just at the right time and said just the right things that influenced your faith, or solidified your faith, or maybe even kickstarted your faith journey?
I grew up going to church with my family, so the Christian influence was always there and I’m so grateful for that upbringing. My parents made church a priority and Christian values were always a part of our home. When I was 18, I met someone I would consider my game changer in my faith. Her name is Linda. I was 18, she was 20 or 21, and I went to my college orientation at the University of Toledo in June right after I graduated from high school. I was young, nervous, it was really my first time venturing far from home, but also excited because, you know, college! I was walking around the campus during orientation, and there were all these tables set up for different campus organizations to promote what they did. I was sort of shy and nervous, walking around a college campus for the first time, realizing that I’d be moving away from home soon. I’m sure I looked a little overwhelmed and maybe even scared. I heard someone say “hi.” I looked over and this girl, a little older than me, with a kind smile was looking at me and motioning for me to come over, so I did. She was at a table with a big banner that said “InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.” She introduced herself and we talked for a while. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about, but she wrote down my name and she said, “when you move into your dorm in August, I’ll come find you and we can go get ice cream.” And that was the end of our conversation.
I thought it was one of those generic “hey we should do lunch sometime” kind of things, so in my head I was thinking “Ok whatever, I’ll never see her again.” I didn’t give it much thought after that. But I did think about Linda from time to time during the rest of the summer while I was back home.
Fast forward to the day I moved into my dorm for the first time–I said goodbye to my parents and they left, and for the first time I realized that I was alone, and that was a little tough for me. About a couple hours after I moved in, my dorm room phone rang and it was Linda! She said, “Hey I’m headed to your room, let’s go get that ice cream!” To this day, I have no idea how she figured out the phone number to my college dorm room, I don’t think I even knew what it was yet. Somehow she took the time to look up my name and figure out where my room was and find the number.
I was so excited–I had my first college friend, and what struck me the most was that Linda did what she said she was going to do. I had no expectation on her to follow through with what she said to me three months earlier in a chance meeting on a June afternoon. But she did! She did what she said she was going to do, and it meant everything to me in that moment. Linda and I went on to become great friends, she took me under her wing, and because of her, I became a part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship which was a turning point for my future, where I really learned what it meant to seek after Jesus and follow the Bible. All because Linda invited me for ice cream.
Linda validated her word because she followed through, she did what she said she was going to do. How did I know that I could trust Linda? I didn’t, until I experienced her following through on her word and showing up. So from that point forward, I knew that I could trust Linda, I knew that I could count on her, and that she was a person of her word. What if Linda had never called me that day? But she showed up and it made all the difference. From that first outing for ice cream, I have always considered Linda one of my heroes of faith.
There is another hero of the faith that I have and he is in the Bible, He isn’t listed in the heroes of faith in Hebrews Chapter 11. Hebrews 11 is a great chapter to read–it lists some great, faithful people of the Bible–Enoch, Abraham, Noah, Isaac, Moses, and the list goes on. These were people of the Old Testament, they didn’t have Jesus yet, they didn’t have the Bible yet. You know, we have the Bible, the internet, each other, a church family. These people listed in the heroes of faith only had the voice of God to go on, and God told them to do something, and sometimes the things God told them to do seemed crazy to everyone around them, like Noah building the ark. But they’re listed in the heroes of faith because God told them to do something, and they acted on it and obeyed even with a lot of unknowns in the place! But the person we are going to talk about today, one of my faith heroes of the Bible, isn’t listed there, and maybe isn’t the first person you think of when you think of faith heroes, he’s my hero because I think he’s a lot like me, and that is the disciple named Thomas. Maybe more familiarly known as Doubting Thomas. We are going to look at the faith of Thomas today, and what we can learn from him.
I think all of us here have some level of faith or at least some curiosity about faith or we wouldn’t be here today. So whether you’re new to faith, just curious about it, or have been walking out your faith for a long time, hopefully there is something for you in the story of Doubting Thomas.
The faith that each of us has, is most heavily influenced by our own frame of reference, and our frame of reference is impacted by the filters of our childhood, upbringing, culture, maybe our fears and insecurities. We move through life, and we navigate through our own faith through a frame of reference that is full of our own life experiences.
I think for many of us, we can look back at our own lives and pinpoint moments where we might have stepped a bit off of our faith, where maybe a tragedy or things going on in the world around us, or just distractions maybe take us in a different direction for a time.
I know for myself, when I have been praying and praying for something and I tell myself, if I just have a little more faith, if I can just believe a little harder… does that sound familiar to anyone? And we put the blame on ourselves if we don’t feel like God is doing anything because we think maybe we just didn’t have enough faith.
But faith is not a formula–like this much faith plus this much prayer equals a result. That puts all of it on us, doesn’t it? I have to pray a certain way, for a certain amount of time, and it becomes very
formulaic doesn’t it? It’s not a formula and it’s not measured in how long we believe and how hard we believe.
Where does true genuine faith come from? What helps us to have faith and for our faith to grow? I think for most of us, maybe all of us, It comes from evidence! We believe and have faith because of what we have seen God doing. We have faith that God is doing something because of what we have already seen Him do or what we have already experienced.
Our feelings can cloud our vision. Faith isn’t based on feelings, it’s based on fact, and that fact is the Truth of the Bible. The Bible allows us to see the promises of God and how He has made them good, how He has made good on His promises, which validates our faith.
Sometimes I like to listen to Pastor Alistair Begg who is the pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, he was born in Scotland and he has that great accent! He also has a radio broadcast called Truth for Life, and he always says, “Don’t ask me how I feel, ask me what I know.” Our feelings can cloud our vision, but what we know is the Truth of the Word and we know what we have experienced ourselves.
I can tell you to believe because I feel the presence of God, but what does that mean to you? Probably nothing. My feelings change on a dime. People need evidence, it’s how we are wired. I believe the sun will come up tomorrow morning because I have seen it every day. I believe that if my car breaks down I can call Chip because he always comes when I need help. I can have faith in these events because I have seen them and experienced them.
Well what if I haven’t experienced something personally? It’s a little harder to believe, isn’t it? It’s a little harder for our faith to grow in those areas if we haven’t personally seen it or experienced it.
I can say that I believe God can heal people but if I have no evidence of that in the Word, and no evidence of that in my life or the lives of the people around me, how much harder is it for me to have faith in that?
Thomas, or Doubting Thomas, is someone who needed to see something for himself in order to believe it. He needed some hard evidence. Let’s take a look at his story. Thomas was one of the disciples, and he was also called Thomas Didymus which means twin, so Thomas the twin. We don’t know a lot about Thomas, but we do know that he was fiercely loyal to Jesus, and that he was a man with a few questions by nature. I don’t think skeptic is the right word, but more of a questioner, one who needed to know the details. Some of us are willing to just go along for the ride and we don’t need to know everything, and there are some of us who need the security of knowing exactly how something is, and Thomas was one of those people.
We are going to look at John 20:24-29 today, which is the passage where he earned the name “Doubting Thomas” for the rest of time. But earlier in John, just to give a little background into his character, in John chapter 11, Jesus is planning a return to Judea, and the disciples warn Him that the Jews felt a lot of animosity toward Jesus and wanted to stone Him, the religious leaders didn’t like Jesus, they thought he was a lawbreaker and a blasphemer, so the disciples warned Jesus not to go, and Thomas’ reply was “Let us go also, that we may die with Him.” Thomas was fiercely loyal! He was committed to Jesus and willing to follow Him even to death.
A couple chapters later in John 14, at the Last Supper, Thomas could not comprehend what Jesus meant when he said, “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas’s question “How can we know the way?” caused Jesus to answer, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Thomas was a thinker and a questioner. I think it’s safe to say that He might have been someone who needed things to be a bit more on the literal side for him to say, ok I see it now, I can buy into that.
So we are going to look at John 20:19-29, and to set the scene, Jesus was crucified on the cross, and had risen from the dead. Up to this point He had only appeared to Mary Magdalene, one of the faithful followers of Jesus. That evening He appears to the disciples, but Thomas isn’t with them.
19That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 24One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25They 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.” 26Eight 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. 27Then 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!” 28“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
There is a lot to unpack in these eleven verses.
We don’t know why Thomas wasn’t with the others that evening. But we do know that the others went and shared their exciting news with him! Can you imagine how they must have relayed that? Thomas! THOMAS!!! GUESS WHAT?? You’re never going to believe this!! We have seen Jesus! He’s back!!
And Thomas’ response was “I won’t believe it unless I see it.” And maybe it wasn’t quite that matter of fact, maybe it was more like, “What? Really?? Noooooo, I won’t believe that unless I see it! Unless I can actually touch His nail wounds how can I believe that was really Him?
Let nothing disturb you,
Nothing cause you fear;
All things pass
Whoever has God
Needs nothing else,
God alone suffices
Whoever has God
Needs nothing else,(Teresa of Avila, Saints for All Seasons, P. 128)
When we feel weary and at our wits’ end,
When we feel we cannot go on, when every-
thing we do seems to turn out wrong, when
not a word of thanks comes in our direction,
when we are angry with everyone else and
even more so with ourselves, we better stand
back, refocus, and remember that all things
pass. At these times, we need to remind our-
selves of Teresa of Avila’s words. As we share
in God’s work of ministering to people in
need, God will strengthen us if we call out for
help. Often calling for divine help is all that
we can do.
Living God, comfort me in my distress. May
I have Teresa’s confidence that this too will
pass. I know that your grace is all the suste-
nance I need, but may I believe it more firmly.
God, come to my assistance. Strengthen my
resolve, cleanse me of anger, soothe my nerves,
enlighten my understanding, and grant
Is that so very different from what you or I might have said? Should he really have been labeled Doubting Thomas for the rest of time? I think of him more like “Everyman Thomas” or “Normal Thomas.” Because I have to wonder if that is the very thing I would have said.
The disciples had been with Jesus in His ministry for 3 years, they had seen countless miracles, they had seen the power of God moving over and over again. But this? This hits a little different. Jesus in front of you? We watched Him die, you’re telling me He was in front of you, in the same room with you?
You know, all the other disciples believed because they saw. Thomas wasn’t actually any different from them. The only difference was Thomas didn’t get to see the first time.
But here is the most interesting thing–Jesus came back again to the disciples, this time when Thomas was with them, this time so that Thomas could see. He knew about Thomas’ doubt even though He wasn’t there for that conversation. And He loved Thomas enough to make sure that Thomas could receive the evidence he needed to believe.
Jesus didn’t chastise Thomas, he didn’t kick him out of the disciples. He didn’t say, “hey, you didn’t have enough faith, you’re done.” No, quite the opposite, Jesus showed up again, to get rid of Thomas’ doubts and validate his faith.
And as a result, Thomas was the disciple to put into words the truth that Jesus is both Lord AND God! Doubting Thomas utters the greatest confession of faith recorded anywhere in the Bible.
Thomas’ doubts vanished in the presence of the living Christ!
The greatest doubter obtained the firmest belief. Why? Because he experienced for Himself and had a solid reason to believe. His faith was confirmed through valid evidence.
Maybe you’ve heard of Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Faith and the Case for Christ. He was the editor of the Chicago Tribune, well known, award winning. He was a self-proclaimed atheist and very vocal about that. He was an alcoholic and created a challenging home life for his wife and daughter. Lee’s wife started going to church and became a Christian in the late 70’s, and Lee didn’t like this! He was angry about this, and he made it his mission to disprove Christianity. He used his investigative skills and spent 2 years interviewing scholars, archaeologists, and scientists all over the world in hopes to prove his wife’s faith wrong. But instead the exact opposite happened! Lee came to the conclusion that like it or not, all the evidence pointed to the truth of the Resurrection, all of the evidence was there. He came to the conclusion that Jesus had actually risen from the dead, just as He said He would. Lee Strobel went on to become a Christian and the best selling author of many books including The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith, and he is also a pastor and a professor at Houston Baptist University.
If you have never read The Case for Christ I highly recommend it! The factual evidence of the crucifixion and resurrection is so compelling, even if you are rock solid in your faith, this book will lock it in even more. But Lee had this to say–
“If I had stopped asking questions, that’s where I would have remained.”
It’s ok to ask! It’s ok to have moments where we say “Lord, I need to see it for myself, I need some evidence, I’m having trouble believing this, I’m having trouble believing You.” Thomas did! And Jesus showed up! Jesus isn’t hiding from any of us and He will do what it takes to help us find Him!
Jesus blames no one for wanting to be sure! Thomas wanted to be sure. He wanted to believe.
But here’s the thing–when we ask for more–Lord, I want to believe You’re doing something, I want to believe You can help me, maybe just simply, I want to believe You are real and You are who You say You are, we have to be willing to do something with it! When He gives you that evidence, when He shows up, it’s up to us to respond.
Thomas responded by acknowledging that Jesus is Lord and God. I believe that moment most likely brought Thomas to his knees and I believe he most likely cried out “MY LORD AND MY GOD!” No further evidence required, and Thomas was sold out for Jesus!
What is our response when Jesus shows up to validate our faith? We can’t ignore Him, can we?
Psalm 34:4-6 says: “I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; He saved me from all my troubles.”
He answers when we ask! It says when we look to Him for help there is no shame! There is no shame in asking for help, we will be radiant with joy. Of course Jesus wants to validate our faith and He will do whatever that takes.
And as a side note, if we have the opportunity to validate someone else’s faith, take it! You never know how much one moment of time can affect someone. Linda started me out on a faith journey that changed my life because of a trip to an ice cream shop. She took the time to invest in me. I have always believed that I developed a real, genuine relationship with Jesus because God put Linda in my life to be the friend I needed to meet starting out college. A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the commencement ceremony in the school district I teach in. After the ceremony, I stood inside for quite some time because it was pouring rain. While I stood there, a young man approached me and said “Miss Elias?” that’s my maiden name, he said, “you might not remember me but my name is Aaron, and I was in your class 18 years ago. I’m here because my little brother is graduating. On ….. He said a date and a year, he said I was baptized. And I came to school the next day and I was so excited about it, I told all my friends! And you know what, they couldn’t care less. Nobody gave a rip” he said. But then he said, “you walked up to me, smiled, and quietly said I’ve been baptized too and then kept walking.” and then Aaron said this to me. He said for the last 18 years I always wondered if I would run into you again, and I never did until this moment, and for 18 years I have wanted to tell you that I have never felt so validated in my life as I did at that moment that you walked up to me and said that. You validated my entire faith with that one sentence, you made me know that I was on the right path, and I am so glad I finally get to thank you for that.”
A grandfather was walking through his yard when he heard his granddaughter repeating the alphabet in the tone of voice that sounded like a prayer. He asked her what she was doing… The little girl explained: “I’m praying, but I can’t think of exactly the right words, so I’m just saying all the letters, and God will put them together for me because he knows what I’m thinking.”
One sentence in a conversation for a 7th grade boy with his friends was enough to validate his faith! I would have never known that, I honestly don’t remember the moment. I remember the student but I don’t recall the moment. But it mattered to him. When we are walking with the Lord, opportunities will present themselves over and over to speak into someone else’s life and you never know what impact that is going to have. Your one sentence, your invitation for ice cream, your small investment into someone could be the game changer in their faith journey.
Colossians 4:5-6: Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive[a] so that you will have the right response for everyone.
We are going to bring it home with this. Sometimes faith comes easily, sometimes we need a little more help, a little more evidence, a little more validation. We are human, we have doubts. Very few if any of us can have unwavering faith every moment of our lives. Circumstances of a fallen world throw us off faith sometimes. Sometimes we need a little evidence to keep us going or get us back on track, maybe a reminder of all that God has done for us. We have the great benefit of having all the Truth right here in the Bible, this is our best evidence! I believe every word of the Bible is true and every ounce of evidence we will ever need is right here.
Romans 10:17 says “Faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.”
We have the evidence of the Bible, and we also have the evidence of what God has done in our lives and in the lives of people around us. Nobody can deny our testimonies. Just like I trusted Linda because she proved her word, she showed up and she did what she said she was going to do. Thomas was able to trust in the Risen Jesus because He proved His word, He showed up and did what He said He was going to do. We can put our faith in the Risen Jesus!
He won’t condemn us for our doubts, He won’t disown us for needing a little more help to believe. He won’t forsake us because our faith wasn’t as strong as it could have been in a given time. What He will do is show up, and say “Here, see the nail prints in my hands, see the wound in my side, and believe! What will your response be? Like Thomas, will you say, my Lord and my God?
Let’s look one more time at Jesus’ final response to Thomas. He said “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” I believe that’s us! We are blessed because we believe even though we don’t get to physically see Jesus, we aren’t physically walking with Jesus but we have the promises of the Bible, we can believe those because God has proved Himself over and over. He knows we don’t have the luxury of physically walking with Jesus or touching His scars. We live thousands of years removed from the events recorded in the Gospels, and Jesus recognizes the faith that it takes for us to believe. That’s why He pronounces a special blessing on us for trusting in Him. His promises are true and we can allow every word of the Bible to validate our faith!
Is Jesus showing up today? Has he been trying to get your attention and trying to help your faith grow? What will your response be? Like Thomas, will you say my Lord and my God?
Jesus doesn’t hold your past against you.
You’re never too far gone to come back home!