Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 May 21, 2006

How to Survive Your Doubts  
  John 20:24-20:29 (GNB)



In a Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown is talking with Lucy as they walk home on the last day of school.
Charlie Brown says to Lucy: “Lucy, I got straight A’s; isn’t that great!”
Lucy in her typical fashion shoots down poor Charlie Brown and says: “I don’t believe you Charlie Brown. Unless you show me your report card, I cannot believe you.”

Can you relate to Lucy?

Seeing is believing, isn’t it?
Most people have to see something before they can believe it.
My brother always used to tell me: “Don’t believe everything that you hear and only half of what you see.”
This is often how we describe the apostle Thomas, but is this saying really accurate?
Let me ask you a few questions:
 Have you ever felt like you missed something big that everyone else seemed to know about?
 Have you ever felt like you were not spiritual enough because of your past failures?
 Have you ever felt like you could really believe even more in Jesus if you could just catch a glimpse of Him?
If you have ever felt like this or anything like this you would be in good company with Thomas.

In the 20th Chapter of John and verses 24-29 there’s the story of this Apostle called Thomas.
This is what it says—
24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came.
25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then stretch out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!”
28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!”

Thomas has been given a fairly difficult stereotype through the centuries because he is often referred to as doubting Thomas, but I don’t believe that the title truly fits this man.
So let’s take a few moments to clear the air and see what we really know about Thomas

1. Thomas was most likely a fisherman
Thomas may have been a fisherman by trade; John includes him with several other disciples who join Peter in fishing all night. Chapter 21 and verses 1-3 describe what happened.
1 After this, Jesus appeared once more to his disciples at Lake Tiberias. This is how it happened.
2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael (the one from Cana in Galilee), the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples of Jesus were all together.
3 Simon Peter said to the others, “I am going fishing.” “We will come with you,” they told him. So they went out in a boat, but all that night they did not catch a thing.

Believe me; I have had too many fishing trips that turned out just like this one.
Now this was no casual fishing trip, but rather it was a means of trade and income.
In other words, it was work.

It also makes sense that Thomas could have been a fisherman because many of the early followers of Jesus came from the area of the Sea of Galilee.
Fishing would have been a major source of work in that area.

2. Thomas was a follower of Jesus, as well as a fisherman
He was a disciple of Jesus from the earliest days of Jesus’ public ministry.
We know this, because we are told in Luke 6:13-16--
13 When day came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he named apostles:
14 Simon (whom he named Peter) and his brother Andrew; James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,
15 Matthew and Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon (who was called the Patriot),
16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became the traitor.

Another way we know this is that when they replaced Judas, one of the requirements in the book of Acts was that they must have been with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry.
Thomas had made a choice to follow Jesus and he invested his life into seeking more and more of Jesus.

3. Thomas was a follower of Jesus, and he was a fisherman, and he was also an apostle
He was chosen by Jesus to be one of twelve leaders within the larger body of disciples.
One of the verses we just read stated that, “When day came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he named apostles.”
Thomas was one of them, and he became one of the core leaders and spent a great deal of time with Jesus.

4. Thomas was a follower of Jesus, a fisherman, an apostle, and he was loyal and committed
Jesus was facing increasing hostility from the religious leadership and as He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead there was great concern that there might be an attempt to kill Jesus.
Look at the words Thomas uses when he talks with the other disciples: “Let us all go with the Teacher, so that we may die with him!”
These do not sound like the words of a skeptic.

5. Thomas was a follower of Jesus, a fisherman, an apostle; he was loyal and committed, and he was confused.
As Jesus was preparing the disciples for His coming death and resurrection, He told them that He was going to prepare a place for them and that they would know the way to where they were going.
Thomas very clearly shows that he doesn’t always understand what Jesus was teaching them.
Look at what he says: “Lord, we do not know where you are going; so how can we know the way to get there?”
If Thomas was such a loyal follower of Jesus what happened to him?
How did he go from follower to famous skeptic?
It could be that Thomas’ life was in a downward spiral.
It started when Thomas deserted Jesus.
On the night that Jesus was arrested, all of the apostles ran and deserted Him.
Thomas was no exception.
He ran and Jesus died.
Can you imagine the kinds of emotions he was experiencing?
He was afraid, confused, ashamed, dismayed and distressed.
He had followed Jesus for years and now it all came crashing down around him.
He deserted Jesus, and now The desertion led to a delay.
Thomas doesn’t go back to be with the other apostles right away.
We don’t know where he was, what he was doing or why he stayed away.
But for whatever reason, Thomas doesn’t go back with the others.
The result is that he loses out on the fellowship of the apostles and he doesn’t see Jesus on the first Easter.
And then the delay led to a denial.
When Thomas does return to the apostles he hears that Jesus was raised from the dead and that Jesus appeared to them.
The greatest event in all of history and he missed it.
Jesus was alive and Jesus knew that Thomas deserted the fellowship.
Thomas doesn’t know what has taken place, or how any of this took place; and he doesn’t know if Jesus will appear again or anything else about the resurrection.
All he knows is that he missed it.
So Thomas begins to deny the testimony of the apostles because it was easier than facing the truth about himself.

Finally, the denial led to a demand.
He denies the testimony of the apostles and this leads him to demand proof.
Thomas tells the others that he will not believe until he gets to see Jesus for himself.
Then he goes a step further, he wants to touch Jesus, put his hands where the nails were and where the spear was put into Jesus’ side.
Thomas was quickly caught in a dangerous, downward spiritual spiral.
The fact is that he was slipping quickly and no one but Jesus could get him out.

The next thing that happens is that Thomas was given a specific demonstration.
A week goes by and there was no appearance of Jesus and we have no idea what Thomas was thinking, but it couldn’t have been a good week.
He was left to his lack of focus.

Just when he may have been ready to give up hope of seeing Jesus, then Jesus finally appears.
When Jesus appears He greets the entire group and turns His attention on Thomas.
At this point, Thomas has to be thinking, here it comes, Jesus is going to tell me how disgusting and rotten I am.
Jesus knew the heart of Thomas, because He offers exactly what he was asking for and Jesus gives him the proof he needed.

It is important to note that Jesus was not offended or angered by the request Thomas made.
We know that, because He responds with love and kindness.
Jesus then begins to speak to him about the real issue and cuts right to the chase.
He tells Thomas to stop doubting and believe.
What does it mean to doubt?
There are two key definitions for doubt; the first means to be double minded or to have a lack of focus or commitment, and the second means to have no faith at all.
Jesus was telling Thomas that he was moving toward having a faithless life.
There are times in life when doubt is healthy and reasonable.
For instance, a few weeks ago I saw a tabloid with a story on the cover about Elvis being alive and in Hawaii.
Now I seriously doubt the reliability of that story because it’s just not reasonable.
There is more than enough reason to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead.
Jesus was crucified, He was dead and buried, and then the tomb was empty, He was seen by many people, and the apostles were changed in radical ways after that first Easter.
Doubt is not negative until it leads you to choose not to believe.
This was exactly what Jesus was warning Thomas about.
Literally, Jesus was saying: “Thomas, you are acting like a person who has no faith; stop it and believe.
The only way to survive your doubts is to believe.

Now we don’t believe everything that comes our way, like that story about Elvis, but we are called to believe the account of the gospel and that Jesus is alive.
Believing means to put your complete trust in something or someone.
To believe in Jesus means to depend totally on Him and to place your trust in Him, 100%.
There are two questions that we should all ask ourselves—
Do I believe in Jesus?
Have I put a complete trust in Him or just a partial trust?

The last thing I want you to see is that Thomas gave a dynamic declaration.
He falls before Jesus and proclaims that He is Lord and God.
He goes from demanding evidence to declaring truth.
He says that Jesus is the Lord of all things, and the God of all creation.
This is one of the greatest statements of faith in the entire New Testament.
Thomas made a personal declaration of trust in Jesus.

Jesus wants us to declare Him before others.
He said that if we don’t do that, He will not declare us to His Father.
Where are you in that process?
Have you made your declaration of Jesus being your Lord and your God?
Jesus tells Thomas that he believed, because he saw and was convinced.

Maybe you have been caught in a downward spiral and things have been slipping in your spiritual life.
That’s happened to me before, but God caught me before I hit bottom, and He brought me back to a place where I could once again have fellowship with Him.
Maybe you have never made the claim to put your trust in Jesus.
Maybe you are just waiting for the chance to see some proof.
Jesus is with us now by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
He is here waiting for you to turn from your lack of focus and faith to proclaim Him as your Lord and your God.I

I don’t know what it is that you need this morning but Jesus does.
Just as He knew what Thomas needed so long ago, He knows today what you need and He is waiting to meet that need.

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