Taking Doubts to Christ
Acts 4: 32-35 I John 1:1-2:2 John 20:9-31
Usually when people talk about Thomas he is pictured as a sort of an egghead or
somebody who had more brains than faith, and who had to see to believe. We get the
impression sometimes that Thomas WANTED to believe, but that his head kept him from going
his heart led him.
But Thomas had plenty of intellectual evidence for Jesus' resurrection. After all,
every one of the other disciples had the same story -- if you aren't going to believe the
people you lived and worked with for the past three years, what ARE you going to believe?
All of the disciples were talking about Jesus' resurrection. They all believed
that Christ had risen, they all attested to it. Why didn't Thomas believe?
No, it wasn't a matter of Thomas' head not going where his heart led, it was the
other way around. It was not his head that could not be swayed, it was his heart.
And let that be a lesson to us. There is no reasoning with the human heart.
Arguing is about the worst way in the world of trying to bring people into the faith. Even
if you CAN argue people into believing, chances are what you argue them into isn't worth
For example, it's easy for us to look at the Christian faith and be swayed by the
moral teachings of it. Lots of people have. Thomas Jefferson even worked on a project
called the Jefferson Bible. In the Jefferson Bible, all the references to Jesus as the Son
of God were cut out, so that all that was left was the moral teachings.
Now, the moral teachings of Jesus are all well and good. If we all followed them
this would be a better world. But believing in the moral teachings of Jesus is nothing
like SAVING FAITH.
Believing that Jesus was right when he said "A good tree bears good fruit and
a bad tree bears bad fruit" is an awfully long way from believing in Jesus the Christ
as the Son of God and Savior.
There is nothing illogical or silly about faith in God or religious belief. It is
easy for us to look at the teachings of Jesus and the church and see them as wise or
valuable to follow. And yet somehow there are always those who doubt, and, we have to
admit, there is always the part of US, no matter how devout we are, that falls into doubt.
As often as not, it is not our HEADS that keep God out of our lives, or that keep
us from repenting, or from following Christ as nearly as we might. What makes more sense
than avoiding eternal torment in order to enjoy eternal peace? No, it is our HEARTS that
keep us from being the sorts of followers we might be.
We fill our hearts with the burdens that keep Christ out. We place our faith in
our own wisdom, we place faith in wealth, and we place our faith in earthly power.
Of course, all of us know that a certain amount of wisdom, wealth and earthly
power are necessary for us to get along in life, at least as we have come to know it. The
idea of selling all our possessions as the early Christians did is an idea very foreign to
us. The problem comes when we start to give these things the power to run our lives, and
when we come to believe they have the power to take care of us and to save us. The Gospels
tell us that there are no powers on earth that can save us, and as Christians we are
supposed to take this to heart.
But it IS hard, isn't it? After all, the wealth and the power and the wisdom are
so real, and the Kingdom of Heaven and the Love of God can seem so far away and
distant.... We know we should believe.... But our hearts are weak. They lack the strength
and the conviction to carry out the orders of faith our minds make up for us.
That is why our faith is not an act of the will, but a gift of grace from God. Our
faith doesn't pave the way for blessings, our faith IS a blessing. It is only by faith
that we can take the incredible, impossible message of the Gospel to heart, make it real,
and make it the center of our lives.
Faith is a matter of the heart, just like courage. They are both strength of
heart. The courageous person and the faithful person are a lot alike. The courageous
person is not deaf and blind to the fears we all face, but the courageous person has
learned to put aside those fears and proceed with the business at hand.
The faithful person is not immune to doubt and lapses of belief. The faithful
person learns to put doubt aside and proceed with the work of God. And as much as that may
look like strength or courage or wisdom, what it really is is faith.
That brings us back around to Thomas, who, though he doubted, was willing to
surrender his doubt and change his mind. But it wasn't only his mind that changed, it was
his heart as well. And then, when the time came to turn his faith into action, to go out
into the world preaching the Good News of the Risen Christ, he was ready. He might even
have been stronger in faith for having doubted previously.
Doubt is a part of faith. It's as natural a part of faith as falling down is to
learning to ride a bike. So when the times of doubt come around, those are not the times
to sit and stew about it, or to withdraw into our own little ideas of what faith and
practice and all the Christian life is about.
When Thomas had his doubts, he took them straight to the Risen Christ. We can do
the same. God through Christ will see to it that we get what we need to carry us through
our times of doubt, to help us grow, and to make us strong in faith.
What was true of those first disciples is just as true of us today: "The
congregation of those who believe is of one heart and soul. . . and with great power we
are giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace is upon us
all." Go in peace, serve the Lord. Amen.