What about doubt?

John 20

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Jesus Appears to Thomas

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Most of the time we talk about faith – we teach and preach about our need to believe, and the Lord’s call to trust. But I’ve been thinking about doubt. Having just come through Lent, a time when we consider the extent of Christ’s sacrifice for us and our devotion to Him, and then we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, it seems like doubt might not be the topic to emerge, so let me share a bit more. I’ve been wondering about how doubt lives within us – how doubt impacts our experiencing of the Kingdom of God.

At some point in our journey doubt does live. I think sometimes though I haven’t recognized doubt in my own heart at the time. It was only in retrospect.

Doubt shows up when my trust gets shaky, when I don’t see a solution, when I feel more fear than hope inwardly. Doubt sees the clouds on my horizon not the rising sun behind it.

You know we’re in transition – walking through buying a house, heading towards a new adventure in due process. I have to say the temptation to feel fear or see clouds over the past couple of months was real.

I suspect I am not the only one who feels this way at times.

Doubt is another way of thinking about the limitations of our faith. If I can’t imagine God’s ability to do something, to act in a particular way or change what appears to be unchangeable, does that mean I doubt?

Matthew 14 records the time that Jesus sent the disciples across the sea in a boat but was not with them….you know the story, the waves arise, the disciples are afraid….

When the disciples were in the boat and Jesus came walking on the water just Peter jumped into the water – James, John, Andrew, Judas…all stayed in the boat. Was that because they didn’t think it was Jesus, or were their fears breeding doubt in their hearts?

And of course there’s the man whom you call doubting Thomas.

I think it is interesting that only one of the disciples is recorded as doubting. Thomas is recorded…He wasn’t there when the risen Lord showed up and so he spoke out his doubt. It wasn’t his words that made him a doubter, it was the gap between what he knew and what others were saying. The fact that the other disciples said they had seen the risen Jesus only caused Thomas to say I want to see it to believe it.

I suspect most of us have had our own version of such a saying. I’ll believe it when I see it.

When I was in my 20’s I was wondering if we were making the right decision and it was a big decision. I had my doubts and they flew in the face of what was a very strong “word from the Lord”. I had no reason to doubt but my fear meant I was faced with increasing my faith. So I was worried and I think worry can be seen by some as doubt.

Then one day I ended up meeting a man. I had never seen or met him before I never met or saw him again. But he knew exactly what I was wrestling with and spoke to me in a way that, well I can’t explain, except to say he erased my doubt and encouraged me to believe and then he was gone. Yup, gone.

He walked into a crowd of people and “disappeared”. I can’t even remember his name.

He challenged me to believe, though. In a sense, he challenged my worry, my doubt. I didn’t give him any details, yet he knew them all. I assumed in retrospect that He was an angel sent by God to give us a very clear word on a big decision about ministry.

Thomas was invited to put his finger in the very marks of Christ’s crucifixion and believe.

Sometimes we preach on Thomas like he’s the one who doesn’t measure up to Peter, James, and John
Yet in many ways, we are more like Thomas than Peter, James or John. We hesitate to believe, we await the personal revelation rather than grab on to the testimony of others and we let our fears play with our hearts.

The Centurion who believed that Jesus healed his servant though he had not seen brought the reaction from Jesus – “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”

Let it be true of us.

Matthew 8:5-13

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

So here’s my encouragement to myself and I hope to you, that we won’t people who hesitate to believe, that we won’t let fear be the voice that dominates, that we’ll take hold of believing that God does indeed have things in hand.

So here’s the prayer I thought we might use:

Psalm 25[a]

Of David.

In you, Lord my God,
    I put my trust.

I trust in you;
    do not let me be put to shame,
    nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
    will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
    who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.

…..

Amen

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