Rogate, the Fifth Sunday after Easter May 20, 2001


Faith: God’s Answer for Our Doubts

John 20:24-29

But Thomas, called Didymus, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Here ends our text.

In the Name of Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

A Christian writer once defined doubt in this way: “To believe,” he said, “is to be ‘in one mind’ about accepting something as true. To disbelieve is to be ‘in one mind’ about rejecting it. To doubt—is to waver between the two. To doubt is to believe and disbelieve at the same time, and thus to be ‘in two minds’ about something.”

Doubts are a problem that plague every single Christian at one time or another. Different doubts attack different people at different times, but everyone has them. For instance: you know the passage where Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.Matt 18:20. We are gathered in His name—do you doubt that Jesus Christ is present right here with us at this very moment? To tell the truth, I’d understand if you did, because we human beings tend to have doubts about anything we can’t physically see. We always want proof! The best example is the Bible account of “Doubting Thomas.” That’s why we’re going to look especially at his case today. The theme of our message is—


If you ever meet a Christian tells you he never has any doubts, don’t be fooled—it doesn’t mean he’s not a doubter. It means he’s a doubter and a liar! After all, many of the things that God’s Word tells us are difficult if not impossible! for our human reason to understand. The Bible contains what we call “mysteries”—things which don’t seem to make sense to our reason, but which are nevertheless true according to Scripture. For instance, our mind tells us that one plus one plus one equals three. But the Bible teaches clearly that there are three individual Persons in the Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. However, the three Persons together don’t add up to three Gods, but one God. This is one of the great mysteries of Scripture.

One of the biggest mysteries of all is the resurrection of Christ. What could possibly go more against our common sense? Nature and experience teach us, over and over again, that when a person dies the life leaves his body, and that’s that. If someone were to tell you that a person, who you knew had died, had physically come to life again and was walking around—well, you’d have doubts, wouldn’t you? In fact, you’d probably think there was something wrong with the person you were talking to!

The Apostle Thomas had doubts. He had doubts about what had happened to Jesus. This, despite the fact that just a few days before Jesus had told all the disciples, very plainly, exactly what would happen to Him, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.Matt 20:18-19. Thomas didn’t quite believe it, though, even when all the other disciples said, “It’s true! Jesus came out of His tomb, and He’s alive! We saw Him last night!” Here were ten eyewitnesses that this fantastic story was true. But Thomas still wasn’t buying it. “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” He wanted proof. He wanted something he could see and touch—he got it, too, when Jesus appeared again, and gave him just the signs he had asked for. He also got a rebuke from Jesus, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus wanted His disciples to have faith, not doubts. He wanted them to believe the truth of His words, even when there was no “proof” to back it up.

And what about us? For us, too, it’s absolutely vital that we accept, as a fact, that Jesus really did rise from the dead. If the resurrection never took place, then that means that Jesus’ death was really no different than the death of any other criminal crucified by the Romans. Then there is no justification, no resounding voice of our God declaring us “not guilty” of sin. Then our hope of salvation and everlasting life is gone. If we don’t believe in the resurrection, Paul says, then we Christians are the most pitiful people on earth: “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.I Cor 15:17-19. But the problem is that there’s no visible “proof”—If we wait for Jesus to appear to us physically, like He did to Thomas, we will be waiting—literally—until Judgment Day!

Human beings want proof—Did you ever notice that people seem to have a terrific curiosity about relics and artifacts that might lend some “proof” to the Bible? It makes you wonder though why they never can quite get the solid evidence, for instance, that Noah’s ark is really up there on Mount Ararat, or that the famous Shroud of Turin really was Christ’s burial cloth! Perhaps it’s because God doesn’t want us to place our confidence in these things. If we had to work our own way through a maze of doubts, providing that kind of “proof” for every question we have about God, well, I don’t think we’d get very far! So God has provided us with a shortcut through this maze of doubts, and that shortcut is faith.

—And when I say God provides faith, I mean just that! We’re all familiar with the figure of the revivalist preacher who paces back and forth in front of a crowd of people, fire in his eyes, saying, “You gotta believe! You gotta believe!”—As though it’s up to you to try real hard and convince yourself that what the Bible says is true. But faith isn’t something that you produce in yourself. Faith is a gift that God gives to us through His Holy Spirit. Paul tells the Ephesians, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.Eph 2:8 NIV.

Did you know that you have supernatural powers? That’s what faith is—it’s the supernatural power to believe something that we can’t see, to trust in something that we can’t prove. And God gives us this power through His Word. St. Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.Rom 1:16. This powerful Word of God is much stronger than any earthly “proof” or evidence that anyone could bring. Do you remember Jesus’ parable about the rich man and poor Lazarus? It shows us how incredibly powerful the Word is! In the parable, the rich man died and went to hell. In his torment, he looked up and saw Lazarus in heaven with Abraham. He asked Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers, so they’d repent and escape the torment he was suffering. But Abraham said, “No, they’ve got the Bible—and that’s the strongest proof there is!” “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.Luke 17:31.

God’s Word is powerful—and He uses it to “charge up” our faith. Have you been plagued with doubts lately? Then it’s more important than ever to take advantage of every opportunity to come and hear that Word preached! Have you been feeling that the batteries of faith are running low in your family right now? Why not start a plan of daily devotions at your house! Five minutes of worship after supper each night may be just what your family needs to make the power of God’s Word a daily experience, rather than a weekly one. The more you take advantage of the Word, the stronger that supernatural power of faith will become!

I wonder how many of us really understand electricity? And how many of us can say that we’ve seen a radio wave? You can’t see them, but they’re real. And you don’t have the slightest doubt that when you turn on your radio, you’re going to hear music, or news, or a weather report—We can’t see Jesus, either; we can’t touch Him and put our fingers in the nail prints like Thomas did. And yet, God has given us faith through His Holy Spirit, so that we believe His powerful Word. That’s the best answer—God’s answer—to every one of our doubts! Every time you can find a quiet moment to open the Bible and read, the Holy Spirit will be working in you, making Jesus and His Words more real than even the grass and the trees and the sunshine. Every time you attend church to hear the Word preached and partake of the Lord’s Supper, God will be charging up your faith. You’ll be better prepared to meet those doubts you know you’re going to run into along the way! I pray that all of us will remember this answer for our doubts, and that we’ll listen to the voice of God when he reminds us, “…these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.God grant it, for Jesus’ sake, AMEN.

—Pastor Paul Naumann

Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA

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