The Basis of Belief
John 20:24-31; Romans 18:8b 14, 17
Most of my life I have heard the claim that "seeing is believing."
We like to have ideas verified by tangible evidence.
We demand to have "facts," by which we mean "concrete realities."
Like children, we fear the abstract.
We want something that we can see and can handle.
In this message, we will focus on a disciple of Jesus that has been called, "Doubting Thomas."
In this message we may get a picture of our own weak faith, and then lay the foundation
for the beginning of a dynamic, mature faith.
Have A Good Word for Thomas.
Most of us are really cruel in our appraisal of Thomas, seeing him only as a weak,
doubting, half-hearted disciple.
A closer look at his life might reveal some surprising new aspects of his nature.
Basically, he was thoughtful and true at heart.
He wanted to believe, but would not let his emotions run ahead of his logic.
A great sculptor, Thorwaldsen, was given the commission to do a statue of Thomas.
And he shows Thomas to be a grave and thoughtful person who carries a measuring-line in his hand.
The measuring-line seems to be very appropriate for Thomas.
He was a measurer, not a mystic.
He was a logical person, not a lyrical person.
Longfellow's lines could very well described him:
"We have wings, but we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more."
Some Past References to Thomas
Two previous accounts of Thomas revealed to us more of his character.
The first is in John 11: 1-16
In this passage Jesus has just received word of the illness of Lazarus and of his subsequent death.
When Jesus announced His intention of going to Bethany, where Lazarus had died,
the disciples tried to persuade him not to go.
It was a dangerous journey for Jesus because of the hostility of the Jews there.
When Christ persisted in his determination to go,
Thomas said, "Let us also go that we may die with him."
These were the words of a brave and loyal man.
He had joined himself to Christ, and was willing to take the risks of his companionship
He did not pretend to be convinced of the wisdom of the proposed project.
But, wise or not wise, he was not going to desert His Friend in the hour of danger.
The second occasion on which Thomas appears is in connection with the last words of Christ to His disciples
(John 14), in which He told them of His death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
His disciples could not have understood clearly what He meant.
But for the most part they were acquiescent.
They were willing to wait for more light.
But this was not so with Thomas.
He wanted to understand, and understand now.
The others might remain silent when Christ said, "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know."
But Thomas could not accept this statement of Jesus without question.
He was not conscious of possessing such knowledge, and he did not hesitate to say so.
"Lord, we know not whither thou goest, and how can we know the way?"
Then Jesus answered him with those words which have been treasured throughout all Christendom:
"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me."
Just think these great words were quoted by great saints of God for centuries.
They were first spoken to answer the question in mind of "Doubting Thomas"!
Often we do criticize a person with honest doubt.
We need to remember the words of Tennyson:
"There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds."
We must respect that person who wants to be sure.
But, just as we have tried to say a good word for Thomas, there is another word which must now be given.
A Cautious Word For Doubters
There are those who are arrogant and flagrant with their intellectual skepticism.
Some appear sullen and hurt by disappointed faith.
To all doubters, loud or silent, there are several notes of caution which comes to us from the story of Thomas.
First, a caution against emotional causes.
Remember that Thomas was still trying to recover from the shock and horror of Calvary.
His highest hopes had been shattered.
His dearest friend had been murdered.
He was in the very pit of despair.
Life had lost all meaning, purpose, and direction.
Of course, he wanted to believe that Jesus was alive again, but his grief was too deep,
and his memory of the crucifixion was too vivid.
He did not accept the words of others.
He must see for himself the risen Lord before his broken heart could believe.
Why do the emotional disturbances cause us to doubt.
How much of our religious faith is controlled by our emotions and how we feel?
Second caution is against neglect of fellowship and worship.
We cannot ignore the fact that Thomas doubted in the first place because he was not with the disciples
at the first appearance of the risen Lord.
Regardless of his reason for his absence, it is obvious that he would never have become known to us as
"Doubting Thomas" if he had been with the assembled disciples that night.
For some the first action in time of sorrow, hurt, or doubt is to reject the fellowship of the church
in the hour of worship.
Of all times, this is exactly when that person needs the church.
This is the time to draw closer to God's people, to read the Bible with greater intensity,
to become involved in ministering to others, to learn the deeper resources of prayer.
Running from God's gospel and from God's house of worship just doesn't
bring one closer to God and His strength.
A Blessed Word For Believers
We use the word, "blessed," because this is the word Jesus used as He referred to those
who have faith without sight. (Verse 29)
First, those who see and believe.
Thomas all and cried out, "My Lord and my God!"
His response was immediate and spontaneous.
It was not the outcome of reasoned argument, it was the sudden act of instinctive recognition.
This is exactly what happens when a soul comes to God through Christ.
He does not weigh all evidence and intellectually decide that Christianity is the better life.
Instead, he sees the crucified Saviour, and recognizes his own sins nailing Him to the cross,
and cries out for forgiveness and redemption.
What Thomas saw was Christ and His wounds.
It is not recorded that Thomas actually touched Jesus.
When we see Jesus, our demands and tangible proof shame us.
Second, those who believe without seeing.
This blessedness which Jesus bestows (verse 29) is wonderfully available to us.
We have not seen the physical, historical Christ, yet we may believe and receive this blessing.
We sometimes may think that those who did actually see Him in the players have advantage over us.
But did they?
What can we see that they could not?
They were prejudiced by the fact that He was from Nazareth.
They could not visualize a plain workingman as the promised Messiah.
We stand on this end of history, seeing the complicated gospel story, including the resurrection, the ascension,
the giving of the Holy Spirit, the life of the church, and the social revolutions wrought by Christianity.
We can see so much more than they could see.
Our greatest mistake is to seek and expect faith outside the scriptural revelation.
D. L. Moody once said:
"If all the time that I have spent praying for faith were put together it would be months.
I thought that someday faith was going to come down and strike me like lightning.
But faith did not come.
But one day I read in the 10th chapter of Romans, "So then faith cometh by hearing
and hearing by the word of God."
I had closed my Bible, and prayed for faith.
I now open my Bible and began to read God's Word and faith has been growing ever since."
This sermon was adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White