Thomas

How to Overcome Doubt:  Thomas

(John 20:24-29)

 

1.      If even casually followed professional baseball in past 10 years, will recognize name Dave Dravecky.  He is a former pitcher for San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants.  Dravecky developed cancer in pitching arm.  After two remarkable comebacks, eventually he had to have his arm amputated.  That was devastating experience and naturally it raised many questions and doubts in his mind about God.  But even during those dark days, Dravecky remained a vibrant Christian openly sharing his faith and confidence in God.  He received letters from people all over country.  Most of the letters were encouraging.  Many asked for advice on how to make it through difficult times.  But one day he received the following letter...

Dear Mr. Dravecky, If there is a God who cares so much about you, why did he allow you to have the surgery in the first place? I have lived 41 years in this old world and have yet to see any piece of genuine evidence that there is anything real about any of those religious beliefs you talk about. God certainly does not love me and has never done a single thing to express that love for me. I have had to fight for everything I ever got in life. Nobody cares about what happens to me and I don't care about anybody else either. Can't you see the truth that religion is nothing more than a crutch used by a lot of weaklings who can't face reality and that the church is nothing but a bunch of hypocrites who care nothing for each other and whose faith extends not to their actions or daily lives but is only just a bunch of empty phrases spouted off to impress others?

      How would you respond to a letter like that?  Here’s what Dravecky did.  He wrote back telling the person that he knew how he felt because he had faced the same doubts.  He had wondered if God had abandoned him.  He questioned if anyone cared.  He feared his faith was just empty words.  But then he said that when things seemed the worst, Jesus was there..."I am convinced," Dravecky wrote, "that there is a God. That no matter what happens to me, there is a purpose for it and behind that purpose stands a loving, caring God.”

2.   How does a person overcome doubt to arrive at a faith like that?.  That’s what we are going to focus on in this study.  Everyone struggles with doubt to some degree or another.  Frederick Buechner wrote something that really speaks to me. He worte::  "Whether your faith is that there is a God of that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep.  Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving."

3.   In this session we are going to look at a person for whom faith was not easy....this particular person was not by nature a person of faith...as matter of fact, he was by nature a skeptic with rather pessimistic mind set...however, was a person who through long process ended up with a solid faith....referring to Thomas, who more often than not in Christian literature is referred to as "doubting Thomas"....

4.   Unfortunate think of Thomas in that way because one of greatest affirmations of faith in entire Bible came from lips of Thomas....but world has way of forgetting good done by a person and judging him by one glaring mistake...certainly has happened to Thomas....want to look at passage which demonstrates both the doubt and the faith of Thomas...(John 20:24‑29)....

 


T.S. - Thomas was person who successfully moved from doubt to faith...from his example want to share with you  a couple of thoughts about how to overcome doubt...

 

I     To overcome doubt we must not be afraid to acknowledge our doubt

1.   I admire Thomas because he refused to pretend to believe something he didn’t really believe...he made no claim to understand something he did not understand...the other disciples had seen the resurrected Lord...they accepted the fact of the resurrection...now they were trying to get Thomas to believe...

2.   The grammatical construction of v.25 indicates there was a real struggle going on between the other disciples and Thomas...the tense of the verb translated “were saying”  implies that the disciples were persistently saying, they kept on saying...and Thomas was just as persistently replying that he would not believe until he saw for himself what they had seen...

3.   What want you see in that is that Thomas was not afraid to acknowledge his doubt and he didn’t allow others to pressure him into claiming to believe something he didn’t really believe...

 

1.      In Living Above the Level of Mediocrity Chuck Swindoll describes interesting experiment conducted by a psychologist...ten people were asked to look at three lines at three different large sheets of paper...they were asked to raise their hands when the group leader pointed to the longest line...unknown to one of the ten group members, the other nine had been instructed to raise their hands not when the teacher pointed to the longest line but the next longest line...amazingly, 75% of the time when that one person saw the group indicating that the second longest line was really the longest, that person would say that line was longest as well...the group pressure became more convincing than his/her own senses...[Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, p.225]

2.      And sometimes, those who are Christians, feel pressure from others to suppress their doubts...they assume that everyone around them must believe, so they too should believe...they end up pretending that their doubts don’t exist...and they never deal with them and they never go away...want you to know that you will never overcome doubt by ignoring it...

 

II.  To overcome doubt must learn to distinguish between honest doubt and dishonest doubt

1.      Someone has said "doubt is either the agony of an earnest soul or the trifling of some superficial fool."...and it seems to me that whether doubt is “the agony of an earnest soul” or the “trifling of a superficial fool” depends entirely on the attitude of the doubter...some people are honest doubters and others or dishonest doubters...now, what's the difference between the two, between honest and dishonest doubt?....

2.      The dishonest doubter doesn't really want to know the truth...not in process of trying to discover truth...likes things as are and doesn't want change...Gaston Foote describes dishonest doubters this way: “There are people who do not want to believe in God because they prefer a life of ungodliness. Belief in God would only make them more uncomfortable. There are those who doubt the virtue of others because they do not choose to be virtuous.  There are those who question the honesty of [others] because they themselves prefer to live by dishonest methods.” ...this kind doubter condemned by psalmist when wrote: "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

3.      On other hand there are honest doubters...people earnestly searching for and open to truth...people looking for evidence upon which base their belief... while dishonest doubters look for reasons not to believe, honest doubters searching for reasons to believe...

 

1.      Kind of doubter Thomas was...the doubt Thomas expressed in v.25 was  honest doubt... he basically said,  “When see what you saw...when have evidence you had, I too will believe..."... really, when think about it, no more skeptical than rest of disciples...just wanted to see the evidence for himself...

2.      Important see Lord didn't condemn Thomas for that kind of doubt...He welcomes the questions of those who are honestly seeking Him...was true in case of —

--Nicodemus who questioned how what Jesus told him could be true...

--John Baptist who asked if was really Messiah or should look for another...

--Thomas who had courage express doubts...

 

1.      Alfred Tennyson, the great poet, was devastated when his friend, Arthur Hallam died...was so filled with  grief and doubt about God, wrote no poetry at all... finally after working his way through darkness of doubt, wrote one of most outstanding poems, "In Memoriam"...one line in the poem says this:

“There lives more faith in honest doubt,

Believe me, than in half the creeds.”

2.      Starting point in moving from doubt to faith is realizing that doubt, if it's honest doubt, is not bad...

 

III. To overcome doubt we must not let doubt paralyze us

1.      Interesting thing about Thomas...even though wasn't ready believe in resurrection like other disciples, didn't stop meeting with them....v.26 tells us that eight days after refusing to believe, Thomas still meeting with the group....

2.      See in that something significant...while couldn't bring self to accept fact of resurrection, did continue doing what could do....and because took that small step of faith, when Jesus appeared to them again was there to see for himself....

 

1.      That's often way is with way of faith....more often than not don't overcome doubt in one giant step...but through series of small steps move from darkness of doubt to light of faith....as we have courage to act on faith or insight we have, then it's God's way to provide more faith or insight...

2.      Do you remember a couple of years ago when the streets were covered for days with a layer of ice…driving was to say the least treacherous…during that time Carol’s mom had a medical emergency and need to be taken to the hospital…didn’t know if we could get her there but started off…made it end of our street…kept going…didn’t look too far ahead…just went driveway by driveway and block by block...found that by going step at time was able to reach destination...

3.      That’s how is in journey from doubt to faith...don’t try to make it all at once...take the steps we can...cling to faith we have...walk in light available to us and God gives us more light... and worse thing can do in face of doubt is allow doubt to rob us of faith we have...to respond to it by abandoning those things we do no doubt...

4.      Elie Wiesel tells the story of a prophet who came to a city and delivered his message every day in the marketplace...after a time his ranting became a fixture of the city's life and people regarded him with amusement when they regarded him at all... a small boy, pitying the old man, approached him and said, “Sir, why do you keep crying aloud like this every day, year after year? The people here will never listen to you.”  “I gave up hope that they would listen to me a long time ago,” said the prophet. “I go on crying lest I begin to listen to them.”

5.   To overcome doubt we must cling to and act on the faith that we have...

CONCLUSION

1.      In paragraph are two statements by Thomas...


--The first in v.25 is statement of doubt..."Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” --The second, in v.28 is one of the greatest statements of faith in the entire Bible...said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”

2.      How did Thomas move from doubt to faith?...the answer is clear—

            --first, he did not ignore his doubts...didn’t pretend weren’t there..

--second, he was an honest doubter....sincerely desired to know the truth...

--third, had courage to act on insight he had....

3.      That's the way to overcome the doubts which I suspect most, if not all, of us experience at sometime or another in our pilgrimage through this world.... 

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