Intro: Is true faith “blind ”? If someone asks you to prove that there is a God, how do you respond? It is enough to simply tell them that you accept God’s existence by faith? Is it good enough to just say you feel that there is a God, so there is a God to you? Is true faith blind, or does it rest on any evidence?
Faith, by definition, rests in what is not empirically substantiated. Hebrews 11:1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But that fact alone does not validate blind faith.
But true faith can be supported through outside evidence. In fact, God expects us to investigate what we believe. He has provided the evidence or testimony that corresponds to our faith.
I. “Behold My hands and My feet” – Doubt was the predominate response to the news about Jesus’ resurrection. Mary and her female companions were the first to realize (through Jesus’ appearance) that He had risen from the dead. But when the women reported what they had seen at the empty tomb to the apostles it says in Luke 24:11, “And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. Luke records Jesus’ appearance to the apostles and their unbelief. Luke 24:36-43 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” 37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” 40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 And He took it and ate in their presence.
A. Despite the testimony of others who had seen Jesus, they do not believe. Jesus provides the empirical evidence – His feet and hands. In this scene Jesus greets them (Peace be unto you), and then immediately shows them his hands and feet. Why? Is it not so they would believe?
B. John accounts a second appearance and focuses attention on Thomas, who was absent in the first appearance. Read John 20:19-31 – When I say the name “Thomas” what is the next word that comes in your mind? “Doubting”. This single event is what Thomas is most noted for. Sometimes I think he has been given a bum rap for his statement of “doubt”.
C. Thomas needed to see it for himself. But when Thomas had the evidence by seeing the risen Jesus, Thomas proclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
II. Developing a Realistic Faith– In John 20, Jesus refers to those who have not seen and yet believed”. It has been supposed that Jesus was talking about the rest of the disciples besides Thomas. But we have seen that Thomas was simply asking for the same evidence that the other disciples needed as well. They had seen Him. Jesus was speaking about all the others who would not have the advantage of seeing with their own eyes the risen Lord. They would be blessed by believing though they could not see.
A. God expects us to look at the hard evidence. We are allowed to be realists when it comes to our faith. Jesus did not expect the multitudes to just accept what He said and taught outright. He recognized the need for the evidence and witness that supports the truth. John 5:31-32 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.” Jesus then proceeds to produce a fourfold witness to His credibility And identity: John, the Baptist (33-35); the works or miracles that HE performed (v. 36); The testimony of the Father through prophecy (v. 37-44); Moses in the Pentateuch (v. 45-47)
B. I believe all of us at one time or another entertains a doubt. There are occasions when I contemplate whether there is truth behind what I am doing. So what are we to do when there are moments of doubt? What should we do when we become a little unsure about the things of God?
C. We need to do what Thomas did – examine the evidence.
1. The more I study the more I become convinced that there is a God and the Bible is God’s revealed will. Consider Peter’s desire in 2 Peter 1:15 – 15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. He wanted them to never forget what he had already told them. In fact, Peter proceeds to provide his eyewitness testimony to the divinity of Christ by retelling the story of the transfiguration. The evidence was clear. We have not followed cleverly devised fairy tales (v. 16), but we were eyewitnesses – we felt his hands and feet.
D. Honest Investigation has nothing to fear – unless you are afraid of faith. Scholars have attempted to disprove Jesus and the existence of God, only to find through honest investigation that the evidence is overwhelming that there is a God.
1. Josh McDowell, in the late 70s and early 80s, attempted to disprove the claims of the Bible concerning God and Jesus. He ended up as a world renown defender of the biblical claims, writing a powerful book “Evidence That Demands A Verdict.”
2. Lee Strobel is a journalist for a Chicago newspaper. He also embarked in the same effort to disprove the Bible. He became a believer in the claims of the Bible and Jesus, writing books The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and The Case for the Creator. Both of these men were antagonistic to the Bible and tried to find it false. In their efforts, they found the claims of the Bible to be true and reliable.
III. Expressing a Realistic Faith: When confronted with the hard evidence, Thomas showed the honesty of his heart by immediately expressing his faith. “My Lord an My God”. There are some who will not believe no matter what they see.
A. When the rich man petitioned Abraham from torment to send someone to speak to his brothers. Notice Abraham’s reply. Luke 16:27-31 27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'”
B. The gospel of John ends by encouraging us to look at the biblical evidence. “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). We are not expected to have faith without evidence.
IV. Dealing with Doubts – It is not wrong to have doubts – to search for certainty. Jesus did not openly rebuke Thomas for wanting to see the proof. Although God is not going write out “I EXIST” in big letters across the sky to satisfy our skepticism, He has provided ample testimony to His existence. Faith does not exist in a vacuum.
A. The presence of skepticism and doubt can lead to greater faith if the person is honestly searching for the truth. I think Thomas displays this type of honest skepticism. When Jesus provided the proof he readily believed and expressed his confidence more strongly than he expressed his doubt. Francis Bacon said, If a man will begin with certainties, he will end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he will end in certainties.
B. Thomas and the other apostles were not gullible. They needed evidence. They had to be convinced that Jesus was alive. This type of conviction, that overcomes the obstacles of doubt, is strong and resilient in the face of unbelievers.<
C. The theologian Henry Drummond expresses a distinction between a doubter and an unbeliever.
1. A doubter is a person who searches for God and the godly life; He is on a quest for truth, and continues to ask the questions that only God can answer.
2. An unbeliever isn’t searching for God but for the pleasures of this world. An unbeliever isn’t asking questions about God because he is apathetic to God.
3. A doubter struggles with God and in the course of his struggle strengthens his faith.
4. An unbeliever simply struggles to pay the bills, find a spouse, find a job, find a house. That is all.
D. But, it is wrong for a disciple to keep doubting. We are not live by doubt, but by faith. Despite the honesty of Thomas’ skepticism, Jesus says, “Thomas, stop doubting and believe.” There is a time for certainty and absolute conviction on the matters of faith.
1. This call for certainty applies not only to the facts of the gospel, such as the resurrection, but also to the person of the Gospel, Jesus Himself. Jesus often called on His disciples to overcome their fear and doubts, and place confidence in Him. (Matt 14:I must strive to stop doubting Jesus. I must strive to trust Him completely. Matt 14:26-31 – 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
a. God did not reprove Job for his questions and doubts. But He did expect Job to look at the evidence and to quiet his questions and doubts and put his trust in him – without reservation. Job 40:1-5 – The Lord said to Job: 2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” 3 Then Job answered the Lord: 4 “I am unworthy — how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice, but I will say no more.”Job 42:3-6 – …Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 [“You said,] ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Conclusion: Thomas was a man of great faith. His faith led him to follow Jesus wherever Jesus would lead him. When God answered his doubts he confidently expressed his faith. “My Lord and My God.” He became a committed realist. The evidence was so overwhelming that Thomas would give his life for the things he saw. Foxes’ Book of Martyrs records that Thomas preached in Parthia and India, where through preaching the gospel, he excited the rage of the pagan priests who killed him by thrusting him through with a spear. God has given us enough evidence, overwhelming evidence, to become committed realists. It is up to us to investigate the evidence and then be willing to follow Jesus wherever he goes.