Doubting Thomas and Suffering

Posted on 08/10/2008 by Garron Shepherd

AUDIO: dialup - broadband - podcast

TRANSCRIPT: (may not contain everything found in the audio above)

Good morning and welcome to Abundant Living Ministries CyberChurch. Pastor Benjamin has graciously allowed me to share this message with you, as he’s unable to attend services this weekend. Let me first state, I’m not the pastor, and I have not been called to be a pastor, so this message is more or less like a message from just your brother, and of course, everything I say, or even any pastor says, should and must be judged by the Word. Let’s Pray.

Dear God, thank you for allowing us to be here and to hear this message today. Thank you that, as sure as the sun will rise in the morning, we can trust in your grace and redemption, paid for by your son Jesus’ blood. [Prayer Requests] Father, please give us wisdom that enables us to live lives pleasing to you, and give us the conviction to carry it out. Lord, I want to be all that you intended me to be. Father, help me understand your ways. I pray in Jesus’ most holy and highest name, Amen. 

AWESOME GOD

When he rolls up his sleeves
he ain't just puttin' on the ritz
Our God is an awesome God

There's thunder in his footsteps
and lightning and in his fists
Our God is an awesome God

Well the Lord wasn't joking
when he kicked 'em out of Eden
It wasn't for no reason
that he shed his blood

His return is very soon
and so you better be believin' that
Our God is an awesome God

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God

When the sky was starless
in the void of the night
Our God is an awesome God

He spoke into the darkness
and created the light
Our God is an awesome God

Judgment and wrath
he poured out on Sodom
Mercy and grace
he gave us at the cross

I hope that we have not
too quickly forgotten that
Our God is an awesome God

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God

FOREVER

Give thanks to the Lord, our God and King
His love endures forever
For he is good, he is above all things
His love endures forever

Sing praise
Sing praise

With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm
His love endures forever
For the life that's been reborn
His love endures forever

Sing praise
Sing praise
Sing praise
Sing praise

Forever God is faithful
Forever God is strong
Forever God is with us
Forever

Forever God is faithful
Forever God is strong
Forever God is with us
Forever, and ever

From the rising the setting sun
His love endures forever
By the grace of God we will carry on
His love endures forever

Sing praise
Sing praise
Sing praise
Sing praise

Forever God is faithful
Forever God is strong
Forever God is with us
Forever

Forever God is faithful
Forever God is strong
Forever God is with us
Forever

WHO AM I

Who am I that the Lord of all the earth
would care to know my name
would care to feel my hurt

Who am I that the bright and morning star
would choose to light the way
for my ever-wandering heart

Not because of who I am
but because of what you've done
Not because of what I've done
but because of who you are

I am the flower quick fading
here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
a vapor in the wind

Still you hear me when I'm calling
Lord you catch me when I'm falling
and you told me who I am
I am yours


Who am I that the eyes that see my sin
would look on me with love
and watch me rise again

Who am I that the voice that calmed the sea
would call out through the rain
and calm the storm in me

Not because of who I am
but because of what you've done
Not because of what I've done
but because of who you are

I am the flower quick fading
here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
a vapor in the wind

Still you hear me when I'm calling
Lord you catch me when I'm falling
and you told me who I am
I am yours


Not because of who I am
but because of what you've done
Not because of what I've done
but because of who you are

I am the flower quick fading
here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
a vapor in the wind

Still you hear me when I'm calling
Lord you catch me when I'm falling
and you told me who I am
I am yours

I am yours
I am yours

Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
'Cause I am yours
I am yours

The title of this message is Doubting Thomas and Suffering. I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so I hope you’re engaged to listen. I’m excited today to share with you the testimony of my favorite character from the Bible. His name was Thomas, and he was one of the original disciples of Jesus. Thomas was a pessimist. He was the kind of fellow who saw the glass as half empty. In fact, he is often called “doubting Thomas”. Thomas had been with Jesus throughout most of his ministry. He had seen numerous miracles, and even was witness to Christ raising Lazarus from the dead – days after Lazarus had died, or as the bible says in John 11:39, “he stinketh”! He saw Jesus arrested and fled for his life. Thomas then saw from a distance Jesus, his master, slaughtered dead on the cross.

Turn with me in the Bible to John 20:19. For those of you following along, I am using the NIV translation. At this point, Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead. Jesus had met Mary and she told the disciples that she had seen the Lord resurrected. Starting at the Book of John, chapter 20, verse 19:

  19On the evening of that first day of the week[note: this is the same day Mary told them she had seen the Lord], when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

So Jesus came to the disciples for the first time as they hid in fear of what the Jews might do to them since they crucified their master. Now notice Thomas was not with them, continuing at verse 24:

 24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So 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 it."

As you can see, Thomas clearly didn’t buy it. Why should he? He saw Jesus bloody and crucified. Thomas probably thought they all needed to get in line for CAT scans – well if they existed. Thomas was a smart man. He knew dead men don’t rise from the grave. He couldn’t explain how Lazarus had arisen from the dead. To him it must have been a chance coincidence, or maybe he wasn’t really dead. He must’ve thought “How could Jesus have possibly raised himself from the dead?” I often wonder if he was offended by what the other disciples were telling him. Imagine that your teacher had died and then imagine having all your friends acting delusional saying your teacher rose from the grave. It’s not hard to see why Thomas asked for the evidence he did. Continuing at verse 26:

26A 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!"

Whoa! Stop. A week later? Christ took a full week before coming back to his disciples. Why? Why did he leave Thomas to doubt for a week? Christ could’ve come back the moment Thomas issued the challenge to Christ’s resurrection, but He didn’t. I believe that is to teach us that answers don’t always come when you ask them. Also note that Thomas was with them. This is important, because although Thomas thought the other disciples might be delusional, he still craved the Truth. Let me start again.

26A 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!" 27Then 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."  28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"  29Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."  

Notice how Jesus responded to Thomas’s skepticism. Was Jesus angry? No. In fact, he said “peace be with you!”. Immediately then he said to “doubting” Thomas, “put your finger here! See my hands! Reach out your hand and put it into my side!” Christ was not angry. No, Christ was compassionate! Christ then told him “stop doubting and believe” – and of course immediately Thomas cried out “my LORD and my GOD!” I can only imagine the tears in his eyes as he said it - as he stood before his once dead teacher and master. Suddenly everything Christ taught and did made sense. Suddenly Thomas understood that Christ really was operating from God's authority, and it wasn't just a so-so explanation - Jesus was standing before him himself!

Folks, Christ doesn’t want us doubting. He doesn’t want us to spend our time half committed to belief! I’ve heard so many people say that you should just learn to live with your doubts. That is completely wrong and contradictory to scripture! Let me say it again. Some people say that you should just live with your doubts. That is a falsehood and contradictory to scripture! Christ commanded us that we stop doubting and believe! It seems like such a difficult command. How can we fulfill it? The answer is simple. The Bible says in Jeremiah 29:13:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

The bible says this again in Deuteronomy 4:29:

But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

This doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily find an answer to everything. Only God knows everything. Only God really has the full picture. But God’s Word promises us that if you seek Him, you will find Him, WHEN you seek him with all your heart.

Thomas wanted evidence! He wanted to know if Jesus rose from the grave. It wasn’t enough that people told him so, he had to see it himself. It is NOT wrong to seek evidence. It is not wrong to seek evidence to end your doubts.God will not abandon those who seek to trust Him.

This is very important today. One of the bigger doubts of the Christian faith is understanding, for example, suffering and death. A lot of Christians doubt God because they can’t understand how an all powerful and all loving God could allow suffering and death. In fact, I had this doubt in my youth and was afraid to ask other people about death and suffering because I thought there wouldn’t be an answer. How weak of a faith is that? Not only did I refuse to leave my doubts, but I feared I might cause other people to doubt as well just by asking about it! So instead I spent years living in doubt, and didn’t take God seriously – so much so I contemplated becoming an atheist.

But what I didn’t know was the answer to this doubt is written plainly in God’s word, if we would just read it and understand. It’s right at the beginning of the Bible. At the end of the creation week, In Genesis 2, God created the Adam and his wife (later known as Eve), the very first human beings, and the garden of Eden and God lived in perfect fellowship with them. There was no death or suffering - and there was no seperation between man and God. Adam could literally get up in the morning and say "Good morning God!" and without hesitation - because there was no seperation, God could reply with something like "Thanks, when I made it I knew you'd like it." The relationship Adam and Eve had with God was not that different from what to expect in Heaven.

God only had one command for them: to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve rebelled against God by eating the fruit of the tree God specifically commanded them not to eat. As a result, God cursed all of creation with (among other things) death and suffering. In Genesis 3:19 God said:

19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return."

God originally created paradise and perfect communion between God and his people. Yes, he really did! There was no death or suffering until Adam and Eve rebelled against God. Nowadays, ever since the curse, we don't often say "Good Morning Lord!" even though we should. For some of us, it's more like "Good Lord it's morning!"

Now, some skeptics ask "Are you really trying to say all death is the result of Adam and Eve eating a piece of fruit?" My answer is: pretty much. Firstly, this was a fruit God commanded them not to eat, and when they did, they actively rebelled against God. Secondly, their rebellion led to the knowledge of sin and evil. Just one generation later Cain murdered his brother Abel in Genesis 4. Finally God poured out his wrath of death and suffering upon his own son, that we could be forgiven of our sins and be restored and made right with God. So in effect, God's curse was also a blessing, because it allowed Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins.

This curse of death and suffering isn't just answered in Genesis, but all over the Bible. In Romans 5:12 the Bible says:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned

1 Corinthians 15, verses 21 and 22 say:

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

The answer I was looking for, for why there's suffering and death - the very doubt that nearly made me an Atheist - was in the Word all along. It wasn’t until I prayed and looked for evidence that I found it. God listens to our prayers, and God answers many of our doubts in His Word. We need to come to God to alleviate our doubts, and we need to get into his Word daily.

I’ve had at least two people in my lifetime tell me that they wished they had faith like mine. That really shocks me. Because I know my sins, I know my shame. And I constantly come to repent for the sinful things that I have done. There is nothing about me that I can boast for. Really the only thing people see is that I chose to end my doubts, and I had a bunch of them. When you seek God, you will find him, when you seek him with all of your heart.

So get in the Word and pray. Seek evidence if you have to. Don't allow your doubts to fester. Don't continue to live in weak faith, and doubt God's promises to you. God's Word can be trusted. Stop doubting and believe.