Let us pray: Dear Savior, when life pulls us down, lift us up again! Refocus our gaze upon You, alone. Take away our doubt and the fears that come with it. Yes, fix our eyes upon the empty cross and the empty tomb and also Your risen body. Our lives are in Your living hands. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR RISEN SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST!
TEXT: John 20: 19-31
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
It doesn’t take much to pull any of us down from the perch of exhilaration. You’ve been struggling to pay off debt. Finally, you write the final check. You begin to save a little bit and feel really good. Then the car needs work, you pull out your credit card, and you’re back to square one. Exhilaration quickly reverts to worry.
Last week I was feeling really good. We had a wonderful Easter celebration. Monday and Tuesday I got a lot of odds and ends tied up. I was feeling terrific. Then on Wednesday I met with my cardiologist. I was born with a defect in my aortic heart valve. Because of it, my aortic stem is slightly enlarged, too. This is common to 2% of people. (Thanks Mom!) Anyway, when I was in the hospital last July they did another echogram of the area. She told me that it shows a little more calcification to the valve folds than the one 7 months prior. Although I shoveled snow without any problem this winter, walk 3 miles per day with the dog, and stay very active, age is catching up. I’m fine for now, but at some point I’ll need a valve replacement and a new artificial aortic stem installed. It could be a couple of years, it could be 5 or 6. Who knows? And there’s nothing I can do to change it! Well, I was down for about a day. Then I decided: “The world could end tomorrow. I’m not going to live under a cloud. I’m going to let God be God. He’s always taken care of me and He’s not about to stop.” So, I’m back to enjoying life.
I bring all this up today because our lesson deals with the age-old human problem of doubt, worry, and upset over not being able to control everything. It deals with human beings not trusting in the Lord fully, with all their heart! And as we look at this text this morning, this truth predominates:
WHEN IN DOUBT, TURN TO CHRIST!
Every Sunday we confess the creed. It begins: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth.” But, saying those words and living them are two distinct things. First, we suffer from the problem of believing that God will take care of the big problems, but we distrust Him to manage the little ones. Then, sometimes, we reverse the equation. And we believe God will handle the little things just fine, but when we get slammed, we doubt His ability to help us. Both approaches are foolish. But are wrong. And both chip away at and ultimately are: faith destroyers.
It is Easter evening. The bulk of disciples are gathered in the Upper Room to commiserate about what’s happened and wonder whether the stories of the resurrection were true. They all harbor doubts—as the locked door gives evidence. And this after they’ve seen Christ raise Lazarus from the grave a little more than one week prior. It just goes to show that whenever we’re personally affected by something, previous faith wobbles into doubt. Just as my previous knowledge of future open heart surgery became more “real” on Wednesday.
Suddenly, Christ appears in their midst. He passed right through the walls of that room. He superceded the laws of physics because He’s not bound by them. Yes, Christ comes to take away their doubt and replace it with confident faith. The first words from His mouth are telling: “Peace be with you.” Since He’s the Prince of Peace, and gives Godly peace, it was with them! He showed them His hands and side. He’s alive! He lives! If death cannot hold Him and He promises eternal life to us, well, why fear anything in life, or doubt God’s caring compassion? If He didn’t lie about His resurrection promises, then all His other promises of kind love and providential care must also be totally true! Doubt brings fear. Faith in Christ brings confidence.
One disciple, Thomas, wasn’t there that night. He was off pouting and feeling sorry for himself. When told of Jesus’ miraculous appearance, Thomas refused to believe it. He’s almost boastful in His denial when told: “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’s sad how his faith turned into such despairing doubt, isn’t it? But, isn’t that a picture of you and me? Notice how controlling Thomas is. He’s the final arbiter of his life. He’ll decide what is true and isn’t. He’ll decide whether or not God is really God and whether or not His goodness is genuine. But, where does that leave him?—Frightened, confused, and depressed. My friends, don’t let that happen to you!
Apparently Thomas swallowed his pride just a bit in the interim since one week later, today, we find him hanging out with the others, again in the Upper Room. Once again, the doors are locked. Obviously everyone is still on pins and needles. And once again, Jesus miraculously enters that room, singles out Thomas, repeats Thomas’ words back to him, and confronts Thomas’ doubts. Jesus adds: “Stop doubting and believe.” Those words aren’t just meant for Thomas, they are directed at you and me, too. So, you’re out of work and beginning to think God has forsaken you?—Stop doubting and believe! Doesn’t He say: “Never will I leave, never will I forsake you?” Your health is suspect and you’re having trouble coping.—Stop doubting and believe! Doesn’t He say: “Your lives are in My hands?” You feel trapped by circumstances beyond your control and think the situation is impossible to resolve.—Stop doubting and believe! Your saving God Who shed His blood for you and rose from your grave is Almighty. He’s invested His life in you. To ignore your needs would be to ignore and actually reject Himself. And God deny Himself.
Well, there’s a happy ending to all this doubt. Thomas “gets” it and exclaims: “My Lord and my God!” Yes, WHEN IN DOUBT, TURN TO CHRIST! He’s the Cancellator of Doubt. And to drive all this home to you and me, Jesus adds these final words about our situations today: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
We don’t know the future. So what? God does. Christ does. And since He’s eternal and filled with blessings, that’s what our future will hold. And believing all this makes the seeing of it not just a possibility, but our certain reality. Amen