Today is Back to Church Sunday and I am so glad you chose to be here with us today. How many came today because someone invited you? Thank you for coming and thank you for inviting them! How many are here because you saw something on facebook or in the newspaper? Welcome! How many are here with us online? Are you raising your hand Maddie? How about you George & Dorothy? So good to have you with us today.
Today we welcome you all to church and we want to share an important message: Hope Is Here. After some difficult days it is good to gather together as a church and learn all the ways that we find home in our relationship with Jesus Christ and our relationships with one another.
Are you feeling hopeless today? There is hope for the weary because we don’t have to carry our burdens on our own. There is hope for the broken because forgiveness is offered to us in love. There is hope for the underdogs because with God we can do anything. Today I will be talking about one of the hardest places to find hope. Can doubters or those whose faith is running out find hope? Stay with me and we will see what God’s Word has to say.
True or False?
Have you ever heard something that you had a hard time believing was really true? Maybe it seemed so outlandish that it made you doubt. Maybe it was too good to be true and so it made you skeptical.
Doubt has become more and more common for many of us within our culture today. There are people that we know well, people we thought we could trust – who have failed us, and it causes us to doubt. There is so much false information shared on social media that it may cause us to doubt everything. This past season of COVID has caused many to doubt because we wonder where God is in the middle of it. Seeing a world that is full of hurt and pain makes us doubt whether God is really good. People doubt for all kinds of reasons. But I would argue that the problem is not the doubt itself, but rather, how we handle our doubt. Mishandled skepticism often results in a lack of hope.
We certainly are not alone in this struggle. After Jesus’ crucifixion, his friends were heartbroken because their hopes and dreams of a new and better world under the rule of God’s kingdom had seemingly ended. It was not until Jesus miraculously began to show up in his resurrected form that word started to spread among the disciples that perhaps Jesus was alive! There was one disciple, named Thomas, who simply refused to believe.
This account of Thomas appears only in the Gospel of John. They other three did not mention it. John said in v 31 – I write these things so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.
› READ John 20:24-25
Thomas gets a bad rap in the Church as some kind of stuffy skeptic. He is too often viewed as a grumpy old cynic. However, if we are truthful, Thomas comes to this place of skepticism and doubt honestly. He just watched Jesus, his mentor of three years, be brutally killed on a cross. The thought of getting his hopes up about a resurrection that would defy all logic may have been just too hard to wrap his mind around. He was more than likely looking to protect himself from further pain. Thomas says that he will not believe unless he sees evidence in front of his eyes that he can see and touch.
WE DOUBT TO PROTECT OURSELVES
Truthfully, we are a lot like Thomas. The doubt that we express is a often way of keeping ourselves from getting our hopes up that things in our life can improve, that God can answer our prayers, or that God loves us. Thomas did not want to believe that Jesus was alive because he did not want to be let down again. We often do not want to believe and hope because we are afraid that God will not come through.
Illustration: Think about it: What is the first thing we say when we are given good news? We respond with, “No way,” or, “You have got to be kidding me.” Or as my big sister Margie would say “Really?” We respond first with doubt because we want to protect ourselves. Occasionally, it takes time to let hope rise.
A week after Thomas tells the others that he refuses to believe their reports, he and the disciples find themselves together in a locked room, when suddenly the source of hope arrives.
› READ John 20:26-27
Without any explanation, Jesus, in the flesh, shows up in this locked room with the disciples. They must have been shocked to the core. In fact, the first words Jesus speaks to them are “peace be with you,” perhaps to let them know that they did not have to be afraid. The fact that they were in a locked room tells us they were worried and scared. Jesus had been executed and they were well known as His closest followers – His disciples. What would happen to them?
Whom does Jesus speak to first? Thomas. The doubter. The one who refused to believe that he was alive. Notice how he addresses him. Jesus does not reprimand him for his doubt. He does not belittle him for his skepticism. He does not ridicule him for needing proof. No, he invites Thomas to see for himself. He says, “Put your fingers in the scars in my hands and side.”
JESUS IS NOT AFRAID OF OUR DOUBT
There are many in the church today who are struggling with their faith. They have lost hope that Jesus is who they thought he was. The usual response to those in the church who doubt is to shame them or to shun them. I believe Jesus’ response would be much different. I believe he would welcome the questions. He would welcome the conversation. He would welcome the wrestle. I think this is because he knows that honest doubt will find honest answers.
So how should the Church respond to those who have doubts in a way that would be on par with Jesus’ response to Thomas?
First, the Church should listen to those who doubt for what they are not saying as much as what they are saying. Where does the doubt come from? Where is the hurt? Where is the pain? Where is the struggle? You show me a congregation who is willing to listen, and I will show you a church that is providing hope to the hopeless.
Second, the Church should empathize and express compassion. When people let themselves feel others’ hurt, pain, and struggle, then they are better equipped to meet that need and build a bridge back to faith and hope.
Jesus was not afraid of Thomas’ doubts. We should not be afraid of other people’s doubts either. We go from being full of doubt to being full of hope when we find out people care about us enough to walk with us and love us.
Thomas touches Jesus’ hands and side; where there once were wounds, there now are scars. A reminder of the pain, but proof of the resurrection.
› READ John 20:28-29
John 20:28–29 ESV
This is all Thomas needs. He recognizes that if Jesus can overcome death and the grave, then he surely must be Lord and God. This disciple who was the greatest doubter now becomes the disciple who makes the greatest and truest claim of who Jesus is. Notice what Thomas says “My Lord, My God.” This is personal. He trully acknowledges Jesus as His personal master. The one he can trust to save him.
Jesus is certainly thankful for Thomas’ faith in this passage, but guess whom Jesus is thinking about…you and me. He is thinking about those who would be blessed for believing in his resurrection power and divine hope without seeing. That’s everyone since Jesus returned to heaven over the past 2000 years.
WE STOP DOUBTING WHEN WE TRUST THE SOURCE
Thomas had first-hand evidence that came directly from the source. This caused his doubts to melt away. Our doubts can turn to hope when we too go directly to the source and find that Jesus is trustworthy. The scriptures are full of first-hand accounts of the resurrection of Jesus. The Church throughout history has seen the power of Jesus in miraculous ways. There is testimony all around us of people who have found Jesus to be very real.
When Jesus is the source of our hope, we don’t have to be crippled by doubt. Even when we feel our faith waver or our confidence shake, knowing Jesus helps us press on.
When we recognize that Jesus is here with us in the middle of our doubts, we discover that hope is here. All we need to do is look into the face of Christ and see that all is well.
Our hope this morning is found in Jesus Christ. We can trust Him because everything He said is true. He said He would return for His followers and we can trust that to be true as well.
Remember verse 31?
Read John 20:31
The purpose of John’s Gospel is that you may no longer doubt, but that you would believe that Jesus is exactly who said He was: the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Savior, the Son of God. By believing you may have life! This is eternal life, but it is also a life restored to a relationship with God. Bring your doubts your hurts, your pains, your loneliness, your worries, your weariness – Jesus said bring all your worries to me because I care for you. Jesus knew Thomas was doubting and struggling so He showed up and set all his doubts and fears to rest.
Our sin separates us from God and only by recognizing your own sin and trusting in Jesus Christ as your Savior and the one who can forgive you can you be saved.
If you have never done that – please come talk to me or contact me through the church office.
If you have already taken that step of faith and become a follower of Jesus Christ – look up for a moment. Are you struggling with doubt? With questions? With disappointments in your Christian life? Maybe people in church who let you down?
There is hope here for you as well.
Jesus hears your prayers. He understands your troubles. He knows your doubts. And He meets you right where you are today. Bring all your questions and fears to Him and find answers in His Word. He will not turn away from you when you need Him most. Maybe you want to pray with someone today. Our church family is here for each other. Come out to a growth group and experience the love and acceptance you have been looking for.