Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Thank God for Thomas

Eight days. Eight long, maddening days. Over and over the 10 apostles told their story, "We saw Jesus! He's alive!" Still no matter what they said, their fellow apostle Thomas refused to believe. Nothing was enough: empty grave cloths, angel words, detailed stories from the women, Peter's own personal visit from Jesus that Sunday afternoon, two trusted followers walking with Christ to Emmaus, 10 of the 12 gathered in the upper room as Jesus appears to them. Nothing. In fact, it seems the more details they shared, the more Thomas dug in his heels.

Toward the end Thomas was to the point of embarrassing himself. Perhaps it was anger, hurt and pride, but he clung to his unbelief: "Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails and put my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe" (see John 20: 24-29).

Do you have a Thomas in your life? -- a husband or wife, fiancé, girlfriend or boyfriend who doesn't believe? -- a child who has wandered from the faith? -- a brother or sister who has made up their mind? -- someone at work? -- a close friend? Do you find the more you talk the more adamant they become against what you're saying? How do you reach someone who refuses to be reached? What do you do with a Thomas?

Thank God for Thomas' unbelief -- no, not the unbelief itself -- but for what that unbelief teaches us about sharing the Good News with others.

Have you ever shared the faith, only to see that doing so seemed to make that person even more resistant to Jesus' message? Did you feel like a failure? Did you conclude it would have been better off if you had shared it one time, then let it go? -- or maybe never shared it at all?

The other disciples teach us not to give up. They kept sharing. Perhaps, they even reminded Thomas of all the experiences they had shared together in Jesus' presence as well as all the miracles they had seen. There were all the blind who received their sight, the lame who walked, the deaf who heard, the lepers who were cleansed. Together they had seen Jesus multiply bread and fish. They could remind him of that fearful time on the Sea of Galilee when they thought the boat would sink and they would all drown, only to have Jesus wake up and speak a word, stopping the winds, stilling the sea, and bringing calm to the storm. They could remind Thomas (as if he would need reminding) of Jesus walking on the water to them.

They might have said, "What about those times we watched Jesus square off against death and defeat it? There was that young daughter of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. She had just died when Jesus raised her. Then when we entered the town of Nain and met the funeral procession carrying the widow's son out to burial -- and Jesus raised him hours after his death. And how can we forget Lazarus, dead and buried four days, and yet Jesus was able to overcome death and restore him to life? Is it really that big a stretch to think Jesus Himself could rise from the dead?"

When our friends reject the faith we share, we don't reject them. We keep strengthening the bonds of our friendship, watching and praying for the best time to share our faith again.

I always wondered why Jesus waited a whole week: eight long days to show Himself. Maybe it was to teach us it is not our job to convince or persuade someone to believe. After all, if it was in the apostles' power to make someone believe, shouldn't eight days have been enough for Thomas? Luther had it right: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him." And we cannot by our own reason or strength lead someone else to believe in Him.

All the disciples could do was to faithfully share what they knew. All we can do is faithfully share what we know. Be patient, kind, gentle. Build up that relationship and shake off frustration. Also, don't badger them as if it was up to us and our efforts to bring them to faith.

It was in God the Father's good time that Jesus finally came back to that upper room on the eighth day. No disciple could bring Thomas to believe. It was Jesus' visit and the power of the Holy Spirit that finally shattered his unbelief. "Thomas -- put your finger in My hand, stretch out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting -- no, stop refusing to believe -- and believe!"

Finally, the truth sunk in. "My Lord and my God!"

It was Jesus' visit that worked faith in Thomas, and it is His visit to our friends, co-workers, family and loved ones through the Gospel we share that will shatter their unbelief as the Holy Spirit works saving faith.

Thank God for Thomas' unbelief -- but far more for his repentant belief.

Do you have any stories from the road that deal with witnessing to the faith within you? If you do, click here and tell us about them.

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