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The Belief Breakthrough

“Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” John 20:25  

Despite hearing all reports of an event affirmed by the world—like man landing on the moon or the Jewish Holocaust—some people refuse to believe.  We don’t always know why.  Some are just stubborn.  Some are naturally skeptical.  Others have ulterior motives in denying the reality of the event.  For them to believe—or at least to admit they believe—would mean abandoning some long held personal viewpoint.

Thomas was one of those “deniers.”  He was not with the disciples when Jesus came, after His resurrection.  We don’t know exactly why.  Maybe he had something else to do the night the resurrected Jesus visited His disciples.  I do suspect, however, that Thomas had already heard rumors that Jesus was alive before He encountered the disciples.  He had sufficient time to process this information and, to him, it did not square with reality.

This is amazing.  Thomas was present when Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law.  He witnessed Jesus raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead.  He asked Jesus privately about His Second Coming on the Mount of Olives.  He was requested to pray for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Most astounding is that he was present at the raising of Lazarus.  And yet, now Thomas has trouble believing that Jesus rose from the dead. 

But let’s not be too hard on Thomas.  He was honest.  He was blunt.  He didn’t try to sugar-coat his doubt to his friends just so they would get off his back.  He simply said, “If you expect me to believe this, I need to put my fingers in His hands and thrust my hand into His side.”  He would not believe without a personal touch from the Master.  So, what did he do?  “And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.” John 20:26.

After eight days.  This eight day period in which he pondered these things in his heart makes Thomas somewhat of a mystery to me.  He did not fully believe, yet he did not leave.  Why?  He could have gone back to fishing.  He could have joined the critics of Jesus.  He could have become an enemy of Christ and the disciples.  Yet he stuck around.  Was it because he had enough loyalty, enough respect, enough of a connection to the ministry of Jesus that he could not easily dismiss Him?  Or, was he secretly hoping that something would happen to change his mind? 

Spiritually speaking, lots of people are out in limbo.  They don’t know if they believe or not.  They see and hear other people describe their experience with God and yet cannot identify with it.  Some come to church because it is a family tradition.  Some come because they don’t want to be hassled for not coming.  Some agonize within themselves, wondering why God won’t answer their prayers.  They would love to feel what everyone else feels; they would love to stand up and testify to the greatness of God.  But they refuse to be a hypocrite, a fake, someone who just goes along with the crowd.  They need a belief breakthrough.

That’s where Thomas was.  He was just being Thomas.  And, I’ve come to hold out hope for the Thomas’s of this world.  Their honesty will be rewarded.

After eight days, Jesus came, and Thomas was with the disciples.  Why did Jesus come?  Was it for the disciples’ sake?  I don’t think so.  Jesus had already appeared to them.  He came for Thomas.

“Then saith he to Thomas…” Notice that Jesus specifically and immediately turned His attention to Thomas that day.  He reached out to him with compassion.  He did not denounce him for his unbelief.  He did not scold him for his denial.  He was not petulant.  He was not insulted by Thomas’s hesitation.  He did not mark Thomas off the list.  Neither should we.  Never pass judgment that someone is beyond hope or help.  We do not know the lengths to which God will go to reach a person where they are and in whatever condition they may be.  Jesus had time for Thomas, just as He had for Nicodemas, Bartimaeus, Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Peter and all the rest who could have had reason to believe that they were out of God’s reach.

What did Jesus say to Thomas?  “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.”

There is no record that Thomas actually did this.  His encounter with Christ was enough to erase all his doubts and fears.  It was a testimony to the fact that Thomas needed a revelation of Christ that was his own.

I’m convinced that Thomas wanted something authentic.  He didn’t want a hand-me-down religion.  He didn’t want what someone else said they had.  He wanted Jesus Christ to be real in his own life.

Today, many wander around in spiritual darkness as Thomas did, feeling like they are in orbit around Christ and His church.  But they remain at such a distance from the reality of it that their longing has never been satisfied. When does God give up?  As far as we are concerned, never!  Even after eight days, or eight months, or eight years, or however long the waiting time may be, there is still hope for a belief breakthrough.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  Hebrews 11:6.

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Reader Comments (1)

A beautiful, encouraging entry!

I felt myself described in some of that; throughout my entire upbringing in the UPCI, I yearned to have what I believed others around me had I was taught that because they received the Holy Ghost and had this amazing God-power in them, and so I wanted that. I was also taught that the way one was sure he had received the Holy Ghost was through speaking in tongues. Thus, I sought that indwelling for years and years, but never could speak in tongues.

One of my best friends (we were teens) later told me that he had initiated the tongues, and that he was pretty sure others had as well; not out of a desire to deceive people, but because it seemed to him that that was typical and he wanted to be saved, too.

I had a rather confusing experience on a couple of occasions where enthusiastic people praying around me told me I had spoken in tongues and thus received the Holy Ghost, but I was never sure of that myself, and it sure didn't sound like anything of the sort to me, so I outwardly accepted it (why would I want to deny it?) but it didn't last because in my heart I didn't feel it was true, and I didn't want to be a hypocrite or liar.

October 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Garcia

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