Sunday Apr 09, 2023
Sunday Apr 09, 2023
Sunday Apr 09, 2023
“Explanation Of God ”
(Written by an 8 year old)
"One of God's main jobs is making people. He makes them to replace the ones that die, so there will be enough people to take care of things on earth. He doesn't make grown-ups, just babies. I think because they are smaller and easier to make. That way He doesn't have to take up His valuable time teaching them to talk and walk. He can just leave that to mothers and fathers."
"God's second most important job is listening to prayers. God doesn't have time to listen to the radio or TV because of this. Because He hears everything, there must be a terrible lot of noise in His ears, unless He has thought of a way to turn it off."
"God also sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere which keeps Him pretty busy.”
"Jesus is God's Son. He used to do all the hard work like walking on water and performing miracles and trying to teach the people who didn't want to learn about God. They finally got tired of Him preaching to them and they crucified Him. But He was good and kind, like His Father and He told His Father that they didn't know what they were doing and to forgive them and God said O.K."
"His Dad (God) appreciated everything that He had done and all His hard work on earth so God told Jesus He could come back up in the sky and stay with Him in heaven. So He did. And now He helps His Father out by listening to prayers and trying to help people choose to be good.
"You can pray anytime you want and they are sure to help you because they got it worked out so one of them is on duty all the time."
"You should always go to church on Sunday because it makes God happy, and if there's anybody you want to make happy, it's God. Don't skip church or do something you think will be more fun like going to the beach. This is wrong. And besides the sun doesn't come out at the beach until noon anyway."
"If you don't believe in God, besides being an atheist, you will be very lonely, because your parents can't go everywhere with you, but God can. It is good to know He's around you when you're scared in the dark or when you can't swim and you get thrown into real deep water by big kids."
"But...you shouldn't just always think of what God can do for you. I figure God put me here and He can take me back anytime He pleases.
And... that's why I believe in God."
Here in our story today we find that one of Jesus’ closest followers... doubted.
In fact, his very name has become a byword for doubt.
When we encounter someone who refuses to believe something that is true we call them a “doubting.... Thomas.”
You will find the text to our sermon this morning in John 20:24-29
In today's Gospel reading from John 20:24-29, we hear about one of the most famous encounters between Jesus and his disciple, Thomas, after the resurrection. This passage provides us with an important lesson about faith and doubt.
As the story goes, Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection. When the other disciples told Thomas that they had seen the Lord, he was skeptical and refused to believe. He famously declared that he needed to see the wounds in Jesus' hands and side before he would believe that Jesus had truly risen from the dead.
A week later, Jesus appeared to the disciples again, and this time, Thomas was with them. Jesus invited Thomas to touch his wounds, and Thomas immediately recognized him as Lord and Savior, declaring, "My Lord and my God!"
What can we learn from Thomas' doubt and eventual faith?
We can learn that doubt is not the end of the story. When we have doubts, we should not give up on our faith or give in to despair. Instead, we should turn to God in prayer and ask for his guidance and understanding. We should also seek out the support and encouragement of fellow believers who can help us in our journey of faith.
We can learn that faith is a gift from God.
We must open ourselves up to the possibility of faith and ask God to give us the grace to believe. As we see in Thomas' story, Jesus did not condemn him for his doubts, but instead, he invited him to believe.
The story of Thomas teaches us that doubt is a part of the human experience, but it is not the end of the story.
By turning to God in prayer, seeking out the support of other believers, and opening ourselves up to the faith that God’s word (the Bible) leads us to, we too can come to a deeper understanding and experience of God's love and grace.
The writer of Hebrews warns Christians to :“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” Hebrews 3:12
And Revelation declares: But the cowardly, [a]unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8
People who have an unbelieving heart will end up in torment!
That’s not a good thing!
Now let’s step back for a moment and take another look at Thomas.
Thomas is a pretty good guy.
In fact, it helps to know that Jesus prayed all night before He selected His 12 disciples... and Thomas made the cut.
He’s a man who shows promise.
He’s a man who has the ability to believe and act on his belief.
In fact, all the other times Thomas shows up in the Gospels... he looks pretty good.
When Jesus is determined to go to Jerusalem in the midst of a dangerous situation, “Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” John 11:16
And later, when Jesus told His disciples that “In my Father’s house there are many rooms”... and I’m going to prepare a place for you... You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:4
Thomas piped right up and said: "Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" John 14:5
And Jesus responded: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
So, in Thomas we have the picture of a committed follower of Christ.
He loves Jesus.
He walks with Jesus.
He’s willing to suffer and even die for Jesus.
But then he shows up late to the party after Jesus rose from the grave.
The other disciples try sharing their excitement with him
but he’s having nothing to do with it.
You can almost sense the anger in his voice:
“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.” John 20: 25
Whoa! I WILL NOT BELIEVE IT???
Not, “I have my doubts.”
Not, “I’m having trouble accepting it.”
Not, “You’re kidding me, right?”
NO --- I WILL NOT BELIEVE IT!
The Other Disciples may have had their doubts until they saw Jesus but they NEVER said
“I WON’T believe!”
That’s a dangerous way to deal with God.
I mean, doubt is one thing,
BUT… telling God WHAT you’ll accept as proof is another thing entirely.
Telling God to come down and settle things on YOUR TERMS is not generally a good idea.
So, Thomas is being so unreasonable here.
But if Thomas is being unreasonable why would Jesus even bother to show up?
Why let Thomas put his fingers into the holes in his hands and his side?
Why would Jesus show mercy to him when Thomas REFUSED to believe?
You know what the answer is? (PAUSE)
I don’t have a clue.
I don’t know,
the Bible doesn’t say.
All I know is that Jesus DID show Thomas mercy.
But notice, Jesus did tell Thomas to “stop it.”
“STOP doubting and believe.” John 20:27
Jesus showed Thomas mercy but he put him on notice: DON’T PUSH IT!
Don’t walk around the edge of faith and gaze down into unbelief.
Don’t push it! Don’t take your faith for granted! Don’t do it!!!
Thomas - your very salvation is at risk here!!!
But, what was it that Thomas was doubting?
He was doubting that Jesus could do what He promised.
For weeks before this... Jesus repeatedly promised He would rise from the dead
Matthew 16:21 tells us “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be RAISED TO LIFE.”
Then in Matthew 17:22 Jesus tells them
“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he WILL BE RAISED TO LIFE." And the disciples were filled with grief.
In Matthew 20:19 Jesus said it again: “(they) will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he WILL BE RAISED TO LIFE!”
So, Jesus had made a promise... over and over and over again.
But Thomas REFUSED to believe that Jesus could do what He had promised.
He had NO FAITH in Jesus’ promise .
Now I want you to notice what Jesus said to Thomas after allowing him to touch His wounds:
"Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29
You know what Jesus was saying?
He’s saying: I’m going to cut you some slack here Thomas
but you have to realize not everyone is going to get this break. People will have to make up their mind to believe in me without touching.
Hebrews teaches us: “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things NOT SEEN.” Hebrews 11:1
And it also tells us: “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists AND THAT HE REWARDS those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
To have faith you have to be able to believe what you can NOT see.
And not only that - you not only have to believe that God exists... but that He actually DOES stuff.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is where a Jesus heals a boy with an evil spirit.
The boy’s father brings him to Jesus and says “if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us”
“If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed,
“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
When the father pled “help me overcome my UNBELIEF” he was using the same word that described Thomas lack of faith:
But this time THIS man is admitting his weakness. He wasn’t saying he will NOT believe in Jesus... he’s just admitting he’s having a problem. But in spite of his struggle with unbelief he’s saying: I am making a conscious decision TO believe. “I believe – help my unbelief!”
ILLUS: Lee Iacocca (the creator of the Ford Mustang) once told a business associate, “The trouble with you is that in college they taught you not to take any action until you had all the facts. You've got 95% of them, but it's going to take you another six months to get that last 5%. And by the time you do, they will be out of date.”
Somewhere along the line in your life you’ll be faced with having to make a choice... and you’ll NOT HAVE ALL the information you’d like, but you still need to make that decision.
If you always wait till you have ALL the information, you may never make a choice!
Thomas had all kinds of information. He’d walked with Jesus for 3 years and had seen Christ heal 100s of people by just touching them, feed 1000s with just a small amount of food, and raise people from the dead.
He had far more information than you or I have, and yet because he sought that little bit extra, he almost ruined his relationship with Christ.
And at some point along the line in our faith... you and I had to make that choice about following God. We had to CHOOSE to believe.
We had to decide that we believed God actually could do things in our lives. We accepted that we couldn’t fully understand Him... but we believed IN Him.
ILLUS: An old time minister told of the time when he’d just finished a lecture a student stood and said: "Sir, you seem like a reasonable man. How can you with your sophistication really believe the Bible?"
The minister replied, "It's easy. I decided to. And, I have to explain; once I decided that I believe in it, I spent the next 35 years of my life accumulating arguments to support what I already believed.
But reason only came in afterwards. It only supported what I'd already committed myself to.
Then the minister said in response ... I got to ask you a question.
Why don't you believe the Bible? Isn't it because you've decided to? Please, don't tell me you've read it from cover to cover. Spare me that. And don't give me that jazz that it's full of contradictions because you can't name 5 (and they never can).
Somewhere along the line, you decided not to believe and after you decided not to believe you've been accumulating to support your commitment to non-belief.
The kid looked at the minister and said: "You don't understand. For me to believe in God, I have to have a God that I can understand."
And the minister replied "God refuses to be that small!"
Now here’s the deal. If your God were small enough to understand... He’d be too small to worship.
We serve a big God who goes beyond anything we can understand or explain.
We have a God who can accomplish way more than we can even begin to imagine in our minds. We need to boldly proclaim that our God can do exactly what He says He can do.
Faith can provide a sense of comfort and direction in times of uncertainty or doubt. It can serve as a source of inspiration and motivation, helping individuals to persevere in the face of challenges and setbacks.
May we all be like Thomas, open to the possibility of faith, and ready to declare with him, "My Lord and my God!"