How do I overcome doubt? Part 5

“Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ ” John 20:29

We are learning from John 20:24-29 how to overcome doubt. So far we have discovered we can overcome doubt when we…

– Restore our fellowship with other Christians (John 20:24).

– Readjust our unrealistic requirements for belief (John 20:25a).

Redirect our wills toward believing (John 20:25b-27).

– Renew our confession of faith (John 20:28).

Today we will look at the final way to overcome doubt. RECEIVE JESUS’ BLESSING (John 20:29). After Thomas said to Jesus,  “my Lord and my God,” (John 20:28), Jesus did not correct him for addressing Him as “my Lord and my God.” No, Jesus accepted Thomas’ worship because Christ is Lord and God. Jesus then told Thomas, Because you have seen Me, you have believed.” (John 20:29a). But then Jesus has something to say to you and me two thousand years later, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29b).

The risen Lord Jesus is saying to His doubting disciple, “Thomas, I did something special for you. I came and showed you the nail prints in My hands. I showed you the scar in My side where the spear pierced Me. I want you to know the blessing on the lives of those millions of people who are going to believe in Me even though they have not had this experience.”  1

Jesus gave only a small number of people (about 500, 1 Cor 15:6) the privilege of seeing Him bodily after His resurrection. Most who believe do so without benefit of such direct revelation. Thomas and the others saw and heard, and thus their eyewitness testimonies have benefitted many people since then (John 20:30; 21:24-25; 1 John 1:1-3).” 2

Jesus wants you to believe in Him for His gift of everlasting life even though He has not personally appeared to you. He wants you to trust in Him alone to give you never-ending life before you see Him work in your life. This is why He said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” With these words, Jesus is broadening the object of faith from His resurrection to His promise to give eternal life to all who believe in Him for it. That is the transition John makes in the next two verses (John 20:30-31). 3

Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). Do you believe this? If you do, Christ guarantees you now have His life which never ends (John 11:25-26). You now have a personal relationship with Him that lasts forever (John 17:3). And Jesus wants to bless you with His remarkable gifts (see Ephesians 1:3-14).

Keep in mind that Thomas was already a believer in Jesus before Christ appeared to him (cf. John 2:11; 11:15 13:10; 14:5). Even after you believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, the risen Lord Jesus Christ wants to bless your life and work in your life. However, you are going to be filled with doubt if you think, “I’m not a good enough person for Him to bless my life. I will just let Christ give His blessings to somebody else.” Did Thomas deserve what Jesus gave him? Not at all. Thomas had received the eyewitness reports from the women and other disciples who had seen Jesus alive, yet he refused to believe them (Mark 16:10-11, 13-14; Luke 24:9-11; John 20:18, 24-25). Even so, Christ graciously appears to him and gives him the evidence he needed to believe Jesus rose from the dead. Christ’s blessings are not something we earn. They are gifts He wants to bless you with.

His blessings are part of what builds our faith and keeps our faith growing. Receive His blessing. The result of faith is blessedness. The Bible says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6). God rewards those who exercise faith and diligently seek Him.

Jesus is teaching us that those who believe in Him are blessed. Not only are they blessed the moment they believe in Christ for His gift of everlasting life, but they can continue to be blessed as they learn to live a life of faith. People who believe live a blessed life. This is not a perfect life, nor a life without problems; but a blessed life. The satisfaction and fulfillment that the world longs for can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Later John reminds us that the result of faith is life (John 20:31). When people believed Jesus then and when they believe Jesus now, lives are transformed. There is a new quality of life for us to experience. He says there is “life in His name” (John 20:31b). The kind of life that has the name of Jesus stamped all over it. Every blessing that comes into your life has Jesus’ name on it. The decisions that you make – Jesus’ name is stamped all over them. Your family has Jesus’ name stamped all over it. Your job has Jesus’ name stamped all over it. Everything about your life is to be lived in His name.  His power, His blessing, His purpose, His character is to be manifested in your life. 

Do you want to overcome doubt and have faith? I will not tell you to just have faith. Instead, I will say here is how to have faith. Here is how to overcome doubt. These are some practical suggestions. You don’t have to do all of them. Just start with one of them this week and see where the Lord leads you.

1. Intentionally connect with other Christians this week. One of the reasons we struggle with doubts is because we are isolating ourselves from other like-minded believers in Jesus. God wants us to connect with one another to receive love and encouragement (Hebrews 10:24-25). Schedule a time this week to get together with a trusted friend who knows Jesus and can offer a listening ear.

2. Write down your doubts on a sheet of paper. You might even be really brave and show your list to someone else. Not to an enemy, but to a trusted friend. Then at the bottom of the sheet of paper write, “Jesus, I ask You to give me Your answers to these doubts.” He wants to do this for you just like He did for Thomas.

3. Then you may need to redirect your will. This week or even tonight, decide to have faith in an area of your life where you have been struggling with doubts. You have been waiting for your emotions to catch up with your faith. Perhaps you have been studying this for months and you think you cannot learn any more. But now is the time to decide to move toward believing. You know what God wants you to do. You know what His Word says to do. It is time to act.

4. For some of us, we may need to renew our confession. Let me encourage you to do this this week if you are struggling with doubts. Start each day with a confession of faith. Use Thomas’ confession every day if you want to – “My Lord and my God.”  Or pick up your Bible and open it to the book of Psalms. Start reading any psalm. You will find two or three confessions of faith in any psalm – “Lord, You are my rock. Lord, You are my fortress. Lord, You are my hiding place.” (Psalm 31; 32; 119). The book of Psalms is just filled with confessions of faith. Find some confessions of faith there and use them to start each day. 

5. Perhaps you need to receive His blessing this week. You might be afraid to think about all the blessings that come from the Lord. You may feel guilty to recognize that God is doing something special in your life. There are times when we may look at our past and conclude that we are not deserving. The truth is, none of us are deserving. I do not deserve God’s blessings and neither do you. We admit that together. We come as undeserving people to God, but because of His grace – His undeserved favor – He gives to us abundantly. This week take twenty minutes and sit down and start to make a list of blessings from God on a piece of paper or on your computer. Since Jesus is in your life now, focus on His life which is stamped all over yours. Write down the different ways He is blessing you.

These are some practical ways that you and I can begin to overcome our doubts and build our faith.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, some of us may feel that we do not deserve to be blessed by You. We have been conditioned to believe that blessings must be earned. But Your encounter with Thomas reminds us that none of us are deserving of Your goodness. It is because of Your magnificent grace that we can be in a position to receive Your many blessings. Thank You especially for the gift of everlasting life that is ours forever the moment we believe in You. Please teach us to live a life of faith; A blessed life whereby we diligently seek You because we know that You are a Rewarder of those who do. In Your hope-filled name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s August 28, 1996 sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

2. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 566.

3. Ibid.

4. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

How can we respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ? Part 3

37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ ” John 12:37-38

The third way to respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ is to CONTEMPLATE THE SCRIPTURES’ EXPLANATION FOR THEIR UNBELIEF (John 12:37-41). After Jesus’ final words to the public before His death on the Cross (John 12:20-36), John informs us,  “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him.” (John 12:37). The verb translated “had done” (pepoiēkotos) is in the perfect tense, meaning that Jesus’ “many” miraculous “signs”were completed in the past but had continuing results to the present. Christ had given them undeniable evidence that He was the Messianic Light of the world, but they stubbornly refused to believe in Him.

Their unbelief was anticipated hundreds of years earlier in Isaiah 53:1 which John now quotes. “…That the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ ” (John 12:38). The unbelief of most of the Jews in Jesus’ day was necessary to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. Even though many Jews rejected Christ, God’s purposes were still being fulfilled. The Lord is still in control.

Wiersbe observes, John 12 records the second major crisis in the ministry of our Lord as seen by John the apostle. The first occurred when many of His disciples would no longer walk with Him (John 6:66), even though He is ‘the way’ (John 14:6). In this chapter, John tells us that many would not believe in Him (John 12:37ff), even though He is ‘the truth.’ The third crisis will come in John 19: even though he is ‘the life,’ the leaders crucified Him.” 1

39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: ‘40 He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’ ” (John 12:39-40). They “did not believe” in Jesus (John 12:37), therefore they “could not believe” in Him (John 12:39). Because they had refused to believe in Christ earlier, God stopped drawing them to Himself. John provides a rather free rendering of Isaiah 6:10 to show that when people reject what light God has given them, as Israel did in the face of enough miraculous signs to convince them that Jesus was their promised Messiah, God may judicially impose a spiritual blindness on “their eyes” and a spiritual hardening of “their hearts” (John 12:40). Like people, God also has a limit to His patience. The unbelief of these Jews was part of God’s sovereign plan which He predetermined before Christ came to earth. Through the Jews’ rejection of Jesus, salvation would come to the Gentiles (John 12:20-22; cf. Romans 11:7-12).

“These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” (John 12:41).  The implications of this verse are startling! Isaiah 6 opens by saying: 1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’” (Isaiah 6:1-5).

John says that the prophet Isaiah saw Jesus in His Messianic “glory and spoke of Him.” He identified Jesus with the Yahweh (“the Lord of hosts” literally is “the Yahweh of armies”) of the Old Testament. This confirms who Jesus is and how reliable the Bible is. This may also explain why the Jews had difficulty believing in Christ, because Jesus spoke of His death (John 12:24, 32-33) on the Cross, whereas the Jews were expecting a glorious Messiah who would subject their enemies to His rule.

When people do not respond in faith to Christ over a long period of time, do not take it personally. Their continual rejection of what light God has given them may result in God judicially imposing a hardening of their hearts. Their stubborn unbelief is also fulfilling God’s purposes which we may never discover in this life. We can still rest in the fact that God is in control of the situation even though the outcome is not what we desired. Continue to pray to the Father to open their hearts through circumstances in their lives that will make them ready to hear and believe the good news of Jesus.

Prayer: Father God, I must confess that I do not understand all the ways You work in the lives and hearts of people. So I pray for those who have continued to reject Your Son, Jesus Christ. Please work in their lives and circumstances in such a way that Your people may share the good news of Your grace with them. Thank You for reminding me of Who Jesus is – He is the Yahweh of armies Who sits on His throne in heaven guiding events here on earth and filling the world with His glory. My trust in Him and His prophetic word is strengthened from these verses today. Nothing takes You by surprise, my Lord and my God. My times are in Your hand. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary. 2 vols. Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books, 1989, 1:338.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pg. 319.