Growth in Faith
Thomas, in John 20, tells the other disciples that even though they have witnessed the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes he has to see and touch the nail holes in His hands and feet and sides....or he won't personally believe. He is Thomas practicing his own personal faith building.
“And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!” (John 20:26)
So, Jesus showed up. It’s almost as if He showed up just for Thomas but really, I think He did that for us too.
All of us have had friends tell us things that they had experienced in Christianity and we know they are telling the truth but really, we don't personally trust whatever it is until WE experience it too….personally. Sometimes it is us who KNOW we experienced something, had a touch from God and we share it only to see “the look” in the eyes of the listeners - that incredulous look and we get offended....
We want them to believe it because we said it happened. This is all a matter of faith. Faith is something that presumably grows. We want it to grow (or, at least, we say we do). Well, if it is going to grow that means that it will be bigger later than it is now, right? Specifically, whatever level of faith we have now is smaller than it will ever be again (if we really DO grow in faith).
I think it would be good to cut ourselves and others some slack in the faith department since every Christian is at least hypothetically growing in faith. I’ve seen people shamed in the body of Christ because they are on the low end of the faith growth chart when compared to someone else. It seems to me that shame in this area does not inspire a person to grow in faith; rather, it enhances their chance of abandoning the pursuit of growth in faith.
What can we do when a person exhibits shallow or small faith? We should acknowledge the faith they do have and try to draw them to bigger faith. How did Jesus do this? He saw where Thomas was, met him there and gave him what he needed to grow in faith.
Thomas needed more; he needed something experiential. I am grieved when people preach this passage and demean Thomas because he needed more. I'm also grieved when people mock Christian experiences as if they are a bad thing. Jesus Himself provided Thomas with a personal experience.
You know, He didn't HAVE to do that; instead, He could have said, “the other disciples saw Me....that will be enough for Thomas...he needs to get with the program.” However, Jesus didn’t do that. Instead, He loved Thomas; in other words He provided what Thomas needed.
“Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’” (John 20:26)
To begin with, Jesus showed He knew what Thomas longed to experience. We need to know that Jesus knows what we crave. Next, He allowed Thomas to experience it. THAT is our Lord!
Let's not miss the longing that Jesus expresses: “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Whenever we cry out to Him and expose our hearts to Him like this: “Lord! I am having trouble trusting You in ______________ (some arena)”
He does what is necessary for us to learn to trust Him in that arena. His Word to us is, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
We must be ready though for whatever the Lord deems is necessary for us to learn this. Sometimes His supply won't be fun or easy but it WILL be good and it will be good for us. Every time this happens and we participate in it what follows will be the response in us:
“And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:28)
Jesus responds to Thomas’s journey:
“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)
The Lord does this a lot. He will say, in essence, “this is the deal....” and then He will say, “however, this CAN be the deal.....” and He will hold forth a still more excellent way. This is a big part of how He draws us into greater faith.
After acknowledging that Thomas had moved some in his faith journey He said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29b)
The Greek word translated as “blessed” means “happy or fortunate”. That's like having faith with a bonus!
The written Word of God is essential because it comes from God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The NIV correctly translates it this way: “All Scripture is God-breathed….”
It is so important!
However, experiencing God in everyday life is also essential because these experiences come from God as well. Some believe that only what is recorded in the Bible can be trusted but more happened than is written in the Word.
“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;” (John 20:30)
This means that the original “experiencers”, if you will, read the Word later and knew that they had experienced more than was written.
The Word calls itself a standard.
“Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13)
A “standard” is like a ruler. We use them to measure things. Why is the Word of God called a standard? It is because the Father knew that He would be giving us spiritual experiences and that the Word would be used to test it to see if the experiences were from Him. This is important because any Christian that is seeking God is on a journey of increasing faith.
I often tell of how when I started so-called "fulltime ministry" God gave me blatant hints. I truly needed those because I wasn't spiritually advanced enough to pick up on His subtle guidance. Many years have passed since then and I have presented myself to Him to grow me in faith.
Now I can often sense His subtle guidance and respond to it easier then I used to be able. As exciting as that is….I hope it doesn't stop here. I want to advance still further. I want to instinctively KNOW what the Father is saying to me and I believe He wants that for me.
He wants that for you too.
How will it look? Perhaps He will draw you into trying circumstances where you will get a chance to know without a doubt that no earthly supply can surpass Him as Lord in any situation.
Perhaps He will give you a chance to experience Him, His power or His wisdom in a way that even some Christians will tell you doesn’t happen anymore. Will you turn away because it doesn’t fit your idea of how God is supposed to operate?
“The LORD is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works.” (Psalm 145:17)
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
Or, will you seek Him any way He presents Himself to you? In other words, will you allow Him to draw you to where He wants you to go next?
Will you let God be God for your faith? God knew and was prepared to supply what Thomas needed to move him along.
“…your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:8b)
Still, Jesus didn’t give Thomas the experience until something happened: Thomas made his need known. Thomas knew what he needed; he was aware of his weakness. He was bold enough to speak it out.
“Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25b)
Are you bold enough to speak it out? It was worth it for Thomas. It will be worth it for you.
Pastor Mike McInerney
Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.
© July 19, 2006
(For use with permission)