A Moment and a Lifetime

“Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”1 Jesus, to Thomas.

During my teenage years, many of my friends found a deeply satisfying faith in Jesus Christ. Personally, I believed God existed, and mentally assented to Christian teaching, but whatever rest my friends had found in Christ, I had not. How deeply I longed for the inner peace and joy that emanated from their soul! So, I kept coming back. To Bible studies, I kept coming back. To church, I kept coming back. To seeking God through prayer, I kept coming back. It would be ten long years before I trusted in Jesus’ love and forgiveness, and in retrospect, it became clear it was Jesus drawing me all along from unbelief to belief. “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself,”1 He had promised, and I found His promise to be true.

It had been eight days since Thomas rejected his friends’ testimony of Jesus’ resurrection; “Unless I see … I will not believe,”2 he had vowed. Yet when Jesus appeared to them a second time, Thomas was with them; though unbelieving, he had kept coming back. Perhaps he deeply longed for the inner peace and joy emanating from his reborn friends, but whatever the means, it was Jesus faithfully drawing Thomas to Himself. “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands,” He told his unbelieving disciple, “reach here your hand and put it into My side.”3

Whether ten years, eight days or a lifetime, the vital journey from unbelief to belief in Jesus is the same immeasurable distance, for it is the path from our ways to God’s way, from false notions and deceptions to Him who is true, and from eternal separation from God to eternal life in Him. Then belief is not a one-time event, but rather the essence of life in Christ: “Do not be unbelieving, but believing,”4 Jesus continued. “My Lord and my God!”5 answered Thomas. He was and remains a changed man—unbelief no longer defines him, nor does our sin define us when we, like Thomas, believe.

My Lord and my God, draw us to yourself. Call us always from unbelief to belief, for you are who you say you are: the way, the truth and the life. Grace us to rest in you. Amen.

1 John 12: 32
2 John 20:25 NASB
3, 4 John 20:27 NASB
5 John 20:28 NASB

Two Words

“Don’t be afraid; just believe.”1—Jesus , to Jairus

Steve was sharing with his friend, Ray, some personal life-struggles, when Ray surprised him with a question, “Have you ever really asked Jesus into your life?” A bit off-guard, Steve replied that he’d been a church-goer all his life, but Ray persisted, “But have you ever really committed to Him?” Ray then shared with Steve a prayer to receive Jesus as his Savior, which Steve took with him to consider further on his own. A couple of weeks later, Ray asked Steve if he’d prayed this prayer. “Yes,” he replied, “but I don’t feel any different.” Then Ray said two words that would change everything for Steve: “Just believe.”

As a disciple of Jesus, Thomas had seen much in the past three years: miracle after miracle, healing after healing, and the dead raised to life. He had heard much along the way: parable after parable, Scriptures explained, and the future foretold. Thomas himself had even participated in miracles and teaching, for he had been among those sent out in twos, going “from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.”2 But when his friends enthusiastically proclaimed their eyewitness report of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead—“We have seen the Lord!”—Thomas said to them, “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,”3 his adamance perhaps as telling as his refusal.

As we approach the precipice of belief, new obstacles to faith emerge and old ones loom larger. Broken promises in our past make it difficult to openly trust today. Other belief systems confuse us as to which one is true, or dull us into the indefensible notion that all of them are. Losing control is always a fear, and relinquishing to One we cannot see is even more so. And sometimes, we simply doubt we can be forgiven. We do well to carefully consider our way, of course, for actions have eternal consequences, as does inaction, yet there will always be in this life one more question, one more objection, or one more fear. So we seek God in prayer and His word, and we pursue understanding, but for each of us, full and forever life in Christ ultimately comes down to two words: “Just believe.” They change everything.

Father, belief can be difficult for me as, in fear and pride, I struggle with relinquishing control and resting in you. Send your Spirit to give me the grace and strength to trust in your love and walk in your ways. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

1 Mark 5:36
2 Luke 9:6
3 John 20:25

Thanks for Asking!

Our company had hired John from a nearby competitor, and as he and I got to know each other, we discovered we knew some people in common, including Tom. I had met Tom a few times at industry events, but John had co-labored with him daily as managers for the same employer. “What I really respect about Tom,” John began, “is the fact that, no matter how many people are in a meeting, he is unafraid to admit that he doesn’t understand something, and he will continue to ask questions until he does.” Until this point, I could be counted among the timid souls who preferred to sit quietly in ignorance than to risk the embarrassment of revealing it, but I immediately decided to take courage from this story of Tom’s honesty and henceforth to pursue a matter until I understood it.

Encouraging His disciples in His final hours, Jesus said, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”1 We are left to wonder about the blank stares, the less-than-convincing head-nods, and the length of unknowing silence before Thomas audibly confessed what surely all silently wondered: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”2 He had been one of the quiet disciples, but in this moment the world needed one willing to set aside personal pride for eternal truth—the world needed Thomas. For Jesus’ answer to his question has echoed for millennia a truth-claim that will never cease: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”3

We call him “doubting Thomas”—a moniker well-earned, though perhaps a bit judgmental—but I think we could just as easily think of him “honest Thomas.” Understanding and certainty were so vital to him that he stepped into the momentary leadership vacuum, speaking courageously and seeking clarity, not content to be without it. And aren’t we glad! Yet Thomas will learn more—much more—in the next two weeks of his life, for as important as it is for us to seek truth and understanding, we must also reach the point of trusting what we do not see or cannot fully comprehend. It’s called faith—not just any faith, but faith in Jesus, who, as we now know, is the way and the truth and the life. We come to the Father through Him. (Thanks for asking, Thomas!)

Father, thank you for hearing us when we seek to understand you and for speaking truth to our soul—your word is truth. Strengthen us to live this life by faith in your Son who loves us and gave Himself up for us. In His name we pray. Amen.

1 John 14:3, 4
2 John 14:5
3 John 14:6