Doubting Thomas: choosing faith over doubt

I’m sure you are familiar with the phrase “seeing is believing”. We often say that we need to see something with our own eyes before we can believe it.

That’s the subject of our Bible reading for the first week after Easter. It’s from John 20, the famous story of doubting Thomas. On the eve of that first Easter Day, Jesus appeared to his disciples while they were together – but Thomas was not present. When the other disciples told him what had happened, he said: “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.”

Thomas refused to believe the testimony of his friends, those he knew to be trustworthy and reliable. Instead, he chose to say that he would not believe unless he had seen Jesus with his own eyes.

Perhaps this is an attitude that we can sympathise with: as human beings we can find it hard to believe without the evidence of our own eyes. “Seeing is believing”, we say, and if we don’t see we don’t believe. Even if not believing means we have to distrust people we know well. Perhaps there is something of the “doubting Thomas” in each one of us.

So, how did things work out for our friend Thomas? Let’s look at what happens next in the story:

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus did not commend Thomas for his doubts. Thomas should have believed the other disciples, his closest friends. He should have listened to what Jesus had taught them before about how he was to be killed and then raised on the third day. Instead, Thomas made the conscious choice not to believe. I think this reflects a battle that we all face day by day.

We all face the choice every day to respond to our circumstances with faith or with doubt. We can choose which eyes to see with – eyes of faith, or eyes of doubt. We can choose to see the risen Lord Jesus at work in our lives and trust in his promises, or we can choose to deny him.

Jesus finishes by saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” It is a blessing to trust in the Lord, even though we do not see him. By faith we trust that our sins are forgiven. By faith we trust that he is able to care for us and provide for us. By faith we trust that he is able to direct our lives in the way that is best. By faith we believe that he is willing and able to answer prayer.

We cannot see the Lord Jesus with our eyes, yet with eyes of faith we believe and trust that he is there. And as we trust in him day by day, as we choose to see with eyes of faith, we come to experience that he is faithful, and that he is able to keep his promises to us.

I will leave the last word to the apostle Paul, from 2 Corinthians 4:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

This was originally written as a ‘Thought for the Week’ for a local publication.

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How to cope with change | Bible Wisdom

A short video from a Biblical perspective about how to cope with change. It’s the start of a new academic year, and there have been so many other changes lately – how do we cope? In this video we think about how we can take comfort from God in these times.

Bible verses I talk about:

  • James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
  • Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.”
  • Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
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What the Bible says about Resilience

People have been talking about mental health a lot recently. Resilience is an important part of mental health and a lot of scientists have looked into it recently. The Bible has a lot to say about what we would call resilience.

Here I bring together eight points (briefly!) from a book called Resilience: A Spiritual Project by Kirsten Birkett. They are:

  1. Adversity leads to strength
  2. A sense of meaning and purpose
  3. Transcendence
  4. Hope and optimism and positive emotions
  5. Altriusm
  6. Self- (God-) efficacy
  7. Forgiveness
  8. A social network

The Bible actually dovetails really well with the modern concept of resilience. If you are growing in the Christian faith, you are also growing in resilience.

Explore further

If you’d like to learn more about Christianity, you might like to begin with the What is Christianity? course.

If you want to see how this works out in practice, you might like to see the videos I’ve been doing on mental health during the lockdown. The most recent one was on Psalm 37, but they are all available on this playlist.

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