Here is a question for you to think about (no answering out loud, no hands in the air):
It is great that we’re all here this morning that we’ve begun our service with prayer and praising God, it’s brilliant to be able to affirm our faith in God and our love for him but do you ever have doubts? Are there things you struggle to believe? Are there times when you find it easier to be a believer and other times when it feels a little harder?
If so, and I think that if we’re really honest there are times when we all feel doubt, then you are in good company.
Read: John 20:24-31
The disciples have been through a pretty crazy few weeks. After a couple of years of following Jesus, watching him, learning from him, starting to trust and to love him they’ve hit rock bottom, Jesus has been arrested, tried and killed and, just as he predicted, the disciples have abandoned and disowned him. Then, as we heard last Sunday, Mary, and subsequently the rest of the disciples, has an encounter with the risen Jesus that changes everything.
There is, however, one notable exception. Thomas is not there when the other disciples see Jesus and he is more than a little skeptical about their claims.
I think Thomas gets a pretty bad press – we use the phrase “Doubting Thomas” as a negative term to describe someone who is cynical or who isn’t quick to believe things but if I were in his position I wonder how I would have felt, how I might have responded?
I think, like Thomas, I’d have wanted some evidence.
So is doubt a bad thing – are we wrong to doubt God? Should we be living in a state of perfect faith all of the time?
I want to suggest this morning that it is ok to doubt. In fact I think it is important to wrestle with our doubts and questions, to be honest and open about them – there are loads of examples of doubt in both the bible and in contemporary Christianity.
- The Psalms are full of questions and doubt. If you spend time reading them then you’ll find that the psalmists don’t pull any punched when it comes to expressing how they feel
- Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, caused something of a stir in the newspapers when he admitted that he sometimes has doubts and questions about God.
But the interesting thing about both of those examples is that they don’t end up bogged down in the doubt. The Psalmists, in their moments of doubt, remind themselves of what God has done for them in the past as a way of building up their faith.
Justin Welby points to his relationship with Jesus as the thing that inspires him to faith at moments of questioning. Asked how he does when things get challenging he says “I keep going and call to Jesus to help me, and he picks me up.”
There is an amazing story in Mark chapter 9 of a man who brings his sick son before Jesus. Jesus says to him “Everything is possible to those who believe” and the man, in a mix of faith and doubt, cries out to Jesus “I believe, help my unbelief!”
I think there is something massively important in this for us – we don’t have to understand everything, we don’t have to be able to explain everything.
Faith is, by definition, a step into the unknown – if there was no doubt there would be no need for faith
I don’t know where each of you are at this morning – perhaps, like the disciples who met Jesus, you feel full of faith or perhaps like Thomas you feel like you need some more convincing. Wherever we are at, like the father Mark’s gospel, we can come to Jesus with the mix of faith and doubt that we have and say “I believe, help my unbelief.”
This talk was followed by the stations: