Each life is like a photo album that contains snapshots of individual moments in time. No life is fully defined by a single image. We are made up of a composite of our experiences. One snapshot of time does not define our identity. Our identity is in a Person, not in a label created from a single experience.
We all have moments in our lives when, if you caught us in that moment and took a single picture, we would all appear faithless. God never intended our lives to be held hostage to a single moment of failure or unbelief. God invites us to peel off those labels of failure and brokenness that do not reflect His heart and begin, once again, to move forward towards our true destiny.
The Doubting Thomas
In the Scripture Thomas is one of those people who was defined by a single moment in his life when he become universally known as the “Doubting Thomas.” The sad part of this label is that the Church continues to refer to Thomas as a doubter and not the man who interacted with Jesus eight days after His resurrection and trumped his initial unbelief with one of the greatest statements of faith in all of Scripture.
John 20:24-29 describes that interaction:
One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.” Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” He said. Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at My hands. Put your hand into the wound in My side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My Lord and My God!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing Me.”
When the disciples were first gathered in that locked room and the Lord appeared to them on the evening of Resurrection Sunday, only ten of the twelve disciples were present. Judas had killed himself. We are not told why Thomas was not present. To these ten disciples Jesus showed His wounds. They did not need to touch the evidence because the evidence was standing before them.
The disciples who were present when Jesus appeared excitedly said to Thomas, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas did not share their joy because he had missed the occasion of their joy. If I were Thomas I would have felt left out because I would have just missed the most significant event of my lifetime. I would have felt isolated from the joy the other disciples were experiencing. Their words, “We have seen the Lord!” would have produced a sorrow in my heart, like salt in a wound, since there would have been no expectation of ever seeing Jesus again.
Thomas did what many of us have done – he made a vow in his pain. “I won’t believe unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.” Thomas made a vow out of his pain that aligned him with faithlessness. Jesus said to Thomas, “Don’t be faithless any longer.”
What followed this command was a single word sentence with an exclamation mark – “Believe!” In the Greek language the word “believe” can be translated, “to entrust.” When Jesus commanded Thomas to believe, He was not asking Thomas to comprehend a full package of doctrine or somehow attain a complete understanding of the workings of God’s Kingdom. Jesus was asking Thomas to entrust himself to Him. Believing is entrusting ourselves to the Lord as a Person.
The Proclaiming Thomas
In the moment Thomas was commanded to believe something supernatural took place. Trust rose up in Thomas. As he saw the Lord standing before him without anger and condemnation, fully displaying the evidence of His resurrection, Thomas redefined his life with words that followed the revelation he was experiencing, “My Lord and my God!” The doubt Thomas was living under was now displaced by words of belief. The “Doubting Thomas” had now become the “Proclaiming Thomas.”
“My Lord and my God!” are powerful words. When Thomas declared that Jesus was Lord it meant he understood that someone was now leading his life who could be trusted. God would be faithful to move Thomas forward into the goodness He had planned. Thomas was professing belief in the trustworthy nature of the Leader-Lord.
The “God” part of what Thomas declared meant that Thomas was following Someone who lives in absolute resurrection power. The declaration of Thomas was the acknowledgement that there would be resurrection power available to raise Thomas above the limiting restraints of whatever he encountered as Jesus led him forward in life.
The text in John continues in verses 30-31:
The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you will have life by the power of His name.
The evidence of Jesus’ life and miracles are given so that you and I would continue to believe. The continuance of belief infers that we can stop believing. In his pain, Thomas had discontinued his belief. Thomas declared that he would stop believing until his demands were met. Jesus doesn’t meet demands – He meets people.
As powerful as Thomas’ experience was that day, our belief on this side of Pentecost has a greater potential. Jesus said there was a blessing for those of us who would believe (entrust) in the future without seeing the object of our belief.
Faith is an Action Word
In Hebrews 11:1 we read, Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Like Thomas we can lose our ability to believe if we tie ourselves to demands and vows birthed in painful circumstances when life does not work out like we thought it would. We can miss the promised confidence and assurance of faith if we tie ourselves to the sorrow of feeling left out of from whatever God is doing.
When we come to realize that God is good, and has good thoughts and intentions for us in all circumstances, we can then step into that place where true transformation is possible. In the moment I choose to lay down my demands, judgments, and vows and declare, “My Lord and my God!”, something supernatural is released into my life.
Faith is an action word. We can think faith is an action word that only has implications on this side of eternity based on what we do for God in faith. Faith is much more – it activates something in Heaven. When faith is displayed in the earth it draws on Heaven to assure us that what we just believed for will actually happen.
Hebrews 11:1 says that faith gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Faith gives us something. Every act of our faith contains the gift of assurance that is given when we exercise faith. These gifts of faith come to us carrying the residue of the environment of glory because they come from Heaven. The day Jesus commanded Thomas to believe, this incoming faith-evidence produced in Thomas the words, “My Lord and my God!” The language of Heaven was heard upon the earth and in a moment a man was redefined from doubter to proclaimer.
A Season of Redefining
Today, the Church needs to rethink its image of Thomas. The man who was once a doubter should now be evaluated based on his final words and redefined as a proclaimer of faith. We need to do this because there are many of us, who like Thomas, need to be viewed as a life-album, not a single snapshot. We need to make this adjustment because Thomas is not viewed from Heaven’s perspective as a doubter. Thomas became the very voice of Heaven upon the earth when he made his declaration about Jesus.
God does not want us living in the results of faithless words that do not define His full intent for our lives. Jesus has plans to visit our lives with the evidence of His resurrection power and this visitation will change the way we speak and live.
Where are you living and speaking words of unbelief? Go to that faithless place and begin to believe for His appearing. Let your belief become words of faith declaring the goodness of God. In faith, begin to craft words that reflect God’s heart for you and your circumstance. God has already made up His mind about you and He has nothing but goodness in mind when He thinks of you.
This is a season of redefining. You and I are the ones responsible to speak the redefining words. God is ready to turn Doubters into Proclaimers and He will use the very words of our mouths to redefine our lives.
Garris Elkins, Senior Leader
Living Waters Church – Medford, Oregon