For both the doubting Christian and the searching skeptic, let’s look at some prerequisites for faith as seen in the life of “doubting Thomas” (John 20:24-31). What was it about Thomas that caused Jesus to deal with his doubts?
Thomas was a man who was willing to risk. Thomas was not a mere dabbler in religion. He was a Christ-follower, and he was committed to following him to the death. He was willing to risk in order to discover. If you aren’t willing to risk, forget it.
Socrates, Plato’s mentor, had a student who came to him while he was kneeling by a stream. The student asked Socrates, “What is truth?” Without hesitation, Socrates grabbed the boy, held him under water until the boy began to struggle, pulled him up, and answered, “When you want knowledge the way you just wanted air, then you shall have it.”
If you don’t believe something and your disbelief doesn’t bother you, then forget about resolving your doubts. You don’t want answers badly enough yet.
Thomas was a man who refused to run on someone else’s gasoline. If we had been around when the disciples said they had seen the risen Jesus, many of us would have said, “Oh, really? What a great experience. Can I vicariously share it with you?” But, you see, you can’t vicariously share anyone else’s belief or experience.
I know a man who became a Christian a number of years ago. What led up to his conversion illustrates my point. One day he went to his backyard, his Bible in tow, and looking up to the sky, said, “Lord, I’m not trying to put you to the test, but if you don’t speak to me, I’m going to take this Bible and throw it away.” Now that’s not an appropriate way to go before God, but his heart was right. He was saying, “I’ve been playing a game. I’ve been running on the gasoline of others. Now I have to meet you or I’m going to die.”
Thomas was a man of questions. I believe that the only dumb questions are the ones that aren’t asked. God would say that too. Questions that concern your doubts do have answers, but when they aren’t asked, you won’t find answers.
Will Rogers once said that he believed in college because it took kids away from home just at the point when they started asking questions. There might be something to that, but if the home or the church can’t be open enough to any question that anyone asks, then we have a serious problem.
Thomas was a man who verbalized his doubts. One of the problems with the church is that when we are hurting—and doubt is one of the greatest hurts we can have—many of us play pretend. We keep quiet about it, never getting our needs met. That’s like going to the doctor because you have stomach pains and when the doctor asks you, “Where does it hurt?” you say, “I’m not going to tell you because you will think I’m sick.” How foolish! How foolish for those of us in the church who do the same thing.
If you have doubts, don’t go off in a corner and lick your wounds. Be like Thomas: verbalize your doubts, and let the church come to your side with some answers.
Accept & Act
Thomas was a man who, when he found answers, was willing to accept them and to act on them. The reason for speaking up about your doubts is to get satisfactory answers that lead somewhere—to a changed life. You ask questions, not to show how deep your philosophical nature is, but to get answers. The reasons you risk should have nothing to do with showing your courage, but they should have everything to do with finding the reality of God.
Jesus answered Thomas’ doubts exactly, precisely and totally. And Thomas didn’t even know Jesus had heard the question. Jesus met his doubts in two ways.
Jesus gave him an evidential answer. He showed Thomas his wounds and allowed Thomas to check them out himself. If you believe there’s no evidence for the truth of the Christian faith, then you believe a lie. The Christian faith is credible and evidential, it hangs together, and it is totally open to questioning.
One reason so many believers have such terrible doubts is that they’re afraid it may not be true. So they don’t probe and find out. They would rather hang on to what may be false rather than risk to confirm that it’s really true. If that’s you, I’ve got some good news for you. The Christian faith is true. Go ahead. Check it out. Truth never fears investigation.
Jesus gave him an existential answer. He didn’t just give the facts; he gave himself too. That is the magnificent fact of Christian apologetics. The evidence is there, but the One about whom the evidence speaks is also there.
I heard that C.S. Lewis said that every time he sat down to write, he felt someone standing behind him watching. He described the experience this way: “To say that I was searching for God was like saying that a mouse was searching for a cat.” Jesus comes, the evidence is presented, and then he says to both the doubting believer and the confirmed atheist, “Consider the evidence, but don’t forget that I’m here also.”
God doesn’t play games. He’s in the business of answering honest questions, meeting honest doubts, honoring genuine risk. When you go to the Father, expect answers to your questions, but if you don’t really want to know, don’t ask.
Time to Draw Away
Read 1 Kings 18:20-45 & John 20:30-31
What spiritual doubts do you have? Write them down and then begin to search for answers. Ask for help in your search from some trusted, mature and earthy Christians (the kind who won’t be threatened by doubt and who are honest about their own) who can come alongside you and point to some resources. But more important than that, go directly to God, praying for a strong sense of his presence and peace. He loves to answer that prayer with a “yes.”