For our messages over the last couple of months, we’ve been comparing the conventional wisdom of our world with what Christ actually said.
Today, we conclude this series with the common expression “Seeing is believing.” Seeing is believing means you need to see something before you can accept that it’s real.
We live in the age of science. Most people don’t believe in silly superstitions anymore because science has shown them to be imaginary. Furthermore, we know talk is cheap. How many times have leaders made promises and not followed through? Talk is cheap. Seeing is believing.
One state in our union even made the philosophy “seeing is believing” their state motto. In 1899, Representative Willard D. Vandiver said, "Frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I'm from Missouri. You've got to show me." This led to Missouri being called the “Show Me State”.
Maybe we could all do with a little more of the Missourian’s common sense. It seems like some people will believe anything. A little skepticism may help guard you from being so gullible. But what did Jesus say? Did Jesus subscribe to “seeing is believing”?
Last Sunday was Easter. We celebrated the incredible ressurection of Jesus Christ. He was crucified, dead, and buried in tomb. On the third day, he rose and appeared to His disciples. Today, we read John 20:24-29.
24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 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.”
26 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. 27 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!”
28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
Jesus is Alive!
(and patient with our skepticism)
I sort of feel bad for Thomas. First of all, he missed it the first time the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples. Thomas must have been out doing errands and when he gets back the other Disciples are all like, “Jesus is alive! And he appeared to us!” Thomas must have been like, "Great and I missed it!" In all seriousness, Thomas understandably doesn’t believe their fantastic story. He says, “Unless I see it for myself, I won’t believe it.”
I probably would have said the same thing. After 20 years of church ministry, I seen enough supposed miracles turn out false to make me plenty skeptical. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve also seen countless answered prayers and legitimate miracles of God. But I've also seen enough illegitimate ones to give me a healthy dose of skepticism. Furthermore, I've seen enough duplicity in people to make me wise enough not to accept everything or everyone at face value.
And—let’s just be honest—if all the other disciples started claiming something as fantastic as Jesus coming back from the dead, a lot of us would be like Thomas. We might even use the expression: “seeing is believing”.
That’s why I love that Jesus showed himself to Thomas. He didn’t leave Thomas out. He came back to visit His Disciples when Thomas was with them. And to Thomas, he’s like, “Here I am. You need to see it to believe it. Go ahead. Look at me. Touch me. Feel the scars. It really is me.”
Jesus is patient with Thomas’ skepticism. He helps him. And I think Jesus is patient with our skepticism too. He understands. We live in an age where much leads us to be skeptical. Jesus understands.
However, Jesus also knows the value of faith—deep faith. Faith is critical, and because Jesus loves us, he doesn’t want us to miss out on the full power of faith. He even told Thomas and the Disciples something in verse 29 that we need to take to heart. He told them, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
Seeing is Believing vs. Believing is Seeing
Have you ever thought of all the things in life you believe without seeing?
When you heat up your leftovers for lunch in the microwave, do you really know how it all works? Probably not, but you trust that it will. You press start and the magic light comes on inside the box and heats up your food.
How about when you use your computer to connect to the internet. If you are really smart, you may understand how it works in theory, but really you just have faith that it will do it's computer thing when you need it too.
You probably don't give it a second thought that your brakes will work when you drive in a car. One minute you are hurdling down a road at 60 miles per hour and the next you press the pedal to slow to a safe stop. You have faith your brakes will work.
We believe these things work the way they are supposed to because someone who knows better than us told us. We believed them and we trusted the these machines.
Have you ever thought about the kid of faith it takes to go to the grocery store? I grilled hamburgers for dinner the other night. My wife went to the grocery store and walked up to the meat counter. She picked up a styrofoam container wrapped in cellophane. Inside was some mushy red ground flesh called ground beef. Why are you able to take that bloody meat home and cook it and put it in your mouth and chew it and swallow it? Perhaps it's because you trust the food from the grocery store is safe. We believe because we trust the grocer has kept that meat safe and sanitary. Or maybe it's because we trust the Food and Drug Administration (FDA )has monitored our grocer and ensured they did the right thing. Now think about that for a minute. You trust a government agency to ensure what you put in your mouth is safe. Government and their agencies have not always had a stellar record of being trustworthy. Let that sink in for a minute.
We live a lot more of our lives by faith than we realize. We put our faith in people, products, companies, and even the government. Hopefully these are worthy of our faith.
When it comes to religion, in whom do we put our faith? Christians are known in the Bible as “Believers”. In whom do we believe?
Sometimes, people put their faith in a pastor. (Listen, I'm a pastor and I know my own heart. It’s a scary prospect to think of people putting their faith in fallible pastors.) People will often put their faith in a church or a denomination. All of these have proven to be unworthy. Through the centuries, we have seen corruption and the abuse of power in these organizations.
True Christian faith must be in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The most reliable witness we have to Jesus is the Bible, which we call the Word of God. John 3:16 says, “…everyone who believes in him [Jesus] will not perish but have eternal life.” And in John 16:9, Jesus said, “The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.”
I appreciate that the NLT says "refuses to believe in me." People are capable of believing. We live by faith and believe in things all the time. However, when faced with the choice to believe Jesus or not, very often people refuse to believe.
Would you be skeptical of Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Word of God who was with God in the Beginning, who gave life to everything that was created and whose life gave light to everyone? (See John 1:1-4) Would you doubt Jesus’ own word in the Holy Bible while at the same time you trust the FDA, your grocer, and even the mechanic who fixes your car’s brakes?
The resurrected Christ showed himself to Thomas, the other Disciples. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes Jesus had appeared to more than 500 people. That’s a lot of people, but the vast majority of Christians over the centuries have accepted Christ’s ressurection by faith and not by actually seeing. We are able to see Jesus is alive because we believe what the Bible says about him and this opens our hearts to know He is walking with us in all of life's circumstances.
Faith Makes All Things Possible
In Mark 9:23, Jesus said, “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Have you ever thought of all the incredible things accomplished over the centuries because someone believed it could happen when no one else believed?
500 years ago, no one really believed people could fly. Then in the early 20th century, the Wright brothers switched from making bicycles to flying machines. That made one that could fly only a few hundred yards. Today, we have airplanes that can fly anywhere in the world and people travel all over through the air.
On hundred years ago, no one really believed a man would walk on the moon. Then in 1969, we had "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." For the first time ever, a human foot touched down onto the dusty surface of the moon.
In 1966, the TV series "Star Trek" debuted. People were amazed at all the fantastic, futuristic gadgets they portrayed--things they believed people might only way off in the distant future. They had things like personal handheld communicators (cell phones), hand held computers (tablets and smart phones), and voice activated computer ("Hey Siri...") I wonder what crazy, outlandish, impossible inventions will become a reality next al because someone imagines it and has a vision and faith that it is possible even if everyone else says it's impossible.
How can a high school senior face graduation and an unknown future unless they believe that somehow, they can do it and a bright future lies ahead of them?
How can a wife and husband reconcile a broken marriage if they don’t believe it is possible (if only through the help of God)?
How can an addict become sober if they don’t believe it is possible through the help of a Higher Power than their own?
How can NICU nurse care for a 2 pound baby born 3 months early unless they believe that somehow, that child full of tubes and IVs can make it and live to have an incredible life if only her caretakers believe it is possible?
How can a cancer patient find healing through a incredibly difficult chemo treatment without faith that it might just work? Or how can they hope to face death if the treatment doesn’t work unless they have faith that their is something more to life than just death?
How can a person work through the grief of losing someone they really care about without faith that somehow the future hold more than just sorrow and tears and darkness and loneliness?
There are countless real-life examples of times when faith is essential to help people imagine a better future despite their current situation.
Seeing is believing is not enough. Sometimes, we just can’t see it until we believe.
If you are from the Dalton area, you may remember how on April 5th, 2013, Coahulla Creek High School student Hannah Locke was in a terrible car accident that left her paralyzed. Her tragedy and also her faith and determination have inspired countless people. Her journey has not been easy. For some, it would have been impossible, but Hannah’s faith helped her do the impossible. Though Hannah is still in a wheel chair, she is a living example of how faith can motivate and inspire a person to live their best life despite tragedy. Hannah is now married (Hannah Mackenzie Reed) and expecting a child.
Hannah's faith has inspired so many. In a recent public Facebook post, Hannah shared this: “As I reflect over the past 8 years, I can’t help but to think about how immensely blessed I have been. While these 8 years have brought trials & tribulation, frustration & heartache, it has also brought growth, perseverance, and immeasurable joy. If it took these 8 years to bring me to where I am today, filled with the peace that only comes from God, full of love for life and the people in it, and full of thanksgiving for the many blessings, I would do it all over.”[i]
Faith makes Hannah's positivity and progress possible. Faith is absolutely essential for us all.
Today, I invite you to trust Jesus. His Word is trustworthy. You may be wise to be skeptical of some things or people in this world. However, you can always trust Jesus. Put your faith in Him today and let Him save you.
And one more thing. Don't let your skepticism about people or other things in this life cripple your potential. There will always be disappointments and let downs. But don't give up. Keep having faith. It's worth it.