My Lord and My God

Today is Christ the King Sunday and is the last Sunday of the Church year. Next Sunday we begin the season of Advent as we anticipate the coming of the Christ child, Emmanuel, God with us.

I view Christ the King Sunday as a culmination of all that we have studied, learned, and read the past year, as we recognize God as sovereign ruler, creator, and provider. And it's also fitting that today is Harvest Home Sunday, a time when we give thanks to God for providing for us over the past year.

Now the Gospel reading I have chosen for today is not your typical Gospel reading for this Sunday. Actually the Gospel read is typically read during the season of Easter following Jesus' resurrection.

But I felt lead to lift up this Gospel reading today because of the message it brings regarding doubt, doubt in God, doubt in Jesus, doubt in our faith. Because when we have doubt it's sometimes hard to see Christ as King and Lord of all.

Imagine if you will standing in a room with other Christians, and someone comes in and says I've seen the risen Christ, what's your response? Imagine you're in a room with a loved one, their dying of cancer or some other disease, and they ask where is God? Imagine you get a phone call telling you a tragic accident has occurred, and your neighbor who has four young kids has died, and the person on the other end of the phone cries out, "why God?"

Regardless of the scenario, I think if we're honest we've all experienced some form of doubt over the years as we have perhaps questioned God, questioned ourselves, questioned the Bible, or questioned others who hold the Christian faith so dear.

Well as we heard this morning, Thomas had doubts that Christ had actually been raised from the dead, and refused to believe it until he saw and felt the scars on Jesus himself. And I suggest we all feel this way sometimes, whether we'll admit it or not. We fail to believe or we don't want to believe unless we get some kind of assurance that what we have been taught over the years is in fact the truth, or until we receive answers to our questions.

Having doubts is not new to our faith. Some of the heroes of the faith had doubts from time to time. We read about the Apostle Thomas this morning, but just a couple of weeks ago in the newspaper I read about another saint who had her doubts, Mother Teresa.

We often lift up Mother Teresa as a model of the faith, and rightly so, she's a wonderful model for us to revere and lift up, a model of Christian service. But even this wonderful follower of Christ had times in her life where she felt absent of the presence of God and wondered if God had abandoned her and those she cared for.

The article by Tom Schaefer entitled Doubts exist even in the saintliest of souls said, Mother Teresa, "had her doubts and soul-wrenching fears about the very existence of the One she devoted her life to." Mother Teresa is quoted in the same article as saying, "I feel that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing."

Now from a person like Mother Teresa her words might seem shocking to some, but to me I take great comfort in them. Sometimes when I have doubts and ask questions like, does God really care, where are you God, and so on, I feel bad about even asking these questions, then I begin to beat myself up for not being more faithful. Before too long it's not the questions that bother me so much, it's the fact I'm even asking them. Have any of you gone through periods like this, a vicious cycle of doubt followed by self-condemnation?

So for me, it's comforting to know that even someone I see as a rock of faith also had periods when she questioned God and had some doubt. If people I admire as models of the faith, like the original disciples, John Wesley, and Mother Teresa, to name a few, had doubts, then I'm in good company.

Now doubt can serve two purposes. If we allow it, doubt can pull the rug right out from under our faith and leave us a shattered mess. We may feel helpless, perhaps even hopeless, and begin to only see the negative things in our life, leaving us to wonder if God cares or even exists.

But I assert doubt can also be a very important tool in our spiritual journey, and can serve as a catalyst that helps us grow a stronger faith.

Countless books have been written because people had doubts, and wanted further clarification and understanding of how God is working in their lives. Many inspirational books were written after someone had hit bottom, doubted God, then moved on to explore God's presence, coming to the revelation God not only exists, but does care and is active in the world today. And to help others with doubt, these folks have written these books journaling their experience.

Many theological books have been written by people who sought deeper understanding and assurance of biblical teaching. And the list goes on and on. I suggest we all could write books about our different journeys through our valleys of doubt, and peaks of holy revelation

Now Thomas had his doubts and he openly expressed them, leaving some to question his faith. We are all probably familiar with the phrase "doubting Thomas," and view this phrase as derogatory, and we certainly don't want to be viewed as a "doubting Thomas." But when Jesus appeared before his disciples, he wasn't being hard on Thomas because of his doubts, he was recognizing the faithfulness of those who did not see yet believed. Despite his doubts, Thomas was still very faithful to Jesus.

When we have doubts it doesn't mean we're not faithful, and that God thinks poorly of us, we haven't dropped a rung on the eternal ladder of faith, or anything like that. God wants us to seek him for greater understanding, and if doubt leads us to seek understanding then so be it. The fact is some people need to have their doubts before they believe. This was my case when I was going through confirmation many years ago. I had many doubts and I had many questions I wanted answered before I could believe.

If doubt leads to questions, and questions lead to answers, and answers lead to acceptance, then doubt has served as a wonderful means for coming to Christ, and should not be dismissed a a means to know God. Some of the more stable and faithful people we know are those who had doubts and sought answers.

Conversely, if doubt leads to stubbornness, and stubbornness becomes a life-style, then doubting becomes a harmful tool. And it's in this doubt that Satan can begin to work and turn us away from God, to the point of denying the works of the Holy Spirit, which is the unforgivable sin.

If not dealt with doubt can be like quick sand, it can begin to slowly bring us down, until we are so far gone it becomes very difficult to be rescued. But because of God's grace and unconditional love, it's never too late to be rescued, no matter how much doubt we have. All we have to do is reach out to that divine lifeline and allow God to pull us from the pit.

So when we are experiencing doubt what are we to do? Well when we have doubts we have two choices really, we can feed our doubt with more doubt and go down a path that leads to unbelief. Or, we can chose to confront our doubt, and claim it as something we need to boldly share with God through prayer, reflection, and conversation, wanting to understand more fully how God is at work in our lives.

Throwing in the towel and giving up on God is a cop out, and cowardice. Now I know this sounds harsh and uncompassionate, but we all to often simply give up on God because in seeking understanding, receiving the absolute assurance we desire, and working to understand God, is just too hard. And we don't want to have to work to hard. Jesus never said following him would be easy. But he did say it was the only way to eternal life.

And sometimes we won't get all the answers we seek, but we can be assured that God will, or has dealt with our issues in a loving and compassionate way. This is the hope we rest our faith on. Our God is a loving God, our God is a God who blesses us and wants a relationship with us, our God is a God who was willing to give his Son's life for us, so why shouldn't we trust him.

Now getting answers to our doubt may take time, may take many conversations with God, and with others, but if we approach our doubt with open eyes, open ears, open minds and open hearts, I propose we will get the answers, or if not the answers, we will get the assurance of God's love and saving grace.

Many folks in the Bible didn't get the answers they sought, yet many received what they didn't expect, that is the affirmation that God is in control and is looking out for us. We need to understand that God has the big picture, God sees things we can't, God knows things that far surpass our ability to understand.

So what we can do during our bouts of doubt, is to allow God to open our eyes to the wonderment of his works in our lives, and to revel to us the hope of the future. This is what we celebrate at Thanksgiving, we celebrate the many blessings we have received from God, we remember and praise God for all that he has done for us.

I mean just look at the many positive ways God works in our lives. We shouldn't lose sight of the beauty all around us, which God created. The very fact we're here this morning is a blessing. God is at work every moment in our lives, he won't leave us alone.

When you have doubts, you ought to remember that God is alive, present and very active in your lives, and although you may not understand everything, or get all the answers you seek, you can be assured that God is in control, all you have to do is place your trust in him.

The truth is many folks are but one step away from a crisis of faith, which doubt can feed. So when your confronted with doubt how will you respond? Will you pursue the eternal throne of glory, or the comforting temporal lap of Satan.

I pray, just as Thomas saw the scars on Jesus and believed, we too will see the presence of Christ in our lives and will believe, so much so that we like Thomas can't help but proclaim, "My Lord and My God!"


Read other messages by Pastor Wade