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
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
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
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
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