“BLESSED ARE THEY THAT HAVE NOT SEEN AND YET HAVE BELIEVED”
by Seattle ALC
“It would seem that the report of the resurrection meant little to Thomas. Even though the other disciples told him that they had seen the Lord, Thomas refused to believe—he would not be convinced by their report. He said that he would believe only when he saw the nail prints and touched them and the wound in His side. Eight days later, when Jesus appeared to His disciples for the second time, Thomas acknowledged His presence by saying: My Lord and my God. Then Jesus spoke directly to him, saying: Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed, blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.
The experiences of this disciple are also a lesson for all of us. Thomas is often spoken of as the “doubting” disciple—the one who put more trust in seeing than believing. Yet if we are truthful, we must admit that this tendency is inherent in our nature—it is common to all of us. Feelings can play a big role in our Christian lives—much bigger than they should. It is entirely possible for our feelings to bring us into bondage and rob us of the salvation assurance made possible to sinners through the perfect work of Jesus Christ.
In ministry, I have often spoken with Christians who have expressed a deep concern because they do not feel the presence of God in their lives as much as they would like. This is not a concern foreign to believers. I can readily relate to their experiences. But comfort is not found only in sharing our mutual burden; it is found in the certainty that faith and assurance are built upon an entirely different foundation than feelings. Were our hope geared to feelings, it would rise and fall with immeasurable frequency. It would not remain constant—we would never be secure. Feelings must not be our master. If we are ruled by our feelings, we soon become slaves. But it is Jesus Christ the Savior, our Lord, who reigns in our hearts. He gives us the freedom of children—of being heirs of God and joint heirs with Him.
While in military service during the Korean War, I was searching for the cause of the many feelings of uncertainty that worked to undermine my trust in the Savior. Since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, and I claimed Him as my Savior, I wondered why I was frequently subject to many adverse feelings in my Christian experience. My uncertainty was caused by using feelings as the foundation rather than faith in Christ. One day while reading some reformation era Christian writings, I came across a message that shed new light into my soul. I copied it in shorthand on a 3×5 index card, and carried it with me day after day, year after year. It reminded me that we are saved by hope (Rom. 8:24) and that we walk by faith not by sight (II Cor. 5:7). Let me share this message of hope and encouragement as I transcribe it from the same tattered index card that has been in my possession for more than forty years.
“Let us arm ourselves with the Scriptures so that when Satan accuses us by saying that we are sinners and as such we are condemned, we may reply: ‘Indeed not, the very fact that I am a sinner makes me want to be just and saved. For that reason I take refuge in Christ and will be saved. By calling me a sinner, you are supplying me with weapons against yourself so that I can destroy you with your own sword. Christ died for sinners. Yes, Satan, you yourself proclaim to me the glory of God by reminding me of God’s love to me a miserable, lost sinner. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. When you remind me of my sins, you revive in my memory the great truth that it was on His shoulders, and not mine, that all my sins were laid. The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all, and it was for the transgression of His people He was smitten. And so when Satan reminds us that we are sinners, we need not be terrified, but comforted beyond measure.’
WHOM HAVING NOT SEEN, YOU LOVE,
IN WHOM, THOUGH NOW YOU SEE HIM NOT,
YET BELIEVING, YOU REJOICE WITH JOY UNSPEAKABLE
AND FULL OF GLORY;
RECEIVING THE END OF YOUR FAITH
EVEN THE SALVATION OF YOUR SOULS.
(I Peter 1:8-9)
Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word;
Curb those who fain by craft or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Thy Son
And set at naught all He hath done.
Lord Jesus Christ, Thy power make known:
For Thou art Lord of lords alone:
Defend Thy Christendom, that we
May evermore sing praise to Thee.
(Martin Luther, 1541)
From the archives of the late Pastor A.C. Holmgren printed in the April 2004 church bulletin.
We tend to look to the visible things around us. After all God has given us two eyes. The problem we often encounter, is that we filter what we see by our experience and feelings. We can be served quite well in many circumstances by experience and the feelings that are a derivative of experience. It is also possible that this becomes our “sight” in our spiritual journey, the proof we need in order to believe. As Pastor Holmgren pointed out, we have a sure Foundation, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Hebrew writer put it this way: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2
As we meditate on Palm Sunday and the following “quiet week”, let’s remember the large visible crowd that shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David”, as Matthew 21:15 records. The same visible crowd began to demand that Jesus would be crucified. How quickly did the religious rulers of that time, persuade them to change how they felt about Jesus? All of this was a part of the Lord’s plan for our Salvation. The power of God is on full display as He changed darkness into light. The Cross became the sign that believers look to as the signal of their Salvation. Our sin debt was paid in full, removed “as far as the east is from the west,”. Psalm 103:12. Because He arose victorious, once again Praise and thanksgiving redound to His Glory. Our faith must rest in the unmovable and unchanging Word, Jesus the Christ. May you be strengthen in faith by the words of the Apostle Paul, written to the congregation at Corinth and Colossae:
“ For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;
Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” II Corinthians 4: 5-18
“ As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:” Colossians 2: 6-10