Tag Archives: doubt

Walking on Water

Living in the Spirit
August 13, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 14:22-33

Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ –Matthew 14:28-33

Is it human nature to doubt? Do we project our life experiences with other people onto God rather than see Christ in every human? We have all let someone down and we have all experienced the sting of being let down by a trusted other. Humans are not perfect. Our first insight about another is usually based on cultural norms. How often do we experience seeing the Christ in someone first?

It is rare, but I had that happen recently. I was having trouble with my phone, had sat on hold once for 40 minutes waiting for the “next available” customer service rep, and was thus very frustrated. I decided to drive to a store that related to my phone company to solve my problem. I was not happy. The first person I encountered was a very nice young man who immediately agreed to see what my problem was as he took the phone and started punching buttons. Suddenly, I noticed that his attention was drawn to looking down at my side where a frightened five or six-year-old little girl stood. He said to her, “ Do you need something?” She said, “I can’t find my mother.” He asked her what her name was and said, “Let me see if I can help.” He then looked at me and said, “Excuse me just a moment” and called someone in the store to announce over the speaker that this girl needed to meet her party at the electronics desk. He said to the little girl, “ I’m sure your mother will be her soon.” As she looked around furtively, he continued to work on my phone, and in a few moments a worried mother rounded the corner and reunited with her daughter. The young man said to the mother, “Your daughter did everything right, she immediately came to me for help.” I did see Christ in this young man before I could ever see anything else.

Peter saw the Christ in Jesus as he stepped from the boat then doubt grabbed at his legs, but he reached up his hand in faith again recognizing God in Jesus who saved him. Our challenge as Christ’s followers is to let the world see Christ in us relying on Christ to fortify us when doubt strikes.

 Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I cave to doubt, restore me to wholeness, and help me see the Christ in all others by looking past my preconceived judgments. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Doubt to Faith

Eastertide
April 23, 2017

Scripture Reading: John 20:19-31

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

  A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
–John 20:24-31

Thomas was the one disciple who voluntarily committed to traveling with Jesus to Bethany to deal with Lazarus’ health issues. The disciples were cognizant of the fact that such a trip could result in Jesus’ death. Thomas essentially said let us go and die with him. Thomas’ commitment was not questionable.

I wonder why Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus made his first visit after his resurrection. Did Thomas just need some alone time? Perhaps he was somehow estranged from the others because he had supported Jesus’ decision to travel to Bethany. Maybe he had been sent to buy groceries. Nor do we know why he insisted on concrete proof of the disciples’ claim of seeing Jesus alive.

How do we think we would have responded in a similar situation? Is Christ alive in our lives
today? What does that mean? How does it impact our way of being? Tradition tells us that Thomas went forth as an apostle to the people of India, establishing the Christian religion there very early in its development. He did go into all the world and he did make disciples.

Prayer: God of Love thank you for taking us as we are and molding us in discipleship. Amen

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Doubt

thomas030307_01Eastertide
April 3, 2016

Scripture Reading: John 20:19-31

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
–John 20:14-29

I have always thought Thomas got a bad rap by being vilified as the doubter. He was the disciple who first responded positively to Jesus when he decided to go to Bethany after hearing of Lazarus’ death. Thomas knew how dangerous it was for Jesus even to get that close to Jerusalem. Yet Thomas expressed his willingness to die with Jesus.

Doubting is a part of faith. We grapple every day with questions about what something means and how we are to respond. I compare the acts of God, reported in the Bible and since, with what I call the test of love. For I strongly believe that God is love and I struggle to understand the meaning of love. I wonder does this story describe the acts of a God who is love and if so how is love manifested in the events of the story? We grow in our ability to love like Jesus loved when we dive deeply into the fragments of his life from which we draw our conclusions.

I think this is what John is calling us to do when he ends this scripture with the phrase, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. Thomas had not seen Jesus as he was absent at the first resurrection encounter between Jesus and his disciples. Thomas, the doubter, did not trust what he was told filtered by the experience of others but once he encountered the living Christ he understood. That opportunity is available for us to this day.

Prayer: Lord, guide our study and help us understand the meaning in the message. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Dealing with Doubt

Doubting ThomasEastertide
April 12, 2015

Scripture Reading: John 20:19-31

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
— John 20:26-29

My childhood, best friend’s father was nicknamed “Fat.” He wasn’t. I never knew why he was called that. It wasn’t like calling someone who was heavy, “slim,” either. He was a regular sized man. Actually my dad was the one who called him “Fat.” They had known each other forever. I don’t remember really saying anything to him that would require me to call him anything. Even If I had needed to address him directly, my mother would never have allowed me to use his given name much less a nickname.

The lead character in our story today was assigned the nickname “Doubting Thomas” and he is still called that today. It really wasn’t fair. Thomas may have been the only one brave enough to say what others were thinking. Remember Thomas was the first disciple to step up to the plate when Jesus decided to go to Bethany upon hearing about Lazarus’ death. Thomas said, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ (John 11:16b)

Facing our doubts, getting them out in the open, is the quickest way of moving from the paralysis of uncertainty to empowering faith. Our world is in desperate need of empowering faith. So let us all deal with our doubts, our questions, and our quest for understanding. Let us do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved by him, workers who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.*

Prayer: Lord, protect me from being paralyzed in my service to you and your Kingdom. Where and when I have doubt, give me the courage to face it. Amen.

*Paraphrased from 2 Timothy 2:15

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Dealing with Doubt

Dealing with DoubtEpiphany
Celebration of God
Manifested in the World
February 5, 2015

 Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe betide me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.  — 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

I do not like to shop. Stores quickly overload my senses with too many choices and thus too many comparisons. Thus I was surprised one Christmas when one of my nephew’s opened his gift from me. His eyes lit brightly and he said, “How did you know I wanted one of these. I didn’t know I wanted one!” It was some kind of radio that had to be built from the parts and tools that were provided. It was a gift I finally selected out of pure frustration because he meant a lot to me and I did not want to disappoint him.

 

Paul writes sometimes with the assumption that we, the readers, know what is going on in his head when we don’t. Our scripture today is a shining example of that. What I think he is trying to say is sort of like what my nephew said to me. Although Paul does not address God in this scripture, he is telling us about his relationship with God to whom Paul said, “How did you know to select me to share the good news of Christ to the gentiles, when I didn’t know that was the very thing I wanted to do.”

 

I think the message here may be that we should listen when that still small voice speaks calling us to service and not let the doubt that creeps in rob us of the joy of doing what we didn’t know we wanted to do. God may actually know what God is doing.

 

Prayer: Lord, help me be still and know that you are God. In those times when I am most doubting myself but projecting that doubt on you, grant me the courage to see doubt for what it really is and move past it. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

But Some Doubted

Living in the Spirit
June 15, 2014

  Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’–Matthew 28:16-20

My Dad’s father died suddenly, unexpectedly when my Dad was ten years old. His father had contracted blood poisoning from a boil that a doctor had lanced with an apparently unsterilized instrument.  My grandfather has always been bigger than life to me because he was bigger than life to my father. By all measures he was a successful farmer and businessman and well respected in the community. He died in 1928 and in 1970 or so I met with an older, local attorney about something to do with my work. When he heard my name he asked, if I were related to Emery Knott and I said that he was my grandfather. The lawyer said “Emery Knott was one of the finest men I have ever known.”

My grandfather’s death came at a very bad time in the history of the world but particularly in Oklahoma. Within the next few years after he died, his farms had turned to dust and the top soil had blown away. The entire world was in an economic depression and my father had essentially become the primary bread winner of his family at the age of 12 in a world turned upside down. I cannot image the emotions my Dad experienced losing his Dad, eventually dropping out of school to work, trying to hold things together the best he and his siblings could. I am sure that some mornings when he awoke or some evenings when he fell into bed exhausted, fear and doubt were with him.

The eleven remaining disciples were just as human as my Dad and they, too, experienced the full range of emotions that goes with sudden loss and increased responsibility. But just like my Dad, they had the choice of letting their fears defeat them or using them as catalyst for change. Those eleven men, with the teachings of Jesus fresh in their minds and the power of the Holy Spirit literally changed the world.

God gives us that same opportunity today.

Prayer: Lord, transform our doubts and our fears into energy powering our service to you. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.