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Doubters Anyonymous


"He is risen": it's the heartbeat of the message of the Christian church. These three English words are translated from one Greek word, egeirō, which literally means "to waken" or "to rouse from the dead." Two thousand years ago, Scripture claims, God became flesh in the person of his Son Jesus. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, lived a life without sin, took all our sin upon him, and died on a cross so that we could be forgiven. Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave.

What does egeirō mean to us two thousand years later? If Jesus has not been raised, we really don't have any hope of living up to God's standard of perfection. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, then we're just kidding ourselves. There is no real hope, and what we're doing, although harmless, is useless if Jesus is not risen from the grave.

First Peter 1:3 tells us that if Jesus is risen from the dead, then we have the possibility of new birth. That means that not only were we born physically, but we can also be born spiritually; all of our sins can be forgiven. No matter how bad we've been, no matter how bad we've blown it, no matter how much we've surrendered to a lifestyle of sin, through faith in the resurrection of Jesus we can have a new birth. Second, we can live with hope. We would not live like those who have no hope in anything beyond this world; we have a hope in the eternal life that is to come.

What does the egeirō mean to us today? Everything. It's the most important question that we could ever ask. However, there's a difference between simply believing that Jesus was raised from the grave and believing that it applies to your life.

I want to start by examining the life of perhaps the best-known doubter in the Bible: Thomas. In Jesus' time it was commonly known that rabbis would go looking for students or disciples. The rabbis would look for the most qualified, most highly educated disciples who had the greatest potential. The rabbis would ask disciples to follow them and train them. Being chosen as a disciple was one of the greatest breaks in this era.

Jesus was a very controversial rabbi, because he healed people and performed miracles. One day Jesus approached a fisherman named Thomas and invited him to follow him. What you need to understand about Thomas is that he was not selected by any of the other rabbis. He probably wasn't disciple material. He wasn't educated. He wasn't among the elite. He was rather ordinary. In other words, to be chosen to be a disciple was the break of his lifetime. That's why it was easy for him to leave his family business and everything else behind to follow Jesus. Thomas staked the rest of his life on being a disciple of the rabbi Jesus.

That's why Jesus gave his life on the cross three years later, Thomas didn't even show up for the event. He just sank into what surely was a deep depression; all of the other disciples gathered together just days after the crucifixion, but Thomas went AWOL. He was lost. He panicked. His world was spinning, and he didn't know which way was up. That's why many people call him a doubter.

I believe doubt can actually be one of the most effective elements to lead someone to committed belief. There are three elements on the road from doubt to committed belief.

Doubt is the first step on the road to belief.

In the churches I grew up in, the understood rule was that doubts should be ignore or suppressed but never talked about. But sometimes even the most committed Christ followers deal with doubts. In John 20:25, all the disciples were gathered together and claiming they had seen Jesus—that he was risen—but Thomas said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

There were three ways in Greek to say, "I will not believe." This is the strongest of ways: Unless I can touch him and see him for myself, I refuse to believe that he is risen. If Jesus was truly risen, then that one act of God demanded the rest of Thomas' life. But if Jesus was not risen, then his great hopes and dreams were all for naught. He had to know the truth for himself. That position earned Thomas a reputation as a great doubter. However, I'm going to argue that if you're wrestling with doubts, that position can be the greatest place to start on your sincere journey to committed faith and belief. It is as if Thomas were saying: This means so much to me, I have to know for myself. I need to see it to believe it.

Some of you may be wrestling with similar questions: Do I believe this whole Christianity thing because my parents were believers? Am I just a weak person looking for some kind of a crutch? God is not afraid of the hard questions. Even Jesus—from the cross—looked up to heaven when God withdrew his presence, and he cried, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" I admire the person with a simple faith, who says, "The Bible says it, and I believe it, and that settles it." But many of us wonder, Why? Why should I believe this? Some people sincerely wonder Is Jesus really the only way to God? That's a fair question and a decent place to start on our journey to real faith. The road to committed faith often starts with doubts.

God will grant us discoveries on the road to belief.

As we sincerely seek, he will let us know him in new ways. He will answer our doubts, though not necessarily as we would like him to.

When I was a freshman in high school, I was struggling with every kind of doubt you can have. I wanted to know if Jesus really was the Son of God; if he was truly risen from the dead, then that event alone demanded the loyalty of my whole life. If he didn't, then I might as well do whatever I wanted. At a youth camp that year, our counselors gave us two hours to spend alone with God. I had never spent two hours alone with God.

I went out into a field all by myself, and I said, "God, if you're real, I want you to show me." I took two sticks and put them in front of me in the form of a cross. I said, "God, if you're real, move these sticks. If you move them, then I'll know you're real, and I will give you my whole life." Two hours later, nothing had happened; nothing at all. "God," I prayed, "if you're real, just do this one thing." God didn't do it.

The Bible tells u in John 20:26-27 that Thomas had not shown up for a week. He was devastated. But then a week later, the disciples gathered in the house again, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus appeared among them and said, 'Peace be with you!'" Jesus' greeting was the kindest and most generous Greek greeting anyone could offer. The phrase literally meant, "all peace—in all ways and at all times—be with you." Jesus gave Thomas the most benevolent greeting possible. He didn't scold him for his doubt; he didn't belittle him; he didn't write him off. Rather, he greeted him warmly: "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

Jesus gave Thomas exactly what he needed in order to believe. I believe with all my heart that God will do the same for you. He may not give you what you want—two twigs moving in a field—but he will give you exactly what you need.

I pursued a self-centered, sinful lifestyle as diligently as anybody I've ever known. By my sophomore year of college, I was lost in every kind of desperate sin you can imagine. In the middle of my dangerous sin, I was invited to be part of a Bible study. We read a verse that I'll never forget—Ephesians 2:8-9—where Paul says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." When we read that verse, something supernatural came over me in that crowded room of people. I had to get out as fast as I could. That little room was so crowded with college students that I literally opened up a side window, crawled out, and ran out into the middle of a softball field. I fell facedown on the field and cried out, "God, if you're real, take my whole life. You can have it."

I fell on that field full of doubts, bitterness, hatred, questions, and insecurity. As I lay there facedown, literally with my face in dirt, the presence of God was so real in my doubting mind that I was physically unable to get up. When I finally got up, I was a different person. It was a new birth. All of my sins were forgiven, and I knew it somehow inside. All of a sudden, the power of the addictions that gripped my heart was broken. God touched me in a way far more profound than two twigs moving. It wasn't what I wanted; it was what I needed—faith.

Everyone can choose committed belief.

In John 20:28, Thomas says to Jesus, "My Lord and my God." For a Jew to make this statement was considered a blasphemy that was punishable by death. But Thomas didn't care. He got what he needed: egeirō. Tradition and other reliable sources tell us that Thomas became the great evangelizer of India. Many sources claim he was in India from AD 52 through AD 72 and founded many churches there. It is commonly accepted that, when a group of non-believers asked him to deny his faith in Christ, the one-time great doubter claimed, "I will never, ever renounce Christ." Because of refusal, they drove a stake through his body, and he died the death of a martyr. The doubter turned faithful and committed believer.

I faced my second round of doubts in seminary. A couple in my church, Mark and Michelle, came up to me after a service one morning and said, "The doctor said we can't have babies. Would you pray that we would conceive?" The first words out of my mouth were, "But the doctor said you couldn't have a baby." I never will forget: Mark—a brand new believer—looked at me and said, "Craig, either we believe God, or we're just playing church."

With everything in me, I believe in a new birth and a living hope that comes only through the resurrection of God's Son, Jesus Christ. Either we believe that or we're just playing church. There are those of you today that perhaps will step across a line to commitment.


Jesus hung out with people like us—sinners. He loved people like us. He said: If you want to have a part of my kingdom, you must first deny yourself; it's no longer about you. Then you take up your cross and you follow me.

Being a disciple of Christ is not just praying some kind of "fire insurance" prayer; it's about following him and making him the Lord of your life. If the resurrection is true, it demands our whole life.

For Your Reflection

Personal growth: How has this sermon fed your own soul? ___________________________________________

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Exegesis and exposition: Highlight the paragraphs in this sermon that helped you better understand Scripture. How does the sermon model ways you could provide helpful biblical exposition for your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Theological Ideas: What biblical principles in this sermon would you like to develop in a sermon? How would you adapt these ideas to reflect your own understanding of Scripture, the Christian life, and the unique message that God is putting on your heart? ____________________________________________________________________________

Outline: How would you improve on this outline by changing the wording, or by adding or subtracting points? _____________________________________________________________________

Application: What is the main application of this sermon? What is the main application of the message you sense God wants you to bring to your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Illustrations: Which illustrations in this sermon would relate well with your hearers? Which cannot be used with your hearers, but they suggest illustrations that could work with your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Credit: Do you plan to use the content of this sermon to a degree that obligates you to give credit? If so, when and how will you do it?

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Sermon Outline:


If Jesus is risen from the dead, we have the possibility of new birth and a living hope. But there's a difference between believing that Jesus was raised from the grave and believing that it applies to your life.

I. Doubt is the first step on the road to committed belief.

II. God will grant us discoveries on our road to belief.

III. Each of us can choose committed belief.


Being a disciple of Christ is not just praying some kind of "fire insurance" prayer; it's following him and making him the Lord of your life.