No. 32: Stop doubting and believe!
Read John 20:19-31
“…the doors locked for fear.” John 20:19
The disciples were in hiding behind locked doors. They had popped out during the day to see what Mary had told them. (“Jesus is alive!”) They must have talked all day and had so many mixed emotions: confusion, fear, sorrow, longing and misunderstanding. (“They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” John 20:9). It is amazing that not one of the disciples remembered the amazing promises of the resurrection! (See Matthew 16:21; 20:19; 26:32; Mark 9:9; Luke 9:22.) But how often do we forget what God has said to us too?
Again, Jesus meets them at their point of need and comes to them through locked doors. Even in their joy, they still refuse to believe at first that it is really Him. Their emotions were controlling their response. Faith needs to look at God and His word and choose to depend on Him completely, even in the face of what we feel or see with our natural eyes. Faith is an act of the will – a conscious decision to believe God. The disciples get peace and great joy from Jesus when He shows them His wounds. Jesus longs for us all to have real peace and He repeats Himself to the disciples saying: “Peace be with you!” He gives them His peace and breathes His breath of life into them, just like He does today.
This is preparation for the job that God is asking them to do: “I am sending you.” Many of us are behind locked doors of phobias, relationship breakdowns, financial restrictions, health problems and many more. We do not recognise that Jesus has come to us through the locked door. We despair about where He is and why things have happened to us. We are responding to our feelings, rather than to what God has said. Even when well-meaning Christians tell us that Jesus has not left us, we do not believe them. When we look back in our Bible for God’s promises to us, we don’t hold on to them. We feel shut in and even consider going back to the old life, saying: “This Christian life doesn’t work!”
We often do not let on to others how we feel: that God has let us down. The Holy Guest (which is what He is) wants to continually breathe fresh life into our spirit. We need to make a choice to receive that life by faith, so that we have His ability to go and tell others that they are forgiven. (John 20:22-23) As we believe Him and do this in obedience, any burdens that lock us up will disintegrate and will not have the power to hold us back any longer.
“… this incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 1:19-20
We have been given this same power that raised Jesus from the dead. That power – above death itself – is ours already! We need to learn to see that God’s power is bigger than any need we have, or anything He is asking us to do. Jesus has stripped Satan of all he possessed and has given us authority to take possession and be responsible for the area that He has given to us.
Whether it is our home, the office, or our neighbourhood, we cannot allow the enemy in to regain control over an area that Jesus has paid for in full. We need to take up our full responsibility and speak what the Holy Spirit leads us to say. We need to live our lives in such a way that we show that the word of God is real. It would be sad to think that Jesus has paid the price for complete victory over the devil but we allow him back to take up residence. We just need to stay in that intimate place with God, so that we can walk with Him. We can be mindful of Him every minute of the day so that we can then “pray without ceasing” and move only on the voice of the Holy Spirit. We will become so sensitive to His voice that we will see God do “exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
“Unless I see…” John 20:24
Many people, at one time or another, have wished that they could see Jesus in the flesh; to sit down and talk to Him and share their heart or ask for advice. Thomas wanted Jesus’ physical presence but God had a better idea! So as not to limit Himself to one person, He was about to send the Holy Spirit to be with all believers – all the time.
Although our glimpses of Thomas are brief, his character comes through with consistency. He struggled to be faithful to what he knew, despite what he felt, although he didn’t hesitate to follow Jesus. On that first Easter Sunday, he was reluctant to believe the witness of the others to Christ’s resurrection. Not even ten friends could change his mind! (Read John 20:24-25.) Jesus met Thomas a week later and immediately Thomas repented, changed his attitude completely, fell at Jesus’ feet and worshipped Him, crying: “My Lord and my God!”
We don’t have to live a doubting way of life. Remember, doubts are rooted in unbelief. However, doubt can be used to pose a question, get an answer, or push for a decision or change of thinking. Doubt encourages re-thinking. Doubt was never meant to be a permanent condition.
Eve doubted God’s goodness when she listened to the devil’s version of God’s words. She focused on what she thought she was missing! (Read Genesis 3:1-6.) We fall into doubt about God in the same way and we must counteract it by focusing on all His benefits. (Compare Psalm 103.)
Moses doubted God’s ability to feed the wandering Israelites. (Read Numbers 11:21-23.) This was despite having seen so many spectacular miracles (such as the Passover and Exodus) before his very eyes.
Job had a friend called Eliphaz who raised doubts by suggesting that Job had a secret sin. He brought his friend only condemnation. We have to walk in confidence that, if our hearts do not condemn us, then we can have confidence that Jesus’ cleansing and forgiveness are sufficient. (See Job 23:1-17.)
John the Baptist had doubts that were based on the reports that he was receiving. They were both unexpected and incomplete. He aired his doubts and Jesus reassured him by referring him back to God’s word and who God had said that the Messiah was. (Read Luke 7:20.) Knowing the truth (Jesus) makes us free.
Take encouragement from all these people and from the fact that countless other followers of Christ have struggled with doubts. The answers that God gave them are a great help to us too. Don’t settle into doubt, but move on from it to decision and belief. Find another believer with whom you can share your doubts. It’s better to doubt out loud than to disbelieve in silence.
“Stop doubting. Believe…” John 20:27
- Doubt weakens our trust in God. (See Proverbs 3:5-6.)
- Doubting our salvation is often caused by feelings of guilt. Remember Romans 8:1.
- Doubt can remind us that we are relying on ourselves. Get back to total dependence on God.
- Doubt leads to a questioning of our belief. Turn the tables and allow this to strengthen our faith.
- Doubts need to be admitted to ourselves and to God. We can then look to His word for our answer.
- Doubts remind us that our faith needs to grow. (See Matthew 17:20.)
- Doubtful minds will be unsettled. (James 1:6.) Be convinced that God’s way is best. Ask Him for wisdom and believe He gives it to all who ask Him. (Compare James 1:5.)
“… but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:31
God has given a very clear direction here for all of us who have problems with doubt. Jesus did many more miraculous things than are detailed here, but this book contains enough facts, proof and revelation for us easily to believe (trust in, cling to, and rely on) that Jesus is the Son of God. Then we can have an amazing eternal life, starting from the day of our new birth. We can live life in all its fullness (John 10:10), being blessed every day and surrounded by God’s favour as a shield. (Read Psalm 5:12.) We do not want to be like a cowering, fearful child in the corner, being tossed back and forth by every thought of doubt that flies past. Instead, we can rely on God to show us how to deal with doubts once and for all. We mustn’t swing from one extreme to the other, but choose God’s ways, not the worlds opinions. Choose to trust God wholeheartedly forever.
Home challenges for Power Up! – No. 32: Stop doubting and believe!
1. What did you enjoy most in the previous study?
2. Read the notes: “…the doors locked for fear.”
a) What do you feel about how Jesus reacted to the disciples’ fear?
b) Do you have fear in your life and does this reaction of Jesus gives you encouragement?
3. Learn Ephesians 1:19-20. Really work hard at meditating on this verse and make it so real that no problem is too big for your faith.
4. Read the notes “Unless I see…” What do you find most encouraging about Thomas?
5. Do you have any doubts about Christianity that you could share, about which Jesus’ dealing with Thomas helps you?
6. Of all the miraculous signs John has included in his Gospel, which has been most convincing to you and why?
Read John 21:1-14
7. If you had been in Peter’s position, what would you have done after you had visited the tomb?
8. What was the significance of Peter going out fishing?
9. How many disciples were fishing with Peter when Jesus appeared to them and who were they?
10. Why do you think that the fishing was not successful until Jesus showed up?
11. a) How does Jesus change the situation?
b) Why do you think the catch is so large?
12. What is Peter’s reaction as soon as John tells him that Jesus is on the shore?
13. If you had denied the Lord so determinedly only a few days before, what would your reaction have been?
14. What does this show about Peter and his character and relationship to Jesus?