Stop Doubting and Believe

The following is a reposting of a previous post from January 2012.

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he 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.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I remember growing up and being told by my Sunday school teacher, “Don’t be a doubting Thomas.” There were several men named Thomas in our church and community and I could never figure out which one she was talking about and why they were mentioned in the Bible. It was not until I heard our pastor preach on this text from John, that I finally realized that it was Thomas the Disciple that my teacher was referring to.

I can relate to the disciple Thomas and his moment of doubt. We all have moments of doubt throughout our lives and sometimes we need a reminder from someone to stop doubting. Most of the time, my doubts have to do with myself. Like Thomas, I want to have a sign, something that gives me a clear answer. Often I find myself praying for a “sign” from God so that I can put an end to my doubts. Jesus tells us however, “Stop doubting and believe.”

Doubt is exactly what the evil one wants us to have plenty of. He wants us to second guess ourselves and replay our failures in our minds so that we become weak and ineffective followers of Christ.  We come up with excuses or reasons not to try; I’m not smart enough, I can’t talk to or pray with that particular person, I can’t teach that Sunday school class, I can’t visit someone who is hurting or sick because I don’t know what to say….and the list goes on and on.

Like us, the disciples also had doubts and I’m sure they had their moments when they also felt weak and ineffective. It is in those moments that we forget whom we serve as our Lord and Savior. As believers, we serve God, whose power helps us to overcome our own human weaknesses. The Apostle Paul reminds us that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. As believers, we are not alone; we have the name of Christ to call upon to help us overcome our doubt.

Do you believe in the power of Jesus? Do you have enough faith to overcome doubt and live out a life that frees you from your doubting ways? Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Jesus tells us to have faith and to “stop doubting and believe.”

Jesus told Thomas that “because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  And that is the Good News for us as believers. We have not personally seen Jesus, but because we believe in Him, we are saved for all eternity. And we are also saved from living a life filled with doubt.

Praying Persistently

Luke 11:5-8 (NIV)

Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’

“Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”

This is one of those strange parables from Jesus where we are left wondering just what Jesus is trying to communicate to us. A friend rings your doorbell at midnight and asks for bread for some out of town company that just arrived. You are tired and exhausted from a long day at work and you tell your friend that your door is locked, and you are not willing to get up from bed to give him some bread. However, because this man continues to knock on your door and ring your doorbell (bold and persistent), you finally get up out of bed and give him as much or more than he needs. What is Jesus saying to us? Are we to “wear” down God with our prayer requests until he gets tired and gives in to us?

In this parable, Jesus is urging us to be bold and to persist in our prayers. Jesus teaches us that prayers can’t be answered if we don’t ask. Of course, sometimes our prayers are “answered” when God says “no.” We must remember and believe that God wants to do what is best for us and that He knows what is best for us.

Another “odd” parable on prayer is the Parable of the Persistent Widow from Luke 18: 1-8. Beginning in verse 2: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.

The key to understanding this parable is found in the first verse (Luke 18:1): Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Again, we see this persistence in prayer that is common to both parables. God is not like the unjust judge who finally gave into the widow because he was worried that she would eventually “wear him out” with her requests. God is just and loving, and He wants us to come before him persistently, with our praise, our requests, and our worries.

Asking, seeking, and knocking imply persistence. We ask, we then seek, and when we arrive at our destination we continue knocking, persistently. Anything that is worthwhile is often difficult to attain. Why should prayer be any different? Keep on asking, seeking and knocking. God wants us to persist in prayer so that our faith will be increased.

Praying Like A Child

Scripture Reading: Mark 10:13-16: People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

On many occasions, Jesus tells his disciples that they need to become like little children. Imagine what these grown men must have thought when Jesus told them that they needed to become like little children. The disciples seemed to have struggled with this teaching of Jesus as we see many instances of Jesus telling them this over and over again throughout the Gospels.

From Mark: 9: 33-37, we find the disciples traveling with Jesus to Capernaum. As they arrive at Peter’s house, Jesus asks his disciples what they had been arguing about on the road to Capernaum. The text from Mark tells us that the disciples kept quiet because on the way they had been arguing about who among them was the greatest. In another teachable moment, Jesus sits down and says to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Jesus then takes a little child and had the child stand among them. Then Jesus takes the child in his arms and tells the disciples that unless they become like children they will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

This becoming like a child has importance for us as we go before God in prayer. Jesus wants us to be more like little children when we pray, to be without pretense. Many times we try to be something that we aren’t. We come before God in an almost mechanical way, we try to be more spiritual and we try to impress God with our words and our lengthy prayers.

Jesus says, come as you are, come before God with all of your problems and worries. Come hurting, come with stumbling words. It doesn’t matter if you get prayer right, what matters is that you come before God without any pretense and ask for guidance and help. Trust less in yourself and trust more in God.

As a father of four, I can say with certainty that children are not shy about telling you what they are thinking. They blurt out their thoughts and are usually very honest in their assessment of life. I believe that God wants us to be that way also in our prayer life. Jesus seems to be urging us to come before God in prayer, just as we are.

Matthew 11:28: The Words of Jesus: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” It’s all right to come before God in prayer as a weary and heavy-burdened human being. It’s ok to come before God as a needy child and ask for guidance and rest. The important thing is to go before God in prayer on a regular basis.

Needing God Every Hour

Nahum 1:7: The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.

Isaiah 26:4: Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.

Psalm 9:10: Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

1 Peter 5:7: Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

One of my favorite old hymns is “I Need Thee Every Hour”. This great hymn was written by Annie Sherwood Hawks in 1872 and is thought to have been based on the exhortation of Jesus in John 15 verses 4 and 5:

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing.[1]

Well, a short time before her death, on January 3rd, 1918, Mrs Hawks gave the full background story. “I remember well the circumstances under which I wrote the hymn. It was a bright June day, and I became so filled with the sense of the nearness of my Master that I began to wonder how anyone could live without Him, in either joy or pain. Suddenly, the words I need Thee every hour, flashed into my mind, and very quickly the thought had full possession of me.

Seating myself by the open windows, I caught up my pencil and committed the words to paper – almost as they are today. A few months later Dr. Robert Lowry composed the tune for my hymn and also added the refrain.

For myself, the hymn, at its writing, was prophetic rather than expressive of my own experiences, for it was wafted out to the world on the wings of love and joy, instead of under the stress of great personal sorrow, with which it has often been associated.

At first I did not understand why the hymn so greatly touched the throbbing heart of humanity. Years later, however, under the shadow of a great loss, I came to understand something of the comforting power of the words I had been permitted to give out to others in my hours of sweet serenity and peace.[2]

I experienced one of those days today where I was completely overwhelmed with the thought that I need Jesus in my life every hour of every day. Realizing that I am wholly dependent upon my Lord and Savior, I began to pray short prayers for Christ to be with me today. As the hours of the day passed by, my dependence and need for Christ grew stronger. I can’t do life on my own. I need my Lord and Savior to guide me and to walk beside me every step of my life. And sometimes like today, I need him to carry me.



[1] http://www.biblestudycharts.com/HH_I_Need_Thee.html

[2] http://www.biblestudycharts.com/HH_I_Need_Thee.html

The Jesus Prayer

Luke 18: 35-43: As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

Luke’s Gospel account does not give us the name of this blind beggar. Matthew’s gospel informs us that there were two blind men who were healed. Mark’s Gospel actually names the man who was given his sight back, Bartimaeus, or blind Bartimaeus as he is called. I’m not sure that the man’s name is important, there is a deeper message that the Gospel writers wish to convey.

Bartimaeus was from the town of Jericho. Jericho, from the Jewish perspective, was probably the lowest town on the face of the earth. And Bartimaeus was surely among the least of the lowest people, he was blind, dependent on others for support. Many of the disciples who were with Jesus everyday were not able to fully comprehend just who Jesus was, but blind Bartimaeus did.

The cynic would say that Bartimaeus had lost all hope and that believing in Jesus was his only option, it was out of desperation he hoped that Jesus could restore his sight. However, scripture points out to us that it was the faith of Bartimaeus that Jesus recognized and it was his faith that healed him. Bartimaeus didn’t just believe that Jesus could restore his sight, he believed that Jesus would give him the gift of sight.

Imagine this blind man yelling at the top of his lungs, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus was apparently shouting this over and over again, desperate to get the attention of Jesus. While those around him repeatedly scolded him and told him to be quiet, Bartimaeus continued to shout even louder. And Jesus of course took notice. Jesus asks the blind man what it was that he wanted from him. Bartimaeus responded, “Lord, I want to see.” Jesus then said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”  Faith is what blind Bartimaeus possessed and he continued to beg and shout for mercy from the one who is able to supply us with enough mercy and grace to carry us through each day.

The Greek Orthodox Church still uses a simple fifth-century prayer sometimes called the Prayer of Jesus: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. If you add Paul’s Philippian hymn, “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:11), you’ve got the Jesus Prayer. The Orthodox tradition calls short prayers like this “breath prayers” because they can be spoken in a single breath.[1]

In your daily walk with God, try using this breath prayer or other types of short prayers to continually seek and call upon the name of Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior. Sensing or recognizing the presence of Jesus is crucial to me, every hour of every day. Jesus is with you as you drive to work, while you shop for groceries, as you struggle through your work day, as you deal with difficult people, as you meet others who need to know Christ. Cry out for mercy to the one who is waiting to supply you with the mercy and grace that you need in your particular situation. Jesus, have mercy on me! Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner! Call out to Christ and He will answer.



[1] Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life, page 68, 2009, NavPress, Colorado Springs

 

The Storms of Life

Mark 4:35-41: Jesus Calms the Storm

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

It’s no secret that the disciples struggled with their faith in Jesus as the Son of God. They believed, but the world that they lived in sent many storms their way that caused their faith to waver from time to time. Jesus, through miracles like this calming of the storm, sought to increase the disciples faith in Jesus as the divine Son of God. The disciples, like many of us, struggled in their faith and they seemed to allow the many storms of life to influence their faith.

Almost every day, I meet someone who allows the many storms of life, to carry them farther away from the arms of a loving and caring God. We let this storm, this world that we live in, influence us and we sometimes lose sight of the peace and refuge that God so freely offers.  I am not suggesting that we won’t face troubles and trials in our lives, because we will. As a Christian however, we must remember to call upon the name of our creator, redeemer, and sustainer to help us through challenging times.

There are many of you today who are going through some type of storm in your life. That storm may be brewing in your place of work. I recently read, that more and more people are giving up vacation days, because they fear that time off could cost them their job. What is the ultimate cost of spending more time at work? It ultimately means less time for family and less quality time spent with God.

Finding work is another storm that many people are trying to navigate. I am aware of people that have not worked in over a year. They are struggling to find a way to support their family and keep their home and their dignity. Like the disciples, their faith tends to waver as the storms of life threaten to overwhelm them.

I know people that are facing storms in their family life. Relationships are crumbling and there is increased hostility between family members. Bills are piling up and this tends to cause stress and anger levels to intensify also. Family life, which should be a dwelling of safe haven and encouragement, becomes a place of anger and distrust. Where is God in the life of the family? Have you allowed the storms of life to push God further and further away?

The disciples saw Jesus up close and yet their faith needed to be increased. They saw Jesus perform many miracles and healings but their faith needed to be strengthened. They were first hand witnesses to Jesus calming this furious storm and yet they were still afraid and they questioned just who Jesus was. Mark gives us the answer as to the identity of Jesus in the very first verse of the book of Mark. Mark 1:1: “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Christ was there with the disciples in the midst of this storm that came up suddenly on the Sea of Galilee. Christ is also present with us as we navigate the many storms of life that come our way. As believers, we are reminded to remember that Christ is available for us today, guiding us through the dark moments of life into a place of safety and rest. Remember to call upon the name of Jesus when the storms of life threaten to overwhelm you. The Son of God is available and is waiting for you to call upon him so that He can guide you from the darkness into the light.

Jesus speaks to us today as he did to his disciples over two thousand years ago: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

 

 

 

 

Dear God

Dear God,

Forgive me God for failing to begin every day in thanksgiving and praise to you, my creator. Psalm 100:4: Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

Forgive me God for not reading your word every day of my life. Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Forgive me God for not meditating on your word, day and night. Psalm 1:2: but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Forgive me God for not putting my complete faith and trust in you. Psalm 62:8: Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

Forgive me God for not teaching my children something about you every day. Proverbs 22:6:  Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Forgive me God for being selfish and not thinking of others. Philippians 2:4: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Forgive me God for loving at times, the things of this world, more than I love you. 1 John 2:15: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Forgive me God for failing to speak a kind word to others. Proverbs 16:24: Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Forgive me God for thinking that I am superior to other people. Philippians 2:3: Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Forgive me God for being too busy to see the reality of your kingdom, plainly in front of me. Luke 10:40: But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

Forgive me God for not taking the time to enjoy your wonderful creation. Psalm 19:1: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Forgive me God for not sharing the Gospel with those that so desperately need to hear it. Matthew 28:19-20: Therefore go 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 I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Forgive me God for trusting in my own power more than I do in your power. 1 Chronicles 17:20: There is none like you, O LORD, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

Forgive me God for not believing that you give me strength to do your work. 2 Chronicles 16:9: For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

Forgive me God for seeking to minister in my own way and not yours. Proverbs 16:3: Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

Forgive me God for not believing at all times in the power of the Holy Spirit, especially through prayer. Romans 8:26-27: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Dear God: Thank you for who you are: my creator, redeemer, and sustainer. Thank you for loving me and forgiving me and continuing to use me, even though I am far from perfect. Help me to place my complete trust in you at all times and to continue to faithfully serve you in all that I do. Help me to remember that I am a child of God and use me to bring light to a world that is full of darkness. Continue to remind me to be humble and to give all honor and glory to you in everything that I do. Amen.

 

Overcoming Evil

James: 4: 7-10: Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, your double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

How do we as followers of Christ, submit ourselves to God? James give us some important guidelines on how we are to submit ourselves unto God. James warns us about our love for the world and how this type of love for worldly things, is in fact, hatred towards God. James, like Paul and Peter, warns us that our enemy, the devil, must be resisted and we are powerless to do that unless we first submit ourselves to God.

The world with all of its many distractions, does its best to keep us from developing a closer and more spiritual relationship with God. We know deep inside our very being that we need to spend more time reading God’s word and asking for wisdom to better understand and apply God’s word to our own lives. We are convicted of the need to develop a deeper prayer life, one that causes us to pray without ceasing and to draw closer to God. Yet the world with all of its distractions continues to pull us away from our creator.

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, wanted his church in Ephesus to understand just how powerful the work of Satan can be against the church. Paul tells the church to “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:10-12).

Peter also warns us that the devil is a powerful enemy of God and all that is good and righteous. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

The two ways that we can defeat the devil is to stay in God’s word and to develop a deeper prayer life with God. By reading God’s word, we are better trained to hear God speaking to us through His word. It amazes me how many times I open the Bible to a passage that speaks to what I am going through at that very moment. God will provide an answer to your problems, but you must spend time in the word with God in order for that to happen.

The second way to defeat the evil of Satan is to pray constantly, or without ceasing to God. Prayer is communication with God, your creator. We must first come before God in prayer offering up praises and thanksgiving because of God’s great mercy and love for us. Then we can begin to pray for our own needs and especially the need for God to keep the evil one far away from us on any given day.

God gives us clear direction – if we will only submit ourselves to God and if we will resist the devil – then the evil one will flee from us. This doesn’t mean that he won’t be back to tempt us again, because he will. That is why as believers, we must stay in constant contact with God, so that He can deliver us from the evil of this world. If we will only desire God and submit to Him, then God will bring us through our trials and our moments of temptation.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. (1 Peter 4:8a)