If we’re honest, we don’t feel gripped by the gospel most of the time, but suffer from unfaith. A great example of this is Thomas in John 20:24-29. I can relate with Thomas. I think we all can. Instead of believing the report of Jesus’ resurrection, he basically replied, “Eyewitness testimony isn’t enough. Until God gives me something more fantastic, personal and tangible, I refuse to have faith” (v. 25).
When suffering, it’s easy to respond to Scriptural truth like Thomas did to eyewitness testimony. “I understand what God’s Word says,” we say, “But that’s not the answer I want to hear right now.” We refuse to meditate upon God’s love for us in Christ because, to our superficial (hardened) hearts, the gospel doesn’t feel believable in that moment. Instead, we demand that God show us His goodness in the way we determine, not the way He’s already provided. Like Thomas, we refuse to accept and apply the biblical authors’ eyewitness testimonies to our confused and hurting lives because they don’t scratch us where our worldly desires itch. Similar to Thomas, we don’t want truth on a page; we want something we can see, feel, and touch.
I marvel at how Jesus handles Thomas. He both meets the demand of his unfaith – and gently rebukes it. “Bring your finger here and behold my hands and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not have unfaith but faith” (v. 27, my translation and emphasis). Like Thomas, God understands the frailty of our faith. He provides us with additional evidence, even when He’s already provided the greatest evidence. That’s grace. But He also calls us to a life of joy that can rest in a lack of personalized evidence. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29). That’s spiritual growth.
I think our Helper, the Holy Spirit, understands this complex dynamic, which is why He divinely inspired John to pen the following words in another biblical book:
What was from the beginning – what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life – and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
John’s saying we can bank our belief in the gospel – our very salvation – on his eyewitness experience that heard Jesus’ vocal chords vibrate, watched him live, and knew what it was to feel His tender touch. I don’t believe this just applies to conversion. I think it speaks to our Christian lives. There are many “Thomas moments” in the course of a week when we’d rather have God do something fantastic than meditate on a verse. Because He’s gracious, He sometimes answers this demand. However, if we’re to grow in maturity, we’ll move beyond this to believing with childlike simplicity millennium-old stories that are as presently alive and breathing as the Person to whom they point.