Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter...Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt

Jeff was supposed to be starting a new series, Explicit Lyrics, but he got sick on Friday. Neal spoke about doubt, as the title above implies. You can listen to the message here.

He started with a video that you can watch here. I enjoyed it because sometimes, as a Christian, you feel that you always have to believe that what the Bible says happened is true simply due to the fact that you weren't there to witness any of it. Sometimes I do think it's a pretty incredible story to believe.

The passages discussed were Matthew 28:16-20 and John 20:24-29. They talk about some of the disciples doubting that Jesus had risen from the dead. Eugene Peterson's message version of Matthew 28:16-17 says "Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. " In the NIV, it says that some "doubted" rather than "held back...". It seems like it would be hard to doubt Jesus' resurrection if your looking right at him. But I can definitely see how they could be wary about risking themselves totally. They can see that there's a lot of power surrounding Jesus for him to be alive again. What will happen to them if they completely surrender to following Jesus?

In John, the focus is mainly on Thomas wanting to see Jesus and touch his wounds for himself in order to believe, which he is allowed to do. Jesus is so gracious! I especially like the last verse of the section where Jesus tells Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jesus is talking about me! It certainly takes a lot more faith to believe something you haven't seen or touched yourself. It's comforting to know that we are blessed for our belief.

Neal mentioned the note in the Life Application Study Bible about this passage. Jesus wasn't hard on Thomas for his doubts. Despite his skepticism, Thomas was still loyal to the believers and to Jesus himself. Some people need to doubt before they believe. If doubt leads to questions, questions lead to answers, and the answers are accepted, then doubt has done good work. It is when doubt becomes stubbornness and stubbornness becomes a life-style that doubt harms faith. When you doubt, don't stop there. Let your doubt deepen your faith as you continue to search for the answer.

I like that it points out Thomas' faithfulness in spite of his doubts. It helps us to see that it is okay to doubt as long as we are also searching for a response to the doubt rather than allowing the doubt to make us stagnant.

The questions I wanted to ask myself from this message are as follows:

What would it look like for me to risk myself totally for Jesus?
What am I currently holding back? What am I protecting or keeping from him?
What doubts do I have?

Sometimes I do doubt that it is all true - mainly because there is no indisputable fact and all of the major events that define my faith occurred so long ago. I don't fully commit because I am afraid of what it will cost me. I am afraid of being ridiculed and rejected by others. I am afraid of the changes to my life (and current lifestyle) that may occur. I am afraid that God won't be enough. I do feel bad for thinking these things, but God knows my inmost thoughts so why try to pretend they aren't there? I do want to believe and trust fully.

I think part of the issue is that I struggle with fully grasping and comprehending the full measure of God's love and grace. Obviously, Easter is the ultimate demonstration of God's love for me. My issue is that it is more head knowledge than heart feeling. I know it's true, but I don't always feel its truthfulness. I want to live abundantly out of God's love for me, but sometimes I feel like I'm on empty. I do see and receive God's blessings in my life, but somehow I can't connect it to feeling loved by him. I want to be filled up with him because only then can his love flow out of me and into others. My acts of love toward others are a result of God's love for me. It's hard to be loving when you don't feel loved. And yet Jesus did not stop loving throughout his persecution, but I suppose that is because he felt his Father's love.

So this is where I am. I desire to experience God's love in a real and powerful way. I want to feel like his beloved. To feel special to him. In my head, I know that these things are true, but I don't know how to translate that to my heart. I have been praying to receive his love in a real way and am reading his word. I don't know what the hangup is. I feel stuck and blah and I just want God's love to be real to me. And I think that's really why I'm holding back right now.

So what's my application? I guess to continue to pray that I would grasp/experience God's love for me in a real way. But perhaps it's to commit totally in spite of this - choosing to trust what I know over what I feel. To trust that God is enough and is able to meet all of my needs (Philippians 4:19).

No comments:

Post a Comment