Steven Furtick - When It's Hard To Believe
This is an excerpt from: That's Not All You Are
This is what we do. We love to label stuff, because if I label it, I can be lazy. I can think I know you because you remind me of something that's in myself that I won't admit. This Easter, I would like to talk about Thomas and suggest to you that if any of the other disciples had been in his same situation, they would have had his same doubt. The Bible says Thomas wasn't there when Jesus showed up. Now remember, he rose from the dead. He showed himself to Mary Magdalene. Not to the boys first, because he knows women have the ability to feel and not be so calculative about everything and know things their minds can't conceive and see things spiritually that men are blind to because we are so ego focused we can't even connect with one another, let alone the resurrected Son of God.
Do you like that pandering I did to the female demographic? That was good. But I really believe that. Holly was with a bunch of other pastors' wives a while back, and she was saying, "Oh, it was so good. We opened up, and we talked about this, and we talked about that". I said, "If that had been the pastors of those churches and not the women who are co pastors or pastors' wives, all we would have talked about was things that started with 'How many…' or 'How much…'" We love to label. Guys are really simple. We are still trying to figure out "How much do you bench"? Just now with dollars instead of dumbbells. "How much did you make last year"? and all this stuff, because we love to label. It helps us to accommodate our assumptions if we can label something.
We love sometimes to identify ourselves as Christians by our jewelry even though the cross was originally a torture instrument, not a fashion statement. There's nothing wrong… I have one myself, and I'll wear it. My point is sometimes it's easier to label it than to live it. Doubting Thomas. Yeah. That's really fair. When it says he wasn't there, he wasn't there. We don't know why. You know how you fill in the blanks and assume things about people? "He wasn't there because Jesus had been crucified and he was ashamed to be identified with the others". Or maybe he was running an errand. After all, the other disciples were not exactly full of faith. "How do you know that"? The Bible says they had the doors locked because of fear of the Jews.
You know how you say Easter is the Super Bowl? Not really. It's not really like the Super Bowl, because even though Jesus was risen and they had heard about it, they still had to live with the reality that they represented a threat to the Jewish council that represented the religious establishment of the day. So, it's a strange celebration. It's kind of like how sometimes in your life you can be really happy about something but really worried about something, and you can't exactly jump up and down about this because you're distracted about that. Somebody says, "How are you doing"? and you're like, "I'm good," but that's not all you are. You are good in the particular area of your life you chose to disclose in that moment.
Thomas wasn't there. The only difference between Thomas and Peter is Peter got to see Jesus when he showed up. Peter didn't have greater faith than Thomas. He just had a different experience. Don't judge people about where they are if you don't know where they started. Maybe he wasn't there because he was scared or maybe he just struggled with punctuality. Maybe Thomas was late. It's no worse of an assumption than the fact that he wasn't there because he didn't love God. We don't know why he wasn't there. It just says… Let's read the text again so y'all will think I'm not making this up. I don't want y'all to trust me; I want you to trust the text. "Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came".
What if he's not Doubting Thomas at all? He could be Tardy Thomas. Do you know how I think Jesus would call him? I was thinking about this. What would Jesus call Thomas? What would Jesus call the one who wasn't there? What would Jesus call the one who he came back a week later to make a special guest appearance to? He thought so much of him he showed back up. Maybe Jesus would call him Honest Thomas. I think he said a good thing. He said, "I've got to see it for myself". There comes a time when your faith in God on what your grandparents taught you or what you learned on a flannelgraph in a Sunday school can't really get you through the real complications of adult life. What he said wasn't, "I won't believe". He said, "I won't believe 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 won't believe unless…"
What would it take for you to believe that God was with you in this moment, in this season? What would it take for you to believe God had your kids in his hands? What would it take for you to believe he knows what's best for you? What would it take for you to believe that God does not relate to you on the basis of the thing you're most ashamed about? What would it take for you to believe? Thomas has already seen so much. He has seen a lot. John says Jesus did so much we couldn't write it all down. John in making this… We call it a book, his gospel account. He says, "I put the ones in the book that would serve as a sign so you could believe". He includes seven of them, which is a significant number, especially for the Jewish mind, because it was seven days of creation.
John is saying here, "I'm going to show you seven things". He starts talking about the signs in John, chapter 2, where Jesus turned the water into wine at a wedding. Then in chapter 4, Jesus heals this official's son. It's crazy, because Jesus didn't even have to go physically to the place in order to heal the boy. All it took was for the man to believe. It was his faith that made his son well. In John, chapter 5, there's a man trying to get to the water, and Jesus says, "Well, it's a good thing the water showed up since you can't move," because the man was actually paralyzed. He could not get to the water, so Jesus brought water to him. That's the third sign.
One of the miracles we've heard a lot about if we were around church was when Jesus fed 5,000 men, women, and children. The "and children" is significant in this particular sign, because when they found this little boy in John, chapter 6, they said, "Here is a boy". To them he looked like a boy. He was carrying a buffet. Isn't that amazing? Look at your neighbor again and say, "That's not all you are". You look like a boy, but when your bread gets in the hands of the one who knows what to do with it… As a matter of fact, when Jesus went walking on the water, they thought he was a ghost. They didn't recognize him at first. They didn't see him at first. They felt fear at first, not faith.
Then in John, chapter 9, I think it is… (You can check all of these later. I'm giving you a Bible study for the next week, by the way. You could go through all of this.) This man was born blind, and Jesus healed the man born blind, which was amazing, but the greatest thing he did to show who he was started with what he didn't do. My favorite story in the Bible last year was the story of Lazarus in John, chapter 11. I spent the greater part of the year off and on looking at this story. I want to show you something that's in the story that I think might relate to your season of life as well. If you have John, chapter 20, right now, maybe put that little ribbon in your Bible… Who am I kidding? Like y'all brought paper to church today. Just mark it on the screen and go to John, chapter 11, for just a moment.
If we flip back to John, chapter 11, it will show us something about who Jesus really is. John says, "I can't tell you everything, but I told you enough that you can believe for the part you can't see. I can't tell you everything he did, but I gave you enough to believe". God said, "I'll give you enough to go on". When Moses asked God, "Who are you"? he said, "I Am". "You don't have time for me to tell you all that I am. The moment I tell you exactly what I am, you will label me, and the moment you label me, you will limit me". It's like this. People will say, "Oh, that must be a Pentecostal church. That must be a Baptist church".
I remember one person said one time, "I don't like how Elevation mixes different genres. It should either be worship or gospel, not both". The definitions I found in the Bible confused me, because I thought worship was our job description and gospel was our message. Now watch what we'll do. We want to create a genre about a God who's worthy of eternal worship, because if we can categorize him, we don't really have to trust him. Thomas wasn't the only one who wasn't there. Jesus wasn't there in John, chapter 11, to heal his friend Lazarus. What I'm discovering in the Bible is you can learn just as much about God through absence as you can through presence. "Prove it to me". Okay. One time Paul said, "I had this thorn, and I wanted God to take it away, but God didn't do what I asked him to do".
How many have something in your life right now that God is not doing that you asked him to do on the timetable you're asking him to do it? And if he is doing it, he'd better go ahead and get to it, because it's going to be too late really soon. This is the situation in John 11. At first Lazarus is sick, and then Lazarus is dead, and they do not get the attention of the healer. We can see this most clearly, because there's a lot in this passage… I wish I could preach it all to you right now. If I summarized it, it would actually ruin it because I would squeeze out of it all the detail, so I'm not going to summarize it. By the way, just a side point: don't trust the summary. When we try to summarize something, we squeeze out of it the meaning. If I tell you, "John, chapter 11. Lazarus died. Jesus raised him from the dead," you miss the tears he cried at his tomb.
Don't even try to summarize salvation and just make it about heaven and hell, because I need Jesus on this earth. They needed Jesus to show up and heal their brother, and they had a reason to expect, because he would stop through Bethany every time he needed Airbnb at Martha's house. Mary would listen, because she had a good heart, but Martha actually knew how to cook, so she's the one doing the work, paying the mortgage, and Mary is over here… Anyway, it's a whole dynamic. Again, I can't summarize it. It's a very, very involved story. But I thought I would show you John 11:32, because their brother is now dead, and Jesus missed the opportunity to heal him. Very specifically, before I came, God said, "You're going to speak to somebody today who thinks it's over, and the limitation they have placed is not on a genre of music. The limitation they have placed is on themselves".
In the story of Lazarus, they asked for the healer to come. They call him the teacher or the rabbi. That's how they knew him. It says in verse 32, "When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.' When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 'Where have you laid him?' he asked. 'Come and see, Lord,' they replied. Jesus wept". "Wait a minute. I thought you were God. You're supposed to be drying tears, not crying them". What if what you've heard about God is not all there is to him? What if the God you've heard about is only a sliver? People will describe God in many ways, and they'll say God is a healer, but then someone you love will die. To assume he's not as powerful as you thought he was because he didn't do what you thought he would misses the entire basis of true faith.