I WILL NOT BELIEVE
“I will not believe!” John 20:25
THERE'S nothing worse than unbelief when it comes to Jesus, but there is something refreshing in Thomas’ negative confession, especially today when no one will commit to anything. There’s no jello here, no wiggle or jiggle just pure, pig-headed unbelief.
Now it’s true that the Lord threatens to spit the lukewarm Christian out of His mouth, but at the end of the day there’s nothing worse than unbelief, because it condemns us to a life of hopelessness and an eternity of punishment for our sins.
This does not mean that faith in and of itself is a virtue, it is not. Instead it is the object of faith that is all important. If we place our faith in the wrong thing we will always get hurt. The Bible, for example, has been warning people for 2000 years not to trust in “uncertain” riches. It may have taken a while, but anyone with financial assets now understands why St. Paul used that adjective: uncertain. People who were once proud of their 401k’s now call them 201k’s, and people who once thought of their homes as the goose that laid the golden egg now shake their heads in wonder.
Neither should we put our trust in government programs, their only goal is to control us; nor in financial markets, they exist only to separate fools from their money. When dealing with people a healthy dose of suspicion is a virtue, but not so with Jesus.
Why not? Because the only way we can have fellowship with God is by faith in the name of Jesus who was sacrificed and raised again for us. This is what Jesus means when He says: no one comes to the Father but by me. (Jn 14:6) There is no other route or mediator. Without Jesus we might wrestle with God our whole lives but we will never receive the blessing and new name that Jacob did unless we do so with Jacob-like faith. Without faith that Jesus is both Lord and God, as Thomas finally professed, our prayers remain unanswered and our hopes are all dashed to the ground.
Likewise, to doubt that God raised Jesus from the dead is also to make God a liar, in which case our faith is vain and we’re still in our sins, and if faith in the Son of God equates to eternal life, then dis-belief means eternal death. No, there is nothing worse than unbelief, and nothing better than faith when it comes to Jesus.
We believe that Jesus is the Son of God who was sent to be our Savior, to give us Peace by His blood, absolution for our sins and to release us from all our fears. There’s nothing better than that!
We believe that faith is a precious commodity which is beyond our ability to obtain or maintain. We believe that it is a gift of the Holy Spirit, given to us through the Word of God. This is how Thomas’ doubts were finally dispelled, by what Jesus said to Him: don’t be faithless, but believe. What Jesus said, happened, and there’s nothing better than that, but it wasn’t only the Word that re-generated Thomas. The Lord’s body acted like a sacrament for Him as well. The Sacraments are not merely “means” of grace as we often like to say, but they are grace, they are the Gospel, and impart all the blessings of our Lord’s death and resurrection to us. Without them salvation is but an inaccessible theory.
There’s nothing better than faith because our faith overcomes the world. What does that mean? Christians don’t overcome the world by revolution, or by trying to change it. The church is not a social movement. It has plenty to offer the world in terms of wisdom and moral guidance, but the world will have to gain that by osmosis because we must never force our sacred morals on the unbelieving world.
So how does our faith overcome the world? We overcome it first by “overlooking” it. We should never take the world too seriously or fall in love with it because we are only pilgrims who are passing through to Heaven which is our real home. We overcome the world by understanding what it is, accepting it for what it is, and by not expecting it to be what it never can be. Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, are Utopians. Utopians think the world should be good, just and fair, and each Utopian has his own definition of what that means. Utopians whimper a lot and you can always identify them by their vocabulary. They use the word “just” a lot; we “just” want this and “just” want that. Such remonstrations alone are harmless. The problem comes when such people set out to make their theories reality. One hallucination gives way to another and soon they’ve destroyed half the world in order to make it a better place.
Faith overcomes the world. It informs us that the world is diseased with sin and all of its institutions are shot full of death so it can no more be revived than the Thanksgiving turkey can be resuscitated once it’s on the table.
Christians should be realists. We should not imagine, like many people do, that we can leave the world a better place than we found it. The world is ever the same and it’s not our vocation to change it or trouble it, but rather to overcome it by faith.
If our faith changes anything let it change us. We have all the necessary tools. We have the Holy Spirit, the gift of self-control and the Word of Truth to inform us what is good and pleasing in the sight of God. With those powerful weapons we can begin to conquer ourselves, our lusts, our fantasies, our envy and our aimless lives. We can turn our backs on sin, hunger and thirst after righteousness, worship God with reverence, and love our neighbor expecting nothing in return.
And we can pray! For the world, for it’s people and leaders so that we might live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness, and in mercy God answers our prayers. He breaks bows, burns chariots and commands the world to be still and know that He is God.
There’s nothing better than faith. Not only does it overcome the world but it also, at God’s appointed time, takes us out of the world. For now we live on God’s promises, but later, by grace and through faith, we will receive the heavenly mansion Jesus prepared for us; eat at the Messianic banquet; sing in the eternal choir and worship before the throne of the Lamb. We will hear the non-ending benediction which Jesus gave His disciples that first Easter evening: Peace be with you. This is all ours by faith, and nothing is better than that. Amen.
Rev. Dean Kavouras