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A Gospel For Troubled Hearts: Part III
Jesus gives answers to the disciples’ questions,
which revealed their troubled hearts and ours:
Let not your heart be troubled.
1. Peter's Question
In the last lecture we talked about the question of Simon Peter when he asked the Lord, "Why can't I go with you now?" Now we come to the question that is asked by Thomas who is called "doubting Thomas." Embodied in his question is the revelation of a troubled heart crying out to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The answer to Simon Peter's question was in those words of the first few verses of chapter fourteen, "Let not your heart be troubled." But in answer to that troubled heart Jesus said, "Believe in God. Have faith in God. Believe in Christ. Believe in a place, heaven, that the Lord has gone to prepare and believe that He will come again." That was the answer to the question that Simon Peter asked of Jesus.
2. Jesus' Statement
Jesus said, "And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." Thomas then said, "Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?" Here he stands in the presence of the Son of God with his heart filled with doubts and fears not understanding what Jesus is saying.
Jesus has told them He is soon to leave and is going where they cannot follow. They have come with troubled hearts not understanding what He is saying, not understanding the purpose of His life and ministry.
3. Thomas' Question
a. The Essence of Thomas's Question
Thomas is saying, "Lord we don't know where you're going. We don't know the end of your ministry here. We don't understand what you're talking about. We don't know the destination of your life. We can't see the end. If we don't know where you're going, how can we know the way? You can't know how to get to someplace that you don't know where it is."
b. Thomas' Struggle
What Thomas is struggling with – and indeed all the questions of these four men that we are looking at – each question is based on seeing with the natural eye in the here and now. Simon Peter wanted to be able to see Jesus and be in His presence constantly. He was worried about being separated from the Lord.
Now Thomas wants to see the end of life, the end of life's journey. He wants to see the end now. He wants to read the last chapter in the book before he lives it day by day. He wants to turn over to the back of the book of life and read what the end is.
4. Man's Struggle With Sight
The other questions that Philip and Judas asked of Jesus also reveal that they're struggling with a thing called sight. They want a religion and a faith of seeing and understanding now. Oh, how comfortable and wonderful that would be. Isn't it great when you are filled with understanding and enlightenment and questions vanish and clouds go away and darkness is pushed back and you're filled with understanding and enlightenment and you're able to answer questions. That's a marvelous and wonderful experience. But God did not intend that we understand every step of the way and have every question answered even before it can be raised in our hearts.
5. Why We Can't Always See
If we could always see and understand everything that is happening to us then we would not know the joy of looking to God for guidance. We wouldn't know the joy of experiencing that kind of faith that takes hold of the hand of Jesus and hangs on through thick and thin, when the going gets rough. We wouldn't know the joy of preserving and fighting the good fight of faith and laying hold on eternal life. We wouldn't know the power nor the strength that comes from being able to live by faith.
A. The First Step in Thomas’ Struggle for Faith
1. The Raising of Lazarus
When we look at this man in his struggle for faith, we see him on three different occasions – three pictures, and neither one of them is very pretty. The first one we've already mentioned at one time in chapter eleven when Jesus and the disciples are away and tragedy strikes back in Bethany and Lazarus dies. The word comes, "Hurry, Master, the one whom you love is sick." They're twisting His arm and applying that human pressure of good close friends.
But for some reason, He does not return just then. But finally the time comes when He says, "Yes, let us go back," and Thomas is worried and upset. He knows the conflict. He knows the pressures. He knows the fears. He knows the problems that Jesus will face if He walked right back into the heart throb of the Jewish community.
The anxiety fills his heart as he realizes what might happen. So he says to the others, "Let us go back too that we may die." A kind of loyal despair. A kind of despair that just becomes resigned to whatever happens. A kind of despair that just gropes blindly along trying to follow Jesus but expecting the worse, overcome by depression and overcome by disappointment and never being able to look up with any kind of optimism and faith. Following the Lord, yes, but expecting the worse. And oh, that is a tragic thing for any person in this world to have to live like that. Trying to follow the Lord, yet miserable trying to reach out and grasp faith and never quite touching that faith. Following the Lord all right, but expecting the worse.
I want to tell you my friend; Jesus was going back for a raising. He was going back to give life to Lazarus. He was going back for revival. He was going back for demonstration of authority and power even over the power of death itself.
2. The Miracles In Following Jesus
When you follow Jesus, you can expect some great things, some miraculous things. In the hour of darkness, you can expect light to burst through. In the hour of weakness, you can expect strength to flood your life. In the hour when clouds hang over, you can expect the clear sound of God's voice reaching you and directing you. In the hour of death, you can expect Jesus to be there who is the resurrection and the life. When you follow Jesus, you don't have to be afraid. When you follow Jesus, you don't have to worry. When you follow Jesus, you don't have to expect the worse. That was the first step.
B. The Second Step in Thomas’ Struggle for Faith
1. Thomas Wants to See the End
We come now to our text. "How can we know the way?" Here's the second step in Thomas' struggle. He wants to see the end. He just can't seem to journey on unless he can see the destination. He can't stand the curves in the road. He wants to see around them and beyond them.
2. The Way Is a Person
Thomas can't wait for the morning to come to see the light. He wants to know now – he is somewhat impatient. But Jesus is going to teach him that you don't need to know the end in order to have faith in God. You don't need to know the destination in order to have faith in God. All you need to know is the way. The way is a person – Jesus. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." Hallelujah! Oh, hallelujah!
Listen friend, you don't have to know about tomorrow and you don't have to know about next week and you don't have to know about the end of the year and you don't have to know about the end of your life and you don't have to know what tomorrow will bring. All you need to know is the way and the way is Jesus Christ the Son of the living God. Hallelujah!
With your eyes upon Him, you can still walk even though you don't know where the path will lead. With your eyes upon Him, you can walk in faith and understanding even though you don't know what's around the bend. With your eyes upon Jesus, He's the way and you need never fear stumbling or falling by the wayside. He is the way. All you need to
3. The Truth Is a Person
Not only that, but He is the truth. We search diligently truth. We search for it in books. We search for it in speeches we hear. We search for it in people. We search for it in institutions. We search for truth. Sometimes we are almost cynical. We think we shall never find it never hear it. Our hearts are burdened and troubled because of confusion doubts. Clouds of doubts that float in on us and almost drown us with downpour of the spirit of doubts and fear.
The truth is not a book. The truth is a person – Jesus Christ the Son of God. To know Him – to have Him in your heart and mind – means to cast out of your life all doubt. To know the truth – that makes you free. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." Later He said, "If the son has made you free you shall be free indeed."
To know this person who is the embodiment of truth is to be freed from ignorance about this world and the world to come. To know Him is to be freed and delivered from that haziness and confusion that seems to blanket our earth like the haze that blankets it from the pollution of our atmosphere.
This is a day when such confusion seems to reign and penetrates the hearts of the people. About the time you get faith built in one personality, suddenly it is shattered. I want to tell you, you can put your eyes on Jesus Christ and you need never have to walk in fear with any doubt with any worry in your mind because He said, "I am the truth."
4. The Life Is a Person
To Thomas He said, "All you need to know is – not only the way and the truth – but also the life, because I am the life." You see, we've already seen the resurrection is not a day. The resurrection is Jesus. Life is not simply something you live. Life is a person you embrace. Christianity is a road you walk in the presence of the Son of God following His steps, walking by faith, living in His grace, living in His power, walking where He walked. Hallelujah!
I like the old song that says, "I don't know about tomorrow. I just live from day to day. Many things about tomorrow I don't seem to understand. I know who holds the future and I know He holds my hand." You don't have to know what the future holds. All you have to know is the one who holds future. He has His hand upon your life. He loves you. He's going to do right by you. There will never be a day when you can bow in His presence say "Lord, you did me wrong, you let me down."
Now I am tempted to say to Thomas, "Thomas, in your struggle for faith, I get impatient with you – your despair, your depression, your questions, your indifference, your lack of faith and vision and spirituality. Thomas, I get upset with you. Why in the world, when you're standing in the presence of the Son of God, don't you have a greater faith?"
But then Thomas speaks back to me and calls my name and says, "I can remember and I can point to those days when YOU struggled in the depths of depression and I can point to the days when YOU wrestled to find something to get your hand on to hold on to. I can point you to the days when your knees were shaking and your tongue was dung not filled with praises and adoration to God but filled with confusion and babbling."
Yes, I could get impatient with Thomas if it weren't for the fact that I know that road so well that He has walked. I know where he has stepped and I know his struggle and I understand it and so many times I want to see and I'm impatient but oh, you hear me, the message is real. Jesus is the way. Jesus truth. Jesus is the life.
No man can come to the Father but by Him. Through Jesus you can reach the throne. Through Jesus Christ you can reach God Almighty and His glorious power. He is the way you – can reach the throne. "Let not your heart be troubled," Jesus said. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
C. Thomas’ Third Step of Faith – The Resurrection of Jesus
It happened after the resurrection of Jesus. Thomas – so accustomed by now to walking in doubts and fears; so accustomed now to being resigned to depression and failure; so accustomed by now not to really be able to look up by faith and understand the overall purpose and will of God – when he hears that Jesus has been crucified, to him that seems the end.
1. When Thomas Wasn't There
When the disciples gather together, he does not go with them. They assemble together in a small room there to try to comfort one another and understand what is going on, but Thomas doesn't even try to go. It's the day he missed going to church.
It's a strange thing to me that the people who are always struggling for faith – they want to see God move, and they want to see a demonstration of love and fellowship in the lives of God's people – it seems like when it comes in its greatest flood of blessing, they just happen to miss that day.
Thomas wasn't there. Jesus appeared to the others and in that room He breathed upon them a special blessing and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." He talked to them and gave them a blessing of peace and blessed assurance, but Thomas wasn't there.
It's a tragedy when God moves and you are not there to enjoy it and receive His blessing. They came to Thomas and said, "You should have been with us. We have seen the Lord." There's that word 'seen' again. "We have seen the Lord." And he said, "Unless I see Him, unless I feel Him and see the scars and feel the scars, I won't believe." For to Thomas, you see, seeing is believing.
2. When Thomas Was There
But the story doesn't end there. He's going away from crowd; he somehow is not really a part of their faith just now. He can’t enjoy. He can't rejoice. He can't shout with exuberance that they have a resurrected Lord because he hasn't seen him. But the story doesn't there. The story doesn't end with Thomas off to someplace with his buried down in his hands and sobbing out his own doubts and fears. But pays a special visit to him.
Jesus comes back and sees the group – but especially He comes to see Thomas. He says to him – He calls him by name, and He says, "Thrust your hand in my side. Look and see and feel Thomas."
This lets me know that Jesus Christ the Son of God knows about you and He loves you and He understands you. This resurrected Lord will come across the centuries to you wherever you are in your moment of despair and gloom. You may be alone – you may not see your way – but Jesus Christ knows you.
He knows where you are. He loves you. He'll come to you personally. He'll come and call your name. Hallelujah! He will come with reassurance and with blessing and with grace.
You see, the Lord understands struggles for faith. He understands what doubt and fear can do. He understands how Satan beats some people up – beats up on them because of their lack of understanding and faith. So He comes. In these days of pressures and troubles, in these days of darkness, our Lord Jesus comes across the centuries so to speak and steps into our own heart and lives and He says, "Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe in me. Receive my spirit. Receive my peace." Hallelujah!
Thomas fell on His face saying, "My Lord and my God." Jesus said, "Blessed are you now Thomas because you have seen and believed, but oh, think about the others how blessed are they that have not seen and yet believe." John is saying you don't have to see with your natural eye to have faith in Jesus Christ.
I once went through a valley like that. I prayed for understanding and I prayed for faith. I somehow wanted reserves of God's power and grace. Wouldn't it be nice if you could have a master charge account and any time you needed extra special amount of grace, just run the card through the machine?
That's not the way it works. I was driving across the expressway in Louisville, Kentucky and praying. The Lord impressed me and gave me an illustration. He said, "Joe, you know this old blue Plymouth you're driving? It's equipped with power control. Power steering. You have to need to use it before it takes over to help you. As long as you're going straight and making no turns well, you don't even have to call on power steering. But if you start to turn, you engage the power. It starts to work. If you get in a tight spot, oh you really engage the power then. You can just take your finger and turn that wheel and come right out of a tight steering. He said, "That's the way I work in the lives of you're in a tight spot and you struggle, that's when I turn the power on. When you get into a fight and you're fighting, that's when faith comes. When you're weak then that's when strength can come."
I thought about this going to a prayer conference. I went into the service that night and I don't remember even who preached. I was still caught up with what the Lord was showing me. I wrote it in that service that night. I put it in sort of a poetic expression.
It’s called, "How to Pray."
Don't ask for blessing without giving. Don't ask for grace without a trial. Don't ask for peace without a conflict. Don't ask for faith without a fight. Don't ask for strength without a struggle. Don't ask for hope without a goal. Don't ask for joy without a burden. Don't ask for power without love. Don't ask for guidance without obedience. Don't ask for success without trying. Don't ask for glory without humility. Don't ask for life without dying.
Jesus gives answers to the disciples' questions, which revealed their troubled hearts and ours: Let not your heart be troubled.
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