Remember the disciple Thomas? He was dug in. I will not believe. “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I WILL NEVER BELIEVE!” (John 20:24-25). This guy rubbed elbows with Jesus, had conversations with him, traveled with him, listened to him, ate with him, and saw all the miraculous stuff Jesus did, yet after Jesus died, he categorically refused to believe that anything like the resurrection could really occur. Why the unbelief? Oh, I know the heart is deceitful and desperately incurable, our friend Jeremiah tells us (Jer. 17:9). That explains part of the unbelief struggle. Don’t trust your heart. It is wicked. God alone really knows the heart! But I think there is more that goes on in the unbelief struggle.
Think about this. When you are not sure about someone, then you are reluctant to believe what they say, promise, state, or do. You will recall that Philip asked Jesus to show he and the other disciples the Father and he/they would be at rest…satisfied (John 14:8-11). Jesus answers with an astounding question: ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? In other words, he is saying ‘you still cannot wrap your head around who I am? You cannot see God in me?’ Then He says forthrightly: “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is is me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” The struggle to believe is wrapped in the package of being sure of Jesus. If you cannot get Jesus right you have no basis to believe. We must keep that in mind as we share the Gospel with our fellow men. Jesus must always be the starting point on the path of faith. Of course that means going to the record with confidence…ie the Bible… so that we can know about who Jesus is and what He has done.
Perhaps there is another reason for the struggle to believe. Is good news reliable and believable in our skeptical and jaded world of constant turmoil, trouble and wickedness? Every day we are bombarded with bombings, shootings, devastating storms, riots, hunger, cheaters, liars, murderers, etc. and on the list goes. So when we bring up the matter of there being “good news” you can see the disbelief on the faces of those to whom we speak. True good news is rare, seldom seen or experienced, so no wonder there is a struggle to believe in such a “fairy tale.” Yet the transforming power of the Gospel in real life is testimony that there is good news and it is real. Our own stories of redemption from our sins through Christ needs to be shared not as a pipe dream but as an experienced reality. Jesus did save us from our sins. The Gospel does work. We must be ready to show the results of the Gospel in our own lives as we face the daily challenges of life in this fallen world. Paul was right. “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation” (II Cor. 5:17).
Just because there is a struggle to believe does not mean that many will not come to faith in Christ. That is why Paul went on to say: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (II Cor. 5:20).
Finally, let’s not forget our enemy who sows constant seeds of doubt when it comes to believing the word and promises of God. He has had a lot of experience in this practice (starting in Genesis 3 with our first parents). That is why the man in the Gospels cried out to Jesus with great honesty about the battle raging in his soul (no doubt sowed by the enemy of souls): “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). The struggle for belief is not a rare or unusual thing in our world. But victory is possible. Paul says that “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Face unbelief with the Bible and its claims about Christ. Unbelief cannot stand before an honest reception of God’s Word.
The end of the story for Thomas is recorded in John 20:26-29. Thomas was invited in the presence of the risen Christ to indeed put his fingers into the wounds. But strangely he did not. Unbelief vanished when he got Jesus right. He just said: “My Lord and my God!” The struggle to believe is over. Christ is Lord! Think it thru