Smart Enough?

In Sermon Ideas by Rachel Schultz

Smart Enough?


Key Passage: Then Jesus told [Thomas]: “Because you have seen Me, you have belived; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Key Thought: We instinctively believe that our human reason, our “little man inside,” will shield us from false teachings and cultic doctrines. The story of Doubting Thomas demonstrates that three things should rule above our own ideas.

Scripture: John 20:24-29

Photo: Jeff Metzger

Most Christians grapple with alternating emotions: full confidence in our beliefs one day, then waking up to wonder whether we live in an empty universe after all. Bible stories appear preposterous or ungodly; eternal life seems mathematically impossible. Death appears very final. Crowded malls make us feel like the Gospel Commission can never be fulfilled. On mission trips we baptize twenty out of a lost nation of 80 million.

Story: Evolutionary scientists insist that life can simply evolve on this one unique planet because out of billions of far-flung galaxies, the fortunate formula or “spark” was bound to happen sooner or later. So here we are—lucky us. This is the “Many Worlds Hypothesis.” In The Case For Faith, Lee Strobel interviewed scientist William Craig, who points out that calculated “odds” against the Big Bang producing life is a one followed by a thousand billion billion zeroes. In other words, impossible.

Craig also suggests this “poker” analogy. As you deal out cards, against astronomical odds, you amazingly get four aces! The next time you deal, four aces again! All evening long, you always get four aces. Your friends accuse you of cheating. You glibly reply that out of billions of galaxies, there is bound to be one card player who just gets four aces each time . . . and you are that lucky guy! But common sense tells us this is impossible.

Key Thought: However, common sense or our innate instincts—even our collective common sense—are not the safest guides for life.

Story: The late Adrian Rogers, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, was visited by a desperate atheist—a brilliant, educated aerospace executive—seeking counseling. However, he refused to discuss God. “I’ve studied; I absolutely know there is no God.” His reason ruled God out. Rogers countered: “Do you know all things, all there is to know in the universe? Can you answer all questions on Jeopardy?” Well, no. Would it be generous to say that the man knew half of all there was to know? Yes, very generous. Is it possible, then, that God does exist in the half of all things you don’t know? The man conceded the point, and surmised that he was instead an agnostic.

Rogers challenged him to be an honest doubter, one who would study and follow the spiritual investigation to its inevitable conclusion. His visitor signed a pledge agreeing to do that. He went home and studied the book of John for one month, came back and gave his heart to the Lord. Scripture was greater than human wisdom and reason.

We know the disciple Thomas as a doubter. “Doubting Thomas” is in our dictionaries as an icon of skepticism. He was the Sam Donaldson of Jesus’ entourage. After Calvary, the other ten disciples saw Jesus appear bodily to them; for some reason Thomas was absent and made his famous statement: 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 will not believe it. When Jesus appears to them again a second time, Thomas falls to his knees and worships.

According to reason, Thomas was correct in doubting! Jesus was dead on the cross, stabbed by a spear, buried in a tomb. Laws of physics and medicine said it was over. There were one hundred Roman guards. Current theology taught that the Messiah would be a triumphant military ruler, and that death was final. Thomas’ own family experience testified that the dead stay dead. By reasoning power, Thomas was right; Peter, James, and John were in a collective hallucination.

All of us in this generation are forced to believe through the challenge Jesus issues next: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Along with Thomas, we share three key factors which help us overcome the doubts caused by our human reason.

1. Supreme confidence in the Word of God. Thomas studied Scripture at the feet of Jesus. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were chided by the veiled visitor who taught them how prophecies outlined the death and resurrection of the Messiah. So we must subject our own instincts and emotions and reasoning powers to the Bible.
2. Our relationship with Jesus. Thomas had spent 3.5 years with Christ, hearing him preach, witnessing miracles, soaking up His Messiahship. He heard Jesus promise to come out of the tomb in victory. He would have done better to trust in the solid strands of that relationship instead of his fragile reasoning powers.
3. The testimony of our fellow believers. God puts around us a mighty and unshakable fence: Christian friends who have strong faith and sober hearts. Heb. 12:1: We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. Thomas had ten stalwart friends who told him in unison: We have seen the risen Lord. The Christian Church today has those same ten voices which give us confidence in the Resurrection. Millions through the ages have proclaimed a martyr’s faith in Jesus as our Savior.

Along with reason, our own two eyes are not a perfect guide. Thomas wanted to put his own 20/20 vision ahead of the Bible and his friends’ testimony. But Matthew 24 warns of false christs and prophets, of counterfeit miracles we will see and fake healings happening before our eyes.

We need to put these three things ahead of our vision and our reason: 1) the Bible, 2) our relationship with Jesus, and 3) the testimony of many faithful believers. We need to invest in strengthening these three core pillars of our lasting faith, having moments where Martha becomes Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus.

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