Are you convinced?

It has been a couple of weeks since Easter and I find myself reflecting on how the resurrection transformed those that witnessed it.  From the women who encountered the empty tomb to the Apostle Thomas’ reaction to the risen Jesus, the resurrection dramatically altered those that embraced its truth.

Transparent struggling seems to be a growing trend among Christian leaders.  There can be inherent power in a leader’s willingness to step out from their façade and admit the private questionings and doubts that plague them.  Unfortunately we have blurred the lines between honoring transparency and celebrating doubts.  In the past couple of weeks I’ve heard leaders share how they are: uncertain if Heaven is a reality, uncertain if the Resurrection was bodily or metaphorical, and uncertain if a literal Hell awaits those that refuse the free gift of salvation.  This is troubling for many reasons.

As leaders we are called to shepherd well.  If the shepherd is uncertain where to find clean water or fresh pastures, or uncertain how to protect the flock from predators—then he is not ready to be a shepherd.   He needs to gain more experience.

Look at the example of the Apostle Thomas.  When he hears that Jesus has risen from the dead, he has doubts.  Reasonable doubts.  What he hears from the other disciples is mysterious and outside his personal experience.  We can all appreciate and empathize with his response.

They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”  John 20:25 NLT

I can relate to Thomas.  It wasn’t like resurrections were a common occurrence.  These were fantastic claims.  It is easy to brand Thomas as a weak believer but he is not a bad guy.  He is merely honest about his need to experience first hand what the others had already experienced.  He is committed, but not yet convinced.  He is committed to the teachings of Christ but has yet to have a personal encounter with the risen LORD.  This changes eight days later.

Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them.  The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them.  He said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands.  Put your hand into the wound in my side.  Don’t be faithless any longer.  Believe!”  “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. John 20:26-28 NLT

Thomas has an almost involuntary response to his personal experience with the risen Christ.  “My Lord and my God!”  It is as though these words leap from his chest unrestrained.  Thomas has moved from committed to convinced.  History tells us that shortly after this experience, Thomas headed off to India and spent the rest of his life sharing the Gospel and testifying to the truth of the resurrection.  That is what conviction and certainty will do in our lives.

Moving from committed believers to convinced followers demands action.  Certainty of our core convictions becomes the fuel that ignites our passions and drives us to share our story of transformation with others.  Please do not misunderstand me.  There is much I do not fully understand about my faith.  I don’t understand how Jesus can be fully God and fully man.  I don’t understand how my prayers affect and interact with an omniscient and omnipotent God.  I don’t always grasp the power of the Holy Spirit in my daily life.  These are not doubts though.  They are mysteries.  Mysteries that point to a much larger and grander picture of redemption than my five senses are able to grasp.

Transparency is a laudable trait for leaders and pastors.  We need to be intentional and avoid speaking from pedestals.  Yet our positions require us to lead with certainty and conviction.  If there are core issues of faith that you are uncertain of, or unconvinced of, then take the example of the Apostle Thomas and share boldly with God what it will take to convince you.  Jesus was gracious to provide Thomas with the certainty he needed.  He has been equally gracious to me and will be for you.

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 29:13-14 NIV

Joel Thomas

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