07-06-2014 The Disciples: The Pragmatist

Before I forget, let me share that we hope that everyone had a very Happy Independence Day!

Tons of our FCCers gathered in East Peoria to watch the fireworks together--we took up an entire section of grass in front of some storefronts (and I’m sure that Papa John’s Pizza loves the influx of business that we all threw them).  I hope that you were able to spend time with family and friends as well.

Right now, we’re in the middle of our annual Vacation Bible School, and it’s going great so far.  We have a ton of kids this year--many of whom are unchurched, and this is their very first VBS ever.  We also have a bunch of VBS kids who have graduated into leadership positions this year, and we’re using a different curriculum than usual, so it’s all a bit new for everyone involved.  Please be in prayer for our outreach this week, because we know that it’s not by our ability or cleverness that families will be impacted for God--it’ll be by God’s Holy Spirit.  So please pray for the kids (that all of this will sink in and mean something), for their families (that they’ll realize that they need to connect with God as much as their kids do), for the crew and station leaders (that they have the physical and emotional endurance to keep energized and positive throughout the week), for the VBS directors (that they can stay focused and keep things running well), and for everyone in general to make sure that all that we do honors God well, both in attitude and in execution.

In our message this week, we continued looking at the Twelve Disciples, and this time, we looked at one of my favorites--Thomas.  Poor Thomas has suffered from bad PR for the past couple of millennia, because he certainly wasn’t a doubter--rather, he was a pragmatist.  We only have three records of things that Thomas said in the Gospels, and all three times, he simply wanted to make sure that everyone knew what was actually going on, so that they knew how to best follow God.

The first time was when Jesus told them that He was going back to Bethany to help Lazarus.  The rest of the disciples were scared that the Jews would try to stone them again, but Thomas was perfectly willing to get up, go back, and die alongside of Jesus.

The second time was at the Last Supper, when Jesus was telling His friends that He would leave them, but that they knew where He was going.  Peter was upset that Jesus wouldn’t let him come along; Philip wanted Jesus to prove that what He was saying was worth believing; Judas (not Iscariot) asked why Jesus wasn’t proving Himself to everyone else like He was to them--since that would probably end up with a lot fewer arrests and executions... and all of them got some degree of chiding in response.  But Thomas simply asked Him to clarify exactly where He was going, and Jesus respected that enough to actually give him a fairly legitimate answer.

The third and last time was after Christ’s resurrection, when he doubted what the other disciples saw in his absence (but he didn’t doubt in John 20:25 any more than the rest of them had in Luke 24:11 and 38--and arguably, he doubted quite a bit less, since they couldn’t believe their own eyes, and Thomas simply didn’t believe their outlandish story).  Unlike the others, Thomas didn’t need to examine Christ’s wounds like they did, nor watch Him eat a piece of fish like they had (in Luke 24:39-43).  When Thomas saw Christ for himself, he immediately believed.  In fact, he believed so well and so thoroughly that he became the only disciple to declare that Jesus was not only the Messiah, but God Himself (in John 20:28).  

Sometimes, you and I can be doubters like Philip and Nathanael, or we can run off half-cocked like Peter tended to do.  But it’s disciples like Thomas, who are willing to follow God anywhere--even to their deaths--that inspire me to do a better job of honoring God on a day-to-day basis.  

How can you and I discipline ourselves not to doubt God, nor to run ahead of His leading, but rather to stop and listen for God’s guidance and direction, and then commit ourselves to following Him where He’s leading us?