06-29-2014 The Disciples: The Doubter

Thank you for letting me head up to Chicago this past week for the Covenant’s Annual Conference.  It was great to see several people that I haven’t seen in a while, and I was able to take my family with me.  True, I had to go to some long meetings while they shopped the Magnificent Mile, but then we were able to eat some great food together in the evenings.  Everybody say, “Giordano’s Pizza...”

At the conference, we were reminded of the Ten Markers of congregational vitality:
     1)  Centrality of the Word of God
     2)  Life-Transforming Walk with Jesus
     3)  Intentional Evangelism
     4)  Transforming Communities Through Compassion, Mercy, and Justice
     5)  Global Perspective and Engagement
     6)  Compelling Christian Community
     7)  Heartfelt Worship
     8)  Sacrificial and Generous Living and Giving
     9)  Culture of Godly Leadership
     10) Fruitful Organizational Structures

So how would you say your church family is doing in each of these areas?  And since you’re a part of that congregation, how would you say that you personally are doing in each of these areas?  When you look over the list, how are you encouraged by what you see God doing within the church?  And what do you find yourself personally convicted about?  How can we continue to grow and encourage one another in these areas?  

It’s the easiest thing in the world to justify away a lack of growth (“That’s not really my thing,” or “I’d planned on doing it, but then X happened,” or “That’s why we have pastors/elders/deacons/missionaries,” or “It’s not my fault -- it’s ________’s fault,” etc.), but all that is is trying to pass the blame.  It’s abusing our God-given intellects to explain away why we feel justified ignoring our God-given leading, and that’s not healthy.  

We talked a little bit about that in our message this week, as we continued looking at the Twelve Disciples.  This week, we talked about the quintessential Doubter... and no, that’s not Thomas (Thomas was a pragmatist, not a doubter -- we’ll talk about him next week).  If you’re going to look for doubters amongst the disciples, you really have to look at Philip and Nathanael bar-Tholomeus (Nathanael, son of Tolmai -- which is why some Gospels call him “Nathanael” and others call him “Bartholomew”).

There’s a good chance that Philip had been one of John the Baptist’s disciples, and he seemed to be really good at following and believing... so long as there was plenty of proof and documentation to justify that belief.  He believed that Jesus was the Messiah on John’s confession of faith -- because he trusted John.  But when it came time to step out in faith to feed a multitude, or to decide what to do with Greek believers, or to simply believe Jesus at the Last Supper, Philip struggled.  “Where is the proof?” he’d ask.  “Without a proper business plan, I have to believe that Jesus basically doesn’t know what He’s talking about...” (because he had more faith in his own understanding than in God’s understanding of things).

Nathanael was critical, but in a snarky way -- because, as we all know, you can be as harsh and negative as you want, so long as you make it sound funny, right?  When told that the Messiah had come from Nazareth, he didn’t doubt that the Messiah might have come -- simply that He might have come from Nazareth.  His own experience with podunk little backwater towns made it hard for him to believe that a God who brought the Christ out of Nazareth really knew what He was doing (because he had more faith in his own understanding than in God’s understanding of things).

In both of these instances, the disciples doubted God -- not that He existed, or that He was good, or that He was powerful, but that He was as wise as theyobviously were.  Can you really call it “faith” if you believe God only when His leading lines up with what you would’ve thought in the first place?  Just which of the two of you are you perceiving as your sovereign god at that point?

How can you and I open the doors of that hospital a little wider to help those who so clearly need God’s love?