Detours And Doubting Thomases

By: Terena Fouts

When we get assurance about something, it gives us a feeling of confidence and trust.  That assurance causes us to have a level of expectation about things and takes away fear of the unknown.  We can look forward to what lies ahead of us and so we have a plan in place. But changes can come along that may mean adjustments have to be made to what we had planned.  Maybe that’s part of the reason why most people don’t like change.  

Too bad because the world around us is always changing.  Our family changes, our friends change, our cars change, our jobs change, our circumstances change.  The only thing we can count on not to change is God. Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 

Change can take us from the road we were on to a detour where things around us don’t look familiar.  Some detours are short while other detours seem to be taking us too far out of the way – too far from our original plan.  Our confidence shrinks, replaced by doubt as we think we’ll never get where we were headed.  

We all know the story of Doubting Thomas  – when Jesus was arrested and crucified, the road Thomas and the other disciples had been on for 3 years changed.   Disciple Thomas became Doubting Thomas. When the other disciples told Thomas they had seen the resurrected Jesus, he doubted and said in John 20:25 “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.”

Doubting Thomas didn’t want the assurance of the other disciples.  He wanted to see and hear from Jesus himself. Doubting Thomas didn’t see Jesus then but Jesus was still there with him.  Doubting Thomas didn’t hear Jesus then, but Jesus heard him. Jesus was on the detour with Thomas.  

A week later the resurrected Jesus appeared again, this time to all the disciples and He stood in front of Thomas and said in John 20:27 Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe. Jesus could have simply said to Thomas, ”Thomas, It’s me Jesus.”  But instead He spoke specifically to what Thomas had said the week before - what it would take to remove his doubt.  Jesus told Thomas to look at his hands, feel the scars. Jesus is always with us, even during those times of change and doubt.

Don’t let the detour change you!  Before Jesus died Thomas was willing to follow the Master anywhere, even if it meant being killed himself.  We see this when the disciples tried to talk Jesus out of returning to Jerusalem when Lazarus died, because many of the Jews there wanted to kill Jesus.  But Jesus was going with them or without them and it was Thomas who spoke up and said, John 11:16 “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

As long as Thomas could see Jesus, he was loyal and faithful – not afraid.  But after Jesus died and the road he was on took a detour, Thomas doubted. It’s good that the Bible recorded the story of Doubting Thomas because it shows us that it’s OK to have doubts.  Doubt is just a sign that we are struggling – it doesn’t mean we are giving up, just unsure and looking for answers.  

The writer of Hebrews tells us how to get and keep the assurance we want and make our faith stronger.:  Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.   

Have a Blessed Week!

Still Willing

By: Terena Fouts

The first step to following God and living out our God-given destiny is willingness.  We have to be willing to seek God first and let Him lead. That can be done through prayer, reading the Bible, church attendance, talking to other believers.  And that’s just a few ways - don’t put limits on your willingness. God created everything, so we can see Him everywhere if we are willing to look.

The Bible is full of stories about people who weren’t always willing.  But isn’t that true of all of us? We all make mistakes, make wrong choices.  We are not perfect. Only Jesus is perfect and His grace makes it possible for us to still live out our God-given destiny despite our imperfections.

In the Book of Judges, we read about Samson whose God-give destiny was told to his mother before he was even born.  Judges 13:7 “the boy will be a Nazirite of God from birth until the day of his death, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

The Philistines were the enemy of the Israelite people.

So what did it mean to be a Nazirite?  When a man or woman wanted to devote time serving God, they would take a special vow.  God instituted the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6. That time devoted to God could be as little as 30 days or it could last a lifetime.  The Nazirite vow consisted in not eating certain food or drinking wine or other fermented drinks and they didn’t cut their hair. Doing this showed they were serving God and following His will.  

Samson took these vows and God honored him with the gift of super human strength.  That being said, it should be noted that Samson’s strength did not come from his hair being long – his hair was just a symbol that he was following God.  When Samson did super human things like bringing down a lion with his bare hands, killing 30 enemy men from Ashkelon, and using a donkey’s jawbone to defeat 1,000 Philistines – each of those times the Bible tells us that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in POWER!  That’s where Samson strength came from - God. Not his hair.

But Samson made bad choices and sometimes wasted what God had given him, using his strength for his own needs.  Eventually he gave it all up for Delilah. He broke his vows and that broke his connection to God.

Judges 16:19 Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him.  And his strength left him. 20 Then she called, “Samson, The Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.  21Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison.

The once powerful Samson ended up blind, in prison, and being used to grind wheat like an ox.  We don’t know how long he stayed in prison, but the Bible says during his time there his hair grew back. It was long enough for Samson to think about the mistakes he had made and where those mistakes had taken him.

It was at this point, that the Philistines decided to have a celebration and brought Samson to their temple for entertainment, making fun of him and his situation.  Judges 16:27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there and on the roof were about 3000 men and women watching Samson perform.  28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more,

Whatever our difficulty, our disaster, our dilemma, our fears, or our temptations – we can overcome when we turn it over to God.  That’s what Samson did. He may have been blind, but Samson saw his current situation as a chance to go ahead and live out his God-given destiny.  To defeat the Philistines. Samson was willing. He didn’t say, “I’m blind, I can’t do anything”. He didn’t say, “I’m in chains, I can’t do anything”.  He didn’t say, “I’m not as strong as I used to be, I can’t do anything.” He prayed for God to use him one last time.  

Judges 16:30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!”  Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

Samson’s story shows us that we can still live out God’s destiny for us, even after we mess up – we just have to tell him we are willing and He will make it possible – Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God.

Maybe you’ve been blinded by other things.  We’ve all gone down that road. Maybe you’re carrying around a few chains.  Satan has a prison for all of us. But we don’t have to stay on that road or in that prison!  If you are willing, God will provide a way to get back on the road to your God-given destiny. And He will break those chains holding you back! 

 

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