The fine line dividing belief and disbelief

Eight days following Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas faced the greatest confrontation of his life – the risen Lord Jesus. Doubt was not Thomas’ primary problem; it was deep seated disbelief. A week earlier he had exposed this faith problem saying, “unless I see in his [Jesus] hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25). Somehow the other disciples failed to recognise the severity of this disbelief.

Today, this same battle between belief and disbelief wars with long term faith struggles and present day challenges, placing the individual in spiritual conflict. This is where Thomas found himself, showing the severity of his battle with belief in the Lord Jesus when he said, I will never believe.”

In that moment, Thomas discovered that his assumed belief in Jesus was conditional, making it false belief. His was not surrendered or accepting belief. Although Thomas had completed three years of intense mission and discipleship with Jesus, witnessing irrefutable evidence of Jesus deity, the battle was fiercer than ever. Thomas possessed proud belief that demanded his expectations be met. This was idolatrous disbelief because it attempted to dictate the terms of faith, thinking that self is the highest authority and self is in control.

Despite being born into a state of spiritual death (Psa 51:5; Eph 2:1), sinners are still called of God to turn from disbelief to belief in Jesus as Lord, this is a volitional act of faith. The transition is influenced by every sensory input of your life, including the testimony of God’s Word and the conviction of God’s Holy Spirit. The only response the Lord wants is the one which Thomas eventually gave to Jesus, “my Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Thomas, enabled by the Holy Spirit, had to bring it all together within his heart and mind, the deity of Jesus, the substitutional death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the sovereign Lordship of this risen Jesus over his life.

Jesus had explained earlier in John 14:23-24, “anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching…” This is what it means to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead…” (Romans 10:9-10). Obedient belief authenticates itself, while disobedient belief proves itself false.

If you find yourself in a spiritually uncertain and difficult stage in life, the challenge before you remains the same as when life was comfortable – belief or disbelief. In God’s grace, He permits us a role in all this, the role of dependant trust which overrules disbelief by choosing to believe with obedience. It is the obedience that distinguishes surrenderedness to Christ’s Lordship. It is this surrendered heart that says, “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope” (Psalms 130:5).

If, through the confrontations of life, you have discovered your belief to be disbelief, “repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19-20). “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:8-10 NIV).

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