Thomas was a doubter. But evidently he was in good company. The other apostles also doubted when they heard the good news from the women to whom Jesus first appeared. “their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” Luke 24:10
But the testimony of the women was verified when the Apostles themselves saw Jesus. Being absent when Jesus appeared to the other ten, Thomas was still in doubt. He said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” John 20:25
We find similar reluctance today to accept the testimonies sent to induce faith among the people of God. And we find that reluctance in the places we would have expected and hoped to find faith. What was the response of Jesus to the unbelief he found among the ones he had chosen?
“And they, when they heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. After that, he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked and went into the country; And they went and told it unto the residue; neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief, and hardness of heart, because they believed not them who had seen him after he was risen.” Mark 16:10-13
The rebuke Jesus gave to his Apostles because of their unbelief is a reminder to us today of how displeasing our own unbelief is to the Lord. But the unbelief of some was compounded when they sought to hide the testimonies and evidence of his resurrection and keep it from the people. The elders in Jesus’ day were eager to put down the testimonies that he had risen. How many of God’s people believed the fabricated story of the elders and missed the truth of his resurrection?
“Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.” Matthew 28:10-13
The stories created by those who opposed the work of God could not keep the truth from spreading. Finally, even Thomas was able to receive his own testimony. Jesus taught Thomas it was seeing that caused him to believe, but those who did not see and yet believe are blessed.
“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” John 20: 27-29
We often can be like Thomas and the other disciples, whether doubting or uncertain enough to be convinced. We will resist the testimony of witnesses that God has sent to bring us good news. Our hearts are too hard to consider the good things the Lord is doing among us for our salvation. We may be willing to believe, and might have been given many testimonies and indications to lead us to faith and establish in us the testimony of the truthfulness of his work, but some still resist those helps by failing to exercise faith. The admonition of Jesus was, “be not faithless, but be believing”.
Our cause for faith begins when we first hear the testimonies of those the Lord sends. The Lord creates cause for faith by sending witnesses. This is His pattern. He sent witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ so the world could come to salvation through faith in his name. The Lord sent witnesses of the truth of his word at the beginning of the fulness of times when the foundation of a great work was being laid. Throughout time the Lord has sent prophets to his people to testify of his will and call them to repentance and faith so they will turn to the Lord and receive the blessing he intends for them.
When the Apostle Peter came to the door, Rhoda testified of this truth, but her sanity was questioned by the saints inside. When she insisted on the truth of her story they tried to convince her she had seen, not Peter, but his angel. But Peter kept knocking and finally their unbelief gave way to a realization of the truth, and caused in them astonishment.
“And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel. But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.” Acts 12:13-16
A similar astonishment is awaiting the unbelieving of the people of God today when they finally understand what God is doing in their midst. Will we need to wait until we see before we believe? Are we a people who need to be convinced and compelled before we will have faith? Alma spoke of how blessed those were who believed without being compelled to do so.
“Blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart; yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe. Yea, there are many who do say, If thou wilt shew unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe. Now I ask, Is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing, he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it. And now how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression?” Alma 16:138-141
The testimony of Rhoda was not believed by the saints even after constant affirmation, and yet because of the testimony of the woman at the well many of the Samaritans believed on Jesus.
“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, who testified, saying, He told me all that I have ever done. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them; and he abode there two days.” John 4:41-42
Belief on the testimony of the woman, who was a witness, allowed the Samaritans to obtain their own testimony. Because they were willing to hear and accept her testimony, Jesus was able to minister among them, and then through that ministry they received their own testimony.
“And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying; we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” John 4:43-44
How quickly the saints of God today as in former days trust in our own carnal mind and our own understanding and miss the truth God is laying before us. How quick we are to dismiss what doesn’t at first glance seem plausible to us. How easily, like those saints and disciples who came before us, do we dismiss the things God is doing, even when he sends witnesses among us to testify to us of its truthfulness. Jacob warns us of the consequences of trusting in our own understanding and rejecting the things of God.
“O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned, they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves; Wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness, and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.”
II Nephi 6:58-60
I know well the human mind and the full range of possibilities available to the imagination. And yet I received a testimony from God that was not of my own mind or imagination’s ability. Not only did I see the actual plates before me and handle them, but I sought the Lord and obtained a testimony from him of the truthfulness of these things. It was shown to me by the power of God, and not of man. And so I can testify of their truthfulness with assurance.
Was it tomb inspections and burial cloth examinations that caused people to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, or was it the accounts of his appearances from eye witnesses that induced faith in those who heard? Did the ancient saints receive salvation by having everything laid out before them in an unquestionable manner which required no faith? Would such a thing be pleasing to the Lord, for every truth to be proven and no faith required? Or is having faith in the testimonies of those God called and sent the way God has chosen to bring salvation to mankind?
Are the saints requiring a double standard, firstly accepting former works of God by faith but demanding knowledge without faith today? Is there hypocrisy in being spiritually minded about some things but demanding proof that pleases the carnal mind in others? Through Nephi, the Lord admonished Joseph Smith and revealed to us what He requires when he brings forth his word.
“Touch not the things which are sealed, for I will bring them forth in mine own due time: for I will shew unto the children of men, that I am able to do mine own work. Wherefore, when thou hast read the words which I have commanded thee, and obtained the witnesses which I have promised unto thee, then shalt thou seal up the book again, and hide it up unto me, that I may preserve the words which thou hast not read, until I shall see fit in mine own wisdom, to reveal all things unto the children of men. For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will shew unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men, save it be according to their faith.” II Nephi 11:143-145
Are the saints fixated on physical items and missing the spiritual message which is of greater importance? Are the saints stumbling at their own expectations created by their own imaginations and never reaching the spiritual truths God is calling us to recognize? Will the saints ever obtain the things of God today with their own wisdom and understanding, through the means of the carnal and natural mind, rather than by faith? Or is God the same, yesterday, today, and forever?
It is time to move from the forensic analysis to faith.
It is time to move from the understanding of men to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
It is time to move from the material to the message.
It is time to move from doubt to assurance.
Let us accept the admonition of Jesus to his disciple, “Be not faithless, but be believing”.