by Rev. Derrius M. Montgomery
As I quietly stepped into the elevator and gently pushed the “L” button to return to the lobby, the incredible blessing I’d just experienced held me spellbound. On the elevator ride down, I pondered on the wisdom just shared by the legendary Bishop T.D. Jakes during our last day of our mentoring session.
More than 150 young preachers and business leaders under 40 gathered from around the country in Dallas, Texas for a two-day retreat designed to educate and empower those of us called to be change agents within our communities.
One of the main topics the bishop spoke about was “overcoming adversity.” You can only imagine how electrifying that sermon must have been to a conference room packed with millennials, full of caffeine and the Holy Spirit! Let’s just say, by the end of his message, the entire room had received an impartation from Jakes that had us all slain in the spirit!
As he came to a close 63 minutes later, he shared a story of an Olympic champion who had been charged with a serious crime. After he was released on bond, the first thing he did was resume his workout routine. As I sat there, I thought, “If I were under the public microscope for that kind of crime, no way in the world would I be spending my time working out.” But as Jakes continued, I considered the fact that this man was a championship athlete, and real champions cannot help but do what they are gifted to do. It’s almost as if it’s their therapy. It’s how they fortify themselves. You know you’re a champion when you overcome adversity and go back to doing what you were doing before.
But the question that led me to write this article was this: how many of us allow adversities to get us off our game? We allow circumstances outside of our control to cause us to doubt God’s ability to see us through. Why are we so quick to question God, as if our belief system is something contingent on the outcome? Paul said it best in his letter to the church in Romans 8: 28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Paul reminds us that the very things that are working together may not feel right. They may even seem unfair at times! But, if you allow them to, they can usher you into areas and opportunities that shift your life into a pattern of focus and purpose that work together for your good and the good of humanity.
Although this sounds good, many of us will never experience the fullness of what God has for our lives because of one simple thing, doubt.
In John 20 we find an interesting story about a disciple that struggled with self-doubt. In verses 24 and 25, we read that the resurrected Jesus has made an appearance to the disciples. We see that the disciples who had experienced the surprising appearance of Jesus and his empowering commissioning were apparently full of enthusiasm and ready to share the details of their post-resurrection experience with Thomas.
In verse 25, Thomas replies, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hand and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
Have you ever had the feeling when you walk into a party late, that you just missed the big surprise? And the only way to find out is to eavesdrop into someone else’s conversation as they celebrate among themselves. Or have you ever found yourself coming in on the tail end of a discussion, and the person telling you the story is filled with so much joy you almost find it hard to believe because you weren’t able to experience it for yourself?
Before you judge Thomas on his response, let’s look at what he was saying. Have you ever wished you could actually see Jesus, touch him and hear his words? Are there times you want to sit down with him and get his advice?
Thomas wanted Jesus’ physical presence. But God’s plan is wiser. He has not limited himself to one physical body; he wants to be present with you at all times. Even now he is with you in the form of the Holy Spirit. You can talk to him, and you can find his words to you in the pages of the Bible. He can be as real to you as he was to Thomas.
But look how his perspective changes when Jesus comes back just for him. Jesus wasn’t hard on Thomas for his doubts. Despite his skepticism in verse 25, Thomas was still loyal to the believers and to Jesus himself, and in verse 27 Jesus tells Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Some people need to doubt before they believe. If doubt leads to questions, questions lead to answers and the answer is accepted, then doubt has done good work! It is when doubt becomes stubbornness, and stubbornness become a lifestyle, that doubt harms faith. When you doubt, don’t stop there. Let your doubt deepen your faith as you continue to search for the answer.