Blessed Are Those Who Have Not Seen Yet Have Believed

Title: Blessed Are Those Who Have Not Seen Yet Have Believed

Text: Luke 24:13-49

Time: April 24th, 2011

We’ve been praying for a little boy who lives in Pennsylvania named T.J. who has severe brain damage, who can hardly survive without his mother caring for him around the clock. At times his mother can hardly deal with the constant care her son needs, plus it seems like to her that God isn’t doing anything to help her or her son. She asks the question, “Why doesn’t God answer all the prayers and heal her son?” I’m sure we all feel like that at one time or another when we are faced with a situation that doesn’t make sense. What sense does it make for a little boy to grow up with severe brain damage due to not enough oxygen during the time of his birth? And why doesn’t God do something to heal him? Is he to live out the rest of his life without any normal life? Will he need care all the time for the rest of his life? What sense does that make? It doesn’t seem fair, to him, to his mother. Where is God in this situation? I’m sure we’ve all had similar situations that make no sense at all logically. It could be a tragic death in the family. It could be an accident or illness that happens and changes someone’s life. “Why God?” This is what we ask because it doesn’t make sense. Skeptics ask, “If God is all-loving and all-powerful, why doesn’t he do a miracle and solve the problem? Isn’t God all loving? Isn’t God all-powerful? If so, then why doesn’t he answer prayer in such circumstances?” This is probably what the disciples were thinking as Jesus was being crucified on the cross. “God, how could you stand by and allow the Savior Jesus to be tortured and crucified?” It didn’t make sense. There was no logic to it. And that’s the struggle we have today when bad thing happen and prayers don’t seemingly get answered – “God, why don’t you do something?” In many cases, our suffering seems so pointless, so meaningless. It’s one thing to suffer and die for a reasonable cause. For example, in war, as in World War II, America sent troops overseas to fight the Nazis in order to liberate Europe from a madman. That was the right thing to do. But many brave soldiers died. That was tragic, but at least it made sense. But in the case of so much suffering, things just don’t make sense. Like in the case of the little boy T.J. it doesn’t seem to make sense. What did he do to deserve to live out a life of such suffering? What did his mother do to deserve to have to bear such a responsibility for caring for T.J.? And what does the crucifixion and resurrection have to do with any of this? I believe we can learn from the disciples’ experience in reacting to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We can learn how faith in God during tough times pays off. We may never understand why bad things happen in this life, but at least we can know that there is a reason in God’s mind for allowing them to happen. The disciples learned that with the resurrection of Christ. We can apply it to our lives in times of trouble too. Let me explain what I mean.

First, like the disciples during the crucifixion we ask “why?” when we go through hard times? Luke 24:17, 21, “He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ They stood still, their faces downcast. . . . But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” So these men, not part of the twelve disciples, were walking along talking about the events of the past few days, the death and burial of Jesus Christ. They were obviously believers, but they were sad now because their hopes had been dashed when Jesus was crucified. You need to remember that the Jews were looking for the Messiah and many had thought that Jesus was the Messiah. Now, however, it looked as if they were wrong. They had allowed themselves to believe and get excited and get their hopes up but then it all came crashing down when the Romans nailed Jesus to the cross. What’s left now? Imagine how the disciples felt, those closest to Jesus. They had left everything to follow Jesus as Messiah. They had put everything on the line and given their hearts and souls to Christ, only to have everything fall apart when Jesus was arrested in the Garden and stood trial before the Jewish leaders and Pilate and finally put on the cross to die. When they put him in the tomb and ceiled it with a stone, that was the end. They must have been asking “Why God?” “How could you let this happen?” “What good purpose could this possibly have?” Even the most optimistic among them must have stopped trying to be positive. As far as they could tell their mission was over, their dream and vision was over. Jesus was dead and so was the kingdom that he preached. It didn’t make any sense. And that’s how life is sometimes for us – it doesn’t make any sense. Things happen to us and to people we care about that don’t make any sense. We rack our brains to try to make sense of some things but we can’t come up with anything. Someone is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is injured or dies. What sense does that make? Why didn’t God save them? He saves some people, why some and not others? Some things seem so random, so meaningless, so purposeless. “Why God?” we ask. That’s what the disciples must have been saying too as they thought of how the life and ministry of Jesus came to an abrupt halt. They must have thought, “What a waste. It started out so promising. It had such great potential. We joined the Jesus movement because it promised faith, hope and love, but now look at it – it’s over. Why? It doesn’t make sense.” Life doesn’t always make sense, even as Christians, in with God, the Bible and prayer. What do we do when life doesn’t make sense? Do we hold on to faith? Do we give up on God? That’s what people ask today. But there’s more.

Second, like the disciples we are asked by God to believe even though we don’t understand. Luke 24:25-27, “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Jesus rebukes these men for not believing, because in dealing with hard to understand things in life it all comes down to faith. Are we willing to believe in God and believe in God’s will even though we don’t fully understand it? That’s what God is after, people who trust him even though they don’t have an answer that fully satisfies reason. The disciples were asked by God to trust, believe, hold on to faith, even though from their perspective what happened to Jesus didn’t make any sense. I’m sure when the Jewish leaders at the crucifixion shouted up to Jesus, “If you really are the Messiah, come down from the cross and we’ll then believe in you,” I’m sure the disciples must have secretly felt like saying, “Yea, that makes sense. Please Jesus, come down off the cross in great power and convince all these people that you really are the Messiah.” But when that didn’t happen, I’m sure they were disappointed. Yet God was calling them to trust in him even through the terrible disappointment. That’s what he’s calling us to do in life when we face situations that don’t make sense. Let’s say things are going great for you and then all of a sudden a tragedy strikes – someone close to you dies or is injured or suffers a severe setback or faces a crisis. We pray to God for help, for answers, for a solution. But let’s suppose God doesn’t answer quickly or doesn’t answer in the way we hope. Now what? We try to figure out how this could be working for good. Maybe we think of Romans 8:28, “God causes all things to work together for good, for those who love him and are called according to his purposes.” But we honestly can’t see how this situation could ever work itself out for good. At this point we face a decision to make – either trust God or turn away from trusting God. But God is calling us to trust even though we can’t see or understand the solution. What did Jesus say to Thomas? “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” In our context we might paraphrase that to read, “Blessed are those who have not seen or understood and yet have believed,” because many times we are asked by God to hold on to faith without the benefit of seeing or understanding the “Why?” question. But how can we possibly hold on to faith when we something doesn’t make sense? That’s the last point.

Third, like the disciples we will someday understand “why,” either in this life or the next life. Luke 24:36-39, “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hand and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’” Now in this case, God gave them sight, he gave them understanding. Jesus appeared and when he did, everything made sense. The arrest in the Garden made sense, the trial before the Jews and Romans made sense, the suffering, torture and crucifixion made sense. Jesus was offering himself up as a sacrifice for the sins of the world so that we all might be forgiven and receive salvation by faith. Yes, now it makes sense. The troubles, sufferings, hardships make sense in the context of the resurrection. God had a plan after all. God had his reasons for letting it all happen. The disciples at first were totally discouraged and despairing and depressed because nothing made any sense. The Messiah had come; the Messiah died? That’s not how it’s supposed to be. The Messiah is supposed to conquer and have victory, so at the time it didn’t make sense. But now it makes perfectly good sense. Jesus was Messiah but in a different way, a spiritual way. He conquered sin and death. He accomplished much more than merely winning a political or military victory for Jews. He won a greater victory. Now everything is clear. That’s the way it’ll be for us someday, when we can see the master plan of God in eternity. The problems we face in this life that don’t make any sense at all we must cling to faith in God. And what do we believe? We believe that in the end everything will make sense! Going back to the case of the little boy T.J., what’s the point of T.J.’s life? Why does he have to suffer so much? Why does his mother have to suffer so? What’s the point in all of that? We don’t know the answer to those questions, but we know that there is a good reason in the mind of God. We know that God is allowing it to happen for some good purpose, even though we don’t know what that reason is right now, even though we don’t know what that purpose is today. That’s why for now we’ve got to trust God even though we can’t figure everything out. If we could understand it all why would we need to believe in God by faith?

You see it all boils down to faith. Now sometimes we are given some understanding of why our problems and pain occur. Sometimes God lets us understand or shows us the “Why?” question, and its answer. That helps us get through some tough times in life when God shows us the purpose for the pain. But what do we do in those times God doesn’t explain why things are happening? What about when things happen that make no sense, or are impossible to figure out with our minds? During those times we’ve got to exercise our faith and cling to God that he knows what he’s doing. I’ve often said, I don’t always have to have the answer just as long as I know somebody knows the answer. It’s true. God knows the answer. God knows the reasons why thing happen the way they do. Are you facing a problem that you can’t figure out why God is allowing things to go in the direction they are going? Is there something in your life that you’ve tried to figure out but can’t get any solution? Are there tragedies and troubles that you’ve faced or you’re presently facing that totally don’t make any sense humanly or logically speaking? If so, then you’ve got to simply put your faith in God and say, “God, I don’t understand what is happening or why this is happening, but I trust that you know why this is happening and that it’s for a good reason. I trust that you will work things out the way they should be.”  Now to say something like that takes faith. Do you have that kind of faith? If you don’t have that kind of faith you’ll go crazy trying to figure things out in life and get totally frustrated or get totally discouraged, because you won’t find peace until you understand or can figure it all out. But faith lets you have peace, not in some explanation or reason but in God, because by faith we believe that God has his reasons and will explain all things some day. This allows us to let go of troubles that come our way and give them to God. Faith in God allows us to trust in God that he knows why things happen; he permits things to happen for a good reason even though we can’t understand those reasons yet. Have you put your faith in God yet? Have you come to the foot of the cross of Christ and surrendered your life to the Savior? According to God’s plan, it’s necessary to confess and repent of our sins. It’s necessary to surrender our pride and ego to God. We must give up control of controlling our own life and hand our life over to God. Have you done that yet? If you have, are you still surrendering your life to God, or have you taken it back again? Why not give you life to God today, for the first time or the second time? It only takes faith.

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