"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."-Hebrews 11:1
Today's readings from Acts, 1 Peter, and John touched on the question of how we can have faith in something that is unseen.
First the evidence of witnesses:
"This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses."-Acts 2:32Next, the fruits of faith:
"Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."-1 Peter 1:8-9Then the sign that even for those of us who demand more evidence, the Lord will provide:
"But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’"-John 20:24-28
In today's sermon, I got the impression that our preacher had never felt the need to pray for a "Thomas moment" from the Lord. I, for one, come from the Thomas school; I am the type that always wants more proof.
How does one get more proof than the witness of the Bible?
This where the problem of personal experiences comes into the picture. Personal experiences and feelings become problems because all too often they can be shown to be contrary to scripture.
This is also how we discern the Holy Spirit; we have to go back and study scripture, and discuss things amongst others who have studied the scriptures.
The study of the Bible and Christian history therefore become vitally important, because ignorance of scripture and the errors that others have made in the past will lead us into the way of error ourselves with the inevitable consequence of a weakening or even the loss of personal and corporate faith.
The Lord has blessed me with many personal experiences, and after reading today's scriptures, I can see a little more clearly that while there are those who are so blessed as to have no need to see, to feel, or to similarly experience the risen Lord in order to gain and maintain a solid faith, there are probably others like Thomas who Jesus might tap on the shoulders every now and then just so that they might have a glimpse of what is not seen. I don't discount such modern witnesses, but like my own personal experiences, I have to test them against the ancient ones.
I have heard the witness of our Bishop and many of his clergy and convention delegates who have said that they have seen the blessings of God in same sex realtionships.
I have studied the scriptures which say that this is not the way to go.
When the witnesses disagree, which witness should I have faith in?