Articles

Tyler Staton – Liberty University Convocation

November 25, 2019


>>DAVID NASSER: When you have 88 Convocations
a year and you travel out of here people ask you all the time, who some of the highlights
are. Just about every year people ask me. They go, “In this particular season what
was your highlight?” The other day I was in Nashville with some
friends, and it’s amazing how many people peek into this little thing we have called
Convocation. And someone said, “Hey I watched you play
John McEnroe in a point, and somehow, by the grace of God, like take the point.” And they were like, “Was that the highlight
of the year for you?” And I said, “You know, it’s just so funny. Like, I don’t even know how that happened.” And they said, “Do you think you really
played the point? That’s like there’s know you played the
point.” If the man wanted to beat me he would have
easily beat me. And I was telling him that, and we were laughing. And then the guy said, “Well if that wasn’t
your favorite, what was your favorite?” And I’ve got to tell you, it’s hard to
look at them and compare them because every one of our guests come and bring something
unique to us. Honestly sometimes- sometimes the guest brings
a very unexpected lesson. Sometimes someone will come our way and I
don’t agree with them about everything that they have to say, but it’s a- it’s a lesson
for me to be gracious, learn how to see the dignity in someone that Christ sees in them,
the value in someone that everything in my flesh I’d maybe want to push back on. There are times when someone has three points
and two of them are revolutionary truths for me, but one of them is revolting for me. And I’ve just had to learn to put that in
an incubator and come back a couple months later and chew on it again. And sometimes I’ve learned that even what
I’d disagreed with at first became very real for me later on. And so it’s a- it’s a real teachable moment,
right? We’re all learners as we come here in this
institute of higher learning. And people always ask. They go, “Okay, well what is your favorite?” But as hard as that is to answer I can tell
you which ones I look forward to the most before they happen. And I’ve got to tell you y’all, I’ll
just be honest with you and say as honored as we are to have the caliber and the rarity
of the guests that we have every single semester here, our guest today is who I’ve been looking
forward to the most personally this semester. This summer I was on vacation with my family
and a friend of mine texted me and said, “Hey, you need to listen to a sermon from someone
that was really, really impactful.” And he said, “Go listen to his sermon from
yesterday.” This was on a Monday morning. And I went and on his podcast and found what
I thought was a sermon. I started listening to it and about two minutes
into the sermon realized that the podcast that I thought I was listening to wasn’t
the one that I was actually listening to. And this young man just began to preach. I had never heard of him before. I was accidentally on the wrong podcast. And ten minutes later, honestly, God’s presence
and God’s voice was just pouring into this back deck of this little beach cottage that
we had rented. I was sitting there and just hearing from
the Lord. And my wife came downstairs. And she sat down and I said, “Listen to
this young man. Listen to what he just had to say about this
particular Psalm.” And I got up because I had already heard it,
and she went to the beginning of it. And off my iPhone, she sat beside and listened. And we both felt like God had just really
spoken to us through this really young, audacious preacher who just unpacked truth that we needed
to hear in our lives. Then later that afternoon I was having dinner
with a friend and I- and I told them. I said, “Have you ever heard of this- this
guy, Tyler Staton from Brooklyn, New York?” And he said, “I think I- I think I know
him.” And he said, “As a matter-of-fact, I think
he wrote an article for this thing that we do.” And he said, “I think he’s really good
friends with this other guy that we both know.” And the next thing you know we got connected
through, like common friends. And by the time that I got to meet Tyler and
his wife, honestly, we had listened probably to about 20 of your sermons on podcast, Tyler. And almost every single one of them- every
single one of them pastored my family. My wife has had such an appreciation for your
diligence to be a humble servant in God’s word, brother. And my daughter- my daughter who is 16 years
old going on 37 loves your preaching. Because I think- I think she really fancies
herself as someone who wants to go beyond miles wide and inches deep. But it’s not so much the depth of your preaching,
but your vulnerability. Almost every one of your illustrations are
about you messing up and not you being awesome. And I think you just make it approachable. We got to meet Tyler and his wife for dinner
one time when we were in New York, and when we got done just I wanted to buy him dinner
and just say thanks for pouring into me. At the end of it, I knew that this was someone
that we wanted to bring before you. And our prayer has been that God would use
him today because he’s going to be with us this morning and tonight, that God would-
God would do in your life today through his servant what he’s done in our life as the
Nasser Family. And again, I’m saying all this to say there
are just people who God decides to put his anointing on. And I really believe that we have such a servant
with us today. And so I know most of you’ve never heard
of him, alright. But can you just trust me that God has a word
for you today, and welcome, alright, if you would our new friend, Tyler Staton everybody. Tyler, come on up brother. Preach for us. [APPLAUSE]>>TYLER STATON: It’s the first time I’ve
ever followed John McEnroe in anything. It’s truly an honor. And was I getting that right, John McEnroe? Wow. Alright. Here we are. So honored that you accidentally listened
to my podcast. [LAUGHTER] Just a couple of weeks ago the church around
the world celebrated Easter. That’s Easter, which for some means a story
so good, that God came to Earth disguised as a human being, lived the life that we were
meant to live, died the death we were meant to die, and then rose so that we can share
the life that he has. And that’s also Easter, which some think
as a time when a set of delusional but well-meaning people get dressed up in pastel sweaters and
celebrate the empty tomb of a first-century Jewish peasant as if that somehow matters
for us today. And I think both expressions of that probably
resonate with us somewhere. We believe and we doubt. And for that reason, my favorite response
to the resurrection comes from Thomas. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands
and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” All of Jesus’ followers on resurrection
morning actually reacted more like realists than gullible fanatics, but Thomas is my favorite
because he was just the most in-your-face about it. And every one of us will know one day are
has known already exactly how Thomas felt on that first Easter morning. And so for that reason today I want to talk
about that topic that often is avoided in environments where belief is common. Doubt. So let’s pray together and ask that God
would speak to us, and we’ll take a look at this topic of doubt. (Praying) Heavenly Father, I confess to you
Lord that I don’t have anything worth offering. I never have. And yet I believe that you so long to speak
to every person. I believe that every person in here was made
by you, belongs to you, and you are tenaciously going after their heart of more of their heart. And so I just pray, come Holy Spirit. Would you come, Holy Spirit, into this place? Would you come and break down walls that have
been built up against you, and would you speak? The spirit in the Scripture is called fire,
and so we pray that the fire of the Holy Spirit would come and consume everything that would
prevent us from hearing today. Would you just consume everything in me that
is not of you right now Spirit? Purify me that you might speak through me. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen. (End)
So I want to begin with a confession and that is that I believe, and I doubt. I always have. When I was a teenager I met belief because
the love of God plunged into my life for the very first time. All of a sudden I had this moment where I
knew that God both knew me entirely and yet also loved me deeply. And for the first time in my life that was
enough for me. And it wasn’t a phase, it wasn’t just
an emotional moment. It was real, and it was even better than I
had heard people describe. And so for the very first time in my life,
I met belief. But right about that same time I also met
doubt. Because I played basketball in high school,
at least my freshman year in high school until I wasn’t good enough to continue playing
basketball in high school. But I played basketball my freshman year of
high school and my coach during that year he had a child. It was his first child, and I can remember
him like showing pictures to us at practice during the first week she was born. Her name was Summer. He would talk about her all the time. And suddenly this guy who had been really
intense in my life was really like a gentle figure in my life. And then I remember getting the news that
they had gone in to wake her up from her nap one day, and there was no breath in her lungs. And an infant only a week old had died of
an extremely rare brain aneurysm. And I attended the memorial service and I
went up to this coach afterward and I hugged him. And I’m 15 years old and I have no idea
what to say. And so, I just said, “I’m so sorry Coach.” And he shoved me back from him and threw himself
back and just let out this wail, like the most sincere of expression of grief and mourning
I’ve ever seen. And I thought, how can there be a God of personal
love? And so I doubted. Then I got to college and I was filled with
belief. When I was 18 years old I was all in. And I arrived at Bible college in a city on
the opposite side of the country in the place that I had never been before, where I knew
absolutely no one because I was so ready to give the rest of my life to introducing people
to the God that I had met. But I also had a lingering sense of doubt
because I was suddenly living in center-city Chicago. And it was one thing to grow up in a protected
and safe environment where my worldview was simple enough that God made sense to me, but
then when I was living in a pluralistic city and things are much more complex. You know it will rattle you when you meet
other people who live a spirituality that you don’t even believe in with more sincerity
and commitment than you ever have. In my 20s I was working for a church in New
York and I continued to carry both belief and doubt within me simultaneously. I had worked with middle and high school students
living in low-income government housing in lower Manhattan, and there was this student
in my youth group named Ramon. And I met Ramon when he was in 9th grade and
he was well on his way to dropping out of high school. He had already been held back two years, he
was abusing alcohol, his father was entirely absent and his mother was an addict. And then I saw Ramon meet the fatherhood of
God. And when that made sense to him something
plunged into his life in an entirely changed him. I saw his priorities change. He went from on track to dropping out to by
his senior year as the Student Body President of his high school. And I saw his heart change. He went from wanting to get as far away from
his mom as he possibly could to actually wanting to find her sustainable help. And I saw his personality change. He went from quiet and withdrawn and generally
angry to actually open and joyful and happy. And I’ve never heard anyone say, “Yeah
one day I just realized that this whole thing is an accident, and the world’s generally
meaningless and that changed me from the inside out.” And so skepticism doesn’t produce those
sorts of stories. And so I believed. But I also knew this kid named Dominic. And I met him shortly after he was released
from an extended period in juvenile detention. And he was picked up because he was living
homeless in New York City at 13 years old. And he started hanging around our church and
I developed a heart for him. And so I start to mentor him one-on-one. We met twice a week one-on-one. I was spending a lot of time with him. And then one day he just stopped showing up. And I didn’t know what had happened to him,
and so I went to just sort of try to figure out what’s happened here. And it turned out that without an explanation
he had run away from his foster home, he had been picked up again, he had been taken back
to juvenile detention, and there was no way for me to make contact with him. And so I lived the next couple of years wondering
what had happened. Until two years later I was walking through
the park next to my apartment one day, and I saw him asleep on the ground amongst a group
of homeless. And I woke him up, and I took him out to lunch. And I sat across from this now 16-year-old
kid, and every shred of childhood was gone from him. And I just thought, how can a good and loving
God author stories like that? And so I doubted. And today I’m a pastor in Brooklyn. And I’ve had experiences of answered prayer
that are so profound there’s no way to explain them without a- without a good, loving, active
God. And I was recently at a conference for Christian
pastors and I heard someone stand up and confess, “You know, when I’m praying I’m nagged
by this thought in the back of my mind, ‘Is anything actually happening here? Is anything going on? Am I going to spend the rest of my life walking
around talking to a being that may or may not be listening and that seems to only be
acting occasionally?’” And that part I identify with a bit too. Michael Novak says, “Doubt is not so much
a dividing line that separates people into different groups as it is a razor’s edge
that runs through every soul.” Every soul. That includes yours and mine. And so I think the best way that we can see
doubt within ourselves is to actually identify misconceptions about doubt. So I’m going to give you five. Five misconceptions about doubt. The first: doubt is purely intellectual. The Atlantic did an article several years
back where they interviewed young Atheists that were leading Atheist groups on college
campuses across America. And they asked them kind of what sent them
on that trajectory. And what they found surprised them. That most of them had not been lead on a journey
toward Atheism by a purely rational, intelligent track. That most of them had some sort of conversion
experience much like people have towards belief. This is an excerpt from the article. “With few exceptions, students would begin
telling us that they had become atheists for exclusive ra-” Sorry. “With few exceptions, students would begin
by telling us that they had become atheists for exclusively rational reasons. But as we listened, it became clear that,
for the most part, this was a deeply emotional transition as well.” See, doubt is not just intellectual objection,
it’s much more personal than that. Doubt is to be torn between two realities
I cannot reconcile. Doubt is what happens when some event or someone
or something comes into your life that you can’t fit within the story by which you
were making sense of the world. And so if you’re living in a gospel story,
doubt is what happens when an event comes into your life that you can’t reconcile
with that story. Or if you’re living within a godless story,
doubt is what happens when something comes into your life that tempts you to belief. To doubt is to be confronted with something
that does not fit within the story that I’m living in. In other words, doubt is just as personal
as belief. Tim Keller says it like this,
“Doubt always masquerades as purely intellectual. But it never is. It’s much more personal than that.” Second misconception: doubt is a struggle
with God’s existence. Martin Luther, the Reformation theologian,
tells this story about a woman approaching him and confessing a struggle with doubt. And he says to her, “Well tell me, when
you recite the creeds, do you believe them?” And she said, “Oh, yes I believe all of
them.” And he said, “Well, then go in peace, because
you believe more than I do.” And what he meant by that was there- there
is doubt in God’s existence, but there are other forms of doubt as well. There is doubt that he actually loves me personally,
not just us generally. There’s doubt that God’s grace is sufficient
for my failure. There’s doubt that God’s power is enough
to overcome this thing. There’s doubt that God cares about the ordinary
parts of my life like how I feel, and not just the ultimate parts of my life by- like
the outcomes of my spiritual performance. See, it’s possible to give your whole life
to this firm belief in the Christian God, but then live your actual life without ever
really needing that Christian God. There’s different forms of doubt. Third misconception, doubt is expressed in
skepticism. I’m going to show you an advertisement that
you can find on the side of city buses in the U.K.
“There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” And most people relate to doubt less like
a skeptic searching for answers and more like a normal person just trying to enjoy their
life. Because we circle around our choice doubts
for a while until we’re too tired of asking the same old questions, and then we just change
the subject. There are the words of one of the leading
secularist thinkers, Richard John Neuhaus. “Make it up as you go along; take ironic
delight in the truth that there is no truth; there is no home that answers to our homelessness;
definitely (but light-heartedly!) throw out the final vocabulary that is your life in
the face of nothingness. And if your neighbor or some inner curiosity
persists in asking about the meaning of it all, simply change the subject.” Most of us make us through the complex days
of the human experience by changing the subject. We keep ourselves busy, we distract ourselves. We play another episode, or we pour another
drink, or we fill up another weekend. Distraction is actually a more common expression
of doubt than questioning. Fourth misconception: God doesn’t want me
to doubt. Actually, the Bible is much more comfortable
with doubt than the modern church. Doubt is woven through every little piece
of the biblical narrative. There are the words of Philip Yancey who left
the Christian faith and the returned to it. “I’m an advocate of doubt because that’s
why I became a Christian in the first place. I started doubting some of the crazy things
my church taught me when I was growing up (This was a most unhealthy church, I must
say.) I’m also impressed that the Bible has so
many examples of doubt. Evidently, God has more tolerance of doubt
than most churches.” And the fifth and final misconception: the
opposite of doubt is certainty. Doubt is not the absence of certainty. No one has certainty. The opposite of doubt is belief. This is why Jesus says to Thomas on that first
Resurrection day when he appears to him, “Stop doubting, and believe.” But what an absurd imperative, right? Have you ever attempted say something like
that to someone who is actually struggling with doubt? “Stop doubting and begin believing.” How is that helpful? How is that- how do I overcome my doubt even
if I want to? That brings us to Thomas. And much like me, and I suspect much like
you, Thomas both doubted and believed. And he’s known mostly for his skepticism
but we first have to know him for his belief. Thomas believed. Here was a disciple who was hand-picked as
one of the twelve. He had a front row seat for all of Jesus’
teaching and miracles. That means that Thomas witnessed a paralyzed
man stand up, roll up his mat, tuck it under his shoulder, and walk home. He saw leprosy disappear off of people’s
skin. He handed out food at the feeding of the five
thousand and then collected all of the leftovers. He saw a stone roll away from a tomb and Lazarus
walk out of it. And he was committed. He stuck with Jesus when so many others walked
away. He stuck by Jesus when it costed him so much
by the most powerful in society. And at one point when there’s a bounty on
Jesus’ head in the city of Bethany all of the other disciples are discussing trying
to talk Jesus out of going there, and Thomas interrupts them and says, “Let’s go with
him, ready to die with him.” Thomas believed, and Thomas doubted. You know, we often think, if I could see-
*mic interference*. [LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE] Is it off? I asked them to insert those noises in case
anyone was losing their attention at this point in the talk. [LAUGHTER] I think so many of us often think, “You
know, if I could just see one miracle, then I would believe. Like, if God would just do one of the things
he does in the scripture in my life, that would be enough for me.” But Thomas’ life is proof that a single
moment, even a miraculous moment of encounter with God is not enough to sustain the weight
of a lifetime’s worth of belief. Because eventually, something happened that
Thomas couldn’t process, and for him, that was that the Messiah, the Lord, the Savior
is dead. Jesus was crucified and buried, and that event
does not fit within everything Thomas thought that he knew. He was prepared to die with Jesus, but he
wasn’t prepared to live without him. He was prepared for Jesus to roll away the
tomb from anyone’s tomb except his own. And so the rug of belief was swept out from
underneath him, and he’s left questioning the whole experience. “How can I possibly reconcile what I’ve
seen with what I thought I knew? Has any of this ever been real? If this is true, how can this and this also
be true?” And so the razor’s edge of doubt runs right
through Thomas’ soul as well. Belief and doubt, they have a lot in common. They share a source. Both belief and doubt come from looking long
and hard and life’s toughest questions. They share a ceiling. Both belief and doubt, we can’t reach the
end of them in this lifetime. We can ever know for certain. But they do not share the same power. And here is the difference. Doubt never takes you anywhere, but belief
at least has the potential to. Doubt is nothing more than a holding pattern,
but belief at least has the potential to lead you somewhere else. Doubt paralyzes us. But belief moves us. So belief is not just intellectual agreement,
it’s not just something you do with your mind. Belief is something you do with your will. Belief is to take a single step. And so the reason that Jesus can look Thomas
in the eye in the midst of his doubt and say, “Stop doubting and believe,” is because
he’s not saying, “Thomas, will you hurry up and reach an intellectual conclusion so
that we can move on. Are you in or are you out?” He’s saying, “Thomas, in the midst of
your doubt, in the midst of everything that you’re facing, with all the questions racing
through your mind, will you stand up and take a single step?” See, one of the reasons that the church has
so little to say about doubt but the Scripture has so much to say about it is because we
don’t know how to handle it. We don’t know what to do with it. We don’t have a clear pathway for what to
do with our doubt. We don’t know how to tell someone to move
when doubt is coloring everything they’re experiencing. And so the events of John 20, Resurrection
morning, lay out this clear pathway for what to do with our doubts. And so I just want to spend our final few-
few minutes looking at this phrase, “Stop doubting and believe,” through four major
movements in the life of Thomas. And we’re going to be in John 20 verses
23 through 28 if you want to track along with me. First movement, scream at the sky. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands
and put my finger where the nails were, and I can put my hand into his side, I will not
believe.” So at this point in the story, all of Thomas’
closest friends have believed. Jesus had made an appearance to them and so
they’re saying to him, “There’s reason for hope
There’s reason to believe. We have seen the Messiah!” And Thomas is saying, “That’s not enough
for me. Your experience is not enough for me. If everyone else want to believe, go ahead. If you’re so desperate to but this thing,
go ahead. But I’m not hiding. If God wants me he can come and find me.” And beneath that blanket statement there’s
a deeply personal one. There always is. What he’s really saying is, “How can I
believe a God- in a God who suffers and dies? I’ve got a pretty firm idea of who God is
and that’s not it.” And many of us know what it’s like to ask
questions like that. “How can I believe in a God who…?” And for some, they are general questions. “How can I believe in a God who could allow
human suffering? How can I believe in a God who would divide
people up based on spiritual vocabulary? How can I believe in God when he’s such
a control freak when it comes to morals?” But others of us have much more personal versions
of those questions. “How can I believe in a God who would allow
this to happen to me? How can I believe in a God who would shut
the gates of heaven in the face of my Hindu friend? How can I believe in a God who tells me what
to do with my feelings and my body?” Doubts like these tend to silence a dialogue
with God. And that makes sense if we’re dealing with
a philosophy. If all Jesus is is a worldview, then it makes
sense that these would silence our dialogue. But if we’re dealing with a relational being
then these sorts of doubts should not quiet the dialogue, they should raise the volume
and frequency of it. Because honesty is the foundation of relationship. And so when I experience doubt, what am I
supposed to do? Scream at the sky. Don’t let doubt quiet your conversation
with God, let it increase your conversation with God. See the thing I respect most about Thomas
is that he didn’t chalk the whole thing up to just like well-meaning but ultimately
manipulative religious people and move on. He actually engaged the hard questions. He didn’t just change the subject and then
distract himself, he told God the truth in the most plain language that he could. So resist the pull to withdraw from God. Because if you withdraw in the midst of your
doubt you’ll wake up six months from now a lot more spiritually hollow than you are
today. And resist the laziness of spiritual lip service. Because if you go through the motions because
you know how to pull it off without actually it being a revelation in your heart, you’ll
wake up one day thinking, “Why am I still doing this at all?” Recognize your doubt and tell God the truth
exactly like you mean it. Tell God exactly how you feel. Scream at the sky. And then after that, wait. This is the second movement, is wait. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands
and put my fingers where the nails were, and I can touch his side, I will not believe.” And then the very next phrase is, “A week
later.” A more exact translation is “Eight days
later.” What’s God doing? Why take eight days off before responding? Isn’t it frustrating to follow a God who
doesn’t seem immediately moved to resolve your spiritual tension? I mean, isn’t it frustrating to follow a
God who just never seems to be in a hurry about anything? Isn’t it frustrating to follow a God who
constantly instructs us to wait on him? Why is waiting such a part of spirituality? Because waiting is where faith actually becomes
necessary. I mean think about it. A God of immediate gratification requires
no faith. It’s in the waiting and the silence where
faith actually develops. And so Thomas lives for eight more days within
his doubt- [APPLAUSE] He lives for eight more days within his doubt,
but at no point is he living without the presence of Jesus right there with him waiting for
just the right moment to break in. And so the three days that exist between the
crucifixion and the resurrection, the teach us what? That the presence of silence never equals
the absence of God. And the eight days that exist between Thomas
screaming his doubt into the sky and God actually appearing to him teach us that God is in both
the miraculous appearance and the eight days of silence. The presence of silence never means the absence
of God, so the challenge of waiting is to actually allow faith to do its work, trusting
that on the other side of this period of silence I would have a richer, deeper, more alive
faith than I did before. [APPLAUSE] You guys are much enthusiastic about waiting
than I imagined. [LAUGHTER] Scream at the sky. Wait. And then belong. “Now Thomas, (also known as Didymus),”
which, let’s be honest, is why he went with Thomas. [LAUGHTER] “Now Thomas, one of the twelve was not with
the disciples when- was not with the disciples when Jesus came to them. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have
seen the Lord!’” Jesus in Resurrection form on the original
Easter Sunder appears to the disciples. But Thomas is missing becomes doubt has given
way to isolation. Doubt always makes it easier for us to withdraw
from a community of faith, and there’s a couple of reasons for that. The first one is because distance is dehumanizing. In times of doubt, it feels really good to
withdraw because doubt creates the feeling that I’m on the outside and all of these
other people are within. And maybe you’ve noticed it’s really easy
to characterize people and then dismiss them quickly, as long as I don’t have to look
them in the eye and interact with them about it. And so he withdraws from community so that
they are easy to dismiss. But then secondly, agreement is affirming. In times of doubt, we don’t go without community,
we form new community around those who affirm our doubts. We take our particular brand of disappointment
with God or our particular brand of skepticism and we find other people who share it, and
then we sit down in our doubt together. And the thing about forming community around
shared disappointment is that it will make you feel better, but it won’t move you. If you create community that’s based on
disappointment with God you will have your pain numbed, but you will not be healed. So take an honest look at your friendships
and I just want to ask you, do you notice distance from community? Do you keep the church or your form of Christian
community at arm’s length because it’s easier to dismiss them and keep yourself on
the outside? Or if you look at your friendships, do you
see a club of agreement? Are all of your meaningful conversations about
God happening with people that you’re pretty sure already agree with you and already empathize
with the way you feel? Jesus didn’t meet Thomas in his isolation,
he met him in community. Let’s keep reading. “A week later his disciples were in the
house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked Jesus came in
and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” So Thomas encounters God not by withdrawing
but by remaining, by bearing with the community of belief that he can’t quite get on board
with right now. But by remaining with them, God appears. To overcome doubt we need each other. And the church at its very best is where doubt
and belief are both welcomed. A couple of years ago I thought for about
five minutes that I was going to train for a triathlon. [LAUGHTER] And ultimately I didn’t because I Googled
the price of bikes. And I just thought, I might as well get a
car. This is absurd. [LAUGHTER] And- but during that five-minute window when
I was considering it, I learned the difference between triathlon and cycling. And that is that triathlon is an individual
sport, and so during the biking portion of a triathlon, if you get behind another biker
you’re immediately disqualified. Because you cannot draft off of someone else’s
momentum. But cycling is actually a team sport, and
so there’s a line of bikers and they’re all drafting off of one another’s momentum. And what will happen is someone will stay
in the front and they’ll take all the wind and all the resistance while everyone else
bikes behind them for a period of time, and then they’ll circle to the back. Someone else will take the front for a while
and then circle to the back. And that is a picture of the church at her
best, is that you, in the midst of your doubt, come behind my faith. Because I can take all of the resistance and
everything so that you can come behind me for a period of time. And then, when I’m worn out,
you get in front of me and I’ll come behind your faith in the midst of my doubt for a
while. To overcome doubt we need one another. [APPLAUSE] So we scream, we wait, we belong, and then
we are found. “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger
here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’” Jesus meets Thomas in exactly the way that
he screamed into the sky. And this lets us know that God isn’t afraid
of your doubt. In fact, God invites your doubt because he
would not have met Thomas in the midst of his doubt if he didn’t want you to bring
yours to him as well. And Jesus in this moment is fulfilling a Resurrection
promise, because the- before the Resurrection Jesus said in Matthew 7, “Ask and it will
be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be open to you.” But after the Resurrection Jesus says in Revelation
3, “Here I am. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” And so in the Resurrection Jesus is showing
us that God is not only available to be sought. In fact, God is the seeker. It’s not just you occasionally coming to
God’s door and knocking by your own volition, it’s actually God coming after you the whole
time. You are the one being found. And when this suddenly occurs to Thomas that
Jesus was waiting for just the right moment to break in, that he was absolving his doubt
in just the way that he had asked him to, these words roll off his lips. “My Lord, and my God.” And scholars across the board will tell you
that that is the highest praise ever given to Jesus in any of the four gospels. The highest words of praise. The greatest doubter, when found by God, becomes
the greatest worshiper in the Scriptures. And so I just want to close with this. Why do I believe? You know, if the razor’s edge of doubt runs
through my soul too, why do I believe? And I gave you a few reasons up front. I’ve witnessed transformation in the life
of other people and I’ve felt transformation in my own life. I’ve received grace that I can’t explain
apart from God. I’ve watched answers to prayer that I can’t
explain apart from God. But the core reason I believe, the main reason
I believe is because Jesus believed. And to be a Christian is to decide of all
the voices that I could listen to, of all the voices that I could trust, I chose to
trust Jesus. Because we all have to trust at some point
in our lives. There is no certainty in this life. We all have to choose who to trust and what
to trust. And to be a believer means that I think Jesus
is the most trustworthy person who’s ever lived. And that’s because Jesus faced head on ever
question that paralyzes me. It’s because Jesus looked the fallenness
of the world right in the eye and didn’t flinch. It’s because Jesus is not afraid of all
of the complexity that we face all of the time. And it’s because at the end of it all, Jesus
still believed. When he was twelve years old Jesus was found
in the temple debating the existence of humanity with the philosophers of his age, and at age
33 after teaching in the temple, he is executed still making the claim that all of humanity
is created in the image of a good and loving God. He carefully weighed the intellectual matters
of faith. Jesus also engaged cultures that were worshiping
other Gods. Jesus broke down barriers that existed at
his time, reaching out to Samaritans and to Gentiles. Jesus who had a three-year window to save
the whole world was able to find time to sit down unhurried at long meals and listen in
long conversation to the rich and the poor, the Jew and the Gentile, the oppressor and
the oppressed. Jesus knew the rejection of the larger culture. He was called a fool by most, and he was mocked
and ridiculed in his final hours. And Jesus confronted the suffering in our
world. We see him weeping over a mother who’s lost
her only son. We see that he has a particular weakness for
healing leapers who are excluded from community, and many thought their disease was the result
of a curse of God. We see that at his most popular moment in
the Triumphant Entry tears are still streaming down his cheeks over a whole city that’s
looking for God in all the wrong places. He knew the very personal suffering of losing
a close friend at a young age. And ultimately he knew suffering intimately
within his own body when he was executed unjustly by a powerful oppressor. Jesus had plenty of reason for doubt. And he believed. And then at the very end of Mathew’s gospel,
he gathers together the eleven apostles in Resurrection form with him one more time on
the Mount of Olives and he delivers to them what’s called the Great Commission. And it’s one of those passages that preachers
love to preach from when Jesus sends them out to all nations to make disciples, and
almost everyone skips the first part. Before he gets to that famous line Jesus says
this. “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When he saw them, they worshiped him, but
some doubted.” So at the end of his ministry, after all of
the miracles and all of the teachings, standing in the presence of the resurrected Jesus,
some doubted. And Jesus looks at those doubters and says,
“Go. I’m sending you as my messengers.” See, God is not threatened by your doubt. God is not paralyzed by your doubt. God is not waiting for you to get over your
doubt so that he can begin using you. Right in the midst of your doubts, in the
midst of your uncertainty, in the midst of the very good questions that you’re asking,
he says, “I chose you. I trust you. And I’m sending you.” And so if you sit here today and you’ve
existed in this place where belief is common, and you’ve had doubt rattling around in
the back of your mind, God isn’t saying, “Hey, if you overcome that, if you overcome
that, if you try reading this book, or thinking about this idea, then maybe I could unleash
a beautiful plan for your life. The invitation is you. You, right now, just as you are right now. In the midst of your uncertainty, I chose
you. I trust you. And I’m sending you.” See, if Jesus isn’t paralyzed by our doubts,
I don’t think we should be either. “Stop doubting and believe.” That’s not a demand for certainty, it’s
an invitation to stand up and take a single step. So to all who are kept awake by questions
that you’re too afraid to ask out loud, for all who are limping from the blow of an
event that came into their life that doesn’t fit within the story of what they thought
they knew, to all are so passionate at 18 and are hanging a thread at 22, this is a
loving invitation from a God who’s just as present in the silence as he is in the
miracle. A God who has promised to listen and to respond,
and a God who had hidden his presence in the very ordinary people in very ordinary communities. And so I want to ask you to stand with me
and I want to pray over you. Can we all stand together? I’m going to pray and I’m just going to
leave a few pockets of silence in the midst of this prayer as time for you to insert your
own words. And so I challenge you to be honest with God. Let’s pray together. (Praying) Dear God, I doubt. I doubt that you’re listening now, and if
you’re listening I doubt that you care. If you care I doubt that you’ll act. And if you act I doubt that you’ll love. I doubt. Will you honestly tell your doubts to God? And I’m waiting. I don’t like it but I’m trying to get
used to it. Please God, in this silence will you show
yourself soon to be present? Name any silence that you feel from God right
now. Community may be healing, but isolation is
appealing. I find it easier to dehumanize others from
a distance. I prefer to be surrounded by agreement. So forgive me God for my judgment of those
around me, and surprise me God by how you reveal yourself to me in those very ordinary
people. Will you pray honestly about the community
that you’re a part of? And find me, God. My most enlightened thoughts will never comprehend
the mysteries of the universe. The most insightful book will never let me
grasp the complexity of being human. The best spiritual high won’t support the
weight of a lifetime. So will you be the one who finds me like you
found Thomas? Amen. (End) [APPLAUSE]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *