John 11:16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
I have a warm spot in my heart for Thomas. He is famously known as “Doubting Thomas” for demanding proof of Jesus’ resurrection, but here he demonstrated a depth of commitment we should all emulate. So many people become Christians because of what they think they can get out of it. Thomas, in sharp contrast, was willing to follow Jesus even if it meant his physical death. I think it’s no accident that when the apostles were scattered in the persecutions after Pentecost, tradition tells us that it was Thomas who went furthest, all the way to southern India, sharing the Gospel the whole way and founding a group of believers that rejoices to trace their history back to him. Jesus actually seemed to make a practice of challenging His disciples in the area of commitment. In one famous interaction, He challenged the 12: “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-68) God doesn’t want us to follow Him at our convenience, but out of a conviction that He is our life, and nothing apart from Him is worthy of comparison. In the American Revolution, the famous phrase that was used to describe those who served at their convenience, was “sunshine soldier, summer patriot.” Just as the Founding Fathers pledged their “lives, fortune, and sacred honor” to the cause, we need to be totally committed to Jesus Christ as Lord, even if it means nothing but suffering and death on this earth.
My personal fondness for Thomas comes from the fact that when God confronted me with my spiritual pride, my response was exactly what Thomas’ was when Jesus told him to confirm that He had really risen from the dead. Like Thomas, I fell to my knees and cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) I have never been called to face active persecution, but I have been called to a life of relative obscurity and sparse results. I would be thrilled if God were to pour out a Spirit of repentance and this church were to overflow with new believers, but my commitment and obedience don’t depend on results. There are times when I would be thrilled if the Lord were to say, “OK, that’s enough. Come on home.” However, until that time I am not to complain about anything, but give Him the worship of obedience. Yesterday at the annual Kyushu Revival Conference in Fukuoka, the speaker used Matthew 18:21-22 to talk about forgiveness, and it struck me that those in ministry perhaps need most to pay attention to that, because they are perhaps the most sinned against. As I was told in seminary, preachers quickly learn that people don’t consider it a sin to lie and say they’ll be in church next Sunday. The more we care about people the more open we are to being hurt by them, and pastors are certainly called to care. That’s why it was so wrenching when God told Jeremiah not to pray for the people. (Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14) I have never been told not to pray, so I’d better be praying, whether people seem to be responding or not!
Father, thank You for the conference yesterday, and for getting us there and back safely. Thank You that we weren’t directly involved in the accident on the expressway that slowed us a good bit in getting back. Thank You for what You said through the speaker, and for what You did in various people in various ways. Help me be fully responsive and obedient to You at all times in all ways, whether I know what’s going on or not, so that Your will may be done on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!