Except I shall see in-His-hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.
– John 20:20
These words of the doubting Apostle reflect the thinking of many present day Christians. Today, there are many doubters – they believe not. They expect to see signs and wonders, they deny all that cannot be seen with their eyes, touched with their hands, heard with their ears. They believe many facts of history upon the testimony of others, but in religious matters, they doubt everything. Jesus said, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
It has been made easy to disbelieve in the present day. If there is one thing more than another characteristic of the present day, it is lack of faith. A spirit of incredulity pervades. Irreligion is fashionable-incredulity tempting. Many are governed by fashion— they want to be popular. They foolishly think that the road to popularity is the denial of the religion of Christ and the doubting of everything in religious matters. One of the reasons is we live so much in the exterior of things the unseen forces seem unreal.
It is a distressed and confused world in which we live today. We are living in a time of rapid changes when the labors and careful building of long years of struggle are ruthlessly destroyed. The modern mind is torn by contradictory ideas and incompatible desires. We are substituting trivial illusions for magnificent faiths. There is a famine in the world – not only a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of God. Jesus said. “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger: and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
There is an appalling need for a return to God in this hurrying and incredulous age. More than anything else, our distracted world needs faith in God, good will, kindness, love. The real grandeur of life is not material possession, but spiritual attainment. We must strive for spiritual excellencies rather than surface adequacies of life. Jesus often spoke of the littleness of temporal things and the greatness of eternal things. In our mad rush for wealth, honors, position, we forget the words of our Saviour as directed to Martha, the sister of Lazarus. Jesus said to her, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her.” Jesus taught us the wisdom of placing first things first when he said. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness.” And all these things shall be added unto you. There is a wide difference between the desire to live so that men will applaud you and the desire to live so that God will be satisfied with you.
The world needs the authentic voice of people who believe in God. Christ must reign if man is to be regal. We are in God’s world and life must go God’s way. The first essential for achievement in life is a belief in God, for the longer we live the more we shall realize how small a part external things play, and how much the things that matter are spiritual things, gifts of the spirit, qualities of the soul.
There are men and women today, who cry out for a father. The flowers in their beauty and the stars in their glory cannot solace a wounded soul. When the heart is sad, when temptation beats as a storm on the soul, when sickness or affliction visits us, when some deep grave yawns before us, when eternity draws near, we want one who can heal, help and save us. Is there such a one? The Apostles knew. They declared with the accent of a grand certainty that God is – that God knows – that God cares for He is with us forevermore. If I know much about the experience of men and women whose minds are stayed upon God, I think the thing that is distinctive is not so much the experiences that come to them. The same things happen to them as to others – defeat and victory, the applause of men and men’s hostility and indifference, sorrow and joy – all these things are common to all men; only in their intensity and their incidence do they vary.
But what is characteristic of those who have in some measure found God is that running through all the experience of the past, there is a sense of the guiding hand of God making meaning out of it all, and turning all life’s experience into benediction. To those who believe there is no fear in this world, I invite you to concentrate your thoughts on the amazing era of Apostolic preaching which followed the death and resurrection of our Lord.
The story is of a dozen inspired workmen who were lifted by an ineffable experience out of the deepest depths of humiliation to serene heights of faith, whence they went forth to write the incomparable epic of world conquest. There are no words in any language that can express how dear they held their faith and how cheap they held their lives. In all the instrumentalities on which we too often rely to win our victories, they took no stock. They knew nothing of art, architecture or music. They had little learning. With no material weapon, no organized army, no display of force, they shook the mightiest of world empires until it trembled and tottered. From the handful of Apostles, who in the crisis of His fate had failed to their Master, sprang the invincible legion that did not know the meaning of fear. Pagan Rome had conquered every race, only to be baffled by men whose bodies she could burn, but whose hate she could not provoke; nay whose love she could not alienate, when the sand of the Coliseum was red with their blood.
When in Nero’s gardens converted into torches, they passed through smoke and flame to their rest, their message swept in triumph from convert to convert. This is the courage of Faith, when Jesus said to Thomas. “Reach hither thy finger and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered and said, “My Lord and my God.” We, too, need to say My Lord and my God. We, too, need to come to Jesus. We need to crime to Jesus because we have heartaches and afflictions. It is true that a life which is in harmony with the Divine purpose is also not free from difficulties, but weights may become wings or they may be as lead upon the garments of the diver intended to keep him in position until his work is done. God’s will is, that in bearing the handicaps we may discover the strength. It is necessary that we make our lives purposeful. It is tragically easy to squander life, to bring it to no result – to make nothing of it. We sometimes cannot help that our lives are defeated, but we can help that they are wasted. We must think and resolve not only what we are not to do, but what we are to do. And I put it to you all, that when your course of life and mine is over, what will count with us then won’t be the little handful of pebbles of riches, fame or knowledge that we have picked up on the illimitable shore in our brief message through this mortal life. It is not that which is going to count, it is a certain condition of soul; it is a certain attitude of spirit.
If you will go to the banks of a little stream and watch the flies that come to bathe in it, you will notice that while they plunge their bodies in the water, they keep their wings high out of the water, and after swimming about a little while, they fly away with their wings unwet through the sunny air. That is a lesson for us. Here we are immersed in the cares of the world; but let us keep the wings of our soul – our faith and our love – out of the world, that, with these unclogged, we may be ready take our flight to heaven.
This sermon was preached by the Rev. Pishtey on the “Church on of the Air” radio program sponsored by the Columbia Broadcasting System on April 12, 1953 (Saint Thomas Sunday). The Cappella Russian Male Chorus participated in the program which was broadcast coast-to-coast.