Last Saturday was my turn to speak in AWANA, and as usual I was given the privilege to choose any topics I wanted. Since it was just a week after Easter, I decided on the topic “believing without seeing” from the passage of John 20:19-31, the event which happened shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The story of Thomas is an interesting one and the kids seemed to love it. It is full of drama, with the kind of twists and turns children love in a story. We know it well : Thomas, one of the disciples, even though he had witnessed the wonderful deeds , miracles and teachings of Jesus had trouble believing that the Lord had risen. He refused to believe until he could see Him with his own eyes. A week after Jesus did appear and say to him ” Stop doubting and believe.” I cannot imagine how embarrassed Thomas must have felt at that moment. He had followed Jesus all that time and yet he doubted him ! But I love what Jesus said right after: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” and I wonder if Thomas knew that even though he had failed, the Lord would later use this unfortunate incident to bless so many people for generations to come!
As a children speaker I found that the lessons I teach are often personally challenging– I need to learn them first-handed before I can instruct them. It is one of the important principles of spiritual teaching: one needs to be a learner first before a teacher ! And this lesson taught me the truth that even though my mistakes can be costly, the Lord can and will use my failure for a greater purpose. Most of all He desires from me a broken spirit and a contrite heart. It is only when I am down and out that I can really see the grace and mercy of God.
I love how C.S. Lewis put it:
“No amount of faith really undo us if we keep picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us: it is the very sign of his presence”
When we are able to see the dirt in our lives we can experience and appreciate the presence of God. It is comforting to know He picks up the repentant ones and restores them. This is the true message of the gospel : no matter how much I fail, God is ready to forgive the broken and contrite. The sad thing is we tend to have our own brand of righteousness, and are often misguided by our own sense of holiness. Just like Thomas, he was never known for the good he had done afterwards, but was saddled with the name that came along with his mistake.
As I was preparing this lesson, I thought about what I wanted to be remembered for? I have and will make mistakes in my life and I pray that I will not be remembered by them but by the good things I have done. On the flip side, I need to remember people for the good and not for their bad choices. At the end of the day, I need to bear in mind that we are all sinners who are redeemed by His grace.