You want to talk about something that builds my faith? When I think about the eyewitnesses to Jesus, and who they were, and their stories, you talk about building my faith.
When I think about Peter, who said, “Jesus, I’m going to be there for You,” and Jesus said, “You’re going to deny Me three times.” And sure enough, before the death of Jesus, three different times – “I don’t know Him, never heard of Him. I don’t who you’re talking about.” He denied and failed Jesus.
And then, after the resurrection, Jesus appears to Him and says, “Do you love Me, Peter?” And Peter says, “I’m trying. Yes, I do.” Then Jesus said, “Feed My sheep.” And Jesus forgives him. And Peter is so transformed, that He preaches on the Day of Pentecost, one of the most powerful messages in the history of the world, and three thousand people are born into the Kingdom of God, and Peter becomes the rock that Jesus had predicted.
And then when others come to Peter and say, “Unless you deny your faith, we will take your life,” Peter says, “I will never again deny my Lord and my Savior.” They said, “Then we’re going to crucify you as your Savior died.” But tradition tells us he says, “I am unworthy to die as my Savior died.” So, they crucified him upside down. The same Jesus that Peter denied was the same Jesus that Peter was willing to die for.
I think about James, the brother of Jesus. Ask yourself what would your brother have to do to convince you that he is the Son of God? The half brother of Jesus, who is elevated to a leader in the church, and years later, when the enemies of Christ said, “Renounce your faith or we will kill you,” he says, “I will not do it.” So, they push him off the Temple, about a hundred feet, but he doesn’t die. Then, they ambush him and say, “Renounce your faith,” & he looks up to heaven, just as Jesus did, and said, “Father, please forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing.” And they beat him to death with a club. The half brother of Jesus, eyewitness, willing to die – that builds my faith.
I think about the Apostle Paul who hated Christians. Some of you might hate some Christians. You don’t hate them as much as Paul did. He killed them. But then in a vision he meets the Risen Christ, and is so transformed that those that he hated he becomes the leader of, and he preaches fearlessly and says, “For me, to live is Christ; to die is gain.” And then, when they beat him and left him for dead, again and again, finally they got to him and tortured him, and said, “Renounce your faith,” and he said, “No, I will never do so.” And they beheaded the one who hated Christ, who now was willing to die for Christ. That builds my faith.
And then take Thomas, who is unfairly branded as a doubter, because, you see, Thomas was a person of great faith. You see, doubt is not the end of real faith. For many people, it’s only the beginning. And once Thomas got what he needed, he traveled farther than any other disciple, going all the way to India to preach the Gospel, because he so believed they needed a relationship with the Christ that had transformed him. And when they met him, early in a cave one morning, the enemies of Christ said, “Renounce your faith”– he said, “I would never renounce my Lord and my God.” And they drove a spear through his body. The Jesus that Thomas doubted was the Jesus that Thomas was willing to die for. Thomas then believed in Jesus enough to die for Him.
I would ask you this, do you believe enough to live for Him? Do you believe enough to live for Him? Because this builds my faith. Every now and then, when I think about these things, my faith just gets louder and louder. Sometimes my faith is talking so loud I can’t even hear what doubt has to say.