Jesus said to him… ‘Blessed are those who have seen and have come to believe.’
No he didn’t, did he? Here’s what he actually said:
Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ (John 20:29).
But you could be forgiven for thinking that he said what I posted at the start. For many Christians today, it seems to me, measure faith by how many miracles, healings and spiritual gifts someone has received. A person with a constant sense of God’s presence and activity is seen as a person with great faith; disabled or ill people who are not healed are (shamefully) blamed for a lack of faith. Anyone like myself or various friends of mine, who rarely have any sense of God’s presence or power, are seen as having little faith.
What Jesus says to Thomas here is the exact opposite. Those who believe because they have seen some spectacular act of God, or because everything in their life generally goes right, are those with scant faith, for they have to be shown magic tricks to believe. While those who have constant struggles, whose prayers hardly ever seem to be answered, and who yet put their trust in God, are the ones with magnificent faith.
The clue is in the word: faith. I don’t have faith in the chair I’m sitting on to hold me up; I know it will, from long experience. But if I deliberately fall backwards in my drama workshop so the person behind can catch me, I am exercising faith. I don’t know they will, though I may have some evidence from their previous behaviour. It’s faith. It’s not sight. Simple.
Paul makes it quite clear in 1 Corinthians that faith is temporary, as is hope. They are qualities we have to practise while we don’t yet see all things restored and God being all in all. When we do, then faith and hope will be redundant.
In the meantime, it is those who don’t see and yet believe, who are commended for their faith. In a sense, the less we see, the more faith we have. Those who always see, whose prayers always have answers, really have almost no faith at all. God has to feed them constantly with results to keep them going, as a mother constantly feeds an infant. Or perhaps as a father holds on to his daughter’s bicycle while she learns to balance. It will be hard for such when God takes off the stabilizers, and they have to learn to ride on their own.