Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20:24-29 NIV
Cynical is defined as “not trusting or respecting the goodness of other people and their actions, but believing that people are interested only in themselves.” To my knowledge it is not a word used with any significance in any translation of scripture, and is certainly absent from any list of sins. However, in my view cynicism is the 21st century mask for chronic doubt, distrust, and unbelief.
This doubt, distrust, and unbelief are first focused on God, and when sustained for significant periods of time these extend to our human relationships. When doubt, distrust, and unbelief are tolerated in our relationship with God and people, we will eventually become cynical. This is one of the reasons I believe Jesus answered the questions gnawing away at Thomas.
Thomas is a good example of being honest and even bold about his doubts. He says, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” He made it clear he didn’t trust or believe what he was hearing about Jesus resurrecting from the dead. Consequently, Jesus had a chance to answer and resolve Thomas’s doubts. He allowed Thomas to put his finger in his hands and side to see the evidence of real wounds. The result was this declaration of conviction from Thomas, ““My Lord and my God!”
How seriously do we take doubt, distrust, and unbelief in our relationship with God? Do we even notice when we doubt God, or do we only notice when we doubt people? If we only notice when we doubt people, then they are more important to us than God. The only way to overcome the destructive influence and impact of cynicism is to focus on God, clearing away all doubt, distrust, and unbelief by honestly sharing those feelings with Him. Once our faith in God is strong, it becomes easy to overcome the temptation to be cynical in human relationships.
Read John 20-21.
Read Matthew 12:22-32 MSG and identify who is cynical, over what, and why they are.
Read II Timothy 3:1-5 MSG and identify any sins that could lead to cynicism.
Read II Kings 7 NIV and explain the different outcomes for the cynical and believing.
This is the final Quiet Time in the “12 Days of Jesus.” One important lesson I have learned in putting these studies together is my need to focus on Jesus. When we focus on Jesus, he keeps us focused on God, and our relationships with people become so much healthier. Additionally, when we focus on Jesus we become more of who we want to be, and who God has destined us to be. My hope for you is that you will spend the days, months, and years ahead continually redefining how you see Jesus, because only by questioning what we think we know, can we hope to discover the true depths of who he really is.
*Definitions in “The 12 Days of Jesus” studies are based on the Cambridge Dictionary
- Feature: The 12 Days of Jesus
- Day 1: Conqueror of Darkness
- Day 2: Courage in the Temple
- Day 3: Compassion for the Disabled
- Day 4: Confidence Turns the Tide
- Day 5: Captivating the Crowds
- Day 6: Cagey and Colorful in Conflict
- Day 7: Controversial to the Conventional
- Day 8: Convincing the Confused
- Day 9: Comforting the Cautious
- Day 10: Clarity for the Complicated
- Day 11: Calm for the Chronically Contentious
- Day 12: Concerned about the Cynical
Written by Russ Ewell
who serves as Director of BACC Next,
where he is tasked with thinking about the future.