#124 Jesus: The One Essential Friend (11/04/04)

Message by Robert H. Schuller

I want to read a bit from the Bible before I share some morning meditation thoughts with you. From the gospel of St. John, chapter 20. Jesus is resurrected and He's making His appearances to the disciples. And He made an appearance to the apostles, but Thomas was absent. You just never know when you skip a service, what you're going to miss. And I'm sure Thomas said, "Oh, just another meeting. Who needs another meeting."

And the Sunday you don't come to church you'd be shocked who was here. So Thomas skipped church that day. And the others came to him and said, "Hey, we have seen the Lord." Thomas said to them, it's interesting isn't it. The people who aren't there, the people who don't do their background studies, the people who are no authorities at all, because they weren't checked out, they come forward with such authority that negative comments.

Thomas said, "Unless I see in His hands, the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." That's so interesting that many unbelievers think they're so intelligent, so empirical, so scientific, so logical, until they get to a bottom line and with a great authority, they simply say, "I will not believe."

Come on Thomas, get with it. That's not in the Bible. I'm making that up. After eight days, His disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Maybe he figured he'd better not miss any more meetings. Jesus came. The door was shut and Jesus stood in the midst and said, "Peace to you." And He looked at Thomas and said, "Hey, reach your finger here. Look at My hands. Thomas put your hand into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believe."

And Thomas answered and said, "My Lord, and my God." And Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed." Just to say, "No big credit to you Thomas. Anybody would believe in Me if they could stand where you're standing. Thomas, you have seen Me, so you have believed but blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Now, that's I and that's you and that's we. We have not seen Jesus Christ. He has not appeared in resurrected form to us and said, "Put your finger into My palm. Or your hand into My side." We have not seen, but we have believed and His statement is, blessed are those. That means you are blessed and I am blessed indeed. That's the Easter promise of hope to the whole wide world. The world that is spiritually hungry for reality. Not for myths, not for superstitions, not for dogdras, dogmas and doctrines, and not for negative sermons but hungry for the spiritual reality about God.

You know, my Easter message this morning, believe it or not, is about God. I mean, there's not much I know about Him and if any minister, priest, rabbi, moula or what have you, claims to know a lot about God, I would become very suspicious because it's called faith and that means we live in a realm of the mystery. Where not every concept can be reduced to facts.

My daughter writes poetry. I'm talking about my daughter Carol Milner. She has a line in one of her poems, which is very profound. "God is the mystery in the vast unknown. Yet, He is understandable." That says a lot to me. God is the mystery in the vast unknown, but He is understandable. Especially on a morning like this, when we focus on Jesus Christ. Yes. To all of you, wherever you are, I have two words this morning that I want to give you right up front, and that's a promise that if you accept the decision to become a believer, even though you cannot prove it with the senses, you will be blessed richly.

Easter is a good time to look at the God concepts that people carry with them. And in this congregation, thousands of people, we're having I think eight services in all today, but of the thousands and thousands of people that attend this church every week and the multiplied millions that call this their church because they attend our church by way of the televised church service in 154 countries, it's astonishing what a variety of God concepts are out there and the heads that I'm looking at and talking to. For some, the God concept is that God is actually a hangover in medieval superstition. And it's part of the mythology that should be eradicated completely. Now they would call themselves atheists. But I have to say that I have never met many intelligent atheists. Most of them have a negative reaction that is discernable if they could go into analysis. Atheism leaves too many intelligent questions unanswered, and produces too many other fresh unanswerable questions. It doesn't make sense. Well it's a God concept for some.

To others it's not atheism it's more agnosticism. Well really they don't know and they don't care. It's like the English teacher who gave the students an assignment to write an essay on what's the biggest problem in America today? Apathy or ignorance? And one student turned in a blank paper and said, "I don't know and I don't care."

There's a third God concept, and that is that you don't know Him because you aren't interested, because there's basic estrangement. A sense that He is a hostile stranger in the shadows. That it's best not to meet because you wouldn't get along with each other. He wouldn't like what you're doing. So He'll let you do your thing, and you'll let Him do His thing.

And there's another God concept that I would call, people see him as a super-stranger. That He's very strange. They have no impressions about Him except that He's a global super-star of massive proportions. And He's above the crowds of people that are the rich and the powerful. The whole world knows His name, but nobody really knows Him, and He's a stranger. You never shook His hand. You never will, you'll never see Him in person, you never expect to. Just a global celebrity of the highest rank.

Another God concept is that He is a friendly stranger, but a stranger. But He's friendly. He's like a neighbor who's lived in that house. You've never seen Him, and He seems to come and go, but nobody really knows Him. But the rumor is He's a nice fellow. And somebody said that once they were having problems and He came across the street and helped them and He was a nice guy. But you never had to call out to Him and so you don't really know. A stranger, but friendly.

And to others the God concept is He's a nodding acquaintance. He's no stranger. You've had encounters with Him time and again in life when you were little and get older and every once in a while you run into Him. It may be at a wedding or the birth of a child or a funeral, or the ward of a hospital. When you think, and maybe are looking death in the eye, and you run into Him. And you know its God. You can see Him and feel Him in the hands of the surgeon or the nurse.

To others He is the super-star and you're a fan. You'd never be critical of Him. You think He's wonderful. The stars and the moons, the handy work of all the centuries is spectacular. The more you get involved in genes and chromosomes and the more you realize what awesome worlds He has created. They are phenomenal and boy, you're a fan. Not a friend, but you're a fan. God concept.

To others He's like the super corporate power chief. I mean, He's the Chief Executive Officer, He has control of a little board. It's not big. You're not on the board. Never will be. You don't know anybody who is. You've never been to the corporate headquarters, but you work for a company that His corporation owns. Oh, He owns, maybe, 10, 15. People employed, oh, 60,000 in America alone. Another hundred and ten thousand in other countries. Top corporate power chief. You've seen His face on Fortune, Time and Forbes. You read His name often in business pages. You don't know Him. He's no friend. But you've got a job. You're one of His companies, and he pays the check. It's good. You get your money from Him.

To other's He's like the pilot. You're on a trip; you bought a ticket; you boarded the plane; you're in the air, and you've never seen the pilot. He never came out and said, "Hello ladies and gentlemen, I'm your pilot and I'm going to take you from LA to wherever." No one announced that He's actually at the controls. You just assumed that He's there. He's no friend of yours. But you'd sure be scared if somebody came out and made the announcement that they suddenly discovered that there's no pilot in this plane.

To others He's a warm personal friend. You're on a first name basis. You talk to Him regularly. He knows your name. You don't need name tags with Him. And to others He's more than just a warm personal friend. He has become your one essential friend with whom you could not live without Him.

Dr. William Glasser, in his first book, "Reality Therapy" says, "Every person needs one essential Friend." Oh, that's the person with whom there are no secrets. Your darkest secrets can be exposed without generating shame. Now that's something. Intimacies can be exposed. No embarrassment. Dreams without accusations and being on an ego trip. You can share them with Him. Your hurts and your hopes, you laugh and you cry, and the two of you can talk sometimes long and never looking at the watch, never timing it. Well, your one essential friend. That's what Jesus became to Thomas. That's what makes this Easter story so fantastic.

Suddenly Thomas realized this Jesus was as he said it, "My Lord and my God." No more secrets. No more doubts. "Blessed are those who have seen and not seen and still believe," Jesus said. Some of you see Him. This God, He's the master programmer.

Someone said to me not long ago, we're on the edge of a computer chip, smaller than a stamp, very thin and we can program six billion interfacing connections. I said, what does that mean? That means, he said, we can take in messages from six billion sources and relate to them. I said, really? And I said, you know, for years people have said they can't believe in a God, because the Bible said, God knows every person alive. And they said that's impossible. There are over five billion people on planet earth. Now we've got a computer chip that can handle six billion and take all of these messages in ten seconds come on. So God to you is the master programmer computing to you. But you have to connect. You have to use the code word. You have to get into it. Wow. If you tie that in with Jesus Christ, then suddenly Jesus Christ can become your one essential friend and all of life is going to change for you, believe me.
And that will be beautiful. And then you'll know who God is. The two of you will be bonded. Not a nodding acquaintance. Not a hostile estrangement. Not a risky relationship. No. Bonded. The way Mother Teresa was bonded to Jesus. She loved me, I loved her and one of the great things was to go to her funeral in Calcutta. I was in Honolulu when I got the call from the President, would I be a part of the delegation. I flew from Honolulu to LA, five hours. LA to Washington, five hours. Washington to Ireland, refuel, seven hours. Ireland to Cairo, seven hours, refuel. Cairo to Calcutta, seven hours. Added up, long plane flight.

Now Mother Teresa knew who Jesus was. And she always greeted her sisters with her hand in the air and they had a secret message. It meant, "Do it all for Jesus." And they would raise their left hand, open palmed, five fingers, and they were saying to her, 'we did it for Jesus.'
Jesus makes God come alive. The incarnation. The crucifixion. The resurrection. It's all there.
I invite you this morning to become a believer in God as He was revealed in Jesus Christ. On this Easter morning, Jesus said to Thomas, "You are blessed because you have seen me and believed, but blessed are those who have not seen Me and believe." And that means me, that means you, it means all of us. We have not seen the face of Jesus. We have not touched His hand. And we believe. And today, it's Easter. He's alive. He is my one essential friend and I invite you to make Him your one essential friend, too. It's a decision; it's not a debate. It's an arrangement; it's not an argument.

Lord, we will, we are, thank You. Amen.


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