Tuesday, October 24, 2017

From John the Baptizer to John the Doubter

When Jesus began his ministry, he appeared at the river where John was preaching and baptizing people as they repented of their sins. When Jesus showed up to be baptized, John immediately recognized him and argued with Jesus about who should baptize whom, followed by Jesus' baptism and the opening of the Heavens as a voice proclaimed Jesus to be God's son (Matthew 3:14-17). But shortly afterwards, John was arrested and began to rot in prison while Jesus' ministry began to flourish. John had believed that Jesus was the messiah, but as he sat in prison things began to change. Perhaps John, like everyone else, had a mistaken idea of what the Messiah was supposed to be. Perhaps he expected that the Messiah would free him from prison and was trying to understand why that hadn't happened. Whatever the case, this man who had proclaimed Jesus as the coming Messiah sent a message by his disciples and asked Him, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2-3, HCSB).

Sometimes, when life gets hard and doesn't go the way we expect it to, we can begin to doubt ourselves and the truths we have learned along the way. Just like John, a man whose birth had been proclaimed by angels and who had recognized the voice of the Messiah's mother from inside the womb, and who began to doubt what he knew to be true, we  can begin to doubt ourselves and the things we've learned as well. When our marriage hits a rough patch, we begin to question whether this was really the person God had for us and whether we can really handle it anymore. When tragedy strikes or that new job doesn't last like it was supposed to, we begin to question God's control, or his existence, or both. When people walk out on us and we're left picking up the pieces of a broken life, we can begin to question whether we are really who we thought we were or if we've just been fooling ourselves all along.

When John got discouraged and began to doubt both Jesus and himeself, Jesus told John's messengers, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news. And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is blessed” (Matthew 11:4-6, HCSB). Because pain and suffering tend to shrink our field of vision Jesus told John to look beyond the circumstances of his prison, beyond the hardships was was currently facing and look at the way God was moving around him, to remember that the movement of God was bigger than his own circumstances. Jesus reminded John to once again look at the bigger picture and to remember that, even if God is not doing what we expect, God is still active. Jesus reminded John that God blesses those who refuse to give up the faith when God allows them to experience difficulty.

When life is hard and God isn't doing what you think he should, when you feel trapped in difficult circumstances and wonder how you will ever escape, don't give in to the doubts that naturally attack you. Make a point of looking around you and seeing how God is moving beyond your own circumstances. Remember the examples of John and Job and all the heroes of the faith who experienced difficulty and hardship but refused to give up the faith.

Difficult times will inevitably bring discouragement and doubt. Don't give in. Keep your head up, watching for the movement of God around you. Don't let go of the truths you've learned because things get hard.

Preparing the Disciples for the Crane Kick

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