John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?” Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on:
The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.
“Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!” –Matthew 11:2-5
I love hanging-out with people of great faith. You know, the type who seem to have it all-together and are able to conquer to world. They inspire me in the small world I live in. I also like to read about and learn from those who grapple and wrestle with it. It gives me permission to move through my own doubts and frustrations to greater faith and understanding.
The story above is a great case in point. Here John was in jail and sent some messengers to Jesus asking if He was the Messiah. Now remember, John introduced Jesus when he first baptized him by saying, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world . . .” So he knew who Jesus was at the beginning of His ministry. Why was he now asking if Jesus was the Messiah?
If you remember, in the sixth chapter of Mark we were told that John was put in jail because he confronted king Herod about his adultery. So maybe John’s location may have been influencing his doubts. So he sent his disciples out to ask Jesus.
I don’t know, sitting in that prison, with the four walls closing in, I’m sure it would begin to limit his vision. The facts to support who Jesus was were all there: “The blind see, the lame walk, leprosy was cured, the deaf hear, the dead raised, and the good news preached to the poor” (Luke 7:22) I’m sure John had heard all about it. Like I said, John knew he was the Messiah the moment he saw him at the Jordan River.
But the reality is that time and circumstances can dull the image of your faith, and leave you feeling not sure about what you believe. John had heard all about the wonderful things Jesus was doing for others. Maybe his faith was shaken because he could have used a miracle himself, and he didn’t appear to be getting it.
John knew with his head that Jesus was the Messiah, but sitting there in that prison cell, well, I think he was having a problem knowing it with his heart.
Maybe you can relate to that. Maybe you have known Christ long enough to witness His marvelous works in your own life. Maybe you’ve heard amazing testimonies of His intervening power. Even after all kinds of evidence, has your faith ever been shaken because of something He didn’t do for you personally? Like John, have you ever found yourself waiting and waiting on Christ to come through? Have you ever experienced long stretches of suffering while hearing all sorts of wondrous works He was doing elsewhere? It hurts, doesn’t it? We can be believers for years, literally seeking Him, finding Him, and serving Him—then have a staggering bout with doubt.
I remember hearing all the great stories about the Florida Revival last year. It was amazing! I watched it almost nightly online and I was excited and praising the Lord about the wonderful outpouring going on. People I knew had gone down there and received healing. But many didn’t . . . I didn’t . . . I still deal with my diabetes.
Before I moved to Ann Arbor I was a somebody. People would invite me to teach at their church; people would call me (all hours of the day and night) to pray for them; the Lord moved mightily during meetings and street witnessing; I was watching people get healed and demons coming out. I was busy doing the “work” of the Lord. Man that was exciting!
Then Lord instructed my wife and me to move to Ann Arbor. It was terrible. I figure He made a drastic mistake because nobody was calling me to teach or pray for them. I became a nobody. And I watched many others being used in mighty ways, but I was sitting on the sidelines, and it really shook me to my core.
But then I read Proverbs 24:10 says, “if you faint in the day of adversity your faith was weak.” One translation says that your faith was shallow (or insincere). The Living Bible says it even plainer when it says you are a poor specimen if you can’t stand the pressure of adversity. OUCH!
I looked at John. He wasn’t like “a reed swayed by the wind” (Luke 7:24), he was a man of absolute conviction. That’s exactly what faith means. Pistis, the Greek word translated “faith,” means “firm persuasion, conviction.” Maybe John had questions, but they weren’t enough to sway the reed? If John had harbored deeply embedded questions about Christ’s authenticity, Jesus wouldn’t have hesitated to rebuked him. He certainly didn’t hesitate with others. Yet Jesus was gently with John. He simply reminded him the He was fulfilling His job description.
Maybe what was really happening is that John was sitting there in prison asking, “Why am I sitting in prison while Jesus is going about His business al over the countryside?” I bet John was wondering how he was supposed to “prepare the way” for Him from prison? If Jesus was meeting all the criteria of messiahship, He was supposed to be proclaiming freedom for the prisoners (read Luke 4:18). And John knew one prisoner who could use a little freedom.
That’s where I was. I was sitting, as one brother said, “as another cog in the wheel.” I wanted to be back being a hub! I wanted to be active in the “works of the Kingdom.”
Something to remember is that John’s ministry only lasted about a year. He couldn’t have imagined that his purposes had been so quickly fulfilled. John couldn’t have foreseen that he was a shooting star leading the way in the night until the dawn would rise.
Well here’s a question . . . When our emotions begin to override what our minds know is true, can we just surrender to our heart-doubts? Well . . . I don’t think so. Our doubts can be very dangerous if we remain in them. But, if we wrestle through them with the Lord Jesus, when we get to the other side of our crisis, we will find ourselves flooded with Grace and faith!
Jude 22 tells us to have mercy on those who doubt (that includes ourselves), but the Lord also admonishes us to be people of faith, not like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:6). We need to pray for the Lord’s steadying strenghth of mind and heart.
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