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Sometimes Christians face a crisis of faith. I don’t mean we doubt the Truth of Christianity, the Bible or Jesus. This is not the so-called deconversion. No, we firmly believe in the Truth of the gospel. What we doubt is our place in it. We are plagued with questions like: Am I really saved? Does Jesus love me? Did I miss the will of God? Is Jesus really pleased with me, or is He disappointed? Has my life been wasted? Why do I feel like I am always on the outside while everyone else is on the inside enjoying a great relationship with Jesus and Kingdom living? Have you ever felt like that? John the Baptist did.
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Matt. 11:2-3, NIV
John was not having a crisis of faith. He believed in the promised Messiah. His whole life had been geared toward revealing the Messiah to Israel. But Jesus was not the type of Messiah he had expected, not the kind of Messiah anyone had expected. When was He going to deliver Israel from Roman oppression? When was He going to set up this promised Kingdom of God? When was He going to move against Rome?
John was in a dark place - literally and figuratively. Literally, He was in Herod’s dark dungeon, which only a few, if any, rays of light penetrated. He was in pain. The chains hurt. He was hungry. The rats were not good companions. He was discouraged, disillusioned. He wondered if he had made a mistake and wasted his life. Was it all for nothing? Had he missed his calling? Maybe Jesus was the real forerunner, and the Messiah was still coming. Maybe he had been deluding himself all these years. After all, he had only been proclaiming the righteous law of God, and here he was sitting, abandoned, in a dungeon. Self-doubts plagued him. Feelings of failure haunted him.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever left like that? What can we learn from John’s story?
First, John knew what to do. He took his doubts and questions to Jesus. This shows that he wasn’t doubting the Truth of the Scriptures, only his place in the plan of God. He had faith that Jesus had the answers. Our self-doubt, our pain, or discouragement can drive us to Jesus or away from Jesus. If we let it drive us to Jesus, we will be safe and secure in His arms, even if we don’t feel like it.
Let’s look at how Jesus reacted to John’s questioning.
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John…Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Matt. 11:4-7, 9-11, NIV
The second thing we learn is that Jesus did not criticize or condemn John the Baptist for his discouragement and self-doubts. He knew what John was going through. Jesus is safe. We can come to Him and share our self-doubts, our fears and our pain. Jesus will not reject us. He understands what we are going through. He cares.
Third, Jesus encouraged John. He proved He was the Messiah by doing things that had been prophesied that the Messiah would do. He healed the sick, raised the dead and preached the gospel. He may not have met all of John’s expectations of what a Messiah should do, but he proved He was the Messiah prophesied in Scripture. Sometimes, false expectations or misunderstandings lead us into dark dungeons. Life may not be what we expected, but if we look to Jesus, He will lead us into Truth and God’s will for our lives. Jesus will answer sincere questions, but He won’t play games with people who are just making excuses for what they have already decided to believe.
Fourth, Jesus confirmed John’s ministry. His life had not been wasted. He had faithfully served God and completed His mission. His current position was not a result of failure [or sin] but of standing up for the Truth of God’s Word. Sometimes, we can do the right thing; we can be in God’s will and still end up in prison. Paul went to prison many times, but he considered himself a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ because he knew that even though evil men had cast him into prison, Jesus was still in control. Even when we do what is right, and life seems to turn against us, we can rest in the confidence that Jesus is still in control.
Fifth, Jesus honoured John for his faithful service. As we practice the two underrated virtues of the Christian life preservance and endurance - in faithful service to the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be rewarded. Our life will not be wasted. We may not see the rewards now - John ended up being beheaded - but the rewards in eternity will be great and never lost.
If you are facing a crisis of self-doubt, turn to Jesus and never give up.
If you have never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, today is the day. Bow your head, confess to Him that you are a sinner, ask Him to forgive your sins, accept Him as your Saviour and commit your life to Him as your new Master. You will then become a new creation and step into a new world - whether you feel it or not. Then, be sure to connect with a local Christian Church.
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