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Facing Doubt

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Facing Doubt

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Facing Doubt

MP4 Video - 1080p (1.86 GB)
MP4 Video - 720p (1.12 GB)
MP3 Audio (35.07 MB)

We may sometimes doubt the truths we know. If or when that happens, the example of how John the Baptist overcame doubts can help us.


[Frank Dunkle] I'd like to begin with a question. Can you remember a time when you doubted something that you had been pretty sure of? Most of us do that at some time or another, especially with small things. Did I turn off the stove before I left the house? Oh, of course, I did. Or did I? Have you ever been the one that went back and of course, it was turned off? Or I know for me, I'm not the best at matching faces and names, so sometimes, especially at the Feast of Tabernacles. “Hi, Bob, how are you doing?” And I'll walk down say, “Was that Bob? Or was that Joe?” You know, little things like this they can be kind of funny, especially when we all laugh about it, but when it's something big, it can seem a little bit different.

And I don't want to lead anyone into some depressing thoughts, but people have at times doubted some of what they thought they knew about some pretty important things. You might think about your career, about your choice for your mate. Luckily, I've never had to doubt that. But even bigger, what about God's way? When severe trials and difficulties come I could see, you know, you might wonder, what if I got it wrong? What if Jesus isn't Christ? What if this unusual religion that I'm a part of, is not really the true way to worship God? Now, mind you, I am not encouraging you to have those doubts. But I can assure you that over the years, people sometimes do, thoughts might enter. Hopefully, they enter and we deal with them. You know, people have had doubts, people sometimes have questions.

In fact, there was a man described in the Bible as one of the greatest of the prophets, who at one point had a big question seems to imply perhaps he had some doubts. That's the man that we commonly call John the Baptist we're going to look at his story some today. I feel like I should explain that the more accurate way to describe him would be John the Baptizer. And I know Scott Ashley, who teaches the Gospels, uses that phrase regularly and I approve of it. But I'm one who likes to economize on syllables. Baptizer has three syllables and Baptist has two.

But regardless of that, I'd like to consider the story of John the Baptist and the encouraging inspiration that it can give us, and the means that I think it can direct us when we have questions or doubts. I want to begin with how we get to John the Baptist. We want to remember that the Jewish people around 2000 years ago and a little more, they had prophecies. They knew that God was going to send a Messiah, the Anointed One. Messiah comes from the Hebrew Mashiach, the Greek Christ, Christos means the same thing. And the prophecies of God's Word told them a lot of what they could expect.

The Anointed One would be a descendant of King David. He was prophesied to have the government upon His shoulder to rule with a rod of iron, you know, of the increase of His government and of His peace, there would be no end. You could probably imagine that for a people who had been conquered, and who had been ruled as a subjugate people over and over again through the centuries, predictions like that had to be reassuring and perhaps pretty exciting.

When we open the New Testament and we read their stories, it's worth remembering the people living at that time in Judea, they realized that it had been 600 years or more since King David's dynasty had come to an end, and the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem. Matter of fact, at that time, under Nebuchadnezzar's army, most of the people living in that country either were killed or were taken away captive to serve as slaves in Mesopotamia. But even 70 years later, when the Persian Empire that arose allowed peoples to return home and they did. Of course, Mr. Folgleson's message reminded us of them going back and struggling to rebuild their city and rebuild their temple.

Even as they did accomplish that, they were well aware that they were not an independent kingdom, they were a province of a foreign empire. There was not a descendant of King David ruling. The Anointed One, the Messiah had not yet come. But over the years, prophecies were fulfilled, especially if they were aware of the scroll that was written by Daniel the prophet. And step by step things happened. An army from the west led by one known as Alexander the Great, he led a Greek Macedonian army that very rapidly conquered the Persian Empire.

If they looked in the prophecies of Daniel, they'd see oh, yes, that goat with the notable horn that smashed the ram that seemed to picture that as had been prophesied. Judea following that was at times dominated by the Seleucid, whatever you call those guys up in the north. Or the Ptolemies down in Egypt, back and forth, a king of the north and a king of the south as had been prophesied.

Now, there was a relatively brief period of independence, we know it is the Maccabean period where they threw off external rule and they sought to be on their own. But when that happened, the timing wasn't quite right, it didn't match what Daniel had written. And for that matter, that time ended up being fairly brief. The...I almost said behemoth is that the right word? That looming empire of the West, centered in Rome, grew and grew and it finally took over Palestine. But still, time passed and those who knew and studied those holy writings, especially those in the area, the section of Scripture that now we call Daniel 9. I'm not going to turn there. But remember what Daniel just wrote on a scroll, and he didn't put the chapters and verse numbers in. But he had a prophecy of 70 weeks, and if someone parsed that properly, they started to see the time to expect that Messiah to occur, to occur to appear.

And without understanding, they might have looked at some other prophecies, especially, you know, in Malachi, in Isaiah, prophecies that a messenger would come before the Messiah. Someone would come and prepare the way before the Messiah appeared. With that in mind, let's turn to Luke Chapter 1 and I'll summarize some of the first verses. Have to summarize it while I'm turning to Luke Chapter 1. But starting in verse 5, it describes the story of an elderly priest, you know, descended from Aaron, and he had an elderly wife named Elizabeth. And Zacharias, he came when it was his turn. And he would serve at the temple. And his lot fell to be able to go in and burn incense, which was a privilege to get to go into the holy place and burn the incense.

And this time, he got a surprise. He didn't expect anybody else to be in there and an angel appeared, an angel named Gabriel. He told him Zacharias, your prayers and your wife's prayers have been answered, you're going to have a son. I wonder if Zacharias was sort of like my wife and I when we got that news, “Now?” Because Zacharias was not a young man. But let's focus on the prophecy of the son that he would have. We'll pick it up in verse 15.

Luke 1:15-17 The angel Gabriel talked about the son and he said, “He will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor drink.”

Some people wonder if John the Baptist was a Nazirite, or perhaps knowing that priests were not permitted to drink when they were on duty, is that an indication that he would always be on duty, or for the ABC students, “never not working”. Sorry, that was something that came up in class recently. And said, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he'll turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him before the Lord their God in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

That's something. Gabrielle was telling Zacharias that the son that he and Elizabeth would have was going to fulfill those prophecies. One of the significant ones is found at the end of the book of Malachi. I still remember well, when I was, you know, fairly young and began attending God's Church, that was right when we rolled out this new program called YOU. And we did it largely because we looked at these prophecies and said, we want to turn the hearts of children to their fathers, and do our part to fulfill this. Well, they weren't thinking of a teen program, but they were thinking of hey, when the Herald of the Messiah comes, the Messiah is going to come after him, that time is coming.

I wonder in what ways would Elizabeth and Zacharias tell John that. I always picture John wearing his leather girdle and, you know, camel's hair, and eating locusts and wild honey. But before that, he was a little boy at one point. He grew up and he must have been taught the ways of a priest because his dad was in the priesthood he had that as his heritage. How long did he know that he was destined to be the messenger, to prepare the way before the Messiah? And I don't have an answer to that question. But sometimes he did find out. I wonder what that was like.

John the Baptist had the Holy Spirit his entire life. It entered his brain, or however, it is that works while he was still in the womb. So he had an advantage that I don't think anyone in this room had growing up in that with God's Spirit opening and understanding of God's Word. He must have been able to look at those prophecies maybe in a more powerful light than others around him. I wonder, did he come to understand it more than his own parents did? Perhaps, this is speculation. But if you will go to the end of this chapter. John Chapter 1, not John. Luke Chapter 1, we'll get to John momentarily. It's one of the longer chapters in the Bible. But in verse 80, after introducing the fact that Mary would become the mother of Jesus, we get back to John.

John 1:80 And it says, “So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.”

So turning from these questions we had about John the Baptist about when he came to understand how he felt about it, we could ask what about us? Do you remember coming to understand God's purpose for you? You remember the excitement? If you had that moment now I understand what it's all about. You know, now I know why I was born. You know, I used to have a blue booklet that asked me if I knew why. I thought we had some more old-timers than that. Do you remember the seriousness of the commitment, your resolve to build faith and character, that commitment to grow up into the stature and fullness of Jesus Christ? At a time like that, it's hard to imagine ever having doubts or fears. At that time, you eagerly support God's Church and its work, you know, I want to be part of preaching the gospel to the world.

Probably gladly, you were baptized into the body of Christ you enthusiastically fellowshipped with whatever congregation you were a part of. Now, for some of you, that's right here and now and it hasn't been that long. For some of you, it might have been decades past. But I'm betting that those memories are still pretty strong. And as I said in those periods, we boldly look ahead and we're excited about the future and God's plan. Doubts and fears, you know, aren't there, at least not doubts about God. We might look in the mirror and have doubts about that guy, the one that looks back at me. I imagine that's probably how it was for John the Baptist, especially early in his ministry.

Now, we just read and talked about the day of his manifestation to Israel, we don't have really a description of what that was like. We do know that it seems perhaps relatively quickly he became influential, popular, people wanted to hear this man speak. You know, you hear these tax collectors, Roman soldiers, others coming say “What should we do?” If you will, let's turn to John Chapter 1. Because one thing we can say even with John's...I would expect his confidence, his knowing who and where he was, and what he had to do. Well, I'd say he did know who and where he was. One thing he knew is he was not that special person that people had been looking for 600 years. He was not that one to come, he was a forerunner, he was preparing the way.

It seems that was a very firm article of faith for him. And there's something powerful about knowing your place, knowing what you have to do, and knowing what you don't have to do. When people asked him about it he answered. If you look to verse 23 of John Chapter 1...well, actually, I'll pick up the end of verse 22.

John 1:22-23 Because it says, “‘What do you say about yourself?’” He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as the prophet Esaias said.’”

Wouldn't it be great to be able to read prophecies and know that's my place? Now, let's jump go on from verse 24.

John 1:24-27 Said, “Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees and they asked him saying, why then do you baptize, if you're not the Christ, you're not Elijah, nor the Prophet.” What are you doing then? John said, “I baptize with water but there stands one among you who you do not know. It's He who coming after me, is preferred before me whose sandals strap I'm not worthy to loose.”

Now these things were done in Beth Abara beyond the Jordan where John was baptizing. It indicates maybe John wasn't sure. It said there's someone among you that's that one. John said I know I'm not him.

John 1:29-30 It says, “The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him.” Now here, it seems he does know. He says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is He, of whom I said after me comes a man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.”

John had the Holy Spirit from birth maybe unlike most around him, he understood that the Messiah would be the Son of God, one who had existed for all time. Just across the page here the beginning of the book of John, it tells us that "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God." We understand that pretty well. Most people in Jesus's time did not, but it seems likely that perhaps John did. Let's read it, go back to verse 31.

John 1:31-34 Says, “I did not know him, but that he should be revealed to Israel therefore, I came baptizing with water. And John bore witness saying ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained upon him.’ I did not know him.” I think that means until that happened, he didn't know who the Messiah would be. “But he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”And John said, “I have seen and testified this is the Son of God.”

I find it somewhat intriguing that someone came and told John, he needed to go start baptizing with water. I'm looking saying, where is that? Why didn't somebody put that in the Gospel accounts? You know, who was that someone that told him, you go baptize with water, and you're going to baptize someone that you'll see the Holy Spirit come like a dove, that's the one. I guess we don't need to know or it would be here. I suspect it was probably an angel. Maybe the same angel Gabriel who appeared to his father Zacharias in the temple. However, it came about that John knew this. We can see John was confident in his faith. And as I'm trying to establish he was sure of where he fit in God's plan, and in what God was doing. He was so confident that when other people were worried for his sake, John wasn't so concerned, he knew. If you turn a couple pages over to Chapter 3 of John. John 3:22, we'll see some people raised those concerns to John, but it just rolled off his back like water off a duck. I didn't have water off a duck in my notes. It's amazing what comes to your head sometimes.

John 3:22-26 But says “After these things, Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.” There's another place that tells us that Jesus had His disciples do the baptizing, so they're baptized. There's a competitor, there's someone else in town. “Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because there was plenty of water, and they came and were baptized.” John had not yet been thrown into prison. Now we'll talk about that momentarily. “But then there arose a dispute between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purification. And they came to him and said, ‘Rabbi, he who is with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, he is baptizing and all are coming to him.’”

He's like, they're going to him and not you anymore, aren't you concerned? Are you upset? He wasn't. Let's jump ahead to verse 33.

John 3:36 Because he says “He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.”

No, actually, I'm sorry. I didn't want to jump ahead yet. Jump back to verse 27.

John 3:27-30 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, I said, I'm not the Christ, but I've been sent before him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom. But the friend of the bridegroom who stands by and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore, this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

That sounds like a man who was quite comfortable and confident in his role. Any of you ever been a best man or a bridesmaid? Best man or even a...what's the other word for those guys that aren't best? Second best man? Third? I'm pretty sure that's not the word.

[Everybody] Groomsmen.

[Frank Dunkle] Groomsmen. Thank you. Something else that should have been written in my notes. But weren't you happy for the bride and the groom, happy for them, and you're happy to be in your place? John the Baptist was right there he didn't mind that Jesus's work was growing and expanding, and that he wasn't the number one guy. That takes faith, that takes confidence. Now I want to go ahead to verse 33.

John 3:33-36 He says “He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God for God does not give the Spirit by measure.” The Father loves the Son. John probably thought I'm not that son. God loves the Son. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life. He who does not believe in the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Again, he's talking about belief and confidence. John sounds like someone who was filled with faith. I see him there and I think he was on a sure path to God's kingdom. And I'll bet most of us have felt at least somewhat like that at some point in our lives. I hope so. That's the way it should be. But life is full of challenges. Life throws us curveballs and difficult times. Not only us, but even John the Baptist he faced challenges. Now, John the Baptist, he'd certainly seems to have had great courage. I want to go back to Luke's account in Luke Chapter 3 because one thing I'll say for John is he didn't hesitate to stand up. We in modern times, use the phrase speaking truth to power. Boy, did he do that? And boy did power kick back.

John 3:18-20 Luke gives a little shorter version here, but says, “With many other exhortations he…” that is John the Baptist. “Preached to the people, but Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils that Herod had done, also added this above all, he shut John up in prison.”

Let me stop there. Scripture doesn't give us all that much detail about all the evil that Herod and his family did. But there are other sources and particularly Josephus, the historian that we often talk about in the Church, and he describes it in greater detail. Now, the Herod that we read here was not the one known as Herod the Great, that was his dad. Herod the Great was king ruling over Palestine at the time Christ was born and died not all that long after. And his sons were given various roles, ruling parts of the territory.

Herod the Great had accomplished some good things in Palestine, great building projects, and he kept order. But he was not a godly man. Matter of fact, you read his life, he was a bad guy and so were a lot of his sons. Herod the Great had had several wives, children by different women, and many times they would be raised in separate households and hardly know each other. They were part of the royal family, but they weren't necessarily loyal to their dad or to each other. The reason I bring this up is it relates to this Herod who put John the Baptist in prison. He was Herod Antipas called here the tetrarch. He was one son of Herod the Great ruled in the northern part of what was formerly his dad's kingdom. Now who was this Herodias that he married? Well, she was the daughter of a different son of Herod, meaning the niece of the one we're talking about.

Josephus...boy, this would be better if I had the whiteboard to give you a chart because Josephus tells us that this Herodias was married to yet a different son of Herod the Great. So she was married to one of her uncles. And this son was living in Rome not ruling. But this Herod, the tetrarch visited Rome and he was quite taken. And he seduced her and had her leave her husband and come marry him. So he was now guilty of incest and adultery, and probably other words we could come up with. The word I was going to write in my notes is slimy. He was...this is bad. No wonder John the Baptist rebuked him. Maybe he felt like how can I not? I'm going to speak out, this is wrong.

And John the Baptist probably confident in his role I'm the herald of the messenger of God and the Messiah is at hand, it's time for us to take a stand against evil. I'm not surprised that John spoke out. But it's also not all that surprising to see that Herod reacted and used his autocratic power and threw John in prison. Scripture doesn't say where that prison was, but we can look to other records again, and we believe it was a place called Machaerus, which was a fortress/palace that Herod the Great had built near the Dead Sea, sort of off the southeast corner. Again, I'm thinking of some photos Scott Ashley likes to show it was in a very desolate, lonely, dreary place, isolated. It'd be easy to understand someone getting a little depressed.

If John the Baptist's cell had a window to look outside, he probably wouldn't bother. It was just bleak and devastating and not close to family or friends. Although amazingly, we will see that his disciples would come to him at times. But as I said, it's not so hard to imagine that John might have become a little dismayed and thinking, how could an evil man do things like this, and attack God's messenger with impunity? There have been times though when evil men have done bad things to good people. John might have thought it should be different now Messiah is at hand. The Son of God is here to set things right. John had seen the Holy Spirit descend on Him like a dove. He'd heard stories of Jesus working miracles. John knew that Jesus was teaching large crowds the truth God's way. So it might make sense that John was expecting this Messiah to counter Herod's evil works, set him free not let this go unchallenged.

Thinking back to your enthusiasm about when you came into God's Church, did you feel sort of the way John the Baptist might have? That you expected blessings, things are going to be good from now on I know God's way. God will thwart my adversaries. I'm pausing because I just love to use the word thwart in a sentence. Maybe you weren't as naive as some of us. I remember at times feeling that way. But either way, whether you did feel that way or not, sometimes life turns out to be pretty tough even after baptized. Even after you're baptized, and you're filled with the Holy Spirit, when things really just beat you down, and you suffer and you see good people doing badly and bad people seeming to prosper. You can start to lose some of that early confidence, some of that rock-solid faith that you felt would never dwindle.

I know there are some in this audience and some of you out watching perhaps over the internet that might have been in the Church a few decades ago, when some of the things we were so confident about concerning prophecy, turned out that we were a little misinformed or misled. You know, we had a lot of scenarios focusing on the year 1975. And when nothing happened, except sort of an energy crisis the next year or so. But, you know, that sort of changed things then we said, well, maybe it was 81 or 82. It wasn't uncommon for some people after those milestones past, for some people to start to reassess their faith. And some even left the Church just gave up. Thankfully, not all. You know, as a Church, we reassessed and said, yeah, we know God's Word is true. That's one thing. I'm glad we as a Church said, we might have done some misinterpretation, but the prophecy was never wrong. We came to realize end-time prophecy is sure, some of our interpretations or our guesses about how it will be fulfilled, you know, might not have been so sure.

But when we take a hard look, you know, sometimes when you're suffering, you have those questions. So maybe it's not surprising that John the Baptist, sitting in that lonely cell isolated, put there by an evil man who was living in luxury. Maybe John questioned a little of what he was so sure of before. He had some questions. He at least had one big question. We're still in the book of Luke, let's, if you will turn to chapter 7. Luke 7 will pick it up in verse 18.

Luke 7:18 Says “Then the disciples of John reported to him that is to John concerning all these things.”

What things? Well, prior to this, there are some pretty powerful miracles going on. Matter of fact, just at the top of my column, there's a story of Jesus stopping a funeral procession. Said I was going to go slow, and I'm not. He stopped this procession, and he saw a poor widow who'd lost her only son weeping. And in his compassion, he stopped the procession and raised that boy back to life. And it seems the disciples of John the Baptist saw that might have saw Jesus feed thousands with a few loaves of bread, healing people doing all kinds of things. And they reported to John the Baptist, who was sitting there not experiencing miracles, not eating loaves and fishes, and not experiencing all these good things.

Luke 7:18-19 “The disciples of John reported to him concerning these things. And John calling two of his disciples sent to him,” that is sent to Jesus, “calling his disciples to him, John sent them to Jesus, saying, are you the coming one or do we look for another?” Go ask Him this question. “So when they come to Him,” verse 20, they said, “‘John the Baptist sent us.’” You know, John the Baptist. You know, we all know who John the Baptist was, and so did Jesus. Said “Are you the coming one or do we look for another?”

You know, are you the one that we were so sure of? Is it going to be someone else? Were we wrong about you, Jesus? That's powerful thought. Now, John, does not accuse Jesus of any wrongdoing, does he? He doesn't say how dare you. He doesn't say you're not meaning, you know, this or that. He doesn't point to Scripture. He just asked the question. And there are different ways of interpreting this. One thing we should acknowledge is knowing the prophecies of Him to come some people thought maybe there'll be two or three men come and fulfill this. So some might have...you know, John might have had in mind, is there another one coming too or were we just wrong about you altogether? I don't want to analyze that too far, but let's look at what Jesus said. Look down to verse 22. Jesus, he didn't even miss a beat. And notice there's no reprimand to John. Jesus represents God's patience and faith, which I believe he shows to us. You know, I say about myself, a lot of times I know I deserve a reprimand I don't always get. He just tells Him this.

Luke 7:22-23 “He answered and said, ‘Go tell John the things you've seen and heard.”’ What things? “The blind see, the lame walk.” See that guy walking over there he had to be carried in. See that guy there listening to us talk, he was deaf this morning. You know, “The lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised.” As I said, if you just glance up to verse 14, the dead were raised not long before that. “The poor have the gospel preached to them.” Up to this point, it's interesting you could say he's quoting prophecy. And we'll go look at some prophecies. But what he says next is not a prophecy it's simply an admonition. “Blessed is he who is not offended because of me.”

Please don't take offense. And just think John the Baptist was the son of a priest. As I said we don't know a lot about his upbringing, but I imagine he knew the Scriptures probably inside and out. He knew those prophecies, especially if he was told you were the one preparing the way. You're the one making straight paths and raising up the low places. And well, I don't know if he leveled any mountains. But, you know, keep in mind who you are and there's one coming after you. So John must have known all this. We're going to come back here, but if you will turn to Isaiah 35. I probably should have mentioned that a little earlier that we're going to go to Isaiah 35. But everybody knows where Isaiah is. It's right there in Isaiah's place, No. Isaiah 35 and we'll begin in verse 4. This is part of what I believe is a beautiful prophecy of the kingdom of God we call them millennial prophecies. But notice the things that are prophesied to happen after the Messiah comes.

Isaiah 35:5  It says, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.”

And it goes on to talk about waters bursting forth in the wilderness. This clear messianic prophecy, as I said which John would have known, foretells exactly some of the miracles that Jesus Christ was performing. I don't know that Jesus said this, but He might have told John's messengers, look at what I'm doing. I'm doing what the Messiah was prophesied to do. What do you think, am I the one that's coming? Do you need to look for another one? Now, I don't think Jesus would have said it like that, that sounds a little bit sarcastic. And I don't think He was I think He was patient and gentle. But I think it's pretty clear He was letting them know there is no need to look for another one I'm it.

But I'll note that many Bible scholars believe that it wasn't only Isaiah 35 that Jesus was quoting. If you turn ahead and Isaiah to chapter 61. Isaiah 61, beginning in verse 1, it seems that part of what Jesus told those disciples of John, He might have drawn from this. Now, He's known to have read this before. When Jesus began His ministry in the synagogue, there's the story that Luke tells He went to the synagogue as was His custom. They handed Him the scroll of the book of Isaiah, and he opened it, and He read what we'll see in Isaiah 61. And then famously, He closed the scroll And they all looked at Him and said, “This has been fulfilled in your eyes.” So He well knew this was about Him. But let's read it.

Isaiah 61:1 He says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor, he sent me to heal the brokenhearted.”

Now, the part I want to focus on is “good tidings to the poor.” Because if you look in Luke 7:22, after He talks about the blind, see the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, He does say “the poor have the gospel preached to them.” By the way, gospel is another way of saying good tidings. Good news preached to the poor. But he didn't quote any of the rest of Isaiah 61:1. He did not quote where it says, to proclaim liberty to the captives. He didn't quote where it says, opening of the prison to those who are bound. He didn't tell John I'm going to get you out. Rather, He said, “Bless it is He who doesn't take offense.” He could have been saying, John, you’ve got to hold on to your faith a little bit longer because I'm not coming to get you. You know, I don't know how that would have been implied, but I think it was there. And he's saying blessed are those who are not offended.

Perhaps we could expound on that and say blessed are those who don't lose faith when they suffer. Blessed are those who don't doubt when things don't go the way they thought they would, or at least they don't let the doubt settle and stay in their mind. Doubts do cross our minds. This seems to have been Jesus telling John the Baptist, I'm not getting you out of prison. That would have been a hard answer for John to hear. I can imagine they come back and they said Jesus said this. It's not described what John thought or what he said. You could theorize “How dare He, He's not the Messiah.” We don't have in Scripture a description. You know, what we do know is later Herod is going to have John killed, his story will end, his head will be cut off and presented on a silver platter.

Should we think that John ended his life in doubt? Should we think that he lost faith? Well, I'm going to say no, I don't think that not in the least. Largely because of what Jesus Himself said about John. It tells me that Jesus knew. John might have had a moment of doubt, but I think that Jesus's answer lifted him up through that. You know, sometimes hearing that, okay, things are tough, isn't necessarily going to ruin your faith it's just okay I know it's going to be tough, I know where we're going. I want to go back to Luke chapter 7. I mentioned keeping a finger there hope you did. Luke 7:24. As I said we don't see a description of how John reacted, but we see what Jesus said to the crowd around him.

Luke 7:24-25 “When the messengers of John had departed, Jesus began to speak to the multitudes concerning John.” So thinking of when those multitudes went out to hear John powerfully preach and teach people what they should do. He says, “What did you go out to the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” Did you expect him to be some weakling blown around in the wind? It's a rhetorical question. The obvious answer is no, nobody went to John because they thought he was weak or wavering. Well, what did you go out to see? “A man clothed in soft garments?”

You know, somebody had a cushy easy life spoiled, you know, people, gorgeously appareled or live in luxury and kings courts. The answer again is no that's not what you went to John the Baptist for. He was wearing camels hair and a leather girdle, which I don't think he was shabbily dressed. He wasn't wearing animal hide probably high-quality clothing.

Luke 7:26-28 “But what did you go out to see a prophet?” You betcha. If Jesus was from Minnesota, that's what he would have said. He said, “Yes, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.” Okay, he was that prophet to prepare the way. And it says at verse 28, “I say to you that among those born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.”

That's a pretty good company. No one greater than John the Baptist. Just think Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, many others. But you know what, all of those men, if we study at least several of them, we can see accounts of them, having moments of weakness, moments of doubt. Now, Elijah ran off and hid and asked God to take his life. Jeremiah kept saying, God, what's going on why am I suffering and the bad guys are doing well? And we could go on through all of them.

So that's not an incrimination of John. But Jesus said none of those guys were greater than John. But he did say, “He who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Being a great prophet in this life isn't our goal, being accounted among the most worthy, being followed, and having crowds call out your name, that's not what we're here for. Our goal is to be in the kingdom of God that's what we're all struggling for and I think we know that. Although I like pat's on the back, you know, when people will come say “Oh, that was a good message.” No, I'm not asking for that, by the way. But you know, it feels good to have people tell you oh, you're good, and you're great.

I'm sure John loved it when crowds came to hear him speak, but this seems to be implying, perhaps he knew what the goal was, just as we know what the goal is. I choose to believe that John wasn't wavering. Remember, Jesus said this to the crowd about John. He never needed to say it to John. I think it's because Jesus well knew the quality of John's character. I think he knew that the message he sent was enough, you know. And perhaps it was difficult news, but I think John could accept that being released from prison wasn't his destiny. The character and faith of John was probably such that he could accept it and look for his ultimate redemption in God's kingdom.

But with that, are there some lessons for us in that other than yeah, John was a good guy after all? I think that's worthy. But one of the points I've tried to make in this message is that if and when a Christian has moments of momentary doubt, and I just realized I said moments of momentary and that's not good grammar. If you have challenges in your faith, you're in good company John the Baptist was there the greatest of prophets. So maybe you've had doubts cross your mind, I'm not going to say that's no big deal. And I don't mean to imply that we should not correct the situation. Don't let those doubts linger, don't let them fester they're dangerous. But there's a way to deal with them.

I believe we should do what John the Baptist did in that situation. Because you might read through that story and say, oh, interesting story, but you know what he did when he had doubts, he went to Jesus and asked the question. He didn't just sit and ponder it. And he didn't post on Facebook saying, what's this Jesus guy doing? He didn't talk to anyone else, he sent messengers to Jesus.

When we have doubts, we can go directly to God the Father, and Jesus Christ in His right hand. Paul wrote that we can go boldly to the throne of grace and I urge us all to do that. John didn't try to just work it out by himself, and neither should we. If we have doubts, we should go straight to God. And you know what happened when John took his doubts to Jesus Christ, Jesus directed him to the Word of God. I took us back to Isaiah to see that Jesus quoted basically prophecies. So he didn't just say trust me, I know what I'm saying, you know, He said, look at God's word. Christ reminded John of what he had studied before and what he well knew what he'd proven. That was enough for John I think and I think it's enough for us.

You know, when I have a doubt or a question, it's almost always most helpful for me to turn to God's Word. And with prayer remember what I've studied and what I've proven to myself, you know, and some of the basics. I know, there is a God, I know there's a creator. I know this is His Word. I've studied, I've proven it, it is. I know that God has a plan and a purpose. And I know that plan and purpose involves bringing many children to glory in His family. Sometimes I just need to remind myself that I know those things. Or the way I like to say it I know it, and I know that I know it so get rid of those doubts.

John the Baptist he only might have allowed the circumstances, you know, and maybe some incorrect assumptions about how God would carry out His plan to get him flustered. So I said, I think we do that sometimes we can, let's face it, we live in a world that seems to be changing substantially and not meeting our expectations. Just in the last couple of years, you know, what's happened, and largely because of something we can't even see. But it's not just the virus that we think about governments and, you know, institutions changing how they react. It's possible that over the course of the last couple of years, you've had doubts, you know, doubted where is God. You know, you look and say is this Church doing what I thought it would do, or is it not doing things I thought it should do?

You know, maybe you've had doubts, is it really God's Church? I hope not. But if you did, you might not be a lot different than John the Baptist. And when I say you, I mean me, all of us together, you know, locked up in prison and saying things aren't going the way I thought they should. But for John, it turned out he'd been right in the first place Jesus was Christ. I'm confident not only is Jesus the Christ, but I believe He is the head of His Church, and we're in it, and we're going about doing His work. As I said, you might have thoughts here and there is the Church doing what it should? Is it not doing what it should? Let's remember what we know. And by the way, I'm not casting doubts on the Church. Being here at the home office, I see it's difficult to make decisions and plan and administer those things.

But God is working things out and we can have great trust and confidence. No matter what we think, if we have doubts or concerns, I think we can all do exactly what John the Baptist did. Well, not exactly because we can't call disciples and send them to Jesus. But we can go to Jesus Christ and His Father in heaven and we can ask for guidance. And we can allow them to point us to His Word and remind us of what we know, what we studied and proven.

As I said Jesus Christ is still the head of His Church, and no man is. And there's men that I greatly respect guiding, and you know, leading the Church, but they're following Jesus Christ who is the leader. If we all study our Bibles, if we remind ourselves of what we indeed know, what we've proven, I'm confident our faith will reassert itself and grow strong. We can rely on that faith, we can rely on our trust in God just like John the Baptist did.