I read a portion of the Scriptures lately that left me with one question: What happened to John the Baptist? As you read on, you will surely ask yourself this question.
‘Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist’. These are the words of Jesus as a testimony about the person of John. I can’t think of a better endorsement for a minister than this. John was exceptional on so many levels but my favorite is the clarity with which he executed his earthly purpose – to prepare the way and identify Jesus as Messiah.
John was no average prophet. He was a man filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb as spoken by the angel Gabriel. He possessed a keen spiritual discernment even as a fetus such that when Mary visited a pregnant Elizabeth, John in the womb at six months old recognized the significance of the moment and leaped for joy. He knew his scriptures and had what would be considered a mega church today despite his odd location in the wilderness.
John wastes no time telling the crowd at his baptism services that one greater then he was coming who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. At the appearance of Jesus, John tries to resist HIM from being baptized demanding rather that he be baptized by Jesus. Evidence abounds in John’s gospel as well that John the Baptist identified Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Everything John did and said suggests that he had no doubts about Jesus’ Messianic identity. He was very confident of this thus he didn’t feel threatened by the success of Jesus’ ministry, telling his disciples that ‘He (Jesus) must increase and I (John) must decrease because HE has come from above (heaven) and is above all’.
I laid a thorough foundation to say this; John undoubtedly knew that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah and identified Him publicly as such on more than one occasion. He was never taught this but knew it by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. He gave amazing testimony beyond any shadow of doubt that Jesus was the Christ who came from heaven. In light of this premise, the following text is bizarre:
And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?. – Matthew 11:2-3 (NKJV)
It disagrees with the premise, which is backed by sufficient evidence that John would send two disciples to ask Jesus “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” How, when and why did he go from being so convinced of Jesus as Messiah to what is seen in this text? He was clear about who Jesus was at some point and he preached it with incredible insight. His entire purpose was indelibly linked to the identification of Jesus and the preparation of the way for HIM. What happened to John? Why would he question all that he ever knew and preached? Why would he be in doubt?
The answer lies within and is quite simple; John was in Prison. His circumstances made him question the Messianic identity of Jesus. There is a tendency for us to pick on what we believe God is not doing in our lives and cast doubt on the faithfulness of God or even the very person of God. He was saying to Jesus in other words that ‘I am starting to doubt that You are the Messiah because your works are incomplete’. After all in Isaiah 61:1 which Jesus quoted from in Luke 4:18-19 it says HE would open the prison doors to those that are bound. John was imprisoned and Jesus seemed to carry on with HIS ministry.
It is quite easy for an ailing Christian to develop doubts about God based on their current situation. There is a frustration that comes with confessing the Word and praying persistently and it seems nothing is happening. John would never have come to this point of disagreement had he not been in prison. I imagine he was in a state of deep internal conflict before summoning the courage to verbalize his doubts. That question railed against everything John had ever known and preached.
It is critical that we do not form a worldview of God based on where we are in our lives. We often try to define God by the things He isn’t doing rather than the things He is indeed doing. It is easy to say ‘God is good’ when all is well with us but saying it under contrary circumstances requires great faith. If John, the greatest of men according to Jesus’ testimony could fall into this trap of doubt then we are all susceptible to it. Rarely does one come across such a literal case of ‘it happens to the best of us’. I have met solid Christians who in their moment of trial tow a similar line.
This happens because we focus on that nagging need of the moment and magnify it till it begins to challenge our entire doctrine. What isn’t being done in your life can and should never be as relevant as what is being done in the world by God. This trap must be avoided. It is particularly dangerous because once we fall into such narcissistic view of our Christianity, we can hardly be saved from it.
It requires a conscious decision to focus on the things God is doing and has done rather than what is outstanding. Just because Jesus hasn’t healed you does not mean He isn’t saving souls across the globe. An event of tragedy in your life does not negate the work of restoration and deliverance that God is doing in various mission fields worldwide. We ultimately have to attain the height of Job who in his afflicted state declared in Job 13:15 ‘though HE slay me, yet will I trust in HIM.’
December has been said by mental health professionals to be the most depressing month of the year. Suicide rates are higher in December. People feel gloomy in December and the extreme weather conditions in some regions aren’t particularly thrilling. It is a time when we take stock and there is a sudden realization for many that those lofty exciting goals (most of us have them) set at the beginning of the year were just dreams. The reality of our failures for the year crystallizes in our minds as the days count down to the end of the year. Very vividly, those aspirations are slipping into the carry-over folder to be put on the agenda again for the next year.
This is the time when much like John, people who were so energized at the beginning of the year begin to wallow in doubt and question what they were once convinced of. As the curtain falls on 2014, it is indeed it is a time to take stock but it is also a time to count your many blessings and it would surprise you what the Lord has done. Shalom.