Faithful No Matter What
FAITHFUL NO MATTER WHAT
When we read this passage of scripture I am not sure we really understand what God is trying to teach us here. We may just read over this and not really grasp the lessons.
- In this passage God shows us two things that are a real threat to our faith in Christ and consequently they are two things that are a real threat to our salvation.
- They are two things that can happen to anyone and when we see either one of these two things happening in our lives we need to make sure they don’t make us stumble and fall.
Look again at the passage that was read…look at vs. 2-3: Now when John in prison heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples, 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
- Now, if you look down at verses 7-19 there is no doubt that this John here is John the Baptist.
- And notice again the question he asks of Jesus: “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
- John, how could you ask this? How could you even think this?
Prior to this John had no doubts about Jesus being the “Expected One.”
- Back in chapter 3 when Jesus came to be baptized by John, John said, “I have need to be baptized by You!”
And remember in John chapter 1 when John saw Jesus coming to him at the Jordan River, John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
And John was there when Jesus was baptized and the voice from heaven declared, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
- Before this John didn’t have any doubts about who Jesus was.
But now things are different. John is asking, “Jesus, are you the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
- Why is it that John seems to have these doubts now?
- What has changed?
Well, I think there are basically two things that have made John doubt and wonder…and I think they are the same two things that make a lot of faithful Christians have doubts at times as well…and may cause some of us to doubt in the future and those two things are “Hardships and Misunderstanding.”
- Let me show you what I mean.
Look at verse 2 again.
Now when John in prison…
- When this takes place John is in the infamous Machearus Prison which lies about 5 miles east of the Dead Sea.
- If you go over to Mark 6 starting in verse 17 the scriptures tell us that “Herod Antipas (who was the king) had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her.”
- John had boldly told the king that he was committing adultery and was not right with God.
- As a result John winds up in prison…
And let me tell you, in Bible days prisons were much different than they are today.
- They didn’t have air conditioning…and they didn’t have a library…or a weight room…or cable TV…and there was no government agency monitoring how you were treated.
- Their prisons were dark and dingy rat infested holes in the ground…what we might call a dungeon…and they didn’t get 3 square meals a day…they were glad to get bread and water.
- So, what you have here is, John is in this prison.
And John was familiar with difficult circumstances…he lived in the wilderness and wore camel skin and ate locust and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)
- But now this is different…conditions in prison are worse than horrible…and John is used to being out in the open, wide spaces. He is not used to being confined like this.
We read this and we think, wow! Prison is not where John should be…after all he has lived his entire life for the Lord!
- The Bible says in Luke 1:15 that he was “filled with the Spirit of God from his mother’s womb;”
- He had surrendered at an early age to be God’s spokesman…a forerunner of the Messiah.
- But now he has been in prison almost a year…and it doesn’t appear that he will get out soon. (You might expect something like this for an ungodly man but not for someone who was serving the Lord…not for someone who was faithful to God)
- This is not at all what John had in mind…he envisioned something better than this.
- And so his hardships caused him to ask, “Are you the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
And isn’t that true for us as well? Don’t our hardships cause us to question God? Question Christ?
- We may not like to admit it but hardships have the same effect on us as they did John.
But it wasn’t only the hardships that made John doubt…he apparently misunderstood what he expected the “Expected One” to do.
- You see, when John was preaching of the coming Messiah before, he spoke of someone who would come in judgment;
- In chapter 3:7 when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
And in Matthew 3: 10 he said , “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “
And then in chapter 3:12 John spoke of the Messiah as having “His winnowing fork in His hand, thoroughly clearing His threshing floor; and gathering His wheat into the barn, but burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
- You see, that is the idea that John had in mind…he had in mind a Messiah that was coming in judgment; cutting down the “bad fruit”; “clearing the threshing floor and gathering His wheat, and burning the chaff.”
But when John hears of the works of Christ…when he hears of the miracles of mercy and the words of grace that were coming from the lips of Jesus…this may have very well not harmonized with what John was expecting.
- He may have well been expecting a Messiah that was going to set up a kingdom and bring judgment on the wicked…
- And as Isaiah 42:7 says, he may have expected someone who “He will bring prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.”
And so the combination of the hardship that he is enduring and some wrong ideas of what he expected…is causing him to doubt…and so he asks, “Are you the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
You see, hardships alone can cause faithful people to doubt but combine those hardships with some misunderstanding of the will of God and you get what you have here with John.
One of the most popular misconceptions that people have today, including perhaps some of us, is the idea that “I believe in God…I am faithful to God…therefore bad things shouldn’t happen to me.”
- “And, if it does…if something bad does happen…then I can pray to God and He will take it away from me.”
- But, what if He doesn’t…what if God doesn’t take it away…what if He doesn’t remove the problem? What do you do then?
- Why this Covid-19? We have prayed and it is still here!
- I have lost my job! Why God?
- My wife is sick! Make her well?
- What happens if He doesn’t do that? Does, like John, does doubt set in?
Well, look at how Jesus responds to John’s question, vs. 4: And Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
- Here Jesus quotes from Isaiah 35: 5-6 and Isaiah 61:1…and what Jesus does here is, He doesn’t rebuke John for his doubt…or even rebuke him for what he thought the Messiah was to do.
- Jesus would do all those things…He would “cut down the tree that did not bear good fruit and cast it into the fire…
- And yes, He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire…”
But, the prophet Isaiah also said that the Messiah would “give sight to the blind, heal the lame, cleanse the lepers, cause the deaf to hear, raise up the dead, and preach the gospel to the poor.”
- The Messiah didn’t come to just bring judgment on the wicked and ungodly…He also came to take “the captive to sin, captive for God.” 4:8.
- He came to bring people into the kingdom of God.
- He did these things that they might believe that He is the Son of God and that they might have eternal life through Him. (John 20:30-31)
- It seems that John may not have understood this…or because of his hardship lost sight of this.
- And I believe that this same thing happens to many today…we see one perspective of Christ while failing to see another….we may see Him as Judge…and fail to see Him as Savior.
Because of John’s misunderstanding of what he thought the Expected One was to do….because of his misunderstanding of the will of God…John struggled with doubt.
- And that same thing happens today…perhaps to some of us.
- God has never told us that we would live problem free.
- And when problems come He has never told us that He would remove them.
- What He has told us is how He will use them to increase our faith, make us stronger, so that we might be an example to others.
Now there is something else here…Jesus says, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
- No false prophet ever did this…no system of false religion ever promised this or fulfilled this.
- And yet these are the very things that were happening…and what this indicated to all and especially to John was “Jesus was no imposter.”
- He is the real deal…the Messiah…the Expected One.
And look at verse 6 because this is, what I believe the all important lesson to be learned from this. Jesus says, “And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me.”
- In Rom 9:32 the apostle Paul quotes from Isaiah 28 and Isaiah 8 and he says:
They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
Many of the Jewish religious leaders, the scribes, Pharisees, the Priests, and Rabbis stumbled over Jesus.
- Even when they saw the miracles, the healing, the dead being raised…even when they heard the gospel being preached…they still refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah…the Son of God.
- And what Jesus is saying here in Matthew 11:6 is “Blessed is he who believes in Me.”
- “Even when you are going through severe hardships…even when He is doing things that you don’t fully understand…even when He doesn’t do what you think He should do…even when it seems as though He has forgotten you…or He doesn’t seem to care about you…you continue to trust in Jesus…you remain faithful to Him.
- In fact, look at the very end of Romans 9:33: “And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
Jesus is saying to John…and to all of us…”You be faithful no matter what.”
For the past couple of months Lonnie Jameson has been teaching a class on “The Creation vs. Evolution” and I am confident that we all believe that God created the “heavens and the earth and all things in them.”
- What we may fail to understand is that the world that God created ceased to exist because of sin…and the world we now live in is cursed.
- God created life, harmony, and joy…but death, hostility, and pain now fill the earth.
- And when those things come into our lives we are prone to doubt: ‘Why God? Why is this happening? Why am I going through this?”
- “God’s ways are not our ways…and God’s wisdom is higher than our wisdom”…and we often do not understand why we are going through the hardships…the thing we must do is “trust in the Lord with all our heart…and lean not on our own understanding” Prov. 3:5.
There are a lot of things going on in our world…in our society…in our lives that we don’t fully understand…but regardless…you stay faithful to Christ.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023