John the Baptist: Discouraged and Doubting Pt. 1

John the Baptist sat in his prison. He was held captive as a result of his rebuke toward Herod for his inappropriate relationship with his brother’s wife. In boldness he pronounced the open sin was wrong before a righteous God, and in boldness Herod had him arrested, exacting vengeance for his rebuke.

Matthew 11:11 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?

The longer he sat there lonely, where he could not see the works of the Saviour, the more he became discouraged. He began to simply ask himself whether Jesus was who He said he was, or not. John’s disciples noticed that his countenance was not as vivid as before. The light in his eyes was faded and the fire of his great voice was extinguished. The man that declared with great vigor and excitement that Jesus was the Son of God that would take away the sins of the entire world, was now questioning His reality. The man whose ears heard the voice of God say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” no longer remembered the stamp of approval on that day.

John the Baptist was born different than any other person in the Bible because before he was born, he was chosen to be forerunner of Christ (Matt. 11:11). Even Jesus mentions the importance of John the Baptist’s work later on in Matthew 11 saying, “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist…” His mother, Elisabeth was cousins with Christ’s mother Mary.

John had a definite God-ordained ministry, so why was he discouraged and doubting?

In my opinion, it was because he was taken out of the ministry he was actively involved in and isolated. Even as important as he was to the work of the Lord at that time in history, he was frail when alone.

Jesus understood that John, just like the rest of us, needed some reaffirmation and reassurance.

Matthew 11:4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, and the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

John’s disciples had a simple task:

  • to declare the works of Jesus back to him.

I want to challenge you, if you are in an isolated place like John, to look for the miracles going on outside your situation.

Sometimes when we are struggling we do not like to hear about the successes of other Christians and how God is working in their lives because it makes us think of the loss that we have suffered. According to Jesus’ advice, it is vital that you look out beyond your circumstances and see the Lord’s work elsewhere. He is still performing miracles, meeting needs, and people are still reaching and preaching to the lost souls of the world. He wants you to see and hear about the good news from a far country (or what seems to be) and be lifted up.

As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. Proverbs 25:25

I love the verse that says, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep,” in Romans 12:15. This verse explains to us that it’s okay to be happy for others in their moments of rejoicing and it’s okay for us to have grief and allow others to grieve with us when we are in our low moments. I believe that you can both rejoice and grieve in the at the same time. In a situation of discouragement and doubt where you may be tempted to only look at your problems, the best way to get out of those problems is to look at God and His works.

So what types of God’s works should you be looking for when you are discouraged and doubting God?
  1. “The blind receive their sight.” Look for things that are obvious as you look around your world at God’s creation and His people. Rejoice in God’s handiwork!
  2. “The lame walk.” Think about how God has worked in the lives of a repentant prodigal son or daughter. Is there someone that was once “lame” in their life and now they are walking on the narrow path of God’s ways? Rejoice in God’s unfailing love!
  3. “The lepers are cleansed.” Lepers were given a death sentence because of their disease, sinners are given a death sentence for their sin. Can you think of someone that recently got saved? Rejoice in their belief in Christ’s work on the cross!
  4. “The deaf hear.” Listen for things that God is doing in the life of His church, in the families around you, and in the world. God is speaking, can you hear? Rejoice in the instruments God uses to speak to your heart!
  5. “The dead are raised up.” This should give you certain hope if you’ve been discouraged yourself. Can you think of someone that also struggles with discouragement and doubt? How did God raise their spirit up so that they had life again? If you don’t know… ask them! Rejoice in God’s love for life!
  6. “The poor have the gospel preached to them.” There was something different about Jesus because He reached out to everyone no matter their social status. It must have been something unique for the poor people to be being preached to, that is why Jesus mentioned with a list of miracles. Jesus really did come to seek and save all men. Can you think of a missionary who preaches the gospel to his country’s poor? Can you think of a person in your church or ministry that reaches unlovely people like Bartimaeus? Rejoice in God’s efforts through common man!

Miracles are all about us, I challenge you to write those miracles down in a journal for you to look at when you are like John and you are discouraged and doubting. Part 2 covers the part of Jesus’ words to John that said, “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

Mr. Grief the Teacher

This is something I wrote a few weeks ago and am just now publishing. It tells about my grief set aside because of a busy ministry schedule. I hope that when Mr. Grief the teacher comes to teach you that you will contemplate the meaning of your life, whether it truly has meaning or not. Whether you are spinning your wheels in the busy and “good” things instead of the right and godly things. We live and learn and as Mr. Grief teaches, God teaches…

My cousin passed away this week. Although we were not really close I still have felt grief and heaviness in my heart and my thoughts have been clogged with thoughts of life and death. I do not understand God’s ways, why He allows some people to expect their death and prepare for it, and for other people they are just taken within moments or days and then they are gone into eternity.

Some people say that death, no matter when it happens, you can never really be ready for someone to go. I thought maybe they were right until I watched my great-grandmother deal with a dementia and slowly go downhill over 7 years. She was begging God to take her long before she died and when she did go there was peace. Peace knowing she was no longer suffering and that she was with the Saviour. We were ready for her to go because of the sadness there was within each day as she struggled to think and even know who or where she was.

My cousin went unexpectedly when thrown from his vehicle because he was not wearing a seat belt and was driving too fast. His truck rolled and he was ejected out of the passenger’s side window. Being rushed to the hospital he was expected to live until his heart stopped and he was unable to be resuscitated.

Our ministry schedule was so busy with upcoming events that I had responsibilities in that I was not able to attend the funeral. I have felt sad about that all week. I have also felt like I have not been able to be sad because I just have to keep going to get the responsibilities at church and at home done so we can function as a family. None of the other staff families seemed to know about it and I just don’t know how to bring it up. I realize this is a minor grief because he was not immediate family, but my heart still hurts for his family and for his infant son.

My mom said something in the voice mail when she told me about his passing (because I was in church services) that she was glad that my sisters and I were still here because “love lost, hurts.” That quote has swirled around in my brain like water escaping down the drain.

My sister was mad because he had made many dumb decisions in his past and felt as if he had wasted his life and that got me to thinking about life and wasting it. I don’t want to waste my life.

I am so thankful God has called us to serve and work in His ministry because a life lived for Him in the right spirit and attitude can never be a waste.

“Redeem the time because the days are evil,” and our life is a “vapor.” I heard a story about a lady that had a bee trapped in their minivan so she parked her van in the driveway, which was at an incline, so she could get it out. The van ended up rolling over her and killing her that day. God reminds me of the brevity of life and how important it is to know the Saviour and serve Him each and every day in my family and to those around me.

I write notes and letters to my family before I leave on a long trip in the car. If something were to happen then I want them to always know that I love them. That my heart was toward them and with them even until the last day that I lived and breathed here on this earth, and that they need to love and trust our God and Saviour because He loves them. Never do I want them to doubt my love. I’m not a perfect wife or mother but I love my family.

The why’s of life are tricky. We have a superior God in heaven that weaves the tapestry of each person’s life according to His plan. I don’t understand some days, but I must trust His heart.

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Untimely Death & The Sins of Others

Ministry news comes in many forms, the greatest is the good news! The eye-witness accounts of the salvation of souls and the transformation of lives as people turn from worldliness to godliness. The joy of families having healthy babies and training their children to grow up following the Lord the best they know how. More good news from the mission field of churches being established and left in the hands of the national people. The saint that has followed the Lord faithfully to the end of their life and are now in the presence of the Saviour. The rejoicing when those in our church surrender to God’s calling on their life, whether it is for them to be in the ministry or simply becoming a more godly Christian. These are the reports that fill the heart sometimes until it wants to explode in praise to God the Father for all the good God does in the hearts of men.

Then, the flip side, the news that can shake your faith and leave questions in your mind about the goodness of the Lord. The things that I cannot shake this week does not have to do with worry about life but the why’s of life. In the closet of my heart hang these questions of why do evil things have to happen? Why do godly people suffer? Why do Christians willfully make choices to sin against the Lord?

All people have these questions, some people even use them as an excuse not to believe in God or allow Him to have an influence in their lives. But me, God chose me to be in His service and I still have questions, doubts even. Yet, I must have faith and hope that He is Omniscient (all-knowing), and Omnipotent (all-powerful), and Omnipresent (ever-present). Not only does God see the imperfection of this world He sees the questions hanging in my heart.

For me this week it revolves around death… untimely death. A deacon in our church has been given a 2 month diagnosis with his 14 brain tumors that have returned after 6 years of remission. Then there is the situation of a missionary’s wife we support that was killed on Valentine’s Day. The likely suspect is her husband that was arrested a few days ago. The report that our city is one of the highest leaders in partial birth abortion just makes me sick to my stomach. Then the thought of 2 Christian friends I have known in the past that have taken their lives. The list can go on from car wrecks to household accidents… the evil report of untimely death can weigh heavy on the heart of people in the ministry and hang over you like a cloud if you let it.

The report of sin has also been weighing me down… Finding out about people’s choices to sin gets to me. It has caused me to question every motive of a person and whether they really love the Lord, or whether the conversations we’ve had in the past were actually real conversations or fake representations of who they were.  Whether their motives were pure when they did right. The grief of knowing secret things of people’s lives can really mess with your head if you let it.

I remember a time when I was an assistant RA (Resident Advisor) in college and in the middle of the afternoon some of the girls in our dorm started having a conversation about a trip they went on and how they went to a concert instead of the girl’s house like they had reported. The room got silent as they realized I was sitting there and in my heart I sighed because now I was going to have to let the Dean of Women know about it… their choices obligated me to have to take action according to the rules of the school.

Churches have specific leadership requirements and people do not see how their sin keeps them from serving in the particular positions that they wish to work in. Or their choices disqualify them from service and obligate someone else to confront them and remove them from service. It’s a grief to know about all the faulty choices people make. The questions hanging in my closet are: Why do people choose to hurt themselves and the name of Christ by choosing to sin? Do they realize how their sin affects others?

When others sin, it sits on the doorstep of my mind and  it causes me to make a decision about how I feel about them, what I think about them, how I am going to respond to this knowledge of their choices. It is my response to these thoughts that determine if I will allow the decisions that others make to be a stumbling block for me.

People generally do not walk away from God in an instant, it’s a slow process, like the Chinese water torture method of dripping. The dripping of doubts and questions may break my heart and my will to fight for God’s Kingdom. It may not be that I fall into that same sin that someone else is involved in but if I allow Satan to bring thoughts, questions, and doubts about who God is and His goodness then it could take me steps farther from Him. The more questions and doubts I allow the more steps away from God I could take until I finally walk away… Oh Lord, I never want to walk away from you or the work you have for me! Please help me with my thoughts!

The solution for the questions hanging in the dark closet of my heart has to be that I must give over my questions and thoughts of all the evil reports that I hear over to the Lord. I must do what it says in I Peter 5:7, “Casting all your care upon him.”

Some people have thick tough skins and it may not bother them to hear of untimely death or church members sinning but many things eat like a canker sore at my heart and cause me to run them through my head a million times over.  I have no other spiritual choice than to say, “Lord, I can’t handle this, please take this from my mind and memory right now. I can’t fix this, only you can.”

God takes them from me, and the rest of the verse tells me why, “he careth for you.” God does not want me to be weighted down heavily with the evils of sin and the problems of this world even if they have to do with members in our church or members of my family. He wants to carry any and all burdens from me.

Here’s a Special Note:

It’s important that when we converse with other Christians, even our friends in the ministry, that we do not dump reports of sin and evil on them in every conversation that we have. You really do not know the sensitivity they have about dealing with facts of sin and evil. Some people may grieve,  others will get angry and may feel motivated to do something about it personally when it is not their place to say or do something.

I have been so thankful for a few situations where friends have known of someone in the ministry that have fallen into sin and told me about the person having a sin problem but have NOT disclosed the details.

Philippians 4:8 is very significant in revealing what my thoughts and reports should be:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

We live in a sin cursed world where things do not make sense at times and the hope we have is to think on God’s good things… that is why it is so wonderful to hear good news from afar and to see the work of God in the hearts and lives of people in His church. Good news can be the relief to help take the burdens off of others’ shoulders. We should not reject real and serious problems with the “power of positive thinking.” There is a time and place for everything. Asking the Lord to give you discretion on how to deal with sensitive topics and whether you should disclose details on “negative” or sinful reports will help you make wiser decisions and relieve others from unnecessary burdens.

As I pillow my head tonight I can have peace that the questions hanging in my closet have been given away. God’s taking them to Goodwill for me and replacing them with lovely things to hang in their place. Thank you Lord for taking my burdens and caring for me!

And another side note:

Does this mean that because I have questions or doubts or that the knowledge of other people’s sin bothering me that I am not qualified to counsel other women that confess their faults? No, any time a lady brings a problem to you, you are responsible for pointing them to the Lord and helping them find answers in His Word. You are not responsible for changing them or coming up with a solution to change them. God changes people, His Word and Holy Spirit must be used to convict them so that they can change. Notify your pastor and let him know if someone has spoken to you. And remember you should always keep matters of counseling private and cast any and all things to the Lord so that you can live free from the bondage of knowing too much.