John the Baptist: Discouraged and Doubting Pt. 2

John the Baptist was going through personal difficulties after his active ministry was put to an abrupt stop when he confronted Herod about his infidelity. Herod in turn arrested John. There is no proof of what type of imprisonment he suffered, whether it was house arrest or in a dungeon, but we do know that he was isolated in a place where he could not longer view the works of Christ.

While John the Baptist was isolated, his disciples came to visit, and they were not able to do anything to be able to help his discouragement and doubt. He asked two of his disciples to go on a mission to ask Christ a specific question: “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”

In the last article we discussed Part 1 of Christ’s response to John the Baptist’s heavy question, which included them taking the good news of the works of He was doing outside John’s imprisonment. These answers can be found in Matthew 11.

The second part, includes a blessing with a condition.

John’s disciples also were dispatched to tell him, “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

Offended according to the Strong’s Concordance comes from the Greek word skandalizo.

Offended means:

  • to entrap
  • to trip up, or entice to sin
  • apostasy or displeasure
  • offend
  • The thought comes with it, “to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey.*

Jesus encouraged John not to distrust or desert Him.

Please do not allow yourself to be offended by how God is working outside of your situation. It is not about whether He loves you or not, because He does, it is about your choice not to become offended. Our difficulties in ministry and this life will come (Matthew 18:7), but Christ’s desire is that you do not become offended by them. Nothing should stand in our way to make us distrust or desert our Saviour.

Many of us are familiar with Paul’s writings and about the deserter, Demas, although it does not specifically say that he was offended in Christ, he left God’s work to follow after worldly desires. (Read about Demas in Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:24, and 2 Timothy 4:10.) Our offenses, if not properly managed with Biblical answers, will lead us away from our ministry and calling to find earthly comfort apart from God’s will for our lives. Guard your heart to keep your heart from wandering.

Another Biblical example is in the story of the sower and the seed. One of the portions of ground was sown and this is said about it in Mark 4:16,17 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;  And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.”

We do not want to have shallow roots enduring only until the persecutions and trials come into our lives, deserting God. Even though some pruning may happen in our lives we should strive to be the person whose heart is good fruitful ground.

THINK ABOUT THIS: Your present discouragement or doubt can be only as temporary as you will let it be. There is  joy when you are able to rejoice with those who rejoice. There is maturity when you can look beyond the bars of your jail cell and understand that hope really does exist beyond this situation and this life because we are blessed if we do not become offended. God allows us to choose fruitfulness.

John the Baptist’s end was going to be an unexpected death at the hands of wicked women, calling for him to be beheaded and his head to be brought before Herodias and her daughter. The Bible does not say what John the Baptist’s emotional status was before the beheading. I hope that as he received Christ’s personal message to him from his disciples, that he rallied with hope for eternity and for the souls of the people in the world who would believe and repent on Jesus.  I hope he made the choice not to become offended and chose the blessings of God.

Choosing not to be offended is not easy. It means it will take forgiveness. It means you will have to choose to be a blessing even when you may not feel like it. It means you may have to go the extra mile or strive to the peacemaker. It means you have the freedom to choose to love God, like Job, no matter what. It means you may have to overcome fears or walk away from hopeful expectations. It means that doors may be shut as you wait for the next one to open. It means you must be a living sacrifice, laying down yourself so you can receive God’s blessings.

Our God loves us more than we can imagine, but yet so often we forsake him like the disciples did that day of His crucifixion. We do not have to add to our own sorrow by adding offense to our situation. When you do not understand or you can see clearly the reason for your discouragement and doubt, love the Lord and desire to seek His face and know His presence. You will be all the better for it because God is fashioning you into the image of His Son.

Be confident in God’s workings in your life even if you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel because, if you’re still here then God’s still performing His work in you.

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Philippians 1:6

 

*Olive Tree Bible Software KJV Strong’s

 

 

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.”

Enduring Hardness in Ministry

Enduring Hardness in Ministry

Ministry is hard work! The Bible instructs all Christians that they should endure hardness, like a good solider. Many of us do well enduring hardness because in many ways it just becomes a way of life through trials and working with people.

II Timothy 2:3 says, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

My husband and I recently watched an of a TV show about how special operations military men get chosen to be a part of the units that turn into  Army Rangers that are the best of the best within the Army. The men attempting to become Army Rangers try out for 8 weeks under very stressful situations of exercise, limited sleep, small amounts of food, and it eventually builds up to having to lead operations in the woods of Georgia and the swamps of Florida to complete a mission while explosions are going off and shots are being fired. Out of over 300 men that began the training, I believe only 90 made it. It was hard to watch the men go through the hardness of the instructors while they were physically exhausted for weeks. The purpose their instructors gave was to simulate real situations they would go through if they were a part of the Ranger operational team as well as train them to rely on the soldier working beside them completely.

After watching personal interviews of several of the men and their instructors, you could see a hardness about their face. I know the life of a soldier is not easy and they see things that most Americans cannot fathom and they still go on… but you may notice spiritual soldiers in the work of the Lord can begin to hold that same amount of hardness in their face because of the battles they face from people or other spiritual matters.

God allows us to have spiritual battles in our lives. Satan attacks from every angle. Personal discouragement, immediate and extended family issues, church problems, finances, you name it and it can probably become a platform on which Satan can wage a battle against you, the people you love, or the church where you serve.

Hardness

The Greek word, kakopatheo, according to the Strong’s Concordance, is used in 2 Timothy 2:3 as the word hardness. It means “hardship, to be afflicted, endure afflictions, suffer troubles.”

Life is Hard. Period. For Everyone.

Ministry is Hard. Period. For Everyone.

We all have an equal opportunity to endure hardness… but we will not all do it in a way that pleases the Lord.

Enduring hardness means enduring rejection. Rejection of the values you hold dear, rejection of the Bible’s truths, rejection of God Himself and the priceless sacrifice Christ gave. Rejection of you personally when people decide to use you temporarily until their life gets better and they move on. More rejection of you or maybe even your spouse or children.

Enduring hardness means enduring sorrow. Sorrow in knowing the consequences of sin that await those that choose the path of the foolish. Sorrow in feeling alone in the work of the Lord. Sorrow in the unknown answers of the questions  you harbor in your heart.  Sorrow in the losses you experience when people you serve walk away.

Enduring Hardness means having faith when you cannot see. God can see all things, past, present, and future, and we cannot. We do not have the spiritual night goggles to be able to see the purposes of our trials on earth as we walk often through the valley of the shadow of death, so we must walk in faith. Walking in faith is not easy, sometimes it is like dragging our body through the mud, clutching to our firearm, keeping our head down low as the shots of the enemy fire above our heads. Faith is knowing that our spiritual safety is in God’s hand and that there are moments in time where the light of God’s Word and His Spirit will show  us the answers and provide for our needs. Faith must be toward all things in this life, whether material, financial, emotional, or spiritual.

Enduring hardness means extending yourself.  You can extend yourself until you want to no longer give. Sometimes it is extending your time and giving people more time than they seem to be worth. It’s extending your hand to “give to him that needeth,” even when they never seem to give to anyone else. It’s extending hospitality and opening your home to people who have allowed their kids to jump all over your furniture in the past. It is  extending the spiritual help someone needs to keep themselves going all while never expecting much in return.

Enduring hardness means dealing with offenses. People will hurt you and offend you. The Bible says that offenses will come, and they seem to abound when you work in the ministry. They come from the most likely of sources and sometimes blindside you from the person you did not expect. We must endure the hardness of offenses and extend forgiveness often when it is not even asked for in return or acknowledged when we are sinned against. Experiencing hurt can be hard and providing forgiveness at times is impossible, until we look at Christ’s forgiveness of our own sins.

Enduring hardness means identifying with Christ. Jesus Christ was the man of sorrows that endured the cross as He bore our shame. (Hebrews 12:2) Christ was persecuted, and said that when we go through persecution, it is because He and the prophets were also persecuted (Matthew 5:12). Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus, “…was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus Christ came to earth and identified with man in becoming the God-Man (100% God and 100% man) and the experience allowed Him to know what it was like to be a man.

When we identify with Christ through enduring the hardness of this life, then we understand Him and the sorrow He went through when He took our sins on the cross.

He endured the hardest obstacle of His life, giving up the Ghost, losing His life for the sake of ours. In many ways it is hard to even comprehend, but again, it was for me and for you. How could we endure as a good soldier if we did not have a Commander that has also gone through the trenches of this life and succeeded?

On the TV show that I mentioned, each instructor had experienced the Army Ranger training themselves, the real combat missions on the battlefield, and life threatening dangers, before they were allowed to become an instructor. They were able to encourage those that were attempting to complete the course because they have been through it all themselves. They were able to direct and give pointers at certain times during the course because of their experiences. Jesus Christ gives us pointers and encouragement because He knows what it is like to be in human flesh and endure the hardness of this world. What a loving God we serve!

Why should we endure?

The end of 2 Timothy 2:3 says, “that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

Our endurance as a good soldier pleases God, who called us to ministry.

AND We have THE Hero of all Heroes to look up to! Jesus can help us to be able to endure the hardness of ministry and when God seeks to find pleasure in our work for Him then we know that our work is worthwhile.

The next article in this mini-series will be about having compassion in ministry while you are enduring hardness.

 

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