It Can Happen To Anyone

John the Baptist is one of the best known characters in the Bible.  We are fascinated by his clothing of camel hair and his cuisine of locusts and wild honey.  We are amazed that he was the one who baptized Jesus.  We are touched by his love and devotion to Jesus of whom he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  We see in that one statement, John’s humility before God.  We glimpse the faith John had as he spoke boldly to his critics, urging them on to also believe in Jesus who would forgive all sins.  There is no doubt that John knew his calling, and that by great faith, he walked the path God planned for him.

Then we see something interesting happen.  There came a time when John was imprisoned.  He would be beheaded for his faith in Jesus.  He sends some of his followers to Jesus with the question.  It’s recorded in Matthew 11:3, “Are you really the Messiah we’ve been looking  for, or should we keep on looking for someone else?”  

Can’t you feel for John in his situation?  He had been serving God faithfully.  He had courageously endured criticism; nothing stopped him from carrying out God’s will for his life.  He constantly displayed strong faith and devotion to God.  Then his world caves in.  He is imprisoned for that very faith in God that had brought him and countless others such joy.

Have you ever felt that way?  Have you been walking joyfully with God, seizing every opportunity He gives to tell others about His plan of salvation available for the whole world?  Then, in the midst of all this joy, something happens in your physical world that imprisons you in your spiritual world.  Doubt begins to simmer.  Perhaps even anger begins to boil.  Was God really ever helping you?  Is God really with you now in the midst of your prison of gloom?

Notice the response of Jesus in the next verse, “Go back to John and tell him about what you have heard and seen — the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.  And tell him: God blesses those who are not offended by me.”  We learn something here that is so helpful to us all when things go wrong in our lives and doubt tries to set in.  Go back!  Go back and remind yourself of all the things God has done in your life and in the lives of those around you.  Go back; recall the times you have been in emotional low places before, and how God was there all along, being your comfort and peace.  Go back and remind yourself again of the day you asked Jesus into your life; recall the joy.  Recall the faith that filled you.  Reminding ourselves of God’s blessings in the past is always helpful to bring us out of the pit of doubt today.

Pay attention to your focus.  Difficult and hurtful situations come to us all.  No one is exempt.  We can make a choice: focus on the troubles —or — focus on God who has always been everything you need to get you through anything at all.  Upon what we focus is key to our delivery from the doldrums of life.

 

When We Don’t Understand

This week I’ve been reading in the book of Matthew. There is an interesting exchange of words between John the Baptist and Jesus. It’s recorded in Matthew 3:13-15: “Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk Him out of it. ‘I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,’ he said, ‘so why are you coming to me?’ But Jesus said, ‘It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.’ So John agreed to baptize Him.”

John’s argument was plausible. There he was, an ordinary man serving God. Then, who should appear before him? None other than the Son of God Himself! We can easily understand why John was astonished that Jesus should request to be baptized. The Son of God? The Holy One? How could an imperfect man baptize the perfect Son of God? John could make no sense out of the request; that is, until Jesus gave the reason — because obeying God, whether we understand or not, is always the right thing to do.

God leads us along paths that sometimes make no sense to our human understanding. Most likely, everyone has at one time or another asked, “Why, God?” The road we travel can be a rocky one. We want a path that’s smooth. We want a path that doesn’t require great effort to walk on. “Why, God?,” we want to know, when we believe we see a better way than what God is requiring. “Isn’t there an easier way, God?” we plead, because the way ahead, as far as we can see, is scary. There is a corner ahead and we can’t see around the bend. “Do I have to go there, God? I can’t see what’s there.” God answers, “You can’t see around the corner, but I know what’s there; I’m going to use what you find, and what you go through, to make you even stronger. I’m going to mold you to be like me. You will thank me, my child. Trust me.”

Doing what God says to do, going where He says to go, being what He says to be, is the right thing to do because: God never makes mistakes, He loves you at all times, He is the Master Potter molding you and me into a character that is courageous, strong, full of peace and joy, and He blesses those who determine to obey Him. Why does He give us certain commands? Why does He lead us along paths that are sometimes difficult to walk on? Because He loves you so much that He designs a way to make you the best you that you can be.

Determine to trust everything He says to do and walk in the direction He says to walk. It’s the right thing to do because it’s the only way to grow God’s own peace, and a fearlessness inside you that can face all obstacles. Who doesn’t want that?

Like the old hymn says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”