How to deal with Doubts in your Faith

 

 

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How to deal with Doubts in your Faith

Text: Luke 7:18-28

Dr. Alex Tang

 

John the Baptist, Friend of the Bridegroom

In the course of this year, we have studied the life of John the Baptist. From the time, he leaped in the womb of his mother when she came close to Mary carrying Jesus in her womb. To his time in the desert, wearing clothing made of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. Eating locusts with wild honey. What a desert experience it must been to John. What experiences he must have of the Lord, Yahweh. Then we heard about his preaching ministry – a call to repentance and baptism. He baptized in the river Jordan and even baptized Jesus Himself. His mission is to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah: “ A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him’. You might say, John has a purpose-driven ministry. And we have seen how successful he was in his ministry, having thousands of followers. And we have seen the strong character of John the Baptist when the time comes, he was willing to step aside and allow Jesus’ ministry to overshadow his. “He must increase and I must decrease”. Not many of us can do that. This evening, we shall look at another side of John.

John the Baptist continued in his prophetic ministry. But he criticized the authorities. He condemned King Herod for having an affair with his sister-in-law, Herodias. King Herod was very angry and arrested John the Baptist. For after a short but powerful ministry of under a year, John the Baptist found himself in Herod’s prison. I am sure he had plenty of time to think and reflect on his life. Then John the Baptist, one who as a fetus jumped for joy when he sensed the presence of the savior, one who have a purpose driven ministry, one who baptized Jesus and saw the heavens open and a voice said, ‘This is my son whom I am well pleased’, one who is willing to step aside for Jesus’ ministry, one trained in the deserts of Judea, began to have doubts. He has doubts about Jesus. John the Baptist has doubts?  This evening we shall see how Jesus deals with the doubts of John the Baptist and also with our doubts.

The text is Luke 7:18-28

Luke 7:18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them,  19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’”

21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.  22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.  23 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

24 After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?  25 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces.  26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  27 This is the one about whom it is written:

”‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way before you.’

28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” [1]

 

I would offer 3 observations on the way Jesus answers the doubts of John the Baptist.

1.                  Jesus’ response.

2.                  Jesus’ answer.

3.                  Jesus offers a beatitude for doubters.

 

A.                 Jesus’ response.

John’s disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should you expect someone else?”  Talk about a direct question. Are you the Messiah? If not, don’t waste our time. Tell us now so that we can look for someone else. If I am Jesus, I would have exploded. “How dare you insult me. How dare John have doubts in me. After all these years, after all that we have been through and now, he still have questions about me? How dare you interrupt me curing people who have diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits and giving sight to the blind and asking such a stupid question.” Did Jesus say that? No, He did not. In fact, he did not say anything about John’s doubting Him at all.

Instead of condemning John, Jesus praised him. After John’s disciples have left, Jesus turned to the crowd and spoke about John.

 vv   24-28      

i.                     Reed swayed by the wind. John is not swayed by the fear or power. He stood up to Herod and is now in prison.

ii.                   Man dressed in fine clothes. John has denied himself the finer things of life to follow God.

iii.                  A prophet. In Malachi 3:1-2 two messengers are spoken of. One is the forerunner, revealed here as John the Baptist, and the other is “the Messenger of the Covenant” who will purify His people, that is, the Messiah Himself. And Jesus gave John the compliment that John is the greatest prophets of all. Greater than Elijab, Elisha, Ezekiel and Haggai.

So instead of condemning John for doubting Him, Jesus gave him high praises. Jesus understands John. And understands why John is doubting. By not condemning John, Jesus is also saying to us, it is okay to have doubts. He understands. He does not condemn us for being doubtful in our beliefs and faith.

 

B.                 Jesus’ answer

What then is Jesus’ answer. He did not say, “Yes, I am the One. Look not more.” Instead, what did Jesus said, “ Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard.”

Good news is preached to the poor

Dead are raised

Deaf hear

Those with leprosy cured

Lame walk

Blind received sight

 

Instead of giving a direct answer, Jesus said look at my life and works. Is that the life and work of a Messiah. Isn’t that what is foretold in the Scriptures?

Isa 29:18-19

18 In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,

and out of gloom and darkness

the eyes of the blind will see.

19 Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD;

the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. [2]

Isa 35: 5-6

5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened

and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,

and the mute tongue shout for joy. [3]

Isa 61:1

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,

because the LORD has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners[4]

 

Jesus in answer to John’s doubts point to two areas:

(1)               His life

(2)               Scriptures

It is important that we look at this carefully. Jesus had given us a way for us to deal with doubts. He pointed to Himself and to Scriptures. And this is how we deal with doubts in our faith. We look at Jesus and we look at the Scriptures. The life of Jesus as recorded in the sypnotic gospels have given us a lot of material to clarify most of our doubts in our faith. And Jesus is living. Aside from the records in the gospels, we write our own gospels everyday when we walk daily with Jesus, closer and closer to Him. I am writing a gospel according to Alex Tang. As we get to know Jesus more and more, we find that our doubts become less and less. A good example is found in the gospel of Mark. We find that as the disciples came to know Jesus more and more, the clearer it became for them who Jesus is. So, Peter the fisherman, is able to acknowledge Jesus is the Christ in Mark 8. Took him 8 chapters to do so.

A good knowledge of Scriptures is essential to remove doubts in our faith. By relating what He has done, John who know the writings of Isaiah well, will know immediately that Jesus is referring to the Messiahic verses. By relating his works, Jesus is actually saying to John, “Yes, I am the One”.

 

C.                 Jesus offers a beatitude for doubters.

And Jesus ended His reply by saying, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” It is an interesting ending to his reply to John. What does He mean by fall away on account or him or 23And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. [5](KJV).  The reason why John the Baptist has doubt is that Jesus is not behaving like what John thinks a messiah should behave. Like many of his countryman, John thought that the Messiah will come in glory, overthrow the Roman Empire and set up the Kingdom of God on earth. Instead he sees Jesus walking around and mixing with sinners. So the root of his doubts is his expectations.

Isn’t it the same with us. Many of our doubts are really because God does not behave or do the things we think He should do. One of my friends refused to accept Jesus because he thinks Christians are not behaving like what he thinks Christians should behave like. Hence Christianity is not true. See how we put God in a box. Someone once wrote a book, ‘Your God is Too Small’.  It is the same with the Pharisees. Jesus is hard on them not because of their piety or desire to please God. Many of them do have a desire to please God. The problem with them is that because of their great knowledge of the Law, they think they know God very well. And Jesus just did not fit into their idea of the Christ. That is intellectual pride. Pride that we know God so well that we refused to be surprised by God when he appeared outside our expectations. That is why they rejected Jesus. That is why we have doubts. We think we have God all figured out.

Church, God is not only greater than what we can conceive, He is greater than what we can ever imagine. And there are many mysteries in our faith that we can never understand this side of heaven. It is part of our Christian faith to accept there are mysteries of God that we do not understand.

So Jesus’ blessing is on them who are open to God. Whose minds are not closed to what God can do. Who do not try to put God in a box. He is saying, it is okay to doubt but to open to His answers. The answer to your doubt may be staring you in the face. Unless you are open to God, you cannot see it. The answer to John’s doubt is staring him in the face. Yet John cannot see it.

Lessons for us

1.                  It is okay to have doubts

If you have doubts, do not be afraid. God does not condemn you for having doubts. If you have doubts about whether you are saved, or whether you are a Christian or whether it is worth all the effort to give up so much time to be active in church, take heart that God does not condemn you. If you think you are the only one having doubts, let me let you into a little secret. All of us have doubts. There is nothing wrong with having doubts. It is what you do with it that is important. John has doubts about Jesus and he asked Jesus about it.

2.                  Answers to your doubts are found in Jesus and the Bible.

Jesus and the Bible can throw a lot of light on your doubts. I remember once in winter in Edinburgh at night. The night was very dark, so dark that you cannot even see your hand in front of you. There was a single street light. Standing under the street light, you can see everything clearly. The further you move away from the street light, the darker it becomes. It is like our doubts. Standing beside Jesus, most of our doubts will disappear.

3.                  Be open to God, the answer to your doubts may be staring you in the face.

Do not go around with preconceived ideas. Keep an open mind, especially for spiritual things. You will be surprised how much we have missed because of our preconceived ideas.

 

                                                                                                                                                       Soli Deo Gloria  

 

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