23 Luke 7.18-35
Now faith…is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable, but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come to everyone.
That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods "where they get off," you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion.
v This is true!
Ø We all have moods swings in which we doubt certain aspects of our Christianity or even the Gospel
§ We all have those “moods” as C.S. Lewis puts it
· And in our text today, John is having a mood swing…
v John’s doubt is nothing new
Ø In Scripture some of the Greatest men had doubts
§ Moses ~ Num 11:10-15 ~ People sick of Manna, Can’t do it, kill me!
§ Elijah ~ 1 Kings 19 ~ Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah, flees and wants to quit
Ø One of the common threads in the lives of some of the greatest saints who have ever lived is doubt
§ M. Luther commanding the mud puddles to dry up
· “I will do whatever you ask in my name”
· When did not, would doubt
§ G. Campbell Morgan came to a place in his ministry where he doubted God’s Word
· He cancelled all his preaching engagements went out and bought a new Bible
¨ He studied and studied it until, as he put it…
Ø “The Bible found me”
§ Billy Graham early on in his ministry was racked with doubt about the power of God’s Word
· It took an epiphany experience deep in the woods of NC for his doubt to be conquered
§ After Francis Schaeffer moved to L-Abri Switzerland his faith was shaken
· Edith tells of their first year there as one in which Schaeffer struggled through his doubts and misgivings regarding Christianity
¨ Took long walks in the mountains
¨ Stayed up nights
¨ Pounded on walls
Ø Perhaps some of you have been at a place in your life where you doubted
§ Had uncertainty about God
§ Entertained misgivings
§ Were unsure, hesitant, or irresolute
· Well then…
¨ Welcome to the Christian walk!
v You see…
Ø We all have doubts from time to time about a variety of things
§ Is God really listening to my prayers?
§ Was the answer to my prayer really God or just coincidence?
§ Is Jesus really walking beside me?
§ Am I really saved?
§ Is the Gospel really true?
§ Did Jesus really raise from the dead?
v What we have to realize is that…
Ø Doubts are not incompatible with faith. . . .
In his book, Spiritual Depression, Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:
Some people seem to think that once you become a Christian you should never be assailed by doubts. But that is not so, Peter still had faith (as he panicked in the storm in Matthew 14). . . . His faith was not gone, but because it was weak, doubt mastered him and overwhelmed him and he was shaken. . . .
v Many people think that doubt is the absence of faith
Ø They worry about their salvation if they doubt
§ Doubt is not an absence of faith
· Just a weakness in it
¨ Jesus restores faith
Ø Does not Cat away
§ E.g. Thomas, Peter
v And sitting in Machaerus dungeon, John had a moment of weakness in his faith
The Doubt of John
v John the Baptist, Jesus’ 2nd cousin, the one who identified Jesus as the Messiah…
§ The one who said
· Behold, the lamb of God who takes on the sin of the world…
§ The one who said…
· One more powerful than I, is coming whose sandals I am not fit to untie…
§ The one who said to Jesus when he came to him to be baptized…
· I need to be baptized by you!...
§ The one who lept in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary carrying Jesus came near…
RQ: What could possibly cause this man of God to doubt?
v I think for the same reasons as so many of us…
Ø Look at his Circumstances
§ John the Baptist had been sitting in Herod’s dungeon for many months
· If Jesus is the Messiah, why am I still in jail?
· Didn’t he come to “set the captives free” as Isa 61:1 says?
¨ His circumstances certainly did not encourage his faith
§ Circumstances tend to be a catalyst for doubt
· Pashhur had Jeremiah put in stocks and beaten for prophesy against Judah
¨ READ Jer 20:14-18
Ø So discouraged he wanted to die!
§ Has anybody here ever been to that place?
Ø Jeremiah is asking…
§ Why is this happening to me since I am being faithful?
· RQ: Has anybody here ever asked that doubting question?
§ Circumstances tend to be a catalyst for our doubt too!
· We look at our circumstances sometimes and ask the same question that John asks…
¨ God, are you actively helping my circumstances?
¨ I am being faithful, yet look at my circumstances
¨ Are you really real?
¨ Are you really there?
Near the end of WorId War II, members of the Allied forces were often found searching farms and houses for snipers. At one abandoned house, which had been reduced to rubble, searchers found their way into the basement. There, on a crumbling wall, a victim of the Holocaust had scratched a Star of David. Beneath it was written the words, "I believe in the sun, even when it does not shine. I believe in love, even when it is not shown. I believe in God, even when He does not speak.
v That is the type of faith we are to have
Ø Faith despite circumstances
§ The faith of Joseph in prison for 3 years
· Gen 40
§ The faith of Paul and Silas in prison in Philippi…singing!
· Faith that is rooted in knowledge, not emotions
¨ Faith that is rooted in what the Bible says we are to look for and expect…
Ø Not our own expectations
v And that is the other area that John’s doubt came from…
§ False Expectations
Lesslie Newbigin, a long-time missionary to India, relates a story about visiting a village in the Madras.
“There was no road into the village; you reached it by crossing a river, and you could do this either on the south side of the village or on the north. The congregation expected that I would come by the southern route, and they had prepared a welcome such as only an Indian village can prepare. There was music and fireworks and garlands and fruit, everything you can imagine.
Unfortunately I entered the village at the north end and found only a few goats and chickens. Crisis! I had to disappear while word was sent to the assembled congregation, and the entire village did a sort of U-turn so as to face the other way. Then I duly reappeared.”
v Like the Indian village, John’s expectations of Jesus were different than the reality
Ø He was looking in a direction that Jesus was not coming in
§ And when he didn’t fulfill his expectations…
· So John doubted
Ø You see…
§ John expected Judgment…
· But Jesus came giving mercy
Ø Turn back with me to Luke chapter 3
§ We have to remember what John prophesied concerning Christ
¨ Luke 3:9 ~ Kingdom of God will bring Judgment
Ø The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire
¨ Luke 3:17 ~ The Messiah will be the Judge
Ø His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire
§ RQ: What was John expecting?
· The judgment
v And here John is sitting in a dungeon
Ø And his disciples keep coming and reporting what Jesus is doing
§ He has driven an evil spirit out of a man in a synagogue…
§ He has healed a man with leprosy…
§ He has restored a paralytic’s legs so that he walks…
§ He has preached on a mountainside about love, forgiveness and not judging each other
§ He has healed a centurion’s servant
§ He has raised a widow’s son back to life…
Ø John’s expectation was that Jesus was going to bring the judgment
§ And here Jesus is bringing mercy after mercy
· John doubted because he was looking in the wrong direction
v And we look in the wrong direction many times and that causes us to doubt
Ø Many Christians look in the wrong direction of a life of ease
§ Wrong notion that once you give your life to Christ, your life will be all roses
· John 16:33 ~ In this life you will have trouble
¨ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you
¨ No servant is above his master
Ø Many Christians look in the wrong direction of reward
§ Wrong notion that the Christian life is a life of reward
· “If I am faithful, I will be given blessings”
¨ There are several things wrong with this thinking:
Ø First of all, that is the wrong motive for being faithful
§ We are faithful…
· Out of love for Christ
· Out of appreciation of the gift we have been given
Ø Secondly, that thinking breaks down when you look at the evidence
§ Some of the greatest saints that have ever lived suffered terribly in this life
· Historical Martyrs
· Luther ~ imprisonment, excommunication
· Adoniram Judson ~ imprisonment, deaths of family
· Joni Erikson Tada ~ Quadriplegic
· Chinese Pastor in Jail last 18 years!
· Paul ~ READ 2 Cor 11:23-28
Ø Lastly, the reward that is in sight in Scripture is eternity in Christ’s presence
· 1 Cor 9:24-25
¨ Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize (reward)? Run in such a way as to get the prize (reward). Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever
v So many times we look in the wrong direction of false expectation
Ø And that causes us to doubt
v So many times we look at the circumstances of our lives
Ø And that causes us to doubt
v And so in the circumstance of prison and with broken expectations John sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is truly the one
v Jesus says…
Ø Look at the evidence and remember your OT!!
§ Isaiah heralded that the first advent would be marked by certain signs
· Isa 26:19, 29:18, 35:5, 61:1
· Isa 42, 49, 50, 53 ~ Servant texts
Ø Not judgment, but mercy
v But then Jesus says a very enigmatic statement
Ø A very challenging statement
Ø V. 23 ~ Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me
§ You see many people give their lives to Christ
· And then when circumstances get too difficult…
¨ When their expectations are not met…
Ø They give up
Ø They leave the faith
Ø They say God must not really be up there after all
Ø What Jesus is saying here is…
§ Blessed are those who do not fall away because Jesus is not working as you had expected
§ Blessed are you who persevere in your faith despite circumstances
§ Blessed are you who have a Habakkuk 3:18 faith
· Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
¨ Phil 4:11-13
Ø I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength
§ And he will, in his second coming…
· But like so many prophets before him
¨ John was given prophecy of both Jesus’ first and second coming
Ø John 12:47
§ For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it
Ø Doubting is not a sin
§ Disbelieving in God because of that doubt is