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Dealing with our Doubts

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HEART MATTERS  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  54:15
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Matthew 11:1–11 ESV
When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “ ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

In the case of John the Baptist, and of countless believers since his time, doubt might better be described as perplexity or confusion. The perplexity dealt with in these verses is the perplexity of a believer, a true child of God and citizen of His kingdom. John was not questioning the truthfulness of God’s Word as revealed in the Old Testament or as revealed to him at the baptism of Jesus. He was rather uncertain about his understanding of those truths. Virtually all the gospel references to doubt pertain to believers rather than to unbelievers; and the kind of questioning John the Baptist experienced concerning Jesus’ identity can only occur in the life of a believer. In that transitional time, before the written revelation of the New Testament, there were many things that seemed unclear and needed explanation and confirmation.

In the case of John the Baptist, and of countless believers since his time, doubt might better be described as perplexity or confusion.
The perplexity dealt with in these verses is the perplexity of a believer, a true child of God and citizen of His kingdom.
John was not questioning the truthfulness of God’s Word as revealed in the Old Testament or as revealed to him at the baptism of Jesus. He was rather uncertain about his understanding of those truths.

Virtually all the gospel references to doubt pertain to believers rather than to unbelievers; and the kind of questioning John the Baptist experienced concerning Jesus’ identity can only occur in the life of a believer.

Jesus Himself testified of John that
Matthew 11:11 ESV
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
He was the greatest man who had lived until his time, and, when they are confused, all believers can take comfort in his perplexity. It is also encouraging to remember that it was to His true disciples, primarily the twelve, that Jesus repeatedly said such words as “O you of little faith” and “How long will you doubt?” (; ; ; cf. 28:17; ; ; ).
This leads us to our first observation from today’s text . . .

DOUBTS ARE NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS.

Matthew 11:11 ESV
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
“I do not believe there ever existed a Christian yet, who did not now and then doubt his interest in Jesus. I think, when a man says, “I never doubt,” it is quite time for us to doubt him.” – Charles Spurgeon
"Some of us who have preached the Word for years, and have been the means of working faith in others and of establishing them in the knowledge of the fundamental doctrines of the Bible, have nevertheless been the subjects of the most fearful and violent doubts as to the truth of the very gospel we have preached." - Charles Spurgeon

DOUBTS HAVE ROOTS

Though the Lord understands the doubts of His children, He is never pleased with their doubt, because it reflects against Him.

CIRCUMSTANCES

Though the Lord understands the doubts of His children, He is never pleased with their doubt, because it reflects against Him. But the doubt of which John the Baptist was guilty was the result of weakness rather than sin.
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (). Chicago: Moody Press.
What
What was weakening John faith?
Matthew 11:2 ESV
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples

CHALLENGING CIRCUMSTANCES

Humanly speaking the career of John the Baptist had ended in disaster. He had been the fiery, independent, dramatic, confrontational, courageous man who preached exactly what needed to be preached, to whom it needed to be preached, and when it needed to be preached. He was fearless, aggressive, and faithful to the Lord in every way. He called sin sin and sinners sinners. And now he was in prison because of his faithfulness.

On a trip to Rome, Herod Antipas, governor of Galilee, had taken a liking to Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, and had seduced her. After returning to Galilee, Herod divorced his own wife and married Herodias. When John the Baptist heard of it, he publicly confronted Herod with his sin anti was promptly thrown into prison. Only Herod’s fear of the multitudes kept John from being killed immediately (Matt. 14:5).

John was imprisoned at an old fort at Machaerus, located in a hot and desolate region five miles east and fifteen miles south of the northern end of the Dead Sea. He was placed in a dark, stifling dungeon that was little more than a pit. After some eighteen months in the limelight, this free spirit of the wilderness was confined and isolated. He had been in prison for perhaps a year when he sent the two disciples to Jesus.

William Barclay captures much of the significance of John’s situation:

He was the child of the desert; all his life he had lived in the wide open spaces, with the clean wind on his face and the spacious vault of the sky for his roof. And now he was confined within the four narrow waits of an underground dungeon. For a man like John, who had probably never lived in a house, this must have been an agony. In Carlisle Castle there is a little cell. Once long ago they had put a border chieftain in that cell and had left him for years. In that cell there is one little window, which is placed too high for a man to look out of it when he is standing on the floor. On the ledge of the window, in the stone, there are two depressions worn away. They are the marks of the hands of the border chieftain, the places where, day after day, he had lifted himself up by placing his hands on the ledge that he might look out on the green dales across which he would never ride again. John must have been like that; and there is nothing to wonder at, and still less to criticize, in the fact that questions began to form themselves in John’s mind. (The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2 [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1958], p. 2)

Humanly speaking the career of John the Baptist had ended in disaster. He had been the fiery, independent, dramatic, confrontational, courageous man who preached exactly what needed to be preached, to whom it needed to be preached, and when it needed to be preached. He was fearless, aggressive, and faithful to the Lord in every way. He called sin sin and sinners sinners. And now he was in prison because of his faithfulness.
On a trip to Rome, Herod Antipas, governor of Galilee, had taken a liking to Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, and had seduced her. After returning to Galilee, Herod divorced his own wife and married Herodias. When John the Baptist heard of it, he publicly confronted Herod with his sin anti was promptly thrown into prison. Only Herod’s fear of the multitudes kept John from being killed immediately ().
John was imprisoned at an old fort at Machaerus, located in a hot and desolate region five miles east and fifteen miles south of the northern end of the Dead Sea. He was placed in a dark, stifling dungeon that was little more than a pit. After some eighteen months in the limelight, this free spirit of the wilderness was confined and isolated. He had been in prison for perhaps a year when he sent the two disciples to Jesus.
William Barclay captures much of the significance of John’s situation:
He was the child of the desert; all his life he had lived in the wide open spaces, with the clean wind on his face and the spacious vault of the sky for his roof. And now he was confined within the four narrow waits of an underground dungeon. For a man like John, who had probably never lived in a house, this must have been an agony. In Carlisle Castle there is a little cell. Once long ago they had put a border chieftain in that cell and had left him for years. In that cell there is one little window, which is placed too high for a man to look out of it when he is standing on the floor. On the ledge of the window, in the stone, there are two depressions worn away. They are the marks of the hands of the border chieftain, the places where, day after day, he had lifted himself up by placing his hands on the ledge that he might look out on the green dales across which he would never ride again. John must have been like that; and there is nothing to wonder at, and still less to criticize, in the fact that questions began to form themselves in John’s mind. (The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2 [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1958], p. 2)

INCOMPLETE REVELATION

A second major cause of doubt is incomplete revelation. Although John had heard of the works of Christ, his information was secondhand and not complete.
He had been in prison for a year; but even while he was preaching, He had no direct contact with Jesus after the baptism. If Jesus’ own disciples failed to understand Him fully and demonstrated “little faith” after being with Him intimately for three years, it is easy to understand why John had doubts. He was not an “eyewitness of His majesty,” as were Peter, James, and John (; cf. ), nor did he have the opportunity to see with his own eyes or handle with his own hands the Son of God as He taught, preached, and healed, as had the twelve and many others besides (see ).
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (). Chicago: Moody Press.
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (). Chicago: Moody Press.
The information that John’s disciples brought back to him was still not firsthand, but their report was based on confirming demonstrations of divine power that Jesus performed specifically for John’s benefit.
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (). Chicago: Moody Press.
According to verse 2 John was receiving front line reports on Jesus ministry. In previous chapters Matthew records the following . . .
Matthew 9:10 ESV
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.
This was confusing to John disciples as revealed 4 verses later
Matthew 9:14 ESV
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
is a mixed bag of confirmation and contradiction.
In heals a paralytic, in 9:9-13 he calls a tax collector as a disciple, 9:18-26 he heals a woman with a blood disorder and raises a girls from the dead, in 9:27-31 he heals the blind, and in 9:32-34 he gives voice a mute man.
All of this according to and
Luke 7:18 ESV
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John,
were told to John by his disciples.
It was Christ actions concerning sinners, drunkards, and tax collectors that created John’s doubts. Jesus was not behaving in a way that was in keeping with Messiah; at least as he understood.

John’s doubts are being aggravated by Jesus’ conduct not by his circumstances.

The fact that John instructed his disciples to ask, or shall we look for someone else? seems to indicate that John’s expectations about the Messiah were unfulfilled.

UNFULFILLED EXPECTATIONS

Under the Spirit’s direction, John had been boldly proclaiming,
Matthew 3:11–12 ESV
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
John knew that what he preached was true, and he knew that Jesus was the one about whom he preached; yet Jesus had done none of those things.
The Messiah was to come in judgment, and John therefore expected Jesus to take “His winnowing fork in His hand” and start clearing the threshing floor and burning up the chaff. He expected Jesus to display the blazing power of absolute, complete, and worldwide judgment.
But instead of executing judgment, Jesus assembled a group of twelve nondescript followers and began teaching them in the same manner as many other rabbis had done for centuries before Him.
He demonstrated miracle-working power, but He used it only to save and heal, never to judge. Especially now that he was imprisoned, John no doubt wanted to cry out with David,
Psalm 9:3–4 ESV
When my enemies turn back, they stumble and perish before your presence. For you have maintained my just cause; you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.
John wanted to cry out like the saints under the altar who said,
Revelation 6:10 ESV
They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Revelaton 6:10
But John saw no divine intervention, no judgment, no execution of justice. Jesus did not avenge the righteous. He did not even defend Himself against His accusers.
But John saw no divine intervention, no judgment, no execution of justice. Jesus did not avenge the righteous. He did not even defend Himself against His accusers.
It has always been hard for believers to understand why God allows so many of His children to suffer and allows so many wicked, ungodly people to prosper. It was doubly hard for John the Baptist.
For one thing, he had a deep devotion to righteousness and was called by God to preach repentance and judgment. More than that, he was called to proclaim the coming of the Expected One who would execute that judgment-which he thought would begin shortly, if not immediately, after the Messiah appeared on the scene.
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (). Chicago: Moody Press.
In heals a paralytic, in 9:9-13 he calls a tax collector as a disciple, 9:18-26 he heals a woman with a blood disorder and raises a girls from the dead, in 9:27-31 he heals the blind, and in 9:32-34 he gives voice a mute man.
All of this according to and
Luke 7:18 ESV
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John,
were told to John by his disciples.
It was Christ actions concerning sinners, drunkards, and tax collectors that created John’s doubts. Jesus was not behaving in a way that was in keeping with Messiah; at least as he understood.
Matthew tells us what Christ said

CIRCUMSTANCES

Luke 7:19 ESV
calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
Matthew tells us what Christ said
Matthew 11:4–6 ESV
And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
and Luke tells us what they saw.
Matthew
John was not seeking rescue from his difficulties but reassurance of his doctrine. He wasn’t seeking information but confirmation. His belief was weakening and he was asking for help.
Matthew 11:3 ESV
and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
John was not afraid to die. He just didn’t want to die for a lie. Once John received Jesus’ response he died with assurance not as one who is tossed to and fro by the wind and waves.
John was not afraid to die. He just didn’t want to die for a lie. Once John received Jesus’ response he died with assurance not as one who is tossed to and fro by the wind and waves.
Matthew 11:4–6 ESV
And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Matthew 11:

DOUBTS HAVE A REASON

DOUBTS HAVE A REASON

THEY DRIVE US TO CHRIST

Negative circumstances are painful and trying, but our response should be same as John’s-going to the Lord and asking Him to quell our doubts, anxieties, and fears (PSALM 73).
Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt. Doubts are exposed by circumstances but are experienced for lack of doctrinal fidelity. Circumstances are “fiery darts” which are only effective if a shield of faith is not present.
John was not seeking rescue from his difficulties but reassurance of his doctrine. He wasn’t seeking information but confirmation. His belief was weakening and he was asking for help.
John was not seeking rescue from his difficulties but reassurance of his doctrine. He wasn’t seeking information but confirmation. His belief was weakening and he was asking for help.
His doubt was not destroying him but driving him. He was struggling with his weakness which drove him to His strength.
2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2
John was not afraid to die. He just didn’t want to die for a lie. Once John received Jesus’ response he died with assurance not as one who is tossed to and fro by the wind and waves.
Matthew 11:3 ESV
and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
John was not afraid to die. He just didn’t want to die for a lie. Once John received Jesus’ response he died with assurance not as one who is tossed to and fro by the wind and waves.

Doubts drive us to Christ because as a Christian its our only source of relief.

THEY DEEPEN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST.

Scripture is silent concerning John’s response to Jesus response. His silence should speak God’s surpassing peace to hearts.
John believed in spite of his challenging circumstances, incomplete revelation, and unfulfilled expectations. These are not the enemies of those who possess faith but exercises in building faith. Temptations from Satan occur for resistance to make one stronger. Trials from our Savior are employed to draw us deeper.

DOUBTS MUST RESISTED

RESIST THROUGH REMEMBERING

Romans 15:15 ESV
But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God
1 Corinthians 4:17 ESV
That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.
1 Corinthians 15:1 ESV
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,
2 Corinthians 10:7 ESV
Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we.
2 Peter 1:12–13 ESV
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder,
2 Peter 3:1 ESV
This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,
Jude 5 ESV
Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

RESIST THROUGH RECITATION

WHO GOD IS

Jeremiah 32:17 ESV
‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.
Numbers 23:19 ESV
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Jeremiah 32:27 ESV
“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
1 John 3:20 ESV
for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
1 JOHN 3:
Isaiah 63:1 ESV
Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.”
ISAIAH
2 Corinthians 1:3 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
2 CORINTHIANS
Colossians 1:16 ESV
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
Revelation 19:11 ESV
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
REVEAL

WHAT HAS HE DONE

Psalm 66:1–20 NLT
Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth! Sing about the glory of his name! Tell the world how glorious he is. Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Your enemies cringe before your mighty power. Everything on earth will worship you; they will sing your praises, shouting your name in glorious songs.” Interlude Come and see what our God has done, what awesome miracles he performs for people! He made a dry path through the Red Sea, and his people went across on foot. There we rejoiced in him. For by his great power he rules forever. He watches every movement of the nations; let no rebel rise in defiance. Interlude Let the whole world bless our God and loudly sing his praises. Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling. You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver. You captured us in your net and laid the burden of slavery on our backs. Then you put a leader over us. We went through fire and flood, but you brought us to a place of great abundance. Now I come to your Temple with burnt offerings to fulfill the vows I made to you— yes, the sacred vows that I made when I was in deep trouble. That is why I am sacrificing burnt offerings to you— the best of my rams as a pleasing aroma, and a sacrifice of bulls and male goats. Interlude Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.
PSALM 66:1-

WHAT HAS HE PROMISED

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