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? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, 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 (Matthew 11:2-6).
John the Baptist found himself in prison. The countdown on his life was on and things were admittedly pretty bleak. He found himself a little despondent, discouraged, and doubting. So he sent two of his disciples to Jesus with a simple question, “Are you the one or should we look for another?” The question only needed a simple yes or no answer. Instead, they were told to go back and tell John the things they had heard and seen – blind seeing, deaf hearing, lame walking, lepers cleansed, dead raised, poor hearing the Gospel. There was one last thing added to the list, almost as if it was an afterthought, “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”
John had heard those things himself, perhaps been there to see some of them happen. Jesus was proclaiming the opening of prison doors; John was waiting in his cell, behind prison doors that were not opening. Doubt set in. John knew he was the forerunner of the Messiah. He just wanted to know again if Jesus was indeed the Messiah – for if he was, why was John in jail? There are times when we find ourselves in similar situations – probably not actually in a prison cell, as much in a circumstance beyond our control. We ponder and wonder and question God about how we got in this predicament when we were following His will. Remember, though, the Christian life is a marathon not a 100-yard dash. We are in it for the long haul and the long haul brings disappointments. John needed reassurance and clarification, for he had expected the Messiah to overcome wickedness, judge sin, and bring in His kingdom. So we find ourselves in need of reassurance when our expectations are not met, when His Kingdom does not appear to be coming nor His will seem to be being done.
This is when saints have second thoughts. We find ourselves discouraged – distressed – in a place that seems to get narrower and narrower. The danger when you are in need of renewal is the threat of offense. The New International Version of this passage closes Jesus’ message with this statement: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” I Samuel 27 tells us that David fled to the land of the Philistines saying in his heart, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape…” He was anointed to be king, but still had second thoughts!
In Luke 9, Jesus said, “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” We get discouraged. We lose heart. We have to force our hand to stay on the plow. Life might demand we hurt but it is not necessary we become less loving and less powerful people as a result of it. We must remember – power comes out of pain. To be forgotten is painful. To be overlooked is discouraging. To experience failure can be devastating. The Gospel’s power lies in its resources to help us overcome a demanding spirit for explanation and to replace it with trust as we await the full revelation of its power.
When we pray and apply Biblical principles to our lives, we do not always manage to correct the difficult situation. Often we are left to deal with the distress it creates. The focus then shifts from changing our world to soothing our pain.
Sometimes reminders of God’s love and exhortations to meditate on Jesus provide about as much help as handing out recipes to people waiting in a food line. They want food not descriptions of it. There are some problems we must enter rather than numb. You can’t just put ointment on the wound that immediately relieves the pain but doesn’t bring healing. The only thing to do is to recognize change from the inside out involves a steadfast gaze upon the Lord Jesus. That is life-changing.
The Christian call is to a relationship – to loving – non-defensive involvement – with others. We will genuinely love only as we deal with sin our heart. Every effort to change must involve at its core a shift in direction away from dependence on one’s own resources for life to dependence on God. When repentance moves from self-protection to obedient trust, then God moves in changing power and He heals us.
Problems will still come. We’ll still hurt. But the more clearly we recognize how our commitment to self-protection operates in our relational style – and the more courageously we face the ugliness of protecting ourselves rather than loving others – the more we’ll shift our direction. Satan tries to isolate us in shame so he can destroy us – But honest accountability can bring a breakthrough.
There are times when we can do nothing but trust the character of God. He gives commands not explanations. He could intervene; He doesn’t. He chooses not to use His omnipotence because of other equally important factors – another of which is – He is committed to justice.
I Peter 4:12-13 – “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” To the degree we accept the reality of the fallen world in which we live – To the degree that we’re determined to use it to develop us – We can have victory in our life.
Either we’re crazy or we know something. We know something. James l:2-4 – “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” One translation of that “count it” phrase says, “Define it…” We must define our temptation to overcome it. Jesus didn’t die on the cross that we might avoid life but that we might be overcomers. He gives grace – and with it comes renewal and restoration.