Even John the Baptist had doubts
We simply don't know what was in John's mind when He sent his disciples to check if Jesus really was indeed God's chosen one.
Perhaps the devil was having a field day with John in prison.
We don't exactly know how he was treated by Herod's soldiers in there, or what conditions were like in there.
How dark was the darkness, how wet and cold was he? We hear of terrible humiliation, degradation and cruelty in prisons even today, especially recently in places like Abu Grabe. Had prison so demoralized him, he needed to be assured and encouraged.
Had Jesus' baptism not been spectacular? Hadn't John been thoroughly convinced the moment he saw him, so much so that he had said, 'I need to be baptised by YOU, and do YOU come to ME'?
Was he asking himself if it had all been wishful thinking on his part or a trick of the sun?
But what about the strange events surrounding his own birth, and what had seemed to him God's call upon his life. Had he really been called to be a voice to the wilderness to pave the way for the Messiah of God?
Perhaps John wondered where the dynamic Christ was, who would clear the threshing floor and gather in the wheat, with his winnowing fork in his hand. Had he expected and hoped for a Messiah made of sterner stuff, one who would burn the chaff in unquenchable fire, yet here was the man he had put his name to, going walkabout, and being nice to everyone!
We tend to assume these saints were super stars of the day, fearless, brave, unshakeable in faith…yet here was John somehow getting word to his disciples…
'Just go and check if all this is for real? Have I spent myself for nothing? Ask him if he is the one or are we to expect another?
Don't we have moments like this where we too need so much affirmation…and no-one gives it?
A little bit of encouragement perhaps, but then we hear others getting affirmed and praised?
(STORY OF A VICAR I KNEW WHO DIDN'T BELIEVE IN THANKING OTHERS FOR THEIR ACTS OF SERVICE. HE TOLD THEM THEY WERE DOING GOD'S WORK, GET ON WITH IT, THAT’S ALL THAT'S IMPORTANT! )
A pat on the head just now and then really means a lot to us and helps us to see that what we are doing for God, is really his will for us and for those we serve…
Don't we ever feel like that, I think we all do?
Of course we want to see the outcome, the seed we've planted, growing and taking root. We want to see lives changed for Christ. We want to see our efforts bearing fruit, our giving and our acts of love and service appreciated. It's only natural, BUT that won't always happen…John the Baptist didn't see the fruit of his labour…
When we don't hear positive words, we sometimes feel like just taking the easy way out…the quiet armchair, enjoying life.
When things aren't going so well we ask…
Was I mistaken? Am I meant to be doing what I do?
HAVE I just been wasting my precious time?
Is all this God business worth it?
We even begin to examine our motives?
In the prisons of our minds, dark and negative thoughts can run riot; usually when we're weak or tired, anxious or bereaved.
God says to us in our readings today, 'Be patient'.
But who is it that sows such dark and vivid and cunning seeds in our minds? Who indeed?
Who tested Jesus like this in the wilderness?
The prison was John's wilderness experience.
Haven't we all experienced doubt, when circumstances turn pear shaped?
And yet brothers and sisters our testing times are the very times when we give our best witness of the faith we hold dear!
It's the testing time.
How did Jesus respond to the taunts in the wilderness?
He responded with the word of God, faith, trust, resolution to go forward not back into the abyss! He resisted the devil and did not give in or do something in haste he would later regret.
Just as Jesus encouraged John with his words:-
Go and tell John what you see and hear etc
…So he encourages us today through one another.
We've all been given ministries, but where oh where are the encouragers today? Lord knows we need them. Whoever they are they hiding, they are keeping one of the most uplifting gifts within the body of Christ to themselves.
Encouragement strangely enough is something we can all do, but often don't. We're much more comfortable with negativity and criticism.
As we step out in faith we have to rely on the promises of God,
I am with you!
(David Watson…spoke of the comfort of hearing such a voice on the wing in rugby. How comforting those words were, when the defenders were close on his heels!
Go and do it! I'm with you.
I believe you can do it! Trust me for each step of your journey.
Do you know how important we are to Jesus?
Look at the last line of scripture today
'No-one has arisen greater than John the BAPTIST; YET the LEAST IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS GREATER THAN HE…
You know, for living stones to come together and make a building, one stone is so important because if it is missing it can cause a crack through the entire building; just as one missing can, can cause a messy pile on the floor of a supermarket…
just as one car crashing can cause a pile up. We all need one another.
We are ALL OF us important to Jesus;
He needs us and our willingness to serve , to build up His world
He needs us to resist those voices which make us feel like giving up, and dropping out or doing less.
Resist the devil, it says in Peter's first letter…
The devil prowls round like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
If you happen to be feeling down today, listen to this piece of scripture because through these words God is sending his comfort to you right now …
( 1 Peter 5 .10)
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
To him be the power for ever and ever.
You can do it!
Ask God and find out if you don't know already.