This post has been a long time coming. To be perfectly honest, which I try to always be, God has been telling me to get back to this for a long time. It just simply seems like I have never made time. Yesterday I began a focused time of seeking the Lord with a sincere desire to grow closer to Him than I have ever been before, and today I’m home with a flu bug…..and have ‘extra time’. Don’t you just love God’s sense of humor?
I’ve been so burdened for the people in my community, and even my family, who are battling diseases, depression, financial problems, and other tragedies. Some days it is overwhelming to simply scroll through Facebook and read the struggles of those in my circle of friends. A few short months ago, my own Mother-in-law had a brain bleed and was rushed to the hospital for emergency brain surgery. It was severe with a possibility that she would never wake up after surgery, and if she did, would never be the same. It was a scary time for our family, and we got to see the hand of God. We were so very blessed, but many that I know have situations that are very different with an ongoing fight for health and wellness.
Like most families I know, we face challenges on a weekly basis. Most of our challenges are financial and lately all have to do with a vehicle needing major repairs! It seems we just recover from one challenge, take a breath, and the next one hits. But I am a ‘glass-half-full’ person, so I look at all the reasons to be thankful and move on. One reason I am able to do that is a book that I have read a few times. It taught me a life-changing lesson, and I want to share that with you in this blog.
The book I am referring to is one by Gene Edwards called ‘The Prisoner in the Third Cell.’ It is a fictional book, based on the life of John the Baptist as recorded in the Bible. Mr. Edwards has written what possible dialog and events MIGHT have occurred but were not recorded in the Bible. It is a very easy read and one I highly recommend…..if you can find a copy. You see, the Copyright on it is 1991. It is definitely an oldie, but a goodie!
So imagine with me the life of John. He knew from conception that he was called to a very high purpose. The Bible records his first ‘meeting’ with his cousin Jesus…while they were still in their respective wombs! At that meeting, John’s mother felt her baby leap for joy in her womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. So I believe John knew, before he was even born, that he was to prepare the way for his Lord, his cousin, Jesus.
John’s entire life was lived to prepare the way for the Messiah…..and HE was one of the very few people who knew WHO that Messiah was from the beginning. John set aside his own desires to serve the Lord, and to tell people about Him. John lived the epitome of a surrendered life!
Matthew 3 tells of the days of John the Baptist preaching in the desert of Judea. His message? Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. The message itself is one of someone who knew the Messiah was coming. He was Jesus’ cousin, the cousin of the King of Kings, yet he wore itchy camel-hair clothing and made his diet not of the richest of foods, but of locust and wild honey. He cared not for himself, but only for the message he proclaimed and the job of preparing the way for the Messiah. I believe that his very lifestyle PROVED that he KNEW Jesus was the Messiah.
But God wants to make sure we have no doubt, and He did the same with John. Jesus came from Galilee one day to the Jordan where John was baptizing. Jesus asked John to baptize him….which in layman’s terms, freaked John out! I mean, he had known for 3o years or so that Jesus was the Messiah! But Jesus replied in Matthew 3:15, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” And John consented.
The Bible goes on to explain that when Jesus came up out of the water, heaven was opened, and the Spirit of God descended on him like a dove. They heard a voice from heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” When God removes all doubt, He does it in a BIG WAY!
Can’t you imagine how the rumor mill ran rampant that day? The people who were there to witness that display of God’s power couldn’t wait to get back to town and spread the news!
Soon after that, John was imprisoned. Jesus began his ministry, preaching the message John had started, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near.” He began choosing His disciples and teaching the ways of God. All this happened while John sat in prison…..thinking….pondering….and yes, even doubting. John heard what Jesus was doing, and he sent his disciples to ask a question. I believe many of us today have the same question, although we don’t ask it the way John does. John asked, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Seriously??? John’s ENTIRE LIFE was about preparing the way for the Messiah, his cousin Jesus. He knew WHO Jesus was before he was even born! Yet, when the going got tough, and he was facing potential execution….he doubted! Don’t we do the same thing? Don’t we question what God is doing when times get a bit tough for us? I believe John felt like with all the sacrifices he made in his lifetime, he DESERVED better! (Ooooh, I struck a cord with some of you there, didn’t I?)
John’s disciples went to Jesus and asked John’s question. And like Jesus always seemed to do, He gave a somewhat cryptic answer. His response was, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 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. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
He goes on to explain to John’s disciples that John’s message was correct; that he was indeed a chosen messenger that was sent to prepare the way for Jesus; he also stated that there has not been anyone greater than John the Baptist. Yet, John the Baptist was sitting in prison, facing possible execution. Hmmmm. So what did Jesus’ cryptic message mean?
Jesus was performing many miracles in his ministry: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised…..but John remained in prison. It seemed simple enough to get John out of prison, I mean, compared to raising the dead! But look at the sentence in Matthew 11:6, ‘Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.’ What was Jesus saying? He was saying that the man who continues to trust, continues to believe, continues to praise Him when he doesn’t understand, when life doesn’t make sense, when the going gets tough…..will be blessed!
See, we don’t always get to understand God’s ways. In fact, I think we rarely get to understand God’s ways. But we are to continue to trust Him. And there is a peace that comes when we say, “Lord, I don’t understand why this is happening, but I surrender my will to Yours. I don’t have to have my way. I trust You.”
You know the end of the story of John the Baptist, right? He was beheaded in prison. The very person about whom Jesus said, “No one is greater” was beheaded and his head displayed on a platter. Humiliating, huh?
What do we learn from John? That it is normal to question God’s ways….yes. But Jesus says that in order to be blessed, we must not fall away when we don’t understand. We must continue to trust, continue to believe, continue to surrender to His will. We don’t deserve any better than John the Baptist did. But God loved us enough to send His Son to take our punishment at Calvary….and you know what? In my book, that is more than enough!