GREAT DOUBTS FROM A GREAT MAN
ABOUT OUR GREAT GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 3, 2014
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. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon. ’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! ’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
— Matthew 11:1-19, ESV
Doubts are a dark, disturbing, debilitating part of life. Our strength falls when we doubt ourselves. Our hearts break when we doubt those closest to us. Our faith wavers when we doubt the presence and providence of almighty God.
Therefore, doubts are sinful and wrong, right? No. The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is unbelief and sin. But it is no sin for anyone struggling with belief to have doubts about themselves, those around them, or even the Lord. There was a day when perhaps the greatest man who ever lived had great doubts about our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Let’s look and learn from him.
A Great Man
Biblically and historically speaking, John the Baptist was the last Old Testament prophet whose acclaim is recorded in the beginning of the New Testament. He brought people to God, he brought families together, he baptized Jesus and put the Savior’s ministry into the public spotlight. He had great parents, a great pedigree, and enjoyed a great preaching ministry.
In this text, Jesus practically calls him the greatest person who ever lived, at least prior to the inauguration of the New Covenant. The Lord compliments his courageous preaching, his commitment in the face of violence, and his historic importance as the greatest prophet. John had come in the spirit of the great prophet Elijah to pave the way for the ministry of the Messiah. There is no doubt that John was a great, great man of God. Yet this great man of God had great doubts about God.
A Great Doubt
This story recorded in this text begins with the great doubts and the great question John the Baptist had to ask about the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He asked, “Are you the one?” It was an expressed doubt about the deity and integrity of Jesus. It was an expressed doubt about the providence and plan of God. It was a question about the very veracity of the gospel, pointed at the author and finisher of our faith. How could such a supremely gifted man have such serious doubts about God?
Bad circumstances will make a person doubt. John was in prison, and today’s prisons look like five-star hotels compared to the confines surrounding John the Baptist. Furthermore, he was denied due process and would soon be executed upon a whim by the powers that were. How could such a great man living a great life for God end up in a great mess like this? Why do godly people get sick, go broke, lose their spouse, and otherwise end up in a situation that sounds like a bad country song? Sometimes, God only knows, literally, and you don’t. And not knowing is a prelude to doubt.
False accusations will make a person doubt. John had been called a “demon,” among other things, by his religious and political enemies. He had been dishonestly imprisoned for telling the truth. A worthless man would take his valuable life. Sticks and stones can break the bones but words hurt worse. The injuries sustained by false accusations, slander, and gossip take longer to heal than other wounds. Sometimes it makes a person wonder where God is when it hurts so bad.
Unmet expectations will make a person doubt. He brokenly asked, “Should we look for another?” Many people many times have gotten to a point in life where they silently or verbally screamed, “This is not the way it is supposed to be!” John thought, and you may have hoped, that serving God faithful in this life should pay more dividends in this life, especially if you listen to too many of those televangelist idiots. But John didn’t have TV, and you’re probably wise enough not to listen to too much religious television, yet still the pain and frustrations of unmet expectations can cause you to question the love, power, and plan of God.
Jesus had a great answer and a great promise for this great man with great doubts. But what goes for John goes double for the Christian. We live under a new and better covenant. We live on the plain side of the cross and the empty tomb. The good news for John is a great answer for those of us who believe, today.
A Great Answer
When doubts turned John to question Jesus, Jesus gave John answers from Holy Scripture, and a promise for the ages.
John had the spirit of the prophet Elijah and the mind of the prophet Isaiah. The later, canonical, major prophet majored on the ministry of the Messiah. John knew what Isaiah said the Messiah would do, and Jesus reminded John that He had done it all. When John’s doubts arose, Jesus sent him back to the Bible. The word of God is the slow and steady remedy for the disease of doubt.
This is why it is essential for a fully committed follower of Jesus Christ to be immersed in Holy Scripture. Insist upon a church that follows the word of God, not the traditions of men. Discipline yourself as a disciple of Christ to read it regularly, not weakly. Build your life upon it, for the winds of doubt will blow and the storms of discouragement will follow, and only those whose house is built on the rock of God’s word can stand.
And if your faith is based on Scripture and your life is devoted to Jesus, not only do you have all the answers from Scripture for the present, you have a promise from God for forever. For those who are not ashamed of Jesus and the scandal of the gospel, “blessed” are you is God’s promise. Expressly, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.”
“Blessed” is not a feeling, it is a fact. “Blessed” is not found in anything this world has to offer and cannot be exhausted by anything this world takes away. “Blessed” is a permanent state of being that belongs to any person who enters into the kingdom of God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
I may not be rich, but I’m “blessed.” I may not have perfect health, but I’m “blessed.” I may have lost my best friend, my husband or wife, or like John I’m on the verge of losing my life, but I’m “blessed” when Jesus Christ is my Lord.
The word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ may not keep you from doubting God at times, but they give you the answers and comfort you need when times get rough. Do not be afraid of your doubts, do not doubt yourself just because you have them, and never fail to take those doubts straight to God. He will point you to His word. He will remind you of the promise and blessedness of the gospel. He will pull you through. Great people can have great doubts about our God and Savior Jesus Christ, but our Great God and Savior will pull people through their great doubts.
GREAT DOUBTS FROM A GREAT MAN
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org