Dealing With Doubt
Scripture: Luke 7:18-23
18 The disciples of John the Baptist told John about everything Jesus was doing. So John called for two of his disciples, 19 and he sent them to the Lord to ask him, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
20 John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’”
21 At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind. 22 Then he told John’s disciples, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 23 And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’”
It is not unusual for great spiritual leaders like John the Baptist to have days of doubt.
~Warren W. Wiersbe
- Moses [Numbers 11:11-15] —And Moses said to the Lord,  “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me!  What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people?  Did I give birth to them?  Did I bring them into the world?  Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby?  How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”
- Elijah [I Kings 19:3-4] —Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
- Jeremiah [20:7-9]–O Lord, you misled me, and I allowed myself to be misled. You are stronger than I am, and you overpowered me. Now I am mocked every day; everyone laughs at me. When I speak, the words burst out. “Violence and destruction!” I shout. So these messages from the Lord have made me a household joke. But if I say I’ll never mention the Lord or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!
Doubt is not always a sign that you are wrong but it is always a sign that your are thinking.
Doubt and insecurity are a result of the fall. When Adam and Eve sinned, it infected us with the virus of sin. To have doubt is no sin but to give in to doubt, to live in constant doubt is the surest way to defeat. Think about it, why would the devil tempt a lost person with doubt? I have never worried about the doubters, I worry more about those who have no doubts. As you know, this story about John languishing in prison is not my favorite story but there are some valuable lessons we can learn from this unpleasant event…
I. LIFE IS NOT FAIR
Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to evil people. The Jews misinterpreted and misunderstood the O.T. teaching. They interpreted it to mean that prosperity was a sign of God’s special favor. Therefore all rich people were favored and poor people were sinners. There is a huge problem with this theology: neither Jesus nor Paul were rich and both were severely mistreated. As in the case of Job, God’s favored suffer. God thought more of Job than any man on the planet. Paul said, “All who live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
II. GOD DOES NOT WORK A LONG THE LINES OF OUR EXPECTATIONS.
John, like most Jews was expecting one advent. He thought Jesus was going to establish His kingdom on earth but Jesus wasn’t moving in that direction and John knew it. John wanted Jesus to change and fulfill his expectations but Jesus refused to change. Jesus will not change, He doesn’t need to change: we are the ones who need to change. We need to change or expectations to meet His.
The Jews had all these preconceived notions about what and how God would do things in order to fulfill His promises. They wanted a Messiah who would destroy their enemies and end their national humiliation. They could support their expectations with scripture. But even with scripture, men can not predict what God is going to do, otherwise, man with scripture would be God.
Isaiah 42:1-7…Isa. 42-1-7–“Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth. Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.”
The reason so many Jews took offense with Jesus is because He was a surprise; He was new wine, He did not fit the mold of their assumptions. He was all together different from what they expected. But our God is the God of wondrous surprises. Don’t try to paint God in a box: you will be disappointed.
III. HAVING HONEST DOUBT IS NOT SIN–UNBELIEF IS SIN
There is a huge difference between Doubt and Unbelief. Doubt is a matter of the mind, we cannot understand what God is doing or why. Unbelief is a matter of the will, it is when we refuse to take God at His word like the Israelites at Kadesh. They did not go in because of their unbelief. John had honest doubt but by no means was he filled with unbelief. Perpetual doubt could lead to unbelief but initially, they are two different things.
IV. THE ONLY THING JESUS GIVES US FOR ASSURANCE IS HIS WORD
You can throw out a fleece, pray for a sign, long for a feeling but the only thing He is committed to give you is His word. Jesus said to John’s disciples… “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 29:18-19 and 35:4-5…
Isa 29…In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the Lord. The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
Isa 35:4-5…And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!
Jesus does not quote one of the more popular Messianic promises, 61:1, The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the Brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.
John had a vague idea of what God was doing: Jesus knew exactly. I like Dr. Adrian Rogers paraphrase of Jesus message to John…”You go back to being John and let me be God.” The key to peace is to change our expectations so they mesh with God’s.