We know that doubting can be a serious problem for some have walked away from Christianity because of doubts they have had about God or things they were taught about Him. The majority of people that walk away from the faith come to a crisis of belief just like John did. The key is not if you have a crisis of belief but what you do while you are in the midst of that crisis.
James 1:5-7 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
If we have doubts then James says we are like a ship in the ocean that is directionless that is blown around by the waves and wind “Unstable in all his ways”.
One thing we do not consider is that when people are unsure in their faith in God then every area of their life suffers or is blown off course. So the questions of doubt are serious and we need to address them as a church and individually and not just with little saying that make us feel better but not the person with the doubts. One of the reasons I think we shy away from addressing our doubts is because if we help someone else then we may begin to doubt ourselves. We like to keep things on the surface ignoring the questions that are below the surface of our lives. I believe this to be a mistake because Christianity has the answers over any other worldview that is out there. Only Christianity can look below the surface of what it believes and realize that it is on a solid foundation.
John was one of the boldest people you would have ever met if you lived back then. He was so bold that He called the King out for an adulterous affair which is why he was in prison and later beheaded (Matthew 14:1-4). The way it was written is that he said it more than one time to the King reminding the King that his lifestyle was unacceptable.
Now we get to look at the life of John the Baptist and how we can handle doubts that arise in our lives.
1) The Confidence of John
John 1:29-36 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
John acknowledged who Jesus was, Experienced God saying who Jesus was, and even pointed others to Jesus. John saw the spirit of God falling from Heaven, John heard the voice of God speak from Heaven and so if anyone should have never doubted it was John.
So what happened to make John start to doubt?
2) Why John Doubted
Just like us even though at one time we had confidence in Christ there are circumstances that come along that drive us toward doubt and away from faith. Almost all of the references to doubting in the Bible are told about believers. Jesus was constantly telling His disciples “o you of little faith” and “Why do you still doubt?” ( Matthew 8:26, 14:31, 21:21 28:17, Luke 12:28)
The wrong view of the Messiah will always cause us to have doubts because we are not taught, or have the wrong concept of what Jesus should do. We have to remember that John was put into prison that was probably more like a dungeon that blocked him from seeing the outside and from being able to be around people. It is when we are left a lone with our thoughts that they tend to not become more clear but more distorted. It is in the difficult situations that our emotions can take over and begin to cause us to doubt.
“are you the expected one or shall we look for someone else?”
He asked that because like many other people at that time John was expecting the Messiah to come and right the wrongs and to rule over the nations. Just like when people have the wrong view of God it keeps them from coming to Him, we also when we have been taught false things about God, it causes us to stumble.
John had done everything God had asked of him and he now sits in prison wandering how things went so wrong. Some say that John had been in prison for about a year before he sent some of his disciples to go and ask Jesus if He is the one. Prison, shame, hunger, physical torment and loneliness can cause some serious questions about God and His faithfulness to His followers.
John knew the Old Testament passages that talked about God being the God of Comfort (Psalm 119:50) he knew the prophecies of how the Messiah would come and would turn our mourning into gladness (Isaiah 61:1-3) so with that in mind he began to struggle with his beliefs about the Messiah.
Not only do you struggle with your beliefs but then other beliefs that the world promotes begin to sneak in our minds as well. Today the worlds philosophy says there is no truth and truth is what you believe it is. When there is no truth or you doubt Jesus is the truth then you are left with nothing but emptiness and despair.
When you seclude yourself or are secluded from others it allows your mind to wander with no one there to correct your faulty thinking or to help you see from a different perspective. If you really examined some of the conversations you have with yourself you will realize you are glad no one can read your mind. All of us have the mindset that we are the smartest people on the planet and our self- conversations seem logical. Your negative thoughts now become magnified into something they were never supposed to be and even though false they seem to be the truth.
I believe John wrestled with his thoughts as he remembered scriptures and what he should have been looking for in the Messiah.
3) How John got his confidence back
A) Wrestled with his thoughts
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.to be.
Is what you are thinking about true? Have you ever questioned what you were thinking?
2 Corinthians 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
Is your thought life running rampant? What are some ways you can control your thought life?
Johns Disciples somehow had access to him and he let them know about his struggle if Jesus was the one. John did not keep his thoughts to himself but he shared them with other people that he could trust. The leader did not fake it in front of his followers but he shared with them what he was struggling with.
We have to move away from our individualistic mindset of Christianity and realize we are made and need one another. Some of this mindset stems from things like “Our personal relationship with the Lord and “ its just you and me here now.” Although we need our individual times with the Lord we have to be careful that we do not forget that we are part of a family. As members of a family we may get individual time with each other but we still all need to spend time with each other as well.
Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Support groups get it but in our prideful way we do not want to admit that we struggle.We continue to say we are fine, or we fake a smile while all the time we have doubts and struggles that no one knows about. Why are we scared to share our struggles about God, Christ or even our daily problems with others?
“For many Christians, merely having doubts of any kind can be scary. They wonder whether their questions disqualify them being a follower of Christ. They feel insecure because they’re not sure whether it’s permissible to express uncertainty about God, Jesus, or the Bible. So they keep their questions to themselves- and inside, unanswered, they grow and fester and loom until they eventually succeed in choking out their faith. “The shame is not people have doubts”, O.S. Guinness once wrote, “but that they are ashamed of them.”
I am not concerned with difficult questions because I believe that Christianity has answers to the ultimate questions of life.Where we came from, what is our purpose, what happens when we die? Are all answered in and through Christianity. Other religions (which naturalism is a religion) do not have adequate answers to this life or the life to come.
C) Reminded of God’s Word
Jesus does not say a simple yes but He points back to scripture reminding John of what was promised and fulfilled through the scripture.When you have only learned parts of the Bible it can throw you into doubt because some churches will not study certain passages or teach the whole counsel of God.
John was confused over who the Messiah should be so Jesus reassured John by quoting from passages of scripture that described the Messiah. If you study the word of God you will discover that these combinations of unique books were a special revelation from God. Just because someone says “That outdated book” or “that book is full of errors” or that book is nothing more than a fairy tale” does not make it true. We have to be careful to not allow one line slogans keep us from finding the truth especially with the books of the Bible that have been proven over time, archaeologically, historically and scientifically.
Many people had heard of Jesus and His miracles because it was being spread all over about Him. (Matthew 4:23-25, 9:26, Mark 1:28, Luke 4:14, 37 and 5:15) Jesus simply reminded John of what was happening and to remind him that these were the fulfillment’s of the coming Messiah.
Isaiah 35:4-6 Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
What made John doubt was that Jesus was fulfilling part of this passage and not the other part. Jesus was letting John know that this was a preview of what is to come with the Kingdom of God.
The Healing of the Blind and Deaf man in Matthew 9:27 -34 reminds John of Isaiah 29:18; 35:5 and 42:18
The Healing of the Lame man in Matthew 9:1-8 reminds John of Isaiah 35:6
The Raising of the dead found in Matthew 9:18-19 reminds John of Isaiah 26:19
John was reassured with the word of God because He knew the word of God was accurate. That is why there have been so many attacks on the Bible that have been unsuccessful.
Stumbling: the snares for an animal
Jesus was warning John to remember what the word of God says so that he does not get tripped up or ensnared. This does not that you will never have doubts because if you have faith then there will always be the element of doubt that can sneak in because we await things that cannot be seen.
Although John had doubts because of his circumstances, he could also have faith because of what was happening. Our society prides itself on saying “I live by fact and not faith” and that is just not true. If you believe in Evolution then there are steps of faith you have to take for the theory to be true.People think they can gain enough knowledge where they do not have to have any faith but that is never the case because we do not know what happens when we die and we have to accept that by faith.
Even in every day life we exhibit faith. Before you buy a car, pick a doctor or even a school you get as many facts as you can get but the reality is until you go purchase, attend or trust you will be walking by faith.
So if you wait for all the facts until you do anything in this life, so you do not have to have any element of faith then you will do nothing. You will not get married, you will not have kids, you will not buy a house, you will not get on an airplane because doing such things requires faith. Everyone walks by faith no matter what they say.
“For Example, atheist believe in spontaneous generation and macro-evolution on faith alone. We say faith alone because there’s not only little or no evidence for spontaneous generation and macro-evolution, but there’s strong evidence against those possibilities.” (I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist, by Geisler and Turek)
The word of God has been proven true time and time again and although there are things we do not understand fully in this life, we can trust it because it has never been proven wrong. If a friend of yours has never lied to you then you trust that they will not lie to you. If the Bible has yet to be proven wrong then you can trust it in the future as well.
Students are sometimes concerned that one day their faith is going to be shown to be a joke and so they wait not wanting to take a step of faith for Christ just in case. People in their lives point out little things in the Bible that they say prove it wrong but with closer examination you see that those accusations are not warranted.
John probably did not die with all of his questions answered because we cannot fully understand God’s ways this side of Heaven. We will have questions about life and eternity but we have to remember that if we can trust Him for the promises He has made known to us then we can trust Him for the promises that are yet to come.
2 Timothy 2:11-13 11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—