Have you ever felt confident you were in God’s will and then later wondered if you’d made the right decision?
Have you ever had a strong conviction about something only to later completely change your mind?
Do you sometimes feel strong in your faith and in the next moment feel filled with doubt?
If we’re honest, I think we’ve all been there. I know there are times when I feel totally confident in God’s faithfulness and yet a minute later I’m filled with worry and fear.
So what’s going on in times like those? And what can we do about it?
In Matthew 11, Jesus has just finished giving instructions to his disciples before he sends them out to do ministry. Jesus then went out Himself to teach and preach in the surrounding towns. That’s when John the Baptist, who’s in prison, sends two of his disciples to Jesus with a question.
“Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
Earlier in the gospel of Matthew, when Jesus came to John to be baptized, John said, “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you, so why are you coming to me?” Clearly, John knew who Jesus was and felt inadequate to even baptize Him. In the gospel of John, he said of Jesus, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
So what changed? Why is John now wondering if Jesus is the one or if he should keep looking?
Why do you and I start to wonder? Why do you and I start doubt and question God? Why do we doubt His goodness and faithfulness?
I know for me it happens when my circumstances aren’t very good, when difficulties aren’t getting better, when I expected God to work in a certain way and He didn’t.
Maybe John expected to be released from prison. I’m sure he must have prayed about it. It’s easy to become discouraged and begin to doubt when we don’t see God act in the way we’d like or as quickly as we’d like. John recognized Jesus as the Messiah, but maybe he also had expectations that Jesus would be a political or military savior as well. God had shown him that Jesus would take away the sins of the world–maybe John thought that would also mean overthrowing the Roman occupation and letting him out of prison.
So what does Jesus tell John’s disciples?
Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 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. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’”
Jesus is revealing Himself to the lowly, to the poor, to the sick, to the sinners and to the humble. He’s restoring their physical health and He’s offering spiritual health to those who believe in Him. His kingdom is advancing among “the least of these.” He’s not setting up an earthly kingdom though. Not yet.
Then Jesus ends with, “God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.”
I feel like Jesus is saying, “John, I know it’s hard right now. I know things haven’t gone like you expected. And yes, I could get you out of this right now if I wanted to, but that’s not why I’ve come. You know why I’ve come, so don’t give up, John. Keep trusting Me. Don’t turn away now. Your reward is coming.”
And so is your reward if you don’t turn away.