He sat in his small, dark prison cell, thinking. Doubts began to fill his mind as he sat on the cold floor. How had he ended up here? he wondered.
How dynamic his ministry had been, baptizing dozens of followers daily! He was criticized by the priests and Levites, sent of the Pharisees from Jerusalem, wondering just who he was. “I am NOT the Christ,” he had said. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” He had been chosen by God Himself to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He recognized that he was truly unworthy to even loosen the very shoes worn by the man who was preferred before himself. The very next day, John presented Jesus to his “congregation,” pointing to the very Son of God, declaring, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
How privileged he had felt to have been chosen for such an important task! That of pointing others to the Savior.
But now he felt so confused. How had it come to this? This moment in his life when he sat in a prison cell. True, he had spoken out against the ruler’s sinful relationship; and now he was locked up. How he longed to be free once again, declaring the mighty works of the Living God!
Now he felt confused and discouraged. Had his preaching been all wrong? Had he, indeed, steered people to the wrong man? Not too long ago, he had said with such confidence, “This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.” And, “…but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” He was so sure then! But now, sitting in a cold, darkened cell, doubts began to fill his mind. Satan was beginning to fill his mind with doubts about what he had been preaching all along.
Is it really worth it? All my life has been dedicated to preparing the way for the Messiah. I was so certain that it was He. Now I’m not so sure.
Perhaps John had hoped that Jesus would free him from his prison. After all, he had done so much, preparing the way for the Messiah.
So he sent two of his disciples to Jesus, asking specifically: “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” He waited for the answer to come. What would Jesus say? How would He respond to this admittance to doubt and discouragement?
At last, the disciples returned. How his face burned with shame when his disciples returned with a direct message from Jesus! “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” He hung his head, ashamed he had even had those thoughts! Jesus must be so disappointed in him.
How could he have been so foolish to swallow the lies whispered by Satan into his ear, bringing forth doubt and confusion? Of course, Jesus WAS the Messiah, the long-awaited One who would bring salvation to Israel!
What John did not know at that moment was that just a short time later, Herod would command that John be beheaded. John had fulfilled God’s purpose for his life on this earth. And it would bring glory to God to suffer at his death as he did.
How often we begin to doubt the precious words of our Holy God! What a terrible thing to live in confusion and uncertainty, taunted by Satan’s lies, “Yea, hath God said?”
Do you find yourself in a prison? Do you find yourself in a situation that seems hopeless? Do you feel that life has paid you evil, after living your life for God? Have you given your life to preaching and teaching the Gospel, and yet you are suffering? Perhaps you find yourself doubting. Everything you have lived, believed, and preached, is suddenly coming under attack. Do you find yourself asking, “Is it really worth it?” Are you ready to just give up? What do you do?
Maybe we can learn some things from John’s situation. We can sometimes relate to John’s circumstances. Perhaps the following can bring hope to your trembling heart.
Matthew 11:4, 5 tells us that Jesus took the time to reassure John’s faith. John was wise in asking his disciples to go to Jesus Himself, and to ask Him. Tell it to Jesus, my friend. He is waiting with answers and reassurance.
It IS worth it to serve Jesus. The blessings are great. The reassurance will come. Just hang on!
Matthew 11:7-14 says that Jesus spoke highly of John. John never heard these words spoken, and never knew that Jesus said them, for Jesus spoke them after John’s disciples were gone. John’s mission in life was special: to prepare the way of the Messiah. This was prophesied before John’s birth in Malachi 3:1. John was created for a special purpose.
And God created you for a special purpose. He has a specific task for you to fulfill. If we seek His face, He will be found. He will lead in the path to which He has called you!
Jesus asked in Matthew 11:8, “What went ye out for to see?”
What did you expect? All too often, our expectations of what our circumstances in life should be make us unhappy with the daily blessings that God brings to us. Sometimes we expect that serving our Lord will be easy; we don't expect difficulty. Is serving Jesus always a bed of roses? Smooth sailing all the time? Soft raiment? Not always. Soft raiment is for kings and such. We are not kings, but servants of the King.
Maybe you find yourself on the mission field, far from family and friends and all that is familiar. You are out of your comfort zone, perhaps in a house that doesn't have all the conveniences to which you are accustomed. Take heart, Dear Friend. His grace is sufficient to get you through the most frustrating of circumstances. Just hang in there and don't become weary. God sees your circumstances; He placed you there!
John was a prophet, yea and more than a prophet. All the prophets prophesied until John. “This was Elias which was for to come,” Jesus said. What an important mission John had in this life! God had chosen this specific path for him, as He had chosen how his life would come to an end.
God allowed John to be beheaded. John’s mission on this earth had been fulfilled. He was obedient and fulfilled his Father’s will. God did not free him from his prison. It was for God’s glory that he suffer and die as he did.
All too often, we cry from within, "God, free me from this prison in which I find myself! I cannot take it another day!" And God says, "You can, my child. You can do all things through Me, because I am here, right beside you, and I strengthen you. I see the whole picture, and it will all come together for good one day, you just wait and see."
What is your motive for serving God? Why do you serve the Lord today? May it not be to please or to impress man.
Let me encourage you to do what you do for God’s glory, and when the going gets tough, just think, "Lord, if this is what brings glory to You, I am willing." Our purpose in life should be to bring glory and honor to our Lord, in whichever way He chooses. Is it always easy? No, it is not. But I would not trade for personal comfort and a life of ease, the certainty of knowing that God has chosen this specific path for me, and that He is in perfect control of my situation. I rest in the peace of knowing that all things are working for my good. He loves me. Yes, He loves me.
If I can encourage you, Dear Fellow-laborer: Just be faithful. Our Heavenly Father sees us and knows our needs, even before we ask, whether our needs be spiritual, financial, physical, or emotional. He knows all things from beginning to end. He foresees all that will come. Hold to His hand. He is unchanging. His Word is truth, and it is constant in a world of uncertainty and instability.
And one day, as did John, you will hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”