Are You really the Messiah we’ve been waiting for, or should we keep looking for someone else? Matthew 11:3 (NLT)
It is impossible to explore the topic of doubt without bringing to mind the man whose name has become synonymous with doubt even among non-believers. In fact, the term doubt has become part of his name: Doubting Thomas. However, little attention seems focused on an event that occurred much earlier in Jesus ministry. Wherein, the man, who made one of the earliest public confessions of Jesus when he cried out, Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! (John 1:29). Then he said, I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God! (John 1:34). The speaker, of course, was John the Baptist.
As you may recall Herod had imprisoned John the Baptist because John had dared to openly rebuke him. Previously, Herod had shown a keen interest in John’s preaching. However, once when Herod and his new wife, Herodias were attending one of John’s sermons, in the middle of his message John pointed to Herod and said, It is unlawful for you to have your brother’s wife (Mark 6:18). He went on to declare that God was going to punish him for his sins. Everybody was aware that Herod had gotten rid of his own wife in order to marry his brother’s wife, Herodias; but only John would point his finger at him while he denounced his sin! Before John could conclude his message he was arrested and imprisoned.
John’s disciples continued to bring John reports of the Jesus activities during his confinement and after several months John reflected on his previous messages and was confronted with some perplexing questions. He had forcefully proclaimed the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. The axe was to be laid at the very root of the tree of evil and those who were guilty would be cast into the fire (Matthew 3:10). These had been Johns expectations. But what did his disciples report to him? The adulterous Herod was still in power. The Pharisees and Sadducees were still in control of the religious system. The reports of Christs activities were especially disconcerting! Jesus healing ministry was so vastly different from the picture of a militant, conquering Messiah that John had expected that it caused him to question, Is He the One? He probably questioned whether his entire ministry had been a failure. However, to Johns credit with all his doubts and sense of failure rather than just lament and brood, he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus directly. Are You the One?
Jesus responded to their question and voiced His high esteem for John in spite of his doubts, I assure you, of all who ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11). Johns uncertainty clearly resulted from his expectations about the role of Christ in the world! However, before we belittle him for his doubts; we need to reflect on those moments when we have questioned the whys of life. Why did you let this happen to me, O Lord? Why did my friend betray me? Why do good people suffer? Why dont you do something about the evil in the world? All these questions touch on the intersection of faith and the pains of this world.
Some people would suggest that our struggles with the questions of why mean that we lack faith; but this is NOT true! Struggling with God is a sure sign that we do have faith! If we didnt have even a modicum of faith, we wouldn’t even bother to struggle, as there would be no reason to do so! One author offered an insightful observation on the Development of faith. He states, It helps me to think of doubt as a kind of immunization. When you receive a smallpox vaccination, the doctor actually gives you a tiny portion of the disease. The tiny portion is just enough to activate your antibodies so you have the strength to fight off the disease later. In the same way, doubts can actually end up developing a much stronger faith as we face our doubts honestly.
I do not make any claim to any real answers to the whys of this world. But I have learned that faith is a choice you make. Sometimes you choose to believe because of what you see, often you believe in spite of what you can see. As I view the world around me, many things remain mysteries and without answers. But if there is no God, and if He is not good, then nothing makes sense. I have chosen to believe as I truly have no other choice and although like most believers I have moments of doubt, I have come to regard them as the building blocks of my faith and I am confident that some day He will make it all plain! Amen