Faith and Doubt
Reading: Matthew 11:2-11
A HINGE POINT IN HISTORY
This season of Advent and today’s Gospel reading remind us that the coming of Jesus was a turning point in man’s relationship with God. Our historical dating sequence of BC & AD emphasises this. Before Jesus the Old Testament records the Law – the rules of how to live a sinless life that would then give us access to God. Rules that people found impossible to keep. So, the sacrificial system was used to help pay for sin, but it never did! God sent prophets to warn people about their failings and also to tell them to look forward to the coming of the Messiah who would save them from their enemies and their sins. In fulfilment of OT prophesies John the Baptiser arrived on the scene before Jesus, preparing the way for Him, and this gospel records the start of people experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. Whereas the OT is based on the Law and the words of the Prophets, the NT is based on love, forgiveness and God coming to Earth as one of us and remaining with us on Earth through His Holy Spirit. This truly was a turning point in our personal relationship with God.
Preparing to move from old to new
The Advent season is a time for us to move from the old and look forward to the new. As Miles and the family prepare to move on, this is a season for us all to be similarly focussed and believe that God has good things for both the Bakers and All Saints. Let’s encourage one another to building hope for a bright future as we seek and obey the leading of God’s Holy Spirit.
Building Hope for the Future
A season of PEACE, JOY, HOPE, and LOVE
Advent is about preparing for things. Are you ready for Christmas? Presents bought and wrapped, menus thought through, travel arrangements made, (Letters to Santa written…………….)? One of the themes that we use for our Advent wreath is to have the four candles we light around the Christ candle represent Peace, Joy, Hope and Love. Today’s message is a reminder to maintain Hope in these challenging days.
A time of looking back with thanks
As we move into a new era in the life of our Nation, and in the life of our church, let’s be grateful. We can start by giving thanks for all the benefits we have experienced in recent years through our relationship with our European neighbours and pray that new bonds of co-operation can be found.
We also give thanks for all the good things that Miles has introduced into the life of our fellowship here. New people, more effective administration systems, community needs recognised and talented leaders being appointed to help meet them. Personally, I will miss the challenge and encouragement of his down-to-earth, practical preaching, and I thank him for all those up-lifting sermons. But this is Advent, the season to also be looking forward expectantly to what’s to come.
A time of looking forward with expectancy to what’s to come
Well, what am I looking forward to? I’m excited by the thought of us being able to work together as a family team during this interregnum. It may not be Orange, but the future’s bright! Let’s maintain our Hope, and deepen our trust in God.
John in prison
Jesus has been preaching about persecution, and John’s experience shows how far persecution can go. John is in prison and will ultimately be executed for his bold statements about the immorality of King Herod. Today, in many areas in the world Christians are in prison for standing up for the values that Jesus brought to the world.
Jesus in ministry.
Verse 1 of our reading reminds us that after sending out the twelve on mission, Jesus himself carried on visiting towns and villages preaching and teaching. He never missed an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love to all people.
John doubts Jesus?
Now, John is in prison. His fervent belief in Jesus expressed at the time he baptised the Lord and heard the voice from heaven declaring Jesus’ son-ship and ministry, seems to be being challenged. All of us who speak about Jesus may also suffer from doubt at times. It’s understandable that because of his imprisonment and the reports John was hearing about the rising opposition Jesus was receiving from the Jewish leaders that his discouragement was raising doubts. Rather than sit and wallow in increasing uncertainty, John does what he can and sends some of his disciples to directly confront Jesus and ask if was indeed the Christ, the one who was to come.
Jesus would not confirm with words, but sent them back to John to tell him about all the deeds they could see He was doing. The blind received their sight, the lame walked, those with leprosy were cured, the deaf heard, the dead were being raised, and the good news being preached to all people. These were all signs that the Messiah would exhibit and are linked to the messianic prophesy written in Isaiah that Jesus read out at the launch of His work. Jesus confirmed His status and purpose by actions rather than words, something I await with hope for our new government to also do in coming months.
Jesus acknowledges John
Jesus acknowledges before all the people that John, although languishing in prison, is indeed a prophet. And not just any old prophet, but the one who had announced the lead-up to that final victory over sin that was being conducted by none other than God’s Messiah, Jesus himself.
POINTS TO PONDER
Faith and doubts
So what lessons can we personally take on-board from this reading?
Today, some of you are struggling with failed expectations. Perhaps you feel God hasn’t heard you, or He is ignoring you. Perhaps you’re feeling your faith ebbing away and being replaced by a deluge of doubt.
Let’s try to stop beating ourselves up when we start experiencing doubts, they’re a natural partner to exercising faith. Paul Tillich, widely regarded as one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century, once said, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; It is one element of faith”.
Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Because faith is placed in something we cannot see there is always room for doubts to arise when we don’t immediately receive what we ask for, or when God delays His answer to meet His timing and not ours. Sometimes we’re so focussed on details that we miss the bigger picture
1Cor. 12:13 (Telescope)
Matt. 11:11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
What a challenging statement! How can believers, and even the least of us, be greater than John the Baptist? Well, we have something that John never had. John never witnessed the cross and resurrection. We have so much more to base our faith and hope upon.
Ensuring the main thing is the main thing
As we move through this Advent looking expectantly to Christmas let us keep focussed on the coming of Jesus into our world. Born as one of us, a love gift to us from Father God, to show us how to live the Kingdom life in this world. Let’s also live in hope, looking beyond to His death and resurrection that enables us to continue living the Kingdom life.