Saturday 23 June 2012

Continuing to think of John the Baptist from my previous message, please turn with me to Matthew 11.

John was near the end of his life and kept in a dungeon at a place in the North East corner of the Dead Sea, an extremely hot and oppressive spot. He had criticised Herod for his immoral lifestyle and this was the punishment.

He was a sad and disillusioned man for his ministry was over, and he feels alienated as people appeared to have forgotten him, especially when Jesus was the focus of attention and he himself faces death.

John had always spoken strongly and faithfully about Jesus and he felt Jesus was doing nothing to help him, so he wonders if in fact Jesus was the promised Messiah. Doubt had entered his mind, which probably affects most people at times, for one senior cleric once stated that if you never had any doubts you had never done any serious thinking.

In order to clear his mind, John asked his disciples to see Jesus and ask Him if he really was the One they were expecting. Jesus told those disciples to go and tell John of what Jesus had actually done in answering prayer, and that things happen in God’s own time. He sought to reassure John and confirm his faith by telling that He (Jesus) was the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Jesus knew people could fall away and give in when things appeared to be going wrong for them. It still happens and we can be very cruel within the Church sometimes by careless talk but on other occasions deliberately. I had a lady in my Church who worked very hard for the Church and demonstrated her faith in a very practical way. She trained to be a Reader, was PCC Secretary, and if anyone fell ill was the first to offer practical assistance to help them through their illness. What you might say ‘an ideal Christian’. Sadly a new Vicar had a wife who was intensely jealous that some other woman could be more popular than her that she made life intolerable for her, causing my friend to leave the Church and fall away for a time. I am delighted to hear she has now returned. There can be no justification for animosity within a Church,.

If you have felt disappointed, or feel no one cares for you remember this passage, knowing there will be judgment one day and all who do goodness will be welcomed into His Kingdom.

There comes times of suffering and weakness in all our lives. We may suffer loss, or have some seemingly impossible matter to deal with. It is so easy to give in, but if you do give in, it can be so hard to get back.

There are so many ill minded people who long to destroy our faith, some within positions of influence in society, and too many politicians who want to take Christianity our of the public domain. Their words may appear attractive when you are downcast. So if you have trusted God and for some reason nothing has happened, your faith will be under severe attack.

John acts as a warning to us, but he came out of his difficulty. You too can. Think of that great hymn by Ray Palmer, ‘my faith looks up to thee.’ Above all, never let doubt lead you to a spiritual desert. It is sad when someone loses their faith, and like many Ministers I have seen it too often. You may think it can’t happen to you, but it can.

Be sure to be at Church on Sunday(s). God bless you.

My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine!
Now hear me while I pray, take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day be wholly Thine!

May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire!
As Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee,
Pure warm, and changeless be, a living fire!

While life’s dark maze I tread,
And griefs around me spread, be Thou my guide;
Bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow’s tears away,
Nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.

When ends life’s transient dream,
When death’s cold sullen stream over me roll;
Blest Savior, then in love, fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul!

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