6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: John the Baptist


In the first part of the 12th century, a French peasant maid by the name of Joan of Arc was called to save her country from the British. Then she fell into their hands. While the fires were being lighted around the stake at which this 19 year old young lady was to be burned alive, she was given a chance to regain her liberty by denying what she believed. In choosing fire rather than her freedom, this is what she said, the world can use these words:

¡§Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing; nevertheless they give up their lives for that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it...and then it's gone. But to surrender what you are, and live without belief...that's more terrible than dying...even more terrible than dying young.¡¨ (Howard Hendricks, ¡§Run to win¡¨ MBI '85)

One of my heroes of the Bible is not whom you expect. Few would classify him as a hero because he was not who fought back, dodged bullets and conquered enemies. My wife would roll her eyes in disbelief every time I mentioned John¡¦s name and heroics. John the Baptist was not conventional, courteous or compromising, but candid, courageous and consistent. Jesus gave him the highest praise: John was ¡§ more than a prophet¡¨ (Matt 11:9) and ¡§among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist (Matt 11:11). God did not choose a governor, a tetrarch (v 1) or high priests (v 2) to carry out His commission. The phrase ¡§the word of God came¡¨ is an Old Testament prophetic expression and calling (1 Kings 12:22, 1 Chron 17:3) given for a specific function.

What sacrifice and serve have your rendered to God? What things matter and of value to you? How have you honored in peace and peril? Why are our lives more than just enjoyment and experience?

Be Focused on the Foremost

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar¡Xwhen Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene¡X 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: ¡§A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ¡¥Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all people will see God¡¦s salvation.¡¦¡¨

The motorists, pedestrians and neighborhoods in the United States are far safer than their counterpart in Hong Kong. In 1953, New Jersey was the first state to fit the roads with rumble strips, which are bits of corrugated concrete, to alert an inattentive driver with a rattle and a hum if his vehicle starts to drift off the lane. Besides the use of speed bumps and driver feedback speed detectors (¡§your speed¡¨) on streets and highways effectively reduce accidents and deaths.

In surveys of American motorists, more than two-thirds admit to using mobile phones while driving. An analysis of 7,000 teenage drivers by the American Automobile Association found that distraction from interaction with passengers was the top factor in 58% of crashes. Phone use was the second-greatest contributor to accidents.

(¡§Driven from distraction¡¨ The Economist, April 25th 2015)


There was no distraction, deviation and delinquent in John¡¦s life - only decision, direction and determination. The focus of John¡¦s life, ministry and growth was in the context of the wilderness, including preaching in the wilderness of Judaea (Matt 3:1), crying in the wilderness (Matt 3:3) and baptizing in the wilderness (Mark 1:4). The wilderness was his library, lodge and living room. It was a learning and listening experience and not a lonely or limited experience to him, a friend and not a foe, a training ground and not a torturous grind to him. A desert is so called because it implies desertion, deprivation and desolation. The wilderness usually implies a place without comfort, company or culture, but for John it was without corruption, commotion or camouflage. If the hills were alive with the sound of music, what is the desert alive with? The desert is alive with the scent of wildflowers, the scene of reptiles, the sound of insects and the spring of plant life and the survival of animals. The wilderness is a cross between will, wild, weeds and wildlife. For John it was a place of strength, sanctuary and stimulus. The wilderness was not a problem to him because it is a place of devotion, development and discipline, not a place of distraction and dread.

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