Summary: Sermon encourages spiritual confidence in what we believe, who we believe, and in how we live as Christians.
Jesus is our hope. When all seems lost, when the situation could not be worse–Jesus is our hope. Consider the perspective of the caterpillar. He has lived a lowly life–just crawling along, trying to make it from one point to the next. Suddenly he feels anxious. If something does not change soon, he will burst! So, he begins to work frantically, not really understanding what he is doing. Before he knows what has happened, he finds himself closed in–imprisoned. He struggles frantically, wanting nothing but to be free. He pushes against the walls, begging God to let him out. Then, when all seems lost, he breaks free and finds he has wings, and can now fly. Note that should the caterpillar be freed from his cocoon too soon–before he has worked out the fluids of metamorphosis–then he will forever be a bloated butterfly, unable to fly. Sometimes the very trials that seem to plague us are those that God is using to form us into men of greatness, well-equipped to serve and honor the kingdom of God. This is not a call to complacency, however. While we are always content in Jesus, we are called to struggle against our flesh, and against the evil that surrounds us and would devour us. So, let us continue in the battle, knowing our hope lies in Jesus!
We have much to learn from a man who statistically, numerically, and perhaps even historically, would seem to have been a failure. This man, John the Baptist, was called one of the greatest success stories ever by none other than Jesus Christ. Luke 7:18-29:
JOHN’S DISCIPLES TOLD HIM ABOUT ALL THESE THINGS. CALLING TWO OF THEM, HE SENT THEM TO THE LORD TO ASK, “ARE YOU THE ONE WHO WAS TO COME, OR SHOULD WE EXPECT SOMEONE ELSE?”
WHEN THE MEN CAME TO JESUS, THEY SAID, “JOHN THE BAPTIST SENT US TO YOU TO ASK, “ARE YOU THE ONE WHO WAS TO COME, OR SHOULD WE EXPECT SOMEONE ELSE?”
AT THAT VERY TIME JESUS CURED MANY WHO HAD DISEASES, SICKNESSES AND EVIL SPIRITS, AND GAVE SIGHT TO MANY WHO WERE BLIND. SO HE REPLIED TO THE MESSENGERS, “GO BACK AND REPORT TO JOHN WHAT YOU HAVE SEEN AND HEARD: THE BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, THE LAME WALK, THOSE WHO HAVE LEPROSY ARE CURED, THE DEAF HEAR, THE DEAD ARE RAISED, AND THE GOOD NEWS IS PREACHED TO THE POOR. BLESSED IS THE MAN WHO DOES NOT FALL AWAY ON ACCOUNT OF ME.”
AFTER JOHN’S MESSENGERS LEFT, JESUS BEGAN TO SPEAK TO THE CROWD ABOUT JOHN: “WHAT DID YOU GO OUT INTO THE DESERT TO SEE? A REED SWAYED BY THE WIND? IF NOT, WHAT DID YOU GO OUT TO SEE? A MAN DRESSED IN FINE CLOTHES? NO, THOSE WHO WEAR EXPENSIVE CLOTHES AND INDULGE IN LUXURY ARE IN PALACES. BUT WHAT DID YO GO OUT TO SEE? A PROPHET? YES, I TELL YOU, AND MORE THAN A PROPHET. THIS IS THE ONE ABOUT WHOM IT IS WRITTEN: “I WILL SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.” (MALACHI 3:1)
I TELL YOU AMONG THOSE BORN OF WOMEN THERE IS NO ONE GREATER THAN JOHN; YET THE ONE WHO IS LEAST IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS GREATER THAN HE.”
(ALL THE PEOPLE, EVEN THE TAX COLLECTORS, WHEN THEY HEARD JESUS’ WORDS, ACKNOWLEDGED THAT GOD’S WAY WAS RIGHT, BECAUSE THEY HAD BEEN BAPTIZED BY JOHN).
Life’s journey often brings us to a place at which we question ourselves. Am I doing the right thing? Is my faith in God sufficient? Is God even real? Have I been a fool to believe God loves me and wants to use me for his purposes? The story of John the Baptist encourages us to stand secure, in that even when it appears that our efforts have wrought no fruit, God knows all and evaluates our lives according to our faithfulness, not by outward results of our labor.
Hope does not begin with us, but with God. We must plant deep within our hearts and spirits the truth that God’s ways are not wrong. A Christian lifestyle of holiness and separation, for example, are not wrong. John lived modestly. He did not drink alcohol. He did not mix with the world. As he sat in prison he might have wondered if he should have been more accommodating to the ways of the world. Sometimes we may think we need to attract the world by apealing to their likes and dislikes. However, if church becomes comfortable, the warm bed or golf course will always be more comfortable. If the church becomes fashionable, it will always be a half step behind society. If church becomes pleasing to the wolrd, why would anybody feel they needed to become pleasing to the church? Accommodation is wrong. Holiness and separation–God’s ways–are correct. The church is to be a city on a hill. People should look to us and be jealous of the clean way we live, and of the powerful way we love our fellow believers.