Posted by: gbake783 | August 23, 2011

Luke 7:18-35

Doubt can be an insidious thing.

Athletes whisper of doubt as if  it were a terminal disease. They know Chuck Knoblauch, the second baseman whose baseball accomplishments could easily be on a Hall of Fame placard: 1st round MLB draft pick, Collegiate All-American, American League Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove winner, 2-time Silver Slugger winner, 4-time American League All-Star, and 4-time World Series Champion. Beyond the accomplishments, Knoblauch had the reputation of a hard-nosed competitor with a flare for big-game execution (as a Braves’ fan, I’m all too familiar with his exploits). In 1999, however, Knoblauch’s career took a dramatic turn.

Doubt crept in. Knoblauch suddenly began making throwing errors on even the most routine tosses to first base. He never recovered completely. One bad toss and Knoblauch began to question the bio-mechanical process that he simply took for granted for 25 years – or however long he’d been throwing a ball. Baseball players call it Steve Sax Syndrome or Mackey Sasser Disease. Golfers call it the yips. Basketball players call it choking. And good luck getting an athlete to talk about it – they know it can happen to anyone. Simply acknowledging doubt might make them more susceptible to it. Several professional sports franchises keep psychiatrists on retainer just so their athletes can deal with the doubt.

Christians often treat doubt the same way. I can’t tell you how many times a believer has confessed, “I’ve struggled with doubt for years, but I just assumed I was the only one.” Luke 7:18-35 deals openly with doubt.

First, the passage teaches us that even the strongest servants are prone to doubt. John the Baptist, Christ’s forerunner, the greatest old covenant prophet, struggled with doubt. Circumstances no doubt exacerbated his condition as he was stuck in prison for preaching against Herod Antipas’s infidelity. How could he be the forerunner, how could he be the voice in the wilderness if he’s stuck behind bars? How can Jesus be the predicted Messiah of Isaiah 61:-1-2 – “the opening of the prison to those who are bound” – if John is rotting away in prison? One can see how Satan could twist Scripture, capitalize on circumstances, and play a weakened emotional state to drive John’s doubts.

John did the right thing when doubts crept in. Some individuals internalize the doubts, brush them off as “no big deal,” or, worse, go into the doubt-spiral (apologies to Dave Ramsey’s debt-spiral). The doubt-spiral typically begins with a singular doubtful thought and can end in full-blown depression. The doubter slowly and steadily descends a well-worn thought-path that, when traversed often, becomes an ever quicker descent to melancholy and self-loathing. Even if the believer stops the spiral, they’ve got a long hike back up the path. The goal is to recapture biblical thinking as soon as possible. And this is exactly what John did – he took his doubts immediately to His Savior, “calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another'” (v. 18-19).

Second, the passage notes Jesus loving reaction the doubting servant. Christ does not chide – he does not take the doubt personally. Jesus does not take offense, he does not grow sensitive, he never chastises His children for laying their doubts at His feet. Too often the last person doubting believers consult is their Lord – as if they should hide their doubts from the omniscient One. Jesus knows. And cares. He does not dismiss John’s servant with a huff, “Tell him to remember what we’ve been through. Tell him he should think better of me.” No, Jesus understands it’s difficult to follow Him. Jesus himself saw many disciples walk away with only the twelve remaining (John 6:66-71). This is the reason for the beatitude in verse 23, “blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

As a matter of fact, Jesus doesn’t even answer the question directly, which brings us to the third consideration. It’s instructive how Jesus answers John’s question. What if Jesus had simply said, “Yes, of course”? Would that ultimately have helped John? Maybe in the short term, but a long-term solution needed something more thoughtful. Jesus told John’s messengers to watch. Then Jesus “in that hour healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight” (v.21). Then Jesus gave His answer, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight . . .” (v.22). Jesus was appealing to Old Testament prophecies like Isaiah 61. In a sense, Jesus was saying, “Tell John that I’m fulfilling the Word,” which gave proof-positive affirmation to his doubting servant. Jesus turned John to Scripture.

This is the road-map for the doubting servant. It’s not sinful to endure doubts – it’s part of the Christian life. When doubts creep, run to the Savior and consult Scripture. The goal for recapturing biblical thinking must be done biblically and prayerfully. It might take time – the doubts may subside slowly, but this is the road-map our Savior provides.

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