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Doubt & Discouragement and the power to Overcome

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Luke 3:1–22 NLT
It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea; Herod Antipas was ruler over Galilee; his brother Philip was ruler over Iturea and Traconitis; Lysanias was ruler over Abilene. Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. Isaiah had spoken of John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him! The valleys will be filled, and the mountains and hills made level. The curves will be straightened, and the rough places made smooth. And then all people will see the salvation sent from God.’ ” When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” The crowds asked, “What should we do?” John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?” He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.” “What should we do?” asked some soldiers. John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.” Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and they were eager to know whether John might be the Messiah. John answered their questions by saying, “I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.” John used many such warnings as he announced the Good News to the people. John also publicly criticized Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, for marrying Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for many other wrongs he had done. So Herod put John in prison, adding this sin to his many others. One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”
We have just sung the song “It is well with my soul”. I have a love/hate relationship with that song. There are times when I love it and can sing it the top of my lungs. And there are times when it is not well with my soul. Ever come to church with a heavy heart and then look around at people singing at the top of their lungs that it is well and you don’t feel that it is well at all? John the Baptist would not be singing “It is well” while he was in prison. He was questioning and in a time of real discouragement. I don’t think we can even take that in that the forerunner for Christ, Jesus’ cousin was discouraged?
Today we are going to look at a very interesting person in scripture. I like to call John the baptist a humble mover and shaker. He was a gifted speaker and thousands of people came to listen to him prech. He was a visionary. But there is a problem with dreamers. What if the dream doesn’t come true? What if the end product is different than the way you envisioned?
Dreamers are said to build castles in the sky and move in before they are ready. That’s the peoblem with dreamers. This morning we will look at three hungers of success.
John the baptist was so successful - far more successful than other leaders. Oh that I could be as successful as he was. But all of a sudden his success is the cause of his jail time. In the next phase we see that he is in jail. So he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask him if Christ is really the Messiah. In the next phase we see Jesus’ response. Jesus sends back a message to John and gives him three insights on how to have a reality check when we are discouraged.
Sometimes I look at the worlds and I want to cry out “Lord, I am really struggling! The world is besieged by all kinds of evil that is overwhelming us. We are struggling with the problems of child kidnapping, terrorism, crack babies, rising crime, overcrowded prisons, a breakdown of the family unit and sexual immorality. Lord, in light of these horrible problems, why don’t you raise up leaders who can do something about it?”


Passion is the motivtion you have that when you get out of bed in the morning, you are reay to tackles the world. You have a cause, a reason for living.
Even Victor Frankl found passion to get out of bed in the morning when he was in prison in Nazi Germany when he wrote in the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” that he who has found a why can face any what. If you can find the purpose, you can live. In the prison he found a passion to live.
I believe that the true mark of genius is not to create a sense of awe in others, but to be awed. Children have a sense of awe - sense of wonder. As they get older, many lose that sense of wonder and grow cynical, closed minded, disinterested and most tragic - bored.
William Booth once had an audience with King Edward VII of England. His Majesty highly commended the salvationist for his unflagging zeal and wonderful work among the poor. How revealing was Booth's reply to the King's glowing words! He said, "Your Majesty, some men's passion is for art. Some men's passion is for fame. My passion is for souls."
What am I passionate about? Gardening, sewing, housekeeping, music, good food, socializing, art, cars? What about the lost who are bound for hell? Are you moved at all when you consider their plight? Our God was. Just look at the life, death and resurrection so that sinners could be saved.
When I hear stories like this I cry out, beat my chest, fall on my knees and cry out “Lord, give me a passion for you like that”.
John the Baptist’s passion was his calling. What was the ministry of John the Baptist? According to Luke 1 and 3, John was born of Zacharias and Elizabeth to eventually fulfill the 800 year old prophecy of Malachi,
Malachi 3:1 NKJV
“Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts.
From the time he was a small boy his parents would recall to him the miracle of his birth - that he was born when Zacharias and Elizabeth were old. Zacharias became dumb and could not speak until John was born and the first words out of his mouth were “John” as everyone was discussing what to name this boy. Zacharias said “John” I am sure that John heard this story over and over as he grew up. He was the miracle baby and as he grew he was instructed in the scriptures of this very Godly family.

Gifts & Talents

Each of us has gifts and talents. Each of you sitting here this evening have some talents that God has given to you. As you develop these talents and gifts, it is exciting to see them used in significant ways. That is a hunger we all have. Frustration is when you feel that you cannot use these talents. John must have been an incredible speaker. Thousands came up to him and listened. They loved His speaking and preaching.
Passion = gifts + talents
When you speak about something you are passionate about your eyes light up, you get animated, excited, etc.
Travis - Talking about music
Wayne & Verna - talking about missions
Michaela - Talking about horsess
Jeanie - talking about prayer
Melissa - talking about family ministry
Grandmas - talking about their grandkids
When I have lost my passion for God and begin to become passionate about my speaking or leading or teaching gifts, I have my priorities backwards.
Gifts are the method of expressing our passion - they are not our passion.
Passion is your cause - it is what you believe in. It is what you feel deep inside.

Hunger to make a difference

A lot of what we do in our lives is not significant. We just do the job because it has to be done. Travis and I were away and when we came back we had to spend time doing jobs that just needed to be done to get caught up. When we were done I didn’t feel as if I had done anything significant . I felt that I had just done a job that needed to be done. Much of life is like that.
However, there are times in our life when we are able to use our gifts and abilities to express our passion and we feel as though we have made a difference. We have touched someone. We have lead them to Christ, or comforted them, or counseled them and that is exciting. When all this adds up we feel significant. When you are passionate about God and you can express that hunger with your gifts and abilities, you begin to geel that you are making a difference.
John certainly felt this. And John’s ministry was having a fantastic impact. The forerunner of Jesus came with a message of hope and salvation for those who would receive it, but a message of judgement for those who rejected it. That was John’s ministry and his message. He must have felt significantas he was at a unique period in time to announce the coming of the Messiah. What could be more significant than that.
But then trouble...
With all of John’s calling and his affirmation of his ministry, why would he doubt? There are two key words in the NLT translation of Matt 11:2-3
Matthew 11:2–3 NLT
John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
Prison - What happened?
When the former President Clinton was running against George Bush Sr. in 1992, his campaign message was “It’s time for them to go”.
John’s message could have been summed up with that sound bite: “It’s time for them to go”. He was preaching against evil in the world. He was preaching against the religious systems of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and he basically was saying that the Messiah was here and he was going to come and wipe them all out with a stron sword and set up His kingdom. John was pumped. The peope were pumped. Thousands were coming out to hear him talk about a new Kingdom - the Kingdom of God as set up by his cousin - Jesus Christ whom he had baptized.
And then he ends up in prison - which makes sense. You preach aginst the Roman government and where else do you think you will end up? Herod Antipas was fascinated by John’s preaching and he would love to hear him talk. One time Herod and his wife Herodias were in the audience. In the middle of his message, he pointed his finger to Herod and said:
Mark 6:18 NLT
John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.”
God is going to judge you for your sin. Herod Antipas got rid of his wife to marry his brother’s wife, Herodias. Everybody knew it, but only John would point the finger at him. Before John could finish the next sentence, iron chains were thrown on his wrists and guards begun to drag him from the court to throw him into a black dungeon below. For months, John was kept in that dark dungeon. This prison was attached to one of Herod’s palaces, located some five miles of the Dead sea and some 15 miles south of its nothern tip, what is today modern Jordan.
The trouble with success is that it raises unfilled expectations. John the Baptist had experienced such phemonemal success - he baptized God - what more can you ask for than that. How do you follow up baptizing God. He had thousands coming into the desert to hear him speak and they were baptized.
John was left with perplexing question. He had been in prison for several months and had heard all about the miracles of Jesus, and especially about the raising from the dead of the widow’s son (previous verses Luke 7). So based on these reports and on his own miserable condition, he sent out word by his disciples to ask Jesus a most important question: “Are you the One who is coming, or do we look for someone else?”
His problem was one of unfilled expectations. It was not a problem of questioning the Messiahship of Jesus, but of timing. Why was he perplexed and impatient? John’s understanding of the Messianic plan of redemption was based on the prophecies of Isa. 61-63. Jesus’ first coming involved the preaching of the gospel and offer his physical, emotional and spiritual healing.
John 3:16–18 NLT
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.
His second coming would involve a ministry of judgement and wrath, first against the evil within the nation of Israel, and then against the nations, especially, in John’s mind, the hated Roman Empire who were oppressing the Jews. Further, John was probably thinking “And while we are at it what about getting me out of this prison”.
John’s problem had to do with the sequence of events He did not understand the difference between the first coming, a time when Messiah would offer salvation to Jews and Gentiles and the second coming, which would deal with the judgement of the nations who had rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
In his book “According to Luke” David Gooding wrote “John is not the only one to have felt the problem. To this very day there are many who feel that they cnnot believe in Jesus if He is interested merely in the saving of individuals and not in putting right the great political, economic and social evils of the world”.
The response from Jesus was three things:
Refocus on your expectations
The most common cause of discouragement is unfilled expectations. We expect God to act in a certain way and when he doesn’t then we are disillusioned and begin to doubt the power of God. We need to remember His ways are not our ways, therefore refocus is needed.
How many times do we have expectations that God doesn’t have? We expect healing and dreams and powerful acts by God when God may choose a different way and when that happens we become discouraged.
2. Jesus tells us to refocus on the right person
Jesus concludes his message to John with these words: “Blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me”.
You stumble over something when you are looking in the wrong direction.
If Jesus were a rock in the middle of a path and you were looking at the clouds you would stumble over him. If you were looking at the rock, however, you would not. My problem is often that me expectation was wrong. We were looking in the wrong direction, stumbling over one another, in effect trying to make this contact.
“Blessed is the one who doesn’t stumble over me”. Jesus says “Blessed is the one who sees me the way I really am. Blessed is the one who expects Christianity to be the way God expects it to be, because if your expectations are correct you will not stumble”.
3. Refocus your attitude - allow Him to lead your life let his ways be your ways. Submit, yield, surrender, His way is best.
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