Lesson 124—August 7, 2016
What Am I Battling?
I begin today with a special “thank you” to the staff writers who contributed our lessons for July. I trust that you were blessed by each of them. I very much appreciate the guys and their efforts in presenting a brief survey of four of the Old Testament writers.
Introduction: Today we turn our attention back to the life and ministry of Jesus. If you are new to our Life Focus study, these lessons and the desire to write them came from a burden God placed in my heart concerning the fact that many followers of Jesus have never had the opportunity, or have never taken the time and effort, to study in detail the life and ministry of Jesus. It was after a great deal of prayer that God used that burden to launch us into a study of Jesus’ life and ministry.
Luke 7:17—“And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.” The news of Jesus and His miracles spread quickly throughout the surrounding country.
What do you believe the conversations may have been like throughout that countryside? Remember that Jesus had just raised a widow’s son from the dead in Nain and had healed a Roman centurion’s servant.
How do you think the watchdog Pharisees were feeling about all these things Jesus was doing and the news that was spreading throughout the land?
In these verses, our attention is turned back to John the Baptist. This is the same John the Baptist of Mark chapter one, the one who came as the forerunner of Jesus. This is the same John the Baptist who came crying out the message of repentance, and who baptized Jesus in the Jordon River. But now he is imprisoned in the dungeon of Herod Antipas (Luke 3:19-20) because he rebuked Herod for divorcing his wife to marry his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, who was also his niece. Herod’s reaction to the truth of John’s words was to throw him in prison.
Take just a moment and think about how difficult it must have been for John the Baptist to be locked up and confined to a prison cell. Based on his background, why would this be especially hard for him?
Let us remember that as Jesus began His early ministry, John the Baptist had continued to fulfill his God-given role as the voice of one crying in the wilderness. During the first months of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist was still preaching and calling people to repentance. Now, because he was the voice of truth concerning the immorality of Herod and Herodias, John has been in prison for several months.
John MacArthur writes:
John fulfilled his mission to prepare the people for the coming of Messiah and to point Him out when He arrived. He then faded from the scene, as he himself had foreseen would happen (John 3:30). As this passage begins, John had been in prison for many months.
Once John the Baptist had exposed the sin of Herod and Herodias, Herodias became extremely angry and wanted John killed, but Herod, somewhat amazed by John’s character and fearful of the multitudes, made him a prisoner. He did not want to execute him.
(v. 18) While John was imprisoned, some of his disciples (those who had heard and responded to his message) had gone to follow Jesus and were reporting to John the things that they heard and witnessed. As the news reaches John, he battles with his own doubt. Robert Stein says, “John, as well as the twelve, had difficulty adjusting their preconceptions of what the Messiah was to be like and what they saw in Jesus’ ministry. Thus he [John] experienced a period of real doubt.”
Has there ever been a time in your life when you battled real doubt? Please prayerfully explain. What led you to doubt?
(v. 19) In this verse we find John’s doubt plunging him into the depths of despair.
What does John’s struggle with discouragement and doubt teach us?
What does John’s imprisonment teach us about bad things still happening to faithful servants? John had been relentless in fulfilling his call as the forerunner to the Messiah. What do you believe were some of John’s battles while in prison?
Have you ever asked the question in your own heart why God allows bad things to happen to people who faithfully follow Him?
Satan and the forces of evil want followers of Jesus to live under the shadow of guilt because in our minds we doubted God on some occasion. The wonderful Word of God allows us to see into the hearts and minds of faithful warriors of Jesus Christ. It helps us, as His followers, to know and understand that even John the Baptist had his struggles. So did Peter and Paul. These great warriors wrestled against the same foes that you and I encounter in our daily lives. The Bible does not present these great champions of the faith flawless or perfect. We see them in their struggles, battles and humanity. As we, through Scripture, witness their struggles, we are encouraged in our own struggles.
John the Baptist asked,
“Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
We hear the Apostle Paul say, “We do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia; that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.” Along with Peter, we can hear the rooster crowing in the distance as a reminder of the times we have denied our Lord by our actions, words or attitudes. “Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times’” (Mark 14:72).
The pages of the Bible are filled with story after story, encounter after encounter of men and women who were weak and frail. They do not stand in superhuman strength, sinless and spotless, but they show up on the pages of Scripture with their struggles and shortcomings, their flaws and scars. But in all their weaknesses, we are able to see the mighty power of God rise up within them. We hear Moses say: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). But it would be this same Moses that Scripture would testify: “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10). We walk with David up to the roof of the king’s house where he “saw a woman bathing, and the woman was beautiful to behold” (2 Samuel 11:2). We listen in on David saying: “Send me Uriah the Hittite” (2 Samuel 11:6). We read along with David as he wrote: “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him that he may be struck down and die” (2 Samuel 11:15). And then we hear David’s own words: “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). We read from David’s own pen: “For I acknowledge my transgressions. And my sin is always before me, against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:3-4a). And: “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10). But it would be this same David that was written of: “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). Amos’ words concerning his calling of God echoes: I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder, and a tender of sycamore fruit” (Amos 7:14).
One after another, the pages of Scripture are filled with just common, plain folks, with all their warts, pimples, scars, and imperfections, that God chose to raise up with His power and strength to do what some would call extraordinary. God simply uses common everyday people to fulfill His purposes, so that He might receive all the glory, honor and praise.
Somewhere along the journey of life, we all fight our battles. John the Baptist, rugged, brave and strong, was called out by God to announce the arrival of the Messiah. But now in Herod’s jail, he fights the strongest battle of his life, the battle of doubt.
What are you battling today? Because you are in a battle, do not think that satan is winning. It is not the battle that tells the tale. It is the outcome of the battle that tells the tale. It is not the battle that determines who you are. It is the outcome of the battle that determines who you are.