Posted by: Mike Willoughby | February 1, 2010

Do Not Fear – Witness My Power

I find it very interesting to note how many times in the Gospel accounts Jesus tells us to not be afraid. I think Jesus knew how much we would need constant reassurance that we can defeat fear in our lives and not be held hostage to the debilitating effects of fear and doubt. I also think Jesus knew how difficult it would be for us humans to conquer fear and doubt as we cope with our crazy topsy-turvy lives. I don’t think Jesus expects we will never experience common human fear and doubt. I do think he expects we’ll confront these negative emotions head-on and emerge victorious. That’s why Jesus not only encouraged us with his words, he equipped us with powerful tools to go on the offensive against fear and uncertainty. Over the next few weeks, we will focus on some examples from the Gospel of Luke where Jesus helped people conquer fear and doubt and in the process he gives us the power to also be victorious.

The first example is found in Luke chapter 7:

The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 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?” And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?'”

John had baptized Jesus and heard God’s testimony from heaven in God’s own voice. He had probably heard Jesus preach and seen the mighty works and he did expect his own ministry to decline as Jesus’ ministry ascended. So then, why the doubts? Why would John say, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Surely with John’s divine appointment and with all that he had witnessed, he would not question the identity of the son of God. After all, in this same chapter Jesus affirms John as one of the greatest man to have ever lived. Is there room for doubt within such a great prophet?

Before criticizing John, we need to spend some time in John’s sandals. According to Matthew 11, John is in prison waiting a likely execution. I don’t think this is how John expected his ministry to end. Perhaps some of these questions went through his mind: “When is the Messiah going to move this pretend king, Herod aside and claim his throne? When is he going to fulfill his mission? Will I even be around to see his triumph?”

The surprise here isn’t how John responds. He responds like the weak human that he is. He responds like most of us would respond in similar circumstances. Have you ever been in a place you never expected, circumstances totally outside your control, feeling powerless and abandoned? Did you wonder where God was at that time? I think that is the way John felt as he sat in that prison. In the midst of uncertainty and doubt, John seeks confirmation that everything will be OK and things are going according to plan.

Notice how Jesus responds to John’s doubt with a response of love, compassion and affirmation. He creates an impromptu opportunity for John’s disciples to witness the power of the Trinity working in the Son. He lets them see once again the love he bestows on the weak, hurting and fearful. He unveils his power to remind them of his divine nature and packages this power in simple human touch. Then he sends these comforted disciples back to John with his gift to sooth John’s doubts with a reminder of his power.

In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

For the times we struggle with doubts and fears, we should be willing to receive this gift from God. We should meditate on the power of God as evidenced in the recorded miracles of Jesus. We should ponder the testimony of the power of nature and the miracle of life that transpires right before our eyes. Paul tells us basically in Romans chapter 1, when in doubt, look around! Nature itself testifies to the work of the creator.

Although we should be inspired to confidence by observing God’s power in the miracles and in nature, we still sometimes experience fear and doubt. In case we are tempted to think we are alone with our periodic doubts, Luke fills the final chapter of his gospel with examples of Jesus ministering to disciples who struggled with doubts even in the presence of his empty tomb right before their eyes. Jesus blessed his hurting disciples with his healing words and I believe he wants to bless you in the same way. Come back next week to join me in receiving his blessing!

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!


Responses

  1. I really needed to hear this. Sometimes it is really hard for me. I do receive much needed help from what you write. I appreciate todays message very much.

  2. Great post, Mike! John’s example gives me strength, comfort, and hope. He had preached so powerfully and witnessed so effectively about who Jesus was, then was caused to wrestle with doubts from the depths of Herod’s dungeon when things did not transpire as he had thought they would. Jesus’ response also provides so much comfort. Looking forward to the rest of the series. Praying for safe travels and a successful trip for you.
    Love,
    Your brother Tim

  3. fear and doubt…how destructive they can be to the human condition. Thanks be to God for His grace, and the peace it brings to life here on earth


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