Being Honest About Your Doubts

Steve Viars April 1, 2012 Luke 7:18-35

- this morning I’d like to ask you a question in the form it would often be asked in our culture-- but I hope it doesn’t sound irreverent…

- Would Jesus throw one of His followers under the bus for expressing a doubt about Him?...

- No one knows for sure where that phrase originated…although there are some very interesting theories…but it refers to someone who doesn’t show loyalty to his friend…but instead sells him out…you used to be important to me, but now for whatever reason you’re not…

- “to sacrifice; to treat as a scapegoat; to betray,” the sudden, brutal sacrifice of a stalwart and loyal teammate for a temporary and often minor advantage…

- the point is – would Jesus punish you in some way simply for raising a question, or expressing a doubt…would you be in trouble if you did that?

1. For example, let’s say something wasn’t working out the way you thought it was supposed to…

- maybe you were trying to raise your children for the Lord…

- and you’ve been investing a lot of time in training them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord…

- and you’ve been clinging to your understanding of a passage like Proverbs 22:6 – train up a child in the way he should go…and when he is old, he will not depart from it…

- and one or more of your children, as he is getting old, is definitely departing from it…

- is there anything room with you putting your hand in the air and saying…excuse me…it seems to me that I did my part and You…well, you know…

- can you express a doubt or question about what’s happening around you…

2. Or maybe you’re sitting in a college class…

- and your professor brings up a point that you’ve never thought about before…

- and it makes you question some aspect of your faith…maybe some portion of the Word of God…

- what do you do with that?...

- do you have to pretend in order to belong to the club?...

- is it OK to raise the question in polite company…especially since the Lord is always part of the company? 

3. Let’s say that you’re studying something in the Bible…

- and you compare it to some other place in God’s Word…and it doesn’t seem to match…maybe one place seems to contradict the other…

- like last week when Luke 7 seems to indicate that the Centurion did not go out and meet Jesus but the parallel passage in Matthew clearly says that he did…

- do God’s people just wink at each other during a time like that…or look away out of embarrassment?... 

- what I’m asking is – when you have questions, concerns, doubts – do you get in trouble if you express them?...and how does the answer to that question affect your core strength…

- does expressing doubt make you stronger or weaker?...does ignoring doubt make you stronger or weaker?...

- do you know what we really need?...

- we need an example in the Bible of a person expressing doubt about Jesus to Jesus…and then we need to sit back and see what happens next…and then learn all the lessons we possibly can…

- I wonder if there is such an example anywhere in Scripture?...

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to Luke chapter 7…page 50 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- our church’s theme this year is Building Core Strength…we’re talking about what it means to make the main things the main things…to be sure we’re working on the fundamentals so we’re not just becoming larger numerically…but becoming stronger spiritually…

- we need that to be in place for a lot of reasons including the fact that the Lord is allowing us to expand in many different directions and you have to be strong in order to stretch and develop new ways of serving Him… 

- many of our Sundays have been spent studying the life of Christ from the gospel of Luke…because a growing relationship with Him is surely one of the most important keys to our strength…especially if that relationship is growing at the level of the heart…at the core of who we really are…

- last week we started in chapter 6 by learning the story of a Centurion who demonstrated astonishing faith…today we’re going to see another example of that, although at first it might not appear that way… 

- read Luke 7:18-35 

- we’re talking this morning about Building Core Strength by Being Honest About Your Doubts…

- and with the time we have remaining, let’s look for three principles to help us bring our questions to the Lord. 

I. Don’t Ever Hesitate to Bring Your Doubts, Questions, or Concerns to the Lord.

- John the Baptist was not in any way condemned for what he did in these verses…

- now, it may be helpful to provide a bit of background…

- we learned earlier in the book of Luke that John the Baptist was the forerunner of the Messiah…

- His ministry was prophesied in the OT and his birth was announced to his parents by an angel...

- back in chapter 3 we learned about the nature of his ministry…and it was all about repentance…

- about a person acknowledging that the path he was on was displeasing to God…and then repenting…turning around…

- about from that, you could not be prepared to accept the gift of salvation through trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ…

- so it started with repentance…and John was even baptizing people…not because they had come to Christ yet – but because during that time of transition between the OT and the New, they were showing they agreed with his message…they agreed that they could not earn heaven on their own merit… 

- well, what happened to John?...

- he had always said that as Jesus’ public ministry began, his would become secondary…

- he wanted it to be that way…and it was…

- however, he continued to preach about repentance and that eventually got him in trouble with the government…you can read about that in both the gospels of Matthew and Mark…but the short version is that John the Baptist told Herod Antipas that it was wrong for him to have stolen and later married his brother’s wife Herodias…

- well, Herodias wasn’t very happy about that at all – let’s just say that she wasn’t a very nice person – so she convinced her husband (the current one) to put John the Baptist in prison…

- and we don’t know exactly how long he had been in prison by time the events in Luke 7 unfold – but it probably months and maybe as long as a year…

- and so as we read in verse 19… Luke 7:19 - Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?”

- I think it would be fair to classify that as a doubt…

- so why might that have been happening to John…and why might it happen to you or me?

A. There are many possible reasons for doubts.

1. When your circumstances are painful.

- here’s John who had by all accounts had done exactly what the Lord had commanded him to do…

- his parents raised him in accordance with the instruction they were given by the angel…

- John had been a faithful preacher, living and saying what commanded…

- he had paid a significant for ministering the way God designed…

- and what was his reward?...a jail cell…

- and we don’t know the exact conditions, but we do know that frequently prisoners were subject to far worse treatment and conditions that we would envision today…

- and you can picture John wasting away in this jail cell and eventually concluding – this didn’t exactly work out the way I expected…are you the Messiah or should we expect another?...

2. When the culture believes otherwise

- it’s important to understand that I clear shift is taking place as these months develop…

- a significant number of people came and heard John’s preaching and adopted his message…

- then they were baptized to demonstrate their essential agreement with what he had said about repentance which put them in a position to subsequently accept the message of the Messiah…

- but as Jesus began to teach about what it really meant to follow Him…many rejected that message…and even started questioning the validity of John…

- well, any time you believe one way and a lot of other people believe differently—especially people you like, or you respect, or who are smart in a lot of areas of their lives…that has a way of playing on your mind…

3. When you’re overly influenced by tradition

- the wording of John’s question is important… Luke 7:20 - When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’ ”

- the point there probably wasn’t…we think you’re nobody…but maybe you’re not the final one…that’s because their tradition suggested that there would be a entire succession of prophets before the true Messiah came…

- remember in Matthew 16 when Jesus asked his disciples, who are people saying that I, the Son of man, am?...

- Matthew 16:14 - And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

- that belief was not based on biblical truth, but on religious tradition…

- and John may have been being impacted by that…maybe Jesus is just one of the prophets and the real Messiah is yet to come…

4. When you have an incomplete knowledge of Scripture.

- let’s not be too hard on John because Jesus certainly wasn’t…

- we have access to truth as NT believers that they did not have…

- namely that there was a significant gap between the first coming and the second coming of Christ…

- that is repeatedly referred to as a mystery in the NT – in other words something that had not been revealed to OT saints…

- they would have expected that the Messiah would come – if they really knew their Bibles they would have in some way expected Him to pay for their sins…

- but then there would be final judgment on unbelief and the establishment of God’s literal kingdom on earth in fulfillment of all the OT prophecies and promises to Israel…

- well, from John’s vantage – that certainly wasn’t occurring…there wasn’t any judgment on unbelief…no overthrow of Roman…in fact he was in a Roman prison…

- so whenever you have an incomplete knowledge of Scripture…it very well may produce doubt in your heart…

- so here’s the question before the house….what do you do with that?...

- and John’s answer was – be honest about it…get it off your chest…get it on the table…

- not disrespectfully…not trying to trip Jesus up like many of disingenuous religious leaders often did…John just wanted to know…

- and how did our Lord respond?...

B. God responds to legitimate doubt with truth and evidence.

- isn’t that what happened?...

- Luke 7:22-23 - And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them. “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”

- see, nobody could say that God hasn’t us given us the truth to believe in Him…

- the book of Luke already has been filled with facts…but at some point you have to decide if you are going to believe what God has revealed to you about Himself…

- that’s been one of Luke’s central points to his friend Theophilus all along…I just want you to see the evidence…

- Luke 1:3-4 - it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

- now, we need to throw some balance on this…

C. God’s answers may not be what you expected or wanted.

- for example, do you remember the prophet Habakkuk?...

- his story is very similar to John’s…

- Habakkuk was a prophet in Israel and God’s people were far from Him…

- and Habakkuk didn’t like the way God’s people were living with no apparent consequences whatsoever…

- Habakkuk 1:2-4 - How long, O Lord, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity, And cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted.

- that’s a pretty strong expression of doubt…and Habakkuk is never chided for that…

- but here’s the answer he gets…Oh, I’m going to judge my people just like you suggest I should – at the hands of the evil Babylonians (thanks for asking)…

- and do you know what Habakkuk says next – What?...you can’t do that…and the conversation continues…

- but just like John the Baptist – he’s not thrown under the bus…you used to be useful to me but now you’re not…

- I used to be loyal to you but not after that one…

- in fact – you could make the case that their willingness to express their doubt was an evidence of strength…and a means of becoming even stronger…

- “God is the friend of the honest doubter who dares to talk to God rather than about him.  Prayer that includes an element of questioning God may be a means of increasing one’s faith.   Expressing doubts and crying out about unfair situations in the universe show one’s trust in God and one’s confidence that God should and does have an answer to humanity’s insoluble problems.”  (Barker and Bailey – The New American Commentary, Vol. 20)

II. God Will Stand for/with the Person Who Relates Authentically to Him

- now, what does Jesus do after He gives that evidence to John’s disciples?...

- start grumbling about how weak John is?...

- or criticize him in front of the crowd because he dared ask a question?...

- no, He gave him the strongest commendation possible – there’s never ever been a greater man that John the Baptist…not Joseph, not Noah, not Moses, not Abraham, nobody greater than John the Baptist --  in the context of him expressing his doubt and questions about Jesus’ very Messiah-ship…that’s the kind of friend you want right there…someone who doesn’t just not throw you under the bus, but invites you to sit next to Him on the bus and discuss what’s on your mind and heart…simply amazing…

A. John was a man of conviction.

- Luke 7:24 - …“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?

- that wasn’t John – it would have a taken a whole lot more than the wind to make him change his message – he had conviction…

B. John was a man of courage.

- Luke 7:25 - “But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces!

- malakos – soft, effeminate (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9)

- Jesus was saying – it’s not like John just said whatever the politicians said so he could have fine clothes and live in luxury in the palace and wear all that frilly stuff they wear…

- no, he’s in the jailhouse because he went head to head with one of the politicians…

- yes, he had a question---a serious one…he was having some doubts…but that doesn’t make him less of a man…

- it fact, it’s just the opposite – he’s more of a man because he put them on the table so he could receive answers that will put his doubts to rest… 

C. John was a man of purpose.

Luke 7:26-28 - “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John… 

- the message is screaming out to Theophilus, and it’s screaming out to us…

- don’t hold you questions, your doubts, your concerns inside…put them on the table with an open Bible and perhaps a trusted friend and seek to find the answers that God has provided… 

- now, what are the….

D. Implications for us?

- there’s about a million of them…

1. Follow John’s example if necessary, and encourage those around you to do the same.

- if being part of the club means that you can’t ask questions, then there’s something bad wrong with the club… 

2. Rely on the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

- John 15:26 - When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me…

- Scripture teaches that an unbelieving person’s mind and heart is blinded to the truth…so I’m not suggesting this morning that if we just come up with the right arguments and defenses, then everyone within the sound of our voices will become followers of Christ…

- one of the issues is whether the question is a sincere desire to learn or an insincere ploy to avoid submitting to the authority of God and His Word…

- and there is no way to know that about another person…

3. Be sure that you are acting on the clear biblical truth that you already know.

- John 7:17 - If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.

- you can’t say – well, since I have some doubts about the identity of the tenth toe on Daniel’s image, I can’t love my wife…

- or, since I have some questions about the book of Revelation, I think I’ll go steal from Meijer…

- you demonstrate that you really want to know more truth by acting on the plain, understandable truth you’ve already received…

4. Seek to go deep in the Scriptures to be prepared to help others with their questions.

- 2 Timothy 2:15 - Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

- 1 Peter 3:15 - but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 

5. Remember the powerful impact of your testimony.

- Psalm 107:2 - Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary

- Revelation 12:11 - And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. 

6. Understand why our church places such an emphasis on Bible study, training, and equipping. 

1. staff members seeking advanced degrees

- pray for Pastor Green as he defends his doctoral dissertation and Pastor Aucoin who is right behind him

- Pastor Curtis as he completes his degree in preparation to begin a worship major in our seminary

- Jocelyn Wallace and Heather Starkweather 

2. take as many FCI classes as possible and participate in ABF

- this also gives you children access to additional biblical truth 

3. this is why we have the resource center 

4. this is why we have the counseling ministry 

5. this will be an important aspect of Faith West

6. passion play – a way of answering questions 

7. seminary – training future pastors and missionaries to serve the next generation of John the Baptists… 

- now how does this last part of this passage fit into what we’re seeing?

III. Expressing Honest Doubt is Different than Purposely Rejecting Truth.

- the picture is both humorous and pitiful…

A. The picture of childish malcontents 

- Jesus is conjuring up the idea of a group of kids playing in the marketplace…and they are trying to get another group to play along…but they won’t…

- at first they try playing wedding…and the other kids won’t dance…

- and then they try playing funeral…and the other mourn… 

B. The reality and power of unbelief. 

- and the point is – some people just don’t want truth…and they’ll find some reason to not have to submit themselves to it…

- we don’t like John because he wouldn’t eat or drink

- we don’t like Jesus because he ate and drank… 

- translation – we don’t want to hear regardless or its content or the nature of its messenger… 

- Conclusion – there’s one more very unusual aspect of this passage…

- Luke 7:28 - I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. 

- how could any of us be greater than John the Baptist?

- because  his ministry was temporal and incomplete… 

- because John lived in the era of the Messiah promised…

- we live in the era of the Messiah enjoyed…

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video