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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

When You Wonder

By Allen Groff
Apr. 20, 2014

Have you ever encountered a crisis or an enduring challenge in life that rocked you to the foundation of your faith? In those moments of questioning, perhaps you felt like you had failed God by simply asking the questions.

You may be surprised to learn one of the greatest witnesses for Christ in Scripture had questions of his own. May his testimony encourage you.

John the Baptist gave an unflinching call for repentance to multitudes during the months leading up to Jesus’ public ministry. John was God’s chosen servant called to prepare the people for the arrival of His Son. John’s preaching even caught the ear of Herod, the king who ruled the region under Roman authority.

In spite of Herod’s admiration and even fear of him, John the Baptist’s uncompromising message did not set well when the prophet denounced Herod for taking Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Herod imprisoned John. In time, John’s God-driven candor would cost him his life (Luke 3:19,20; Mark 6:17-28).

While languishing in prison, John began to struggle with doubt. Perhaps he wondered why Jesus did not use His influence and exercise some sort of effort to free him. In his pondering depression, John dispatched a couple of his disciples to inquire of Jesus if He really was the One whom John had proclaimed the Messiah, or should John look for someone else?

Imagine that! The man who shouted out for all to hear, “Prepare the way for the Lord!” (Isaiah 40:3; Luke 3:4) now struggled to believe in the Lord he had proclaimed.

Jesus had no criticism for this despondent prophet who had so dramatically introduced Him as the Promised One. Nor did He answer “yes” or “no” to whether He was, in fact, that Person. Rather, Jesus sent John’s disciples back to him with a report of what they had observed in Jesus’ ministry — that the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard, the dead had been raised, and the gospel was being preached to the poor — in essence, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies (Isaiah 35:5,6; 42:7; 61:1).

Jesus did not focus on the predicament in which John was bound, nor give a reason why He had not intervened on John’s behalf. He simply said, “If you want to know whether I am, indeed, who you proclaimed Me to be, let the fulfillment of prophecy serve as My identification.”

Apparently, John had asked precisely the right question, for he received the answer setting his heart at ease that Jesus truly was the Messiah, and now he would die in peace, assured in his faith in the Lamb of God “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, NIV). The answer John received was sufficient for him to go unflinchingly to his death. Jesus’ ID had been certified.

While all this makes for a moving and intriguing story, its relevance applies to Christians when they, too, face difficult times, feelings of desertion, being left to tolerate chronic sickness and pain, believing all the while that Jesus could take care of any or all of that — if He only would.

And when He doesn’t?

Ah! There’s the rub! It is so often at this point that believers, disappointed in the failure of Jesus’ unquestioned power being released to bring healing, deliverance, or supply, give in to bitterness and anger. Finally, in pathetic sorrow, some denounce the One they once professed to love and serve ... all because their earnest need in prayer was not met as they desired or believed was possible.

The problem lies with the implied question. Too often, in the midst of pain, we are tempted to define God strictly by what He will do for us. In a sense, we’re asking, “Are You God because You meet my desires or needs when I call for them?”

Believers will ultimately find their hearts at rest in their faith in Jesus when they simply ask, “Are you the One?” As they focus on His divine identity instead of demanding release from the prison of illness, the hurt of relationships, the supplying of something desperately wanted, they can take hold of an eternal perspective.

The real question is, “Are You the One whom I can trust with my never-dying soul? Are You the One I can expect to be waiting for me when death overtakes me?”

The good news is Jesus left His ID for us, just as clearly as He did for John. He is the One!

Jesus’ ID is the Cross — and the empty tomb. The fact is, without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin (Hebrews 9:22), and in undeniable love, Jesus offered His own blood. This Man made one sacrifice for sins forever (Hebrews 10:12).

The historic fact of Jesus’ resurrection validates everything He ever said.

Oh, there is no denying how desperate we are to find relief from the problems and pain that come our way. But until we come to the right question — Is He the Son of God, the Savior of the world? — disappointment, anger, wavering faith and doubt will forever plague the would-be Christian. Jesus proved His identity and fulfilled His redemptive mission on Easter morning!

With Jesus’ identification perfectly proven, we can proclaim with a faith as solid as that of the three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego:

“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18, NIV).

As God’s children, we are sure to face a spectrum of trials, meet many a disappointment, and at times suffer momentary defeat. But our God reigns, and our faith is well placed.

The Cross and the empty tomb forever provide Jesus Christ’s unmistakable ID.

ALLEN GROFF lives in Sachse, Texas.

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