From First to Last.
I love the underdog! It is always a good story when a team that can't figure out which way is up finally gets it together and finds themselves on top of the world. The worst to first stories are the best! Well, today in worship, we'll be looking at John the Baptist who happened to learn the whole 'worst to first' experience in reverse. He started as an ordained forerunner of Jesus. God had planned for John's appearance well before he was born to Elizabeth and Zechariah. John was deemed the one to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. John would be the "voice of one calling out in the desert." Here is the Old Testament prophecy of John's coming.
“A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up,every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level,the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5, NIV)
He was on top of the world. His ministry was powerful and people were confessing and repenting of their sinful ways. John was winning large and life was good! Didn't last long.
The Word of God for us today is found in Matthew 11. John is now sitting in prison and all the status and power he had enjoyed is long gone. He languishes in a place far from the desert pulpit where he affected so many lives for God's Kingdom. He now doubts the very one he had so boldly proclaimed as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." (John 1:29)
"When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2-3, NIV)
John no longer felt the wave of God's blessing and was lowered into a state of delusion. His question to his disciples concerning Jesus reeked of disbelief and disappointment. Instead of Jesus coming to John's rescue, Jesus was healing and teaching everyone else. It's good to remember that God never leaves or forsakes His people. John was still in God's care; just not in the way John envisioned.
It's seems odd that John served God faithfully and carried out the difficult work of preparing the way for Jesus Christ then lost it all. From serving to suffering in a short period of time can make the strongest and most faithful follower fall down.
Have you sensed a great suffering in your life? Have you ever contemplated this suffering might have been allowed (but not caused) by the Lord? John had mentioned earlier in his ministry that he must become less and Jesus become greater (John 3:30). Now, his words were coming true.
Today, I want to encourage us to consider the way in which we offer our life to Jesus. If suffering comes our way, the world watches how we believers respond. Do we become bitter? Angry? Pessimistic? Serving Christ will often bring with it a season of suffering. In John's defense, he would not get to see the death and resurrection of Jesus and so he posed the doubt-ridden question. After knowledge is a good thing for us. We know Jesus to have risen from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father. We trust in Him and need not ask if he is the one. Yes, he is!