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When Disappointment Leads to Doubt, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
May 19, 2021 7:05 am

When Disappointment Leads to Doubt, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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May 19, 2021 7:05 am

The King’s Kingdom: A Study of Matthew 8–13

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Gregory N. Barkman
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Sometimes when we're disappointed with the path our lives have taken and we begin to ponder the unrealized dreams that have passed us by, it culminates in a season of doubt. We question whether or not God knows or even cares about our plight. Well, today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll begins a two-day message on this topic.

His application is squarely founded on Matthew 11. and a snapshot of Jesus' public ministry. This passage contains a sequence of encounters that expose a pattern of second-guessing God. Chuck titled today's message, When Disappointment Leads to Doubt. Well, what do you do with your doubts? Most people want to run and hide, ashamed of them, afraid to admit them, thinking that somehow it'll demote us and shove us out of the acceptance of our God. We're going to learn today from this passage in Matthew 11, 2 through 11, something interesting because the doubt comes from one you and I would never have expected. And he expressed his doubt openly and with a lot of emotion, and frankly I find it gives us a lot of hope to see this. We've always carried the idea that, like Thomas, often is given the title Doubting Thomas, and we think of him in a negative way.

I'm not sure we should. I think he is what I would call a reflective Christian. Like some of you, and you feel somehow not a part of the group because you wrestle with things that take you time to think through and accept.

And sometimes you dip in doubt. As we'll see in Matthew chapter 11, that's exactly where John was. So we want to be kind with John at the same time we want to be realistic as we think about it. Matthew 11, 2 through 11, John the baptizer who was in prison heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, are you the Messiah we've been expecting or should we keep looking for someone else? Jesus told them, go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the good news is being preached to the poor. And tell him, God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.

As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothing? No.

People with expensive clothes live in palaces. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. John is the man to whom the scriptures refer when they say, look, I'm sending my messenger ahead of you and he will prepare your way before you. I'll tell you the truth of all who ever lived, none is greater than John the baptizer. Yet even the least person in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is. You're listening to Insight for Living.

To study the book of Matthew with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scripture studies by going to slash studies. And now the message from Chuck about when disappointment leads to doubt. There are times our lives are like a row of dominoes standing on end.

One bumps the second and then the second nudges the third and then the third does the same right on down the line. I'm referring to the way doubt creeps in and dismantles our faith. Never suddenly, never out of context, but a series of things unfold in kind of an emotional syndrome, for lack of a better way to put it. Everything starts with a thought where we think something is going to occur and that thought leads us to anticipation. We now anticipate it occurring and that builds us with a little imagination to an expectation. That expectation becomes so real to us that we are now convinced it's going to occur, but it doesn't. And in that vulnerable state of expectation that isn't reality, we slump into disillusionment. Disillusionment soon turns to disappointment and finally we land hard on the cold stone floor of doubt. It didn't happen suddenly, but over the passing sometime a few days, sometime a few months, sometime just a few minutes.

One man describes it in these very practical terms where many of us have found ourselves, the details are different, but we've been in situations like this. He writes, I remember one night last winter, a cold, raw Chicago night. The wind was howling and sleet slanted out of the skies, coating the streets with darkly shining ice. That night my car stalled in a rather ominous neighborhood. As I raised the hood and hunched over the engine, praying, the sleet stinging my back like tiny pebbles, I prayed over and over, please help me get this car started.

No amount of fiddling with wires and tubes and cables would start that car. And so I spent the next hour in a dilapidated diner waiting for a tow truck, sitting on a plastic chair, my drenched clothes forming a widening pool of water around my feet. I wondered what God thought about my plight.

Where was he? I would miss a scheduled meeting that night and would probably waste many hours over the next few days trying to wring fair, honest work out of a service station, set up to pray on stranded motorists. Did God even care about my frustration or the waste of energy and money? He adds, I have found that petty disappointments tend to accumulate over time, don't miss this, disappointments accumulate over time, undermining my faith with a lava flow of doubt. My emotions and my faith waver, once those doubts seep in, I'm even less prepared for times of major crisis, a neighbor dying of cancer. I pray diligently for her. But even as I pray, I wonder, can God be trusted?

If small prayers go unanswered, what about the big ones? Not a person hearing me right now is unable to identify with a situation like that. But you have your own details in life.

You have your own circle of people you love. One or more of them is dying. Or they've gotten a report from the physician that looks ominous, sounds treacherous. You may be caring for someone that you thought sure would soon be well, and they're worse. And you have prayed, and you have trusted in the God of the Bible, because through your life you have built that kind of confidence. But there's been no breakthrough. In fact, it's only gotten worse.

As I said earlier, they don't come suddenly. Often small frustrations lead later to disappointments, and then we feel like Job, or Elijah under the tree, or Peter by the fire, or Paul disfearing of life in our loneliness and disillusionment. Are you ready for this? Even the cousin of Jesus doubted. His name is John the Baptizer, the forerunner of the Messiah, the only one, the appointed prophet. Asks, are you really the Messiah that we've been looking for, or should we keep looking for one? You read it correctly.

It's exactly what he said. He has now succumbed to doubt. And I think it's genuine. Let me say, no one is immune to this malady. No one moves from earth to heaven sailing on calm seas, never knowing storm or the feeling of sinking. No one goes from earth to heaven without stopping off in carnality corral, or worse, full on failure and a fall. But doubts never occur all alone.

There's always reason for them. Take John, for example. Verse 2 introduces him in a simple way. John the Baptizer was in prison. Stop there. Ever been in prison?

Don't answer out loud. Maybe you have, for whatever reason, behind bars, freedom taken away, surrounded by those who are not good for you, feeling uneasy during the day and threatened at night. John is in prison. His career has come to a disastrous and sudden ending. Before too long, he will be beheaded. What on earth had he done?

Well, you won't believe it. A little background will help. Herod Antipas of Galilee visited his brother in Rome. And while there, he was taken by his brother's wife, whom he seduced.

Herod then summarily went back home, got rid of his wife, brought his brother's wife in, grabbed her for his married partner, and lived in adultery. John said, I will not take this and stay silent. John had very few unspoken convictions. And this is one of those that resulted in his landing in a dungeon. Not just any prison, but a dungeon not far from the Dead Sea. And if you've ever been to Israel, that is the one place you don't want to be put in a dungeon. One man writes, for any man that would have been a terrible fate, but for the baptizer, it was worse than for most. He was a child of the desert.

All his life, he had lived in the wide open spaces with clean wind on his face and the spacious vault of the sky for his roof. And now he is confined within the four narrow walls of an underground dungeon for a man like John who had never, perhaps ever lived in a house as an adult. This must have been agony. It's not just any prison, it's a dungeon. Any of you ever been in a dungeon?

Probably not. When you go to Rome and you have a guide, someone to escort you to the Mamertine prison, take him up on it and go, walk down the spiral staircase. It's dark, it's damp, and it's frightening. It's where Paul most likely spent his last hours before he was beheaded outside Rome. That dungeon.

A dungeon. And what had John done? Told the truth.

Wasn't very tactful, certainly wasn't politically correct. In those days, when you spoke against a king, you paid for it dearly. Well, here he is. However, he has been the forerunner of the Messiah who will not only heal the sick and give sight to the blind and cleanse the leper, he will set the prisoner free. Where is he? Jesus hasn't even come for a visit. Are you the Messiah or should we be looking for another? You guys go ask him.

These are reasons that have built up into open doubt. Remember the dominoes? First thought, I won't be here long. Messiah will know I'm here. His anticipation built to where it became through the help of imagination and reality. And in that vulnerable place of reality, thinking that what he had been anticipating did not happen and time continued.

A long time. Now there's disillusionment followed by disappointment. And finally, are you really the Messiah? Before I go any further, I want to speak to you today who would be afraid to be that open. But you understand, John.

You are there. You sit in the hospital room and you hear all of that machinery, all of those instruments going on, and you wonder why there hasn't been healing. There's a good person lying there with all those tubes in them. You thought it would be different. It's not. When Cynthia had her spinal surgery, you heard me tell you that her surgeon said to us, you need to know that the recovery will be slow. He should have said, the recovery will be very slow.

In words this high. Because when you tell a Swindoll it's going to be slow, it may be a day and a half. Could be a few weeks.

We'll set new records. This recovery is slow. So you know what? In the middle of the night, in an unguarded moment, I did wonder how long.

I wondered, would she ever be better? You see, I am not the kind of believer that just spouts verses and plasters a smile on and acts like everything's fabulous. When it isn't. I'm glad we didn't talk in the middle of that night. Because out of my mouth would have come very uneasy words that would have probably disappointed you. So I understand. I understand, John. I think it's very significant there is not one word of shame that falls from the lips against John. Well, you're going to talk like that? Not only am I Messiah, we're cousins.

Well, it probably wouldn't be a good basis of saying that. But he doesn't do that. Look at what Jesus does. Since it was the disciples of John who brought the message, John's in prison, verse 4, Jesus talked to them. And he told them this. You go back to John and you tell him this. Oh, you know what?

This is time for a little correlation. Because Luke says things that Matthew doesn't mention. So let's turn to Luke chapter 7. Luke 7 is the same story told through the pen of a physician named Luke. Look at this.

718. The disciples of John the Baptist told John about everything Jesus was doing. So John called for the two of his disciples and he said to them, he sent them to the Lord to ask him, are you the Messiah we've been expecting or should we keep looking for someone else? Just what Matthew wrote.

But there's more here. John's two disciples found Jesus and said to him, the baptizer sent us to ask, are you the Messiah we've been expecting or should we keep looking for someone else? At that very moment, at that very moment when the question had just fallen from their lips, right then, notice what it says, right then Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, evil spirits, restored the sight to many who were blind. Then, notice, right then he did that and then on the heels of it, he told them, go back to John, tell him what you've seen and heard. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life.

The good news is being preached to the poor. Is there any question I'm Messiah? Exactly as Isaiah prophesied when the Messiah would come, you've seen it with your own eyes. You've heard their words of gratitude having been healed. Now back to Matthew 11.

Look at this. Jesus does all these things and then he adds a beatitude. You've never seen this as a beatitude before, but remember the beatitudes, blessed is he, blessed is he, but in Matthew 5, the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, look at this one, and tell him, add this, blessed are those who are not scandalized because of me, literally.

The word we have for scandal comes from the Greek word that sounds just like it, and that's the word here. God blesses those who are not offended because of me. Take heart, John. Take heart. Special blessings await those who are not offended because an answer hasn't come as they expected.

May I? Blessed are the Job's, who when their marital partner says, curse God and die, refuse to do so, but continue to trust me. Blessed are the Joseph's, who even though they are falsely accused and unjustly thrown into a prison, refuse to become bitter and keep trusting me.

Blessed are the Hosea's, who are faithful in their marriage, but their partner was not, and they keep walking with me and obeying my word. Blessed are the Paul's, who pray again and again and again for the foreign to be removed, and hear again and again and again, no, no, no, and grow in grace rather than doubt. Blessed are you, John, for staying right there and knowing that I am Messiah and God's sovereign plan is unfolding. Note the words, not what you anticipated, not what you expected, not what you became assured of in your own mind, but exactly as God has planned it, you answer as you sit and hear these words, why in the world is that God's plan? My answer is to introduce you to the mystery of God's will.

It has mysteriousness about it that from our perspective, we cannot, we cannot fully explain, and that is why the cynic feels he has fuel for his doubts. See there, that's the way your good God deals with you. So John, don't go there. Don't go there, John.

Blessed are those who are not scandalized or offended because of me. I can't think of a more relevant topic during these challenging days in our country and the world. Today and again tomorrow, Chuck Swindoll is talking about what to do when disappointment leads to doubt. You're listening to Insight for Living.

To learn more about this ministry, visit us online at We understand many in our listening family are in the throes of a disappointing season. Perhaps your circumstances have caused you to doubt God's presence.

You're certainly not alone. We often hear from listeners who tell us their heart-rending stories and the way God has used his word to bring them to a better place. For instance, not long ago, a grieving widower left a comment that said, Chuck, I can't tell you how much your messages have helped me through the storms I've been through, starting in September with the passing of my sister, then my wife's daughter in November, then with the passing of my wife in December. Jesus used your messages to comfort me and love me and give me a peace that words can't explain. Thank you. Well, let me pass this thank you note to anyone who supports Insight for Living because you're the channel God uses to bring this Bible teaching to your hometown and to places beyond our borders.

You may never know the impact of your generosity on the life of someone who feels beyond hope, and we're deeply grateful for your support. As God prompts you to support Insight for Living, please give a donation today. You can call us if you're listening in the U.S., dial 1-800-772-8888 or give online at If Chuck's brand-new teaching series on the book of Matthew has ignited your curiosity and you're ready to learn more, then I'll encourage you to add Swindoll's Living Insights Commentary to your personal collection of study tools.

It comes in two large volumes. To purchase Swindoll's Living Insights Commentary on Matthew, call us. If you're listening in the U.S., dial 1-800-772-8888 or go directly to slash store. Again tomorrow Chuck Swindoll describes what to do when disappointment leads to doubt. Tune in for Insight for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-17 11:22:33 / 2023-11-17 11:30:49 / 8

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