I don't know how many of you have ever played the card game, I doubt it.
Have you ever played that game? How many of you know how the game works? Okay, I better explain. Well, here's how it works. You have two or three decks of cards, right? And you deal them out and you go around in a circle. And everybody tries to lay cards down in the middle.
The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards first. And you lay cards on the pile in the middle face down, and you have to lay down the next order that you're in. So in other words, if the person right ahead of you puts down twos, you have to put down threes. If they lay down eights, you have to lay down nines. And you call out how many of these cards you're laying down. You'll say, I'm laying down six nines. And you put them in. Now, if somebody doesn't believe you, they say what? Very good.
I doubt it. And then you've got to turn them over and prove what you're putting in. And if you really put in six nines, then they have to take all the cards and they become part of their hand. And if you really didn't put in six nines, if you were lying, then you have to take the whole pile.
It's kind of a fun game, and you find out who the really good liars are, and who the people who can't lie to save their life are. But I was thinking this week, how many times we play this game with God. Where in the process of life, God throws something on our pile, face down, and we don't like it.
He tells us it's for our blessing and for our benefit, but we don't really believe it, and we scream out to God, what? I doubt it. Prove it. The man we read about this morning in Luke chapter one, a man named Zechariah, was a man who played this game with God.
I doubt it. And I want you to see what God did in his life, and then I want us to talk about some ways of dealing with doubt in our own lives. You're not even convinced you do it yet, but I hope by the time we're done you'll be convinced that you're guilty of doing this just like we all are. And let's talk about how God wants us to work through these things in our lives.
That's what we're about this morning. Let's look at chapter one. Verse one, many have undertaken, Luke says, to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, meaning the Lord Jesus.
Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you might know the certainty of the things you've been taught. Now, who is this man Luke who's doing this writing? We learn from Colossians chapter four that he was a physician, so he was Dr. Luke, if you please. And Dr. Luke was the only Gentile to write any part of the Bible that we know of. In fact, he wrote two books in the Bible.
This book, the Gospel According to Luke, and the book of Acts, chronicling the church's early history. He was not an apostle, he was not someone who walked with Jesus Christ himself, but he was a very good friend of the apostles, particularly the apostle Paul, with whom he traveled in his missionary journeys, with whom he spent two years in jail and Caesarea. And so Luke says, I have made a very careful investigation of all the events that you've heard about Jesus Christ, most excellent Theophilus. You say, wait a minute, whoa, who is Theophilus?
Never heard of him before. Well, we don't know who he is, for sure. But the term that's used, most excellent Theophilus, was a common term that was used for Roman nobility or Roman people that were high up in government service, and so the assumption is that this was a Roman high official who had heard some things about Jesus Christ and wanted to know whether they were really true, and Luke is writing him to reassure him that these things are true and trustworthy, and Luke says, I investigated them and I have written an official report, and that report has come to be known as the Gospel According to Luke. In fact, one of the words that's used in this paragraph, Luke describing his investigation, is the word from which we get our English word, autopsy. An autopsy, the Greek word for autopsy, means to see for yourself. And Luke says, I went and checked these facts out, I saw for myself what was true and what was not true, and I am now writing my official autopsy of the life of Jesus Christ, called the Gospel of Luke. Luke has a tremendous penchant, as a doctor, for careful research and investigation and attention to detail. Look at chapter 3 verse 1 for just a second, if you want to see that.
Chapter 3 verse 1, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, when Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, when his brother Philip was tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, when Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annaias and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah, in the desert. Now here was a guy who had checked out what year this happened. True?
No chance of missing the year this happened. He dates it six different ways. This is Luke's character. He is very much given to detail. And so, in studying the Gospel according to Luke, we're going to study the most carefully researched autopsy of the life of Jesus Christ anywhere in the world.
Now, what happened? Verse 5, chapter 1. In the time of Herod, the king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, and I'm going to summarize a little bit. Zechariah was married to a woman named Elizabeth. Elizabeth and Zechariah were old.
They had no children. And one day, it says, verse 8, when Zechariah was on duty, he was chosen to go into the temple and burn incense. So he went in all by himself, and when the time came to do this, the assembled worshippers were praying outside. Well, while he was inside all by himself, verse 11, an angel of the Lord appeared to him standing at the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and gripped with fear. But the angel said to him, Do not be afraid, Zechariah.
Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You say, Is this John the Baptist?
Yeah, this is he. Now, the angel Gabriel goes on to tell him a little bit more about this boy. He says that the boy won't drink wine. He'll be filled with the Holy Spirit from his birth, and God has a very special ministry for this little boy.
Look with me. Verse 16, Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. Verse 17, And he will go on before the Lord in the Spirit and the power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Now, if these verses sound familiar, it's not just because they're from Handel's Messiah. But Handel got them from the prophet Malachi, who was the last prophet in the Old Testament. As a matter of fact, there's been 400 years since God has spoken in any kind of prophetic way to anyone in Israel. It's often called the 400 silent years between the time of Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, and the beginning of the New Testament. But Malachi ended his prophecy by saying this, and you don't need to turn, but let me read it to you.
Malachi chapter 4. See, God says, I will send you, the prophet Elijah, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes, and he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and will prepare a way for the Lord. So you know what the angel is telling Zechariah? He's telling Zechariah that this messenger, this herald, this announcer of the coming of the Messiah that was prophesied 400 years ago by Malachi is going to be his boy.
Wow. Now, needless to say, Zechariah was a little bit shocked. I mean, not only do you have this angel with the white robe and the wings and the halo and the whole nine yards standing in front of you, but then he tells him he's going to be a papa.
And then he tells him that his little boy is going to be the one who's going to announce the Messiah to Israel. You say, wow, what was Zechariah's response? Did he dance? Did he flip over? Did he do cartwheels? Did he yell out and scream, praise the Lord?
Well, not exactly. Verse 18, and Zechariah said to the angel, how can I be sure of this, huh? I'm an old man.
My wife is well along in years. I'm not so sure this is really going to happen. Who are you anyway? Where did you come from?
How did they get you in here? How do I know all of this is right? You say, Lana, are you sure you're putting the right twist on that? Oh, yes.
I'm absolutely sure. Whereas Mary, when confronted, Mary the mother of Jesus, when confronted with a very similar prophecy that looked impossible, Mary said, I'm the handmaiden of the Lord. Whatever you want, God is fine. That's not what Zechariah said. Zechariah said, hey, pal, I'm from Missouri.
I want you to show me how this is going to happen because I'm not so sure I really believe you. You understand? And I don't really think Gabriel liked his attitude. Verse 19, the angel answered and said, I'm Gabriel. Buddy, don't you know an angel when you see one? I'm Gabriel, and I stand in the presence of God, and I've been sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. How dare you ask me to prove it?
All right, I'll prove it. Verse 20, and now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day it happens because you did not believe my word. And so right then, Zechariah became speechless for nine months, minimum, probably a little more.
Hey, ladies, wouldn't this be great? Wouldn't this be great if your husband or your boyfriend for nine months couldn't talk? He'd say, but he never talks to me anyway about anything important. Well, but what if he couldn't talk at all? Just think what this means. You could order whatever kind of Domino's pizza you want, and he couldn't say anything.
No, I don't like mushrooms. He couldn't say it. Just think what this means. You would never have to get off the phone ever because he can't talk on it anyway.
Isn't that great? Just think what this means. It means that you would win every single argument. You'd always get the last word, and you'd get the middle word, and you'd get the first word because he couldn't say anything. Wouldn't that be great? You'd say, wow, how could I get Gabriel to come to my house?
Well, I don't think you could, but that's what happened to Zechariah, all because he doubted the word of God. Now, what happened? Well, it says in verse 21, meanwhile, remember the people? They're still all standing outside wanting to know what in the world's going on in there. Where is this guy?
What's he doing? And so he finally came out, and when he came out, he couldn't speak to them. They realized that he'd seen a vision in the temple because he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. Wouldn't that be frustrating to come out and try to tell all those people what just happened to you without being able to talk? To try to tell them an angel came and what he told you? I mean, you come out and you go, wow.
Can you imagine? It's a man, he's been breathing too much of that incense in there. And that's the way life went for old Zechariah. Well, the Bible says that after this, he went home and his wife got pregnant just the way the Bible said. And let's skip nine months down the road now and watch the birth of John. Verse 57. And when it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.
And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. And on the eighth day, they came together to circumcise the child. In Jewish culture, the eighth day circumcision is a gala event, and that's when the boy would be named. And so it says that they were going to name him after his father. They were going to call him Zechariah Jr. But his mother spoke up and said, no, he's to be called John. And they said to her, what do you mean he's to be called John?
There's nobody in your whole family named John. What are you naming him John for? So not being satisfied, the Bible says they went and made signs to his father.
Remember, his father still can't talk. So they went over and made signs to his father. You want him named John? And his father, the Bible says, took a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment wrote down, his name is John.
Why did Zechariah do that? Didn't he want the boy named after him? Well, remember, didn't the angel say, name him John? After nine months of not being able to talk, I don't think Zechariah has any intention of naming this boy anything else but John. What do you think?
That make sense? His name is John, Zechariah said. John, everybody understand that?
J-O-H and John. And the Bible says immediately, his mouth was open, his tongue was loosened, he began to speak and praise God. You can see from verse 68 through 79 the great praise that he gave to God.
We're not going to read it, but you can. And then it says that the neighbors were all filled with awe throughout all the healed country of Judea. Verse 66, and everybody who heard about it wondered about it saying, what is this child going to be? This is some kind of special kid for the Lord's hand was on him.
I mean, it was pretty obvious to them this kid had a special place in the plan of God. There's a true story that this reminds me of about a teacher in high school that used to teach Latin. Favorite subject, right? And the teacher used to always come into the classroom and used to bow to the students before he'd begin the class. And this was his regular habit. One day a fellow teacher saw him do this and after class got him aside and said, what are you doing? You're stupid.
This is crazy. You're a bunch of high school kids. What are you doing walking to a bunch of high school kids and bowing to a bunch of high school kids? And his response was, the reason I do it is that you never know who one of these kids may grow up to be.
I like that. You never know who one of these kids may grow up to be. And I sometimes think when I walk through our Sunday school and look at all those little children down there. You know, you never know who one of those children might grow up to be. I mean, one of those little boys down there might grow up to be the next Billy Graham. One of those little girls down there may grow up to be the next Katherine Marshall right down there in first grade. You never know who one of those little children may grow up to be.
They need to be treated with respect and honor because one of these days you may be glad you bowed to them. And these people sensed that about John the Baptist. They sensed that this kid has something very special from God he's going to do.
And they were right. We'll talk more about that later. But that ends our passage for this morning. And you know, it's been a while since we've kind of been back in a regular passage study of the Word of God. And so this is the time where we all need to be ready to say something.
But I know that maybe sometime you can forget. So I brought along a little friend to help us. What is it that we need to say?
Ready? Very good. What's the thing that impresses you the most about this account of John the Baptist's birth? Well, I don't know what impresses you the most, but I'll tell you what impresses me the most is that Zechariah didn't believe that angel.
I mean, isn't that obvious? He doubted the word of that angel. And as I began to think this week, it occurred to me there are a lot of other people the Bible talks about who also doubted God at certain times in their life. How about Abraham and Sarah? When God talked to them, did they doubt God?
You bet. How about old Moses? When God appeared to him at the burning bush and said, you're going back there and leave the Israelites out. Moses said, oh no, I'm not. You're absolutely wrong, God. You made your first mistake. I'm not going anywhere. I like these sheep.
Besides, the poor will never let me go. How about Gideon, who said, I'm going to take 300 men and go down there and beat all those people. Are you crazy, God?
300 people? How about Jonah? Old Jonah got the first submarine ride in history because he didn't believe God.
True? There was an apostle like this. You remember his name? His name was Thomas. We even have a nice little nickname for him. We call him what?
Doubting Thomas. And so as I began to go through, I thought, you know, Zechariah is not the first guy to ever do this with God. But it also occurred to me that there were two other names that ought to be added to this list of Abraham and Sarah and Moses and Gideon and Jonah and Thomas. And those two other names are yours and mine.
Yours and mine. If you're here and you're not a Christian, I know you belong on the list because the greatest doubt you can ever show is not to believe what God tells you about himself, about eternal life, about his plan for salvation. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. Nobody comes to the Father but by me. Jesus said, he who believes in me has eternal life and he who does not believe in me will never see eternal life. But the judgment of God sits on him.
And if you've not embraced Jesus Christ as your Lord and your Savior, then you're doubting what God's telling you about eternity, whether it's really true. See, I have learned when you really believe something is true, you act. My wife will tell me something over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, and I will do nothing. And then it's like clockwork. Somebody else will tell me something or I'll see it on TV or I'll read it in a magazine, and suddenly it'll hit me that it's right, it'll hit me that it's true, and I'll spring into action. And my wife will get so upset with me.
And she'll say, well, how come when George told that to you, you did it. I've told it to you 50 times and you didn't lift one little finger. And then we usually have a fight. Does that mean I never go into your house? Yeah, never, never.
I know. But you see, the point is, once a person becomes convinced something's true, really convinced, they act. If you were really convinced what Jesus was telling you about eternity was true, you'd act.
You would run to him as fast as you could get to him and embrace him as your Lord and your Savior and the only hope you've got of heaven. And if you haven't done that, then the reason is because you really don't believe that what he told you is right. All paths lead to God. Sounds great, Jesus says it's wrong. And so if you're here and you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then I'm going to put you on the list because it's obvious you belong there. You still haven't trusted the most basic things he said. But even if you're a Christian, you say, well, I'm a Christian. I've trusted Christ. I've accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I'm not a doubter.
Well, now, wait a minute. You can have a personal relationship with God and still doubt God. I mean, look at Abraham and Sarah and Gideon and Moses and Thomas and Jonah and all these people. They were all believers.
They doubted God. Zechariah said, all right, well, OK, maybe, maybe. But I've never done what Zechariah did, Lon. I've never had an angel appear to me. I mean, if I was ever praying in my study or in my kitchen and an angel appeared to me and told me something, I'd do it. Well, I don't know whether you would or not, but let's assume you might.
Still, just the fact you haven't had an angel appear to you and tell you something doesn't mean you've never doubted God. Let me see if I can prove to you that you belong on the list. See, I'm already telling you I belong on the list. I know I belong on the list.
I want to prove to you you belong on the list. You say, why? Because if I don't, the rest of the message makes no sense. So bear with me, OK? Otherwise, I'd have to let you all leave.
Do you belong on the list? Sure you do. To doubt something, I looked it up in the encyclopedia. You know what it means to doubt somebody? It means to question somebody. To question their actions, their words, their deeds, their integrity, their motives, their truthfulness.
It means to question somebody. Now, let's get real, OK? As a Christian, have you ever questioned how God was running your life?
Come on now. Have you ever accused God of treating you unfairly? Have you ever complained to God about the choices he was making for your life? Have you ever argued with God about what he was doing with you? Have you ever indicted God and said, you're not being good to me? Not at all?
Look at this mess I'm... Oh, wait a minute. Have you ever doubted God? Have you ever had a conversation with God that went like this, Well, why didn't I get that job, huh? And why didn't I get that promotion? And why didn't we win the game?
And why didn't I make that team? And why can't I have a child? And why did my loved one die? And why am I a single parent? And why don't I have any money?
And why is my child having all these problems, huh? Huh? I mean, I prayed about this. I trusted you to lead me. And this is what you do to me. I mean, have you forgotten about me? Did I just fall through the cracks while you were keeping Jupiter from bumping into Saturn out there or something? I mean, what's going on here, God?
Where are all these great promises you talk about? Have you ever been there? I have.
Yeah. And I'll bet you've been there, too. Say, Lon, yeah, I've been there. Well, if you've been there, then what that means is to our list of doubters, we should add you and me.
And the list should read Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Gideon, Jonah, a doubting Thomas, Lon, Solomon, and you. Right? There are those times. You say, okay, all right. So maybe I have doubted God a few times. Well, wait a minute. Maybe you're doubting him right now.
Huh? All right. Well, maybe when it comes to this thing in my life or that thing in my life or this thing or my whole life, maybe I am. Maybe I'm questioning how he's running things in my case. Maybe I'm arguing with him. Maybe I don't like how things are going.
Maybe I'm not sure that he really loves me the way he says he does. Great. Now we can do business.
Now the rest of this message makes sense. If we're there, let's talk about how we deal with it. Because I don't believe there's ever a one of us who isn't there from time to time, and I suspect there's a whole bunch of us there right now.
I am. In dealing with my daughter's situation, maybe you're there in something in your life, your job, your car, your income, your marriage, your children, something. I've got some advice for you, some suggestions. I have found that when we're doubting the Lord, we are the most vulnerable of any time in our Christian life. It's the most vulnerable time. If Satan wants to pick you off, you know what he'll do first? He'll try to get you to doubt God. That's the very first thing he'll do.
And once he gets you to do that, then you're easy pickings. Isn't that what he did to Eve? Remember how he approached Eve? He said, hey, Eve, give me a second.
Come here. See this tree? Yeah. Is this the tree God told you not to eat of? Yeah. Is this the one God said if you ate of it, you would surely die? Yeah. Well, that's not what's going on, Eve. It isn't?
No. The day you eat of that tree, God knows you're going to be as smart as he is. God doesn't want you to be smart. God wants you to be stupid. God wants you to be under his thumb.
God wants you to be under his control. He's holding out on you, Eve. He's being unkind to you, Eve. He doesn't really love you, Eve. He doesn't really care about your best good, Eve. You need to eat from that tree, Eve. God's lying to you.
What was he doing? He was sowing doubt. And once she bought the doubt, she was an easy pick.
You understand? And when we buy the doubt, so are we. The joy dries up in our life. Our heart turns cold to God. We become open to all kinds, vulnerable to all kinds of attitudes, sins, like bitterness and anger and resentment and hostility and self-pity. And that leads to us being open to all kinds of tangible sins. So, it's a dangerous thing to be in a position where you're doubting God.
Let me give you some suggestions, if you're there, as to how to deal with it. Number one. And these come straight from D.A. Doubters Anonymous. Ready?
Here we go. Number one. Be honest with God and admit you need help. Be honest with God and admit you need help. You know, if you're on the road, tell God about it. But don't just stop there.
Appeal to God and ask for his help to get out of your doubt. There's a great passage back in the Gospel according to Mark. It's in Mark chapter 9.
I'd like to ask you to turn back there if you would. Mark chapter 9. It's the story about a father who had a boy that was epileptic and demon-possessed. And he came to the apostles and he asked the apostles to heal his boy and they couldn't do it. So finally they took it to Jesus himself. And look what Jesus said to this father. I'm in Mark chapter 9, verse 21. And Jesus asked the boy's father, how long has he been like this?
From childhood, the father answered, and the demon has often thrown him into the fire or the water to kill him. But Lord, if you can do anything, please take pity on us and help us. If you can do anything, Lord, help us. And Jesus said, if you can, what do you mean if you can?
Of course I can. Everything is possible for him who believes. Do you understand what Jesus was doing? Jesus was saying, you want that boy healed?
Well, of course he wanted him healed. Do you love that boy? Of course I love that boy. Would you like to see that boy put back in his right mind?
Of course I would. Then everything is possible to you if you can just believe. The father, looking at his own heart, says, I want to believe. But there's still unbelief in there.
I've kind of got a little bit of both. But watch what he did. Instead of hiding it, instead of trying to pretend like it wasn't there, instead of trying to justify the doubt away, look what he did. He cried out to Jesus, the Bible says, verse 24. Immediately he exclaimed, I do believe, Lord. I want to believe, Lord.
Help me with my unbelief, Lord. He said, Lon, that's a paradox. That's a contradiction. No, it isn't.
No, it isn't. It's an honest man saying part of me believes and part of me doubts and I don't know how to fix it. But my boy's health's on the line, God. I've got to figure out how to fix it.
I need help. Is that a good prayer? It's a great prayer. It's an honest prayer.
And I believe there are times in every one of our lives where that can be our prayer and that should be our prayer. Lord, I want to believe. Help my unbelief because it's there.
And I don't know how to fix it myself. But you can help me. And you know what Jesus did? Jesus didn't say to him, what do you mean help me with your unbelief? You got unbelief in your heart?
Eh, sorry. No, Jesus healed his boy because the man was honest. Friends, if you've got doubt in your life about the way God's running things, I've got a piece of advice for you, number one. Be honest with God.
And if you need help, ask for it. Number two, immerse yourself in the Word of God. Immerse yourself in the Word of God. So often when we're facing times of deep doubt and deep discouragement, those are the times we let our time in the Word of God go. Those are the times where we'll say to ourselves, well, you know, I'm too stressed out right now and I'm so tired and I'm so exhausted and there are other things I need more.
I mean, I need sleep and I need recreation and I need exercise and I need relaxation and I need just to sit here in front of the boob tube and I just need to be able to dream my life away. But what I don't need is to pull out the Bible and start reading the Bible. Wrong.
Wrong. That's exactly what we do need more than any other time in our life. Don't let your feelings trick you and lie to you. They'll tell you you don't feel like reading the Bible. You don't need the Bible right now. The Bible is just something else you need to throw on top of the rest of the schedule and it'll just stress you out more.
Wrong. It's in the Bible, friends, that God shows you how He was faithful to every other doubter like you. It's in the Bible, friends, that God reassures you and me that He loves us in spite of our doubt. It's in the Bible that we can see God's power on display. It's in the Bible that God assures us that His plan for our life really is perfect, even though we don't agree with that right now. It's in the Bible that God gives us His promises of comfort and strength and hope, and I maintain the time you need to be in the Word of God the most is when you've begun to doubt God and question Him. Is it possible to overcome our doubt without being in the Word of God?
Yes, it's possible. It's also possible to cut your lawn with a push mower instead of a lawn boy if you want, but it's a whole lot harder. Want to make your life easy? Immerse yourself in the Word of God and let God speak to you in your time of doubt. Number three, third suggestion is relearn how to abide in Christ.
What do you mean relearn it? Well, let me show you. Let's turn back to the Gospel of John. That's on the other side of Luke, John chapter 15. I'm often asked by people who are young Christians or who've led somebody to Christ, what's the very first thing I ought to teach them in the Bible? Should I teach them about the deity of Christ? Should I teach them about the virgin birth? Maybe it's important to go back to Genesis chapter 1 and make sure that they've sworn off evolution, or maybe I ought to take them there to the flood, make sure that they've dealt with the flood.
Maybe we ought to talk about abortion, or maybe what should we talk about? What's the very first thing you ought to teach a young Christian? The very first thing you ought to teach a young Christian is how to live the Christian life right before somebody else teaches them how to live it wrong, because there's all kind of people out there teaching people how to live it wrong. And the very first passage I suggest you teach a young Christian, or you learn as a young Christian, is John chapter 15, because it'll teach you how to live for Jesus correctly.
Look what Jesus said. John 15, verse 4. Abide in me, or remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself.
It has to remain connected to the trunk. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain connected to me. I am the trunk, Jesus said, and you're the branch. And if a person remains in me, and I in him he'll bear much fruit, but apart from me you can do nothing, for if anyone does not remain connected to me, he's like a branch that's been thrown away and withered up.
Those three verses is the greatest secret for Christian living anywhere in the Bible. You say, Lon, I don't understand it. Yes, you do. If you have a tree that grows anywhere near you, you understand it. How does a tree work?
Very simple. A tree uses sap, and the sap goes up the trunk, right, and into every single branch connected to the trunk, and then bears fruit and leaves. It's not the branch that bears the leaves. It's the sap going through the branch. But you take any one of those branches and cut them off from the trunk and lay them down on the ground, what happens?
They wither up and die. Why? Because they're not connected to the trunk, so they can't get any sap going through. You got that?
That's simple. That's horticulture 101, right? Jesus said, I am the trunk. You are the branches. As long as you keep connected with me, so the sap of the Spirit of God can flow through me and through you and out to the end and make fruit, you'll have lots of fruit. But you cut yourself off from me, so I can't flow anymore through you. You'll wither up and die, just like a branch. Isn't that simple?
Yes, it is. And friends, you know what? The Bible says it's so simple. When we stop abiding, we start withering. And conversely, when we find ourselves withering under the stresses and the strains of life, when we find ourselves starting to doubt God and question God and indict God and argue with God and resist God and get angry and bitter and upset and frustrated, you can be absolutely certain as a Christian. You have let the trials of life act like a spiritual chainsaw and cut you off from the trunk.
Easy to diagnose the problem. How do we fix it? Very simple. With humility and surrender, go back to the trunk and reattach yourself and say, Lord, I'm not going to take this in my hands. I'm not going to take this in my own control.
I'm not going to try to figure this out in my own wisdom. I'm going to stop arguing, stop fighting, stop resisting, stop indicting. I'm going to yield and let the sap flow and we'll do it your way because your grace will be sufficient if the sap's flowing.
But, you know, when you get in the heat of battle, it's easy to forget this. So if you want to deal with doubt, my advice, relearn how to abide in Christ. Reattach yourself to the trunk and God will give you joy and strength and peace and serenity because the sap will flow. Fourth and finally, admit to God that you've got a problem and ask for help. Immerse yourself in the word of God. Reattach yourself to the trunk. Fourth and finally, keep plodding forward.
That's spelled P-L-O-D-D-I-N-G, plodding forward. In James chapter 5, don't turn there, but here's what James 5 says, beginning in verse 10. James chapter 5. It says, Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke to you in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.
You've heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about for him, for the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James says, You got trouble? You got problems? You in the middle of a mess?
Good, I got a piece of advice for you. Keep going forward. And remember guys like Job, who they were in a mess. They doubted God. They had problems.
They weren't sure what was going on, but the one thing Job did is he kept going forward. And because the Lord is full of compassion and mercy, one day when God was ready, because Job kept going forward, he eventually came out of it, and his second estate was better, the Bible says, than the estate that he started with. So keep on going, and God will do the same for you. Sometimes God sends trials into our life that are like membranes, that you just have to keep pushing against and pushing against and pushing against and pushing against until eventually you push it to the point where it suddenly just rips.
And there you are in the sunlight again. Why does God do that? I don't know.
I don't have a clue. But every older, mature, seasoned Christian I have ever talked to has told me there are dry times in the Christian life. There are times when you feel like that membrane is between you and daylight, and for the life of you, you don't know why and can't get through. The life they give every single time is the same.
Just keep going forward and trust God. And one day it will rip. One of the greatest examples of this is a man named William Carey. You say, wow, that name sounds familiar. Does he live in McLean? Is he a political appointee?
No, that's a different one. William Carey is actually dead, has been for a long time. He was born in 1761 in England. And as a young man of 17, he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior and became a shoemaker.
But the reason you know the name William Carey is not because of the kind of shoes he made. At the age of 23, he borrowed a copy of a book. It was called Captain Cook's Voyages. And he read this book about how Captain Cook had discovered thousands of natives in the South Seas who were hopelessly mired in superstition and sorcery and idolatry and headed for a Christless eternity in hell. And immediately, Carey's heart was gripped by their plight and he dedicated himself to taking the saving message of Jesus Christ to these people. William Carey is actually known as the father of modern missions. He was the first man in modern history to ever leave a civilized Western nation like the UK and without support, without help, without any other kind of backup to go to a foreign land to preach the gospel, the father of modern missions. In fact, when he tried to get the Baptist to support him, one of the Baptist preachers stood up in a meeting and said to him in a very condescending tone, Young man, he said, When God is interested in reaching the heathen, he will do it without your help. Now sit down. And Carey said, He needed the apostles.
He needs us. So in 1793, Carey left England with his wife who didn't want to go and a couple of kids, after his father-in-law had called him crazy and tried to have him locked up as insane, he left England and headed to India. And the next seven years of Carey's life read like an account from hell itself.
The most horrible seven years you can imagine. He landed in India, had no job, he had no place to live. He caught malaria, almost died. His five-year-old son did die of dysentery soon after getting to India.
His only fellow missionary deserted him and left him alone. His wife never recovered from the grief of losing her son. She began having horrible hallucinations not long after his death.
She began openly accusing Carey of having multiple adulteries. One time she even came after him with a butcher knife and tried to kill him. Her insanity became so bad that they had to lock her up in her room where she spent the rest of her life. They couldn't let her out because she was uncontrollable.
And she spent years locked in the room and finally died. He worked in India for over seven years without ever seeing one Indian express any interest in Jesus Christ. He got no mail from home for over two years, no money. And when he finally did receive a letter, it was a letter criticizing him for his lack of results so far and it accused him of being out of the will of God and suggested that he ought to come home. How'd you like to get that letter in the middle of all of this?
Did William Carey ever doubt God? Ha, listen, and I quote, This indeed is like the valley of the shadow of death for me. My domestic troubles are sometimes more heavy than I can bear.
All what I would give for a kind, sympathetic friend such as I had back in England, to whom I might pour out my heart. My mind is almost dried up with discouragement and lack of success. I go to work like a soldier who only expects to be defeated.
How did I ever end up here? Think he's doubting God? Sure. How did he deal with it? You know what he did? He kept going forward.
Here's what he said, and I quote. He said, The greatest strength that God has given me is I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit.
To this I owe everything. I plotted. I kept going. And after these few years, I began to be something like a traveler who's been almost beaten to death in a violent storm. Yet he kept going, kept going, kept going, and finally, with his clothes dripping wet, suddenly sees the sky beginning to clear and the sunlight come out.
You understand what he's saying? He's saying, I felt like a guy who was in a horrible storm, but I kept moving forward, moving forward, moving forward, and finally, when I thought I was going to die, the storm broke. The sun came out, and I stood there like a man dripping wet, and there I was in the sun.
I plotted. I just kept going. And when he finally died in 1834, he and his missionary team had set up 19 mission stations in India, founded Sarampore Bible College, translated the Bible into Sanskrit in 28 different Indian dialects. He had personally led over 1,000 Indians to faith in Jesus Christ, and most important of all, by his sheer perseverance and his sheer plotting, he launched the modern world missions movement that in the last two and a half centuries has resulted in millions of lives being delivered from hell because one man kept on plotting.
Those first seven years in India were like a membrane of doubt that Terry just kept pushing and pushing and pushing until finally it broke. And that's what God wants us to do. When we find one of those membranes, just keep pushing by faith. And James says, God is full of compassion and mercy, but one day it'll just rip and you'll be in the daylight again. Some advice for people who are doubting God? Number one, be honest with God and admit you need help.
Ask for help. Number two, take this book and get in it and stay in it. Number three, relearn how to abide in Christ and let the sap flow. Attach yourself to the trunk with humble surrender.
And number four, just keep going. Just keep going and trust God that one of these days you may be soaking wet from the storm, but it'll be over and the sun will be out again. That's the kind of God we have. May God help you do that. Let's pray.
Lord Jesus, life is great when everything is going the way we want it. But when it doesn't go the way that we like, you know how easy it is for the enemy to sow seeds of doubt in our mind, cause us to question you, even the way Zechariah did. And Lord Jesus, because those are such vulnerable times in our lives, when so many Christians are shot out the saddle, thank you for helping us with some practical advice as to how to deal with those circumstances. Father, I pray that every Christian here will take to heart what we've heard from you this morning, and for those in particular, like I, who are right in the middle of one of these big membranes, that you would encourage us with these practical tips, Lord, to keep on going, help us to make ourselves non-vulnerable by following the advice you've given us this morning. For someone who's here that maybe has never trusted Christ as their Lord and their Savior, I pray today that they would have been motivated to think about what you've said, and that they would stop doubting your word and they would act on it.
They would embrace you as Lord and Savior and their only hope of eternal life. Lord Jesus, may every one of us leave here today different than we came in because we've been with you. I pray those things in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-28 15:47:46 / 2022-12-28 16:06:55 / 19