Thursday, August 11, 2016

Jailed, Dead, but Not Defeated

Younger people rarely consider the idea of death unless they are faced with it in a personal way (such as through the loss of a close family member). The idea of death is something that is far off and must wait another day. But the reality is that death can come at any time. I suspect most of us know that, but it is another to live with that in mind.

Many do live with that thought in mind, especially those on death row. A sentence of death brings a certainty of the end, and for most that means the end of any hope. Of course, the Bible speaks of many who received a death sentence, and yet we have a happy ending. Just in the book of Daniel, we have four individuals who received a death threat yet lived through it because of their faith (of course Daniel (Daniel 6), and his three friends commonly known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3). But not every story turned out as well. Of course, the ultimate example is Jesus, but John the baptizer is quite an example as well.

John was imprisoned because he proclaimed the need to repent – a message that has never been particularly welcome. The word repent means to turn from something. It is typically considered to be in regard to sin, but it is basically a turning from anything. The Bible is clear that this was the message of John as he baptized many around the Judean wilderness. And because of that message, John landed in jail. (He had spoken of the lawless marriage of the king and his wife and called them to repent. See the church’s blog for my sermon notes.)

We do not know precisely how long John was imprisoned, but we know that he developed some doubts while he was there. This is the man specifically chosen by God to prepare the way...the unborn child who jumped in the womb when he heard the sound of our Lord’s voice, the man who said he was not worthy to baptize Jesus. This is no ordinary man, yet he had doubts about his faith. He had doubts about his impact. He had doubts if it was worth it.

Matthew 11 records that John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He really was Messiah. The disciples reported back to John what Jesus said, and John would die soon after. But John had his answer. He had been jailed, he would die, but his legacy lives on today. Herod and Herodias may have silence him in the literal sense, but they did not defeat him, as we still celebrate his ministry today.

Everyone who claims to follow Jesus is called to serve. Some, like John, may serve as a prophet. Others may serve with any number of gifts, skills, and talents that God has given. Even as we do, we may wonder if it is worth it. When we do our best, and nobody notices, we wonder if it is worth it. When we have given all we have, and no one show any appreciation, we wonder if it is worth it. But Paul reminds us that we are to work/serve as unto the Lord, not toward man (Colossians 3.23-24). Effectively, Paul is saying that if we follow those words, man might get the benefit, but God will get the glory, which should be our ultimately objective (Matthew 5.16).

God has provided an opportunity for me that is rapidly approaching. It is an opportunity that is a first for me in several ways. Like John, I need to follow where God has called me. As I prepare, I am filled with hope, excitement, and a bit of fear. But again, like John, I am certain of my calling, and in my God. If doubts should arise, I will remember the evidence that Jesus gave John. I will pray for God’s peace through any struggles. I will ask God to remind me that what I am doing is worth it. I will work to clear my head to remind myself that He is worth it. And I will know that if my work is for the Lord then regardless of what happens to me, He will be glorified, because He has already proven that He can be jailed, and He could be killed, but the grave could not hold Him and thus He will never be defeated. And therefore, ultimately, with my faith in Him, neither can I.

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