John the Baptist: humility, bravery, and belief in the worst of times
John the Baptist is probably known as a picture-perfect man of God with extraordinary humility and a clear a sense of purpose for a specific job. John the Baptist said of Jesus Christ: He must increase, and I must decrease. (John 3:30)
He said this when his disciples noticed another man (Jesus) much more popular than their teacher. John the Baptist solemnly affirmed the authority of Jesus by saying two things:
Firstly, in verse 27 “Nothing can be given to him unless it is be given from heaven” -- he knew it was the will of God that Jesus’ ministry must increase.
Secondly, he expressed how happy he was just to be the friend of the groom in the wedding party and share the full joy of beholding the presence of the groom. That was good enough for him. What a humble man with an accurate perspective of who his master was and what is expected from him as a servant. John the Baptist was the perfect forerunner of the Messiah.
There was a time in my ministry when as a leader I was tested. I was firm and brave in confronting powerful men who indulged in iniquities. I preached with fire to younger leaders to be brave and seek to please God not men. Yet, I had to pay a price. As I expected, gossip, lies and accusations were beginning to spread about me. What was paralyzing was that even some so-called friends believed in these lies that were circulating. I felt betrayed. I hated my phone because every time it rang it seemed to lead me into a hostile and defensive mode. I knelt before the Lord weeping and asked God: “I thought you delighted in justice and righteousness? Why is justice so slow in coming?”
I took heart from the life of John the Baptist. He preached fearlessly about sin and repentance. This led to a direct altercation with Herod regarding the sin of adultery that he committed. John the Baptist was sent into prison for his bold preaching.
Even though he had a strong conviction of Jesus being the Messiah, it is recorded in Gospel of Matthew 11: 2, that John the Baptist asked his disciples to go to ask Jesus whether he is truly the Messiah, or do people need to wait for someone else. Such a question no doubt, came out of deep desperation of wanting the Messiah to establish justice in Israel and for himself immediately. Jesus the Messiah, said this to John:
Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me
John was basically told that all the signs that Jesus did were sufficient to prove Jesus as Messiah, even when John’s expectations were different. Jesus asked John to have faith in Him -- he asked him to be a believer in the most difficult time. Jesus asked John to have faith in him and not be disappointed. There will be times when preachers and leaders are placed in difficult and challenging situations. Those are the times to be a true believer, and to have faith in the Living Lord Jesus.
The Lord Jesus through His word ministered to me. He spoke to me the same as he did to John the Baptist. He asked me not to be disappointed. And in silence and non-retribution I obeyed. God defended the righteous and he frustrated the plans of the wicked. I did not defend myself or attempt to clear my name. Almost suddenly some of those who avoided me and at first believed the rumors came to me and supported me.
John ended up decapitated. Yet he finished well – he stayed a believer till the end and was not disappointed. He pleased His Lord Jesus.
Today if you are going through similar trials and if your faith is being tested, Jesus says to you: Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me (Matthew 11:6).