Do you ever have days when you think of Jesus and you think of yourself and you absolutely feel unworthy of his love and his sacrifice for you?
How about the days when you are in a quagmire of despair wondering if your life will matter or make a difference in this world or if you are even “good enough” or “worthy enough” to be used by God?
Are you going through a trial or a series of trials that seem to have no end in sight?
When you feel this way, know you are not alone. This blog will flesh out the real nitty-gritty reality of the struggle we face in our wilderness of faith. We will explore the unlikely lonely and unsure person in the bible who probably lived one of the most powerful, memorable, yet difficult and rocky lives.
There are a couple of different roads a person can choose to go down when he or she has come to this point in hopeless thinking. One path is to talk to Jesus about it. Tell him you are unworthy and that you feel useless to make a difference in the world. I guarantee if you do this, Jesus will redirect your thoughts and feelings to the truth.
Another place you can go is the darker place. In the darker place, you decide that since you feel unworthy, God must really not love you and he must just be really, really mean and unable to be pleased or approached. In this place, all feels lost. Many in this place turn and walk away from God, because they are tired of feeling beaten down by their perceived inadequacies and they just want to lighten up and feel better. The obvious way to do this, in their minds (which the devil has deceived) is to ditch God. ‘After all’, Satan tells them, ‘You will never please him, anyways.’
Yesterday when I was feeling especially low on the emotional spectrum, as I spent a good part of the day just seeking The Lord about why I was struggling with various trials, I opened up my Bible knowing I should probably read it. It was very functional, as I was looking for a Word from God to encourage me. I happened to crack it open in John and then turned to help my son Isaac find his place in a new children’s Bible he was working on reading. I got distracted from my reading as I helped him sound out words like Galilee.
Then, as I turned back to my own Bible, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart in a very special way. I wasn’t expecting the deep encouragement that he gave me from the story of John the Baptist. This is a brief story that I have read so many times, but have never gotten encouragement from it.
Really quick, here’s a snapshot of who John was:
- He is Jesus’s cousin.
- He is the Elijah to come. Elijah never died, but was ushered into heaven in a chariot of fire. Malachi prophecies about the return of Elijah before the coming of the Messiah.
- He was born of a miracle. (Not a virgin birth, but a birth to an elderly couple who was barren.)
- His birth was announced by an angel.
- He was full of the Holy Spirit from the womb.
- He lived in the desert or wilderness.
- He had minimal clothing that was not high fashion.
- He ate very little. He mostly fasted as he wandered in the wilderness seeking God.
- When he ate, he ate locust and honey.
- Around 30 years of age, be began to call people to repentance and baptize them in the river Jordan.
- He walked in the power and authority of God.
- Jesus said he was the greatest man ever born of a woman, except for the Messiah. (Matthew 11:10)
- God used him to start a spiritual revolution that ushered in the Messiah. (Matthew 11:11)
- People called him names and rejected him. They said he was demon possessed.
- He was killed after about 6 months of ministry.
- He felt unworthy.
- He was depressed and confused about his calling and role in history.
God showed me something about John’s heart I never saw before. John felt unworthy. I always read John’s declaration to Jesus as a bit of a doctrinal statement or question. But, here, in the pages of Matthew, The Holy Spirit shows us that John is measuring his life next to Jesus and finding it wanting. In fact, all of John’s burden, the message God gave him to speak, was a message of inadequacy. John was heavy with an anointing calling people to repentance. I would say he lived, ate and breathed it and he literally did. He didn’t actually eat much else, except the repulsiveness of locusts and the sweetness of honey. He wasn’t just planning his sermons out from a liturgical plan, he was bursting with a message that came from his heart. His heart was so aware of the greatness of God and the perfection of the Messiah that he could not bear to even think of untying Jesus’s sandals.
In the wilderness, he carried the weight of his message as he sought The Lord under the brick baking sun. In his loneliness, with the scorpions and serpents as company, he contemplated the heavy things of God, the condition of mankind and their need to repent. Did he wonder how he could deliver this message? Did he wonder if anyone would listen? Did he cry out under the responsibility God laid on his shoulders? When he ate the unpalatable locusts did he think of the unpalatable message and how many of his hearers would turn from their sin to repentance? Would they choke on the truth or receive it like honey?
Did The Lord bring up from his heart a picture of the depravity in his own soul? His message was always filled with words like “He must increase and I must decrease,” and
“Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
John was a man of God who walked in the power and authority of God, Jesus said that no man in history was greater than John (except him.) Still, the day that Jesus approached John to be baptized, John was perplexed.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
John tried to PREVENT the work of Jesus, which INCLUDED his UNWORTHY self DOING SOMETHING to usher in the kingdom of God, through baptizing Jesus himself.
How many of us feel this way? “God, I am so not ready to do something for you. I am unworthy. I have problems. I need you to do something about this. Don’t ask me to do work for you, because I am simply not perfect. I cannot be what I THINK I NEED TO BE in order to be your servant.”
But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.
I used to think this was weird. Jesus is fully righteous. Why would righteousness need to be fulfilled through his baptism? It was complete righteousness for John, who was unworthy to recognize his unworthiness, but in the middle of that unworthiness to come to Christ in obedience and to be used by God in the middle of his lack. Jesus fulfills all righteousness when we come to him.
John takes his hand and is instrumental in launching the ministry of the Savior of Righteousness as he shoves him under the murky Jordan water. This is revealing a picture of what Jesus would ultimately do for us- he would be put into the ground by unrighteous men, but be raised to life victoriously by the power of God the Father.
When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
When we unworthy people recognize our unworthiness, that is a place where true relationship begins. We cannot get around our spiritual condition. But coming to Christ in the middle of it, repenting and saying, “I am willing to work in your kingdom for your glory,” brings true Glory to the Father! This is true faith in Christ.
Jesus wants the unworthy to come to him. He is ready to qualify the called. He is ready to give us the right to be called children of God.
John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
John responded to Jesus’s call to fulfill all righteousness. John stepped out in faith and in unworthiness and God was glorified. Not long after this, he was put into prison by Herod. In prison, he had a lot of time to reflect on his short life, which was spent mostly alone in the wilderness, with very little comfort. Doubts flooded in. He wondered if he had really done what God had put him on this earth to do. Was it worth it? Had he been faithful? Was Jesus really the Messiah? It seemed so clear before and now everything was fuzzy. I can really identify with this frame of mind. He was persecuted and suffering and wondering if he made a wrong turn. Was he in prison because he was wrong? Did he do something to dishonor God? Was this really how it would end?
He has a final earthly encounter with Jesus.
John the Baptist Sends Messengers to Jesus
Matthew 11 Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.
2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
7 As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he of whom it is written:
‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’
11 “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
Do you have ears to hear? Do I? A reed shaken by the wind=greatest man who ever lived aside from Jesus. John the Baptist was a man who saw Jesus and felt his unworthiness. He walked in humility. Jesus looked at John and saw the greatest man to ever live.
Are you following the savior who calls the unworthy and makes them worthy?