Dog Days of Confusion
For many, we live in very confusing times. Fighting, extreme division, lying adultery, scandal, greed, and unforgiveness are just the tip of the iceberg. We also see an abundance of loneliness, heartbreak, and disappointment. Couple all of this with plans that never played out, dreams that never came to fruition, and seasons of life which seem to never change and you've got a recipe for trouble. In days like this what are we to do with all this confusion which seems to be on every corner? One may even ask, where is Jesus in all of this?
Thankfully, this isn't the first time confusion has gripped the lives of so many and it probably won't be the last. That's why we turn to the scriptures for help in these dog days of confusion. The Bible depicts a very important passage in Luke 7 which helps us make sense of all the confusion and doubt we might find ourselves consumed in. In this chapter we see John the Baptist in prison because of king Herod. John calls on a few of his own disciples and begins to get word of the amazing things Jesus has been doing. The beginning of the chapter tells us that right before this encounter between John and his followers, Jesus had healed a Roman centurion's servant after recognizing his amazing faith in our Lord. Jesus would then go on and literally raise a young boy from the dead! Quite the miraculous feats of Christ in just a short amount of time. However, John remained in prison.
As John is hearing of all these events his mind no doubt begins to wander. Even with John's impeccable character and robust zeal for our Lord, the seeds of doubt and confusion begin to take root. Had he misunderstood the ministry of Jesus? Is Jesus really the promised Messiah? Why is he recruiting sinners and helping the Romans so much? After all my work for the Kingdom of God how could I be in this lonely, dark prison? These questions and many others had to be playing through John's thoughts. This great trailblazer for our Lord was slowly allowing his faith to be dictated by his senses and feelings. The reality of the matter is that even the best of God's people have low points.
Notice, however, Jesus' response as loving Shepherd for one of His struggling sheep. As the passage moves on in Luke 7 and John's disciples present Jesus with the question that had been sent through them our Lord begins to work and teach as only He can. His power is displayed over the next few verses not through political and social deliverance, but through humble acts of service and mercy for individuals in great need. Herein lies one of the fundamental lessons all of God's people must learn: The Lord's ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). As Jesus completes these miraculous healing and goes on to preach the Good News to those in need, He then responds to John's disciples with words of wisdom and comfort for the struggling prophet. I believe there are three major keys in this passage we can also take heed to in our dog days of confusion, much like John was experiencing.
TAKE YOUR CONCERNS DIRECTLY TO JESUS
The first key in our struggling days of confusion is found in Luke 7:18-20. Instead of taking his problems and questions to inferior people with inferior answers, John does exactly what each of us should do: take our concerns directly to the Master. Psalm 56:3 says, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee." Regardless of our level of spirituality we are going to face days of difficulty and at times we may even be afraid. The psalmist reminds us to do as John did and lean heavily on the Lord. He is our refuge, He is our rock and He is our voice of wisdom. Instead of chasing after Roman authorities, self-righteous Pharisees, or even trusted friends and disciples, John goes directly to the source of all Truth. During our dog days of confusion it's vital we take the first step in overcoming our doubts by putting our concerns at the feet of Jesus, right where they belong.
REHEARSE THE FAITHFULNESS THE LORD HAS SHOWN AND TAUGHT
The second key in getting through our days of confusion comes from Luke 7:21-22. Instead of focusing on what we don't know, we should be putting our full trust and faith into what we do know. Isaiah 26:3 states, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." We have to be laser focused on the Lord during difficult days because the enemy loves to prey on weak, unsure believers when they are in their lowest stages. It's important to note how Jesus responded to the disciples of John when asked what to tell their teacher when they returned. The Lord said to tell John of the things they had "seen and heard." This is true for us as well. When we get down and feel defeated we have to rehearse the faithfulness the Lord has shown and taught us over time. One of the important parts of that spiritual exercise is rehearsing in our minds who Jesus really is. The Bible gives specific names to the Lord and it's crucial for us to rehearse those names when the enemy tempts us to forget who He is. Scripture refers to Jesus in the as "Emanuel," which means "God with us." In the Old Testament, the Lord is referred to in the book of Ezekiel as "Jehovah Shammah," meaning "the Lord is there."
These names have great meaning and encouragement for us because in the dog days of confusion we need to remind ourselves that the Lord is on the scene! Where was Jesus when the blind needed sight, the lame needed strength, the lepers needed cleansing, the deaf needed sound, and the poor needed a preacher? The answer is, He was there! The Lord was there on the mountain when Abraham needed a better sacrifice. The Lord was there in the reeds of the Nile as Moses's mother laid him in a basket for safety. The Lord was there with Joshua as he marched around the walls of Jericho. The Lord was there in the valley as David ran toward Goliath. The Lord was there in the lion's den with Daniel and in the fiery furnace with the three Hebrew boys. The Lord was there at the rebuilt wall with Nehemiah. The Lord was there at Lazarus' tomb. The Lord was there walking on the water in the disciple's storm. The Lord was there at the bedside of Jairus' daughter. The Lord was there at the well for the woman drawing water. The Lord was also there on a cross when you and I needed a Savior. Friends, I want to remind you to rehearse the things we know about Jesus and one thing we know for certain is that in our days of confusion HE IS THERE!
ACCEPT THE ANSWER
The third and final key found in Luke 7 is located in verse 23. Jesus knew His ministry was offensive to many. Jewish leaders and teachers were appalled by Him. Roman authorities saw Him as an insurrectionist. Many others had their expectations set on a political conqueror, only to be disappointed by a carpenter's son. Jesus is what we would call in today's terms a "non-conformist." Proverbs 3:5 reminds us to "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding." This passage would have rang loud and clear in John's heart as the answer to His question came back from Jesus. Instead of being let down by not getting the answer we wanted to hear, Jesus says we are "blessed" if we aren't "offended" by Him. You see, when we choose to lean on our "own understanding" we are on shaky ground at best, but if we trust the Lord with all our heart we are committing to not being offended by Christ, regardless of the answer He gives us.
Not surprisingly, we live in a generation where Jesus is seen as offense and a stumbling block on the road to willful sinning. The Lord, however, stands in the way of carnality and wickedness and it's the goal of the enemy and all those who are unrepentant to remove this "offensive" man named Jesus so that they may worship at the altars of pleasure and self. The true Christian does not view Jesus as a stumbling block, but as the cornerstone of their life. He is not a roadblock, but a Redeemer and the only hope we have in this life. Don't be offended by the answer Jesus gives just because you don't see things clearly in the moment. Believers, stay the course. Keep the faith. Fight the good fight and trust more deeply than you ever have because "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me."...even during the dog days of confusion.