Legend has it that when John Lennon was in kindergarten, his teacher asked the class what they wanted to be when they grew up. Each kid stood up and voiced their dreams. “I want to be a doctor!” “I want to be a teacher!” “I want to be an engineer!” “I want to be a firefighter!”
When it came to John Lennon’s turn, he said, “I want to be happy!” The teacher said, “John, that’s not my question. What do you want to BE when you grow up?” Lennon said, “I want to BE happy!”
“John, you don’t understand my question,” the teacher said disappointingly, but Lennon replied, “Yes, I do, but YOU just don’t understand my ANSWER.” (End quote).
One important thing we need to learn from children is their confidence and lack of doubt. Doubt is a big killjoy and takes away our sense of humor and creativity. Doubt also hinders our potential. The Bible says,
“For the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:7-8).
See, that’s serious! Doubt can deny us our wishes from God. Doubt is not unbelief but between belief and unbelief. That’s why James said they are double-minded and unstable, wasting mental energy on ambivalence. Jesus wants us to pray with faith, not with doubt.
Children are happier because they don’t have doubt, but as we grow older, after encountering disappointments, setbacks, and tragedies, we begin to doubt the possibility of the pursuit of happiness. I wonder how many people have developed crippling doubt after the prolonged pandemic.
Now and then, you hear people say, “You cannot pursue happiness. Chasing happiness is vanity.” I was curious about why they came up with such a conclusion. Our national motto includes the God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, distinguishing us from the rest of the world.
After some research, I discovered that those who discourage you from pursuing happiness are mostly unhappy. Misery loves company, so they don’t want you to have what they don’t have. They cast doubt on you, putting a stumbling block on your pursuit of happiness. Ignore them.
The Scriptures reveal that God wants you to be happy. Over and over again, the Bible says, “Rejoice always, and again I say rejoice.” Christianity is the only religion that sings at the funeral. Nowadays, some other religions try to copy us, but they are just copies.
When our children are unhappy, we parents feel like a failure. It’s the same with our heavenly Father. Jesus came to rescue us from this sea of suffering to the place of true happiness called heaven. He also teaches us how to live in heaven on earth. Jesus said,
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11).
Jesus has joy despite persecution and wants us to have the same joy to the fullest.
Today is the third Sunday of Advent, and we light the candle of joy and sing “Joy to the Word.” If you want to live with joy, you must eliminate doubt. Maybe that’s why Jesus wants us to be like children to enter the kingdom because they don’t have doubts but are full of joy.
We doubt when tragedy strikes or when we hit a setback. When he was in prison, John the Baptist began to doubt whether Jesus was the Messiah at all. That was a big deal because you would expect, out of all people, John must be the last one to doubt Jesus’ identity.
The good news is, based on Jesus’ answer to John’s doubt, we can discover four ways to overcome doubts. So, let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson today is from the Gospel according to Matthew 11:2-11. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Mt 11:2–11).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s Word. Thanks be to God!]
When John the Baptist was in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth. At that time, Mary was also pregnant with Jesus. As soon as Mary arrived, John suddenly jumped inside the womb as if he already knew who Jesus was and welcomed him with joy.
Later, he paved the way for Jesus’ ministry and even baptized him. He called Jesus the Lamb of God and let his disciples follow him. John should have been the last person in the world to doubt Jesus, but now he did because the adulterous Herod unjustly imprisoned him. The Bible says,
“When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’” (Mat 11:2-3).
When tragedy strikes, doubt rises. As a human, John was no exception. If Jesus were there to save the world, why didn’t he rescue his cousin and his favorite prophet? Was he the real Messiah at all, or should we wait for another? His doubt had overcome him.
In his answer to John, Jesus gives us four essential tips to defeat doubts. I put it into an acrostic SOAR—how to SOAR from doubt, according to Jesus.
1. See What God has Done
When we encounter a setback, our focus turns to what God has NOT done. People develop doubts because they ask, “If there’s a God, why do bad things happen to good people? Why do innocent children suffer? If there’s a God, why does God allow pandemics? And so on.”
Sitting in prison, John seemed to have lost his focus. So, Jesus asked John to see what the Messiah had done,
Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” (Mat 11:4-5).
Jesus says that the first thing we need to do to overcome doubt is to change our focus from negative to positive. It’s not wishful thinking. We must look at what God has done rather than what God has not done. John knew the scriptures and knew these were the signs of the Messiah.
We live in a fallen world, and it doesn’t take much to see the dark side and think there’s no light at all. When you are going through the dark night of your soul, count the stars. If you are in a pitch-black tunnel, look for the light at the end of the tunnel.
In other words, if you want to defeat doubts, count your blessings, not the curses. That’s what the non-believers do—they count the curses and say there is no God. Paul said that we must pray with thanksgiving. When you count the blessings, you have a lot to give thanks for.
You cannot be thankful and doubtful simultaneously, so maintain a thanksgiving heart. When you see what God has done, you find God’s fingerprints everywhere, and your doubts fade away.
2. Obey God’s Way
Disobedience might be a primary human “flaw” since Adam and Eve. If they were obedient, we wouldn’t have a fallen world. However, God didn’t create us like robots but with the free will to choose on our own. So, it’s not a flaw but a software program to make us evolve in wisdom through making choices.
Everyone has a mission to fulfill on earth. Part of it requires our own decisions, and the other part demands following the protocol from the Head Office. That’s how we grow. Jesus then said,
“And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” (Mat 11:6).
Jesus knew what John wanted. John wanted justice and expected Jesus to fulfill it immediately—sending the adulterous Herod to hell. He preached that the ax was at the root of the trees, and he wanted Jesus to cut them down!
However, Jesus had a better plan. He knew the world must understand God’s love and grace before justice. He wanted to turn people’s hearts with his “irresistible grace” of the cross.
Jesus postponed justice to give people a chance to repent. He said he would let the wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest. So, Jesus is saying, “Please take no offense at me for doing it my way. I know it sounds unfair from the human perspective to see justice postponed, but I have a divine plan. God says,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer 29:11 NIV).
To obey God’s plan, we must trust that God has a better plan for our good. It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially in John’s situation when he was imprisoned unjustly by the tyrant and his death was imminent. It’s difficult to obey God’s way at times like this, but the Lord says,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9).
It shows there are two ways in life—the human way and heaven’s way. The wisdom of life is in aligning our way with God’s way. The Chinese philosophy of Laozi’s Taoism is an attempt to learn God’s way so we can align with it. The Tao means the Way, and Jesus says, “I am the Way.” It requires obedience—let go and let God.
That’s how we overcome doubt and maintain happiness because we don’t have to stress ourselves trying to figure out everything. Do our best and let God worry about the rest.
3. Adhere to the Revelation
There are times so dark that you can’t even see the stars in heaven or light at the end of the tunnel. At times like that, we have the Bible to adhere to because it’s God’s revelation. Like a map navigating the darkness, the Bible reveals where we have been and where we are going.
We can imagine that the believers were shocked and sad seeing the injustice John was facing. Jesus reminded them that John was a great man and an outstanding messenger mentioned in the prophecy. He said,
“This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’” (Mat 11:10).
The community must be questioning, “How could God’s servant suffer such shame?” Jesus reminds them of the prophecy. Later Jesus mentions that most of the prophets were murdered by this fallen world. Prophets herald changes. The world doesn’t like change, so they kill them.
Just look at the prophets of our recent history. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr, was murdered, and Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. If you want to be God’s messenger for change, prepare to pay the price, but remember that you are blessed. Jesus said,
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mat 5:10-12).
In these beatitudes, Jesus shows past examples and future rewards. When you go through a dark time, look back and look forward by looking at the Book. Your doubts will go away, and you can rejoice and be glad.
4. Renew Your Relationship
During dark times, we feel abandoned. We might even think God has disowned us. Even when Jesus was on the cross, he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mat 27:46b). Before and after this moment, he addressed God as “Father,” but now, at his most painful moment, he called God “My God.” It reveals a distance.
Jesus’ word shows it’s normal to feel abandoned in dark times. At times like this, renew your relationship with God. Remember, we have a special status greater than John the Baptist in front of our heavenly Father. Jesus said,
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Mat 11:11).
During his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus said, “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6). So, the difference between John the Baptist and us is that we are born of the Spirit. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
In other words, as great as John was among those born of the flesh, we are greater than him because Jesus empowers us with the Holy Spirit to do even greater things than Jesus did. That is a special relationship with God that only the Son of God possesses and makes us children of God. The Holy Spirit is the Crown for the Crown Princes and Crown Princesses. Renew this relationship during the dark times of doubt. Jesus renewed his relationship with God with his last word on the cross.
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Lk 23:46c).
In the same way, during times of doubt, remember you are a child of God, and in his hands, you are safe. It is well with your soul. You will discover your joy returns.
There you have it—four ways to SOAR above your doubt.
- See What God has Done (instead of what he hasn’t done)
- Obey God’s Way (by aligning my way to His way)
- Adhere to the Revelation (of God in the Bible)
- Renew Your Relationship (with God our Father)
Let us all SOAR high above our doubts and live a joyful life!
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom and happiness.