John the Baptist a man of conviction.

The boss was complaining that he wasn’t getting enough pastorh2respect from the staff. Later that morning he went out and brought a sign that read: “I’m the boss”. He then taped it to his office door. When he returned from lunch he found that someone had taped a note to the sign that said:”Your wife called, she wants her sign back”.

It seems that even though Herod was a King he wasn’t the boss.

Review story: John had been arrested by King Herod. Why? Because John kept reminding Herod that he wasn’t above the law. He said, “It is not lawful for you to take you brother’s wife”. Herodius, Herod’s wife resented John’s criticism and wanted to kill him. But Kind Herod refused because he regarded John as a holy man- a man of God. Finally with some scheming-manipulation Herodius was able to achieve her goal and have John killed. King Herod was pleased with Herodius’ daughter’s dancing. As a reward to the girl he made a promise he came to regret. He promised to give her anything she asked for. Herodius seized the opportunity and told her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist. King Herod was greatly distressed at her request but he had backed himself into a corner and couldn’t get out of it. The lesson is: be very careful about making promises.

But this story raises deeper issues-deeper questions. Questions like: “How could God let one of his servants like John the Baptist be treated in this way?” “How could God stand by and let John who had devoted his life to serving God die in this way?”

Now, this kind of question reflects the attitude of people who think that their faith is some kind of insurance against trouble-tragedy. They think that God is letting them down when some kind of severe illness-tragedy hits them. They seem to think that God is deaf to their prayers or doesn’t care about them if he doesn’t give help or healing the way they might want it.

            But no where in Scripture does God promise that just because we are Christians we can expect to be spared trouble-tragedy. You only have to read through the Bible stories to see how many of God’s servants suffered in a variety of ways. That is particularly true of the prophets-Jeremiah for example. It was also true of many of the New Testament disciples. Of the 12 apostles only John died of old age, all the others became martyrs- died for their faith in Jesus.

But is this so strange when we remember that Jesus himself suffered and died for us. Life wasn’t easy for Jesus. It was no bed of roses for him.

The thing that probably should astound us more is not that we may have to suffer at times, but that we don’t suffer a lot more than we do. And that is particularly true of us who live in Australia. Just think of what has gone on in the world in the last century: 2 World Wars-the depression-the rise of Nazism-Communism-brutal dictators like Hitler-Stalin-Mao Tse Tung- Pol Pot- several Middle East conflicts-numerous lesser wars-civil wars-and more recently Islamic terrorism. We have been fortunate in that we have escaped most of that. Unlike many Christians in some countries who suffer persecution-harassment.  And as far as personal health is concerned, considering the complicated marvel that the human body is, it is amazing that don’t have more health problems than we do.

But let me stress this. The real issue is not: “How much have I managed to accumulate this past year”. Or “How much am I enjoying a comfortable life?”

The issue is:”How much have I grown like Christ? How many Christ-like qualities have I developed in my life”?

God’s concern is not to fill our bank accounts or pander to our human whims. His concern is that we become more like his Son Jesus. And he can put us in prison like John or in hospital or in any other difficult situations.

The point is this: God’s concern is that His will be done and that his name be praised. It cost God dearly that we might have fellowship with us, the life of his own son. We should not be surprised that there might be times when it costs us dearly as he uses us to get done what he wants done.

The other main point that comes from this story is this: God would have us witness to him no matter what our situation in life. There are some people who whenever anything goes wrong lets everyone know about it. But you don’t find John the Baptist complaining-grizzling about being in prison. I’m sure that he did a lot of thinking white sitting in his prison cell. But there is no record of any grizzle session. But there is mention of John speaking to Herod about the things of God. In fact it seems that Herod’s conscience led him to have a number of conversations with John.

Now this leads to a point that needs to be made. You sometimes hear people say that it is not necessary to speak about ones faith. As long as you give a good witness with your life that will be enough to get people to think. But I am not so sure about that. There are a number of reasons.

+To begin with, the vast majority of people don’t have any clear idea at all about what the Christian faith is about. They think that a Christian is some one who tries to live a good life and who thinks they are better than others who don’t go to church. They conclude that they are just as good as those who are Christians anyway so what’s the point of going to church and being a Bible basher.

If we think that our efforts at living a good life” are going to convince anyone of the truth of God’s Word, we are being naïve and may be just a bit lazy. Especially when many people who don’t go to church live lives that are just as good if not better than our own. Christian don’t have a monopoly in living a so called ‘good life.” And frankly when we look at our own lives and our inconsistencies, our lives aren’t always such a credible witness to Christ.

            The early Apostles didn’t just go around quietly going about their work and saying nothing, witnessing to Jesus only with their lives. Their mere lives would have made little impact for there were many in those days who worked hard at developing virtue in their lives.

The Apostle had something far more profound-glorious to offer. They declared that they were sinners under God’s judgement and so was everyone else. They said they had an incredibly glorious message to proclaim. The message was that despite the fact that all people were sinners, God had sent his only Son Jesus to come to their rescue.  People could not break through to God through their own effort, but that God had broken through to them in mercy and grace.  He had given his own Son to pay the price for our sins-the sinless one took the sins of the world upon himself and died for us. Jesus conquered death and the grave for those held helpless in their grip. The he gave them the possibility of eternal fellowship with God.

These Apostles had a message to proclaim that alone could give the ultimate meaning to life now and forever.

It is in this light that we need to understand the witness of John. He was in the power of a man who could have him killed at the drop of a hat-a man who had everything- power-money-position-women. But King Herod had no peace.  And in search of peace he kept coming back to this uncompromising man of God –who told Herod the truth- about himself and God.

Ironically, John although he was in prison was free-in his conscience-mind. But Herod was a captive to himself and his lusts.

Throughout all this John did not grizzle-complain. He witnessed.  He spoke until he could speak no more. May we pray” God, use me for your glory’s sake and help me to witness like John, whatever the situation you place us in”.
Amen

Pastor Haydn Blass

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