Friday, February 2, 2007

Doubt

Doubt
Written fall of 2000
Mark 16:9-13 "9When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 when they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. 12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either." (NIV)

You know there are times doubt just seems to overtake you. It creeps in like a thief in the night and before you know it you can't seem to believe anything, no matter what others may say. They can tell you the truth, even give evidence to back up what they say, but you just can't seem to believe until you see it with your own eyes. That is what is happening with the disciples in Mark 16:9-13. Jesus Himself had predicted both His death and resurrection; they had heard the report from the ladies of what the angel had told them. Mary told them of her face to face encounter with Jesus, as did the two men who met Him on the road to Emmaus, but none of that mattered right now. He was dead! That's that. Their hearts were broken and their minds were made up and no wishful thinking people were going to convince them otherwise. Now, before you jump on the "blast the disciples" bandwagon. Let's quickly recap the events of the past week. This will help us gain a little perspective into what was going on in the minds of these men.

It all started with the Triumphal Entry. What an incredible event that was. Palm branches and cloaks carpeting the road before Him. Shouts of "Hosanna to the Son of David" surrounding Him. Try as they may, His enemies could do nothing to stop the shouts from the crowd. He had the city of Jerusalem in the palm of His hand. By Thursday night the tide had drastically changed and I do mean changed. That night, as they were eating, Jesus talked about dying. He announced that one of them would betray Him, one other would deny even knowing Him and the rest would flee for their lives rather than go with Him. His words proved prophetic. Judas betrayed Him. Peter denied that he even knew Jesus not one but three times, and all of the rest ran for their lives. One of His young followers even ran away naked rather than get caught with Jesus. Since that night, they couldn't go anywhere without hearing the people talk about what had transpired. They heard the shouts of "Crucify Him!" Then, the ultimate of all evil took place. He was hung on a cross between two criminals, having already been beaten so badly He barely looked human. Darkness covered the land for three hours right in the middle of the day, He died, and there was a great earthquake. Guilt and depression consumed them and just when they thought it couldn't get any worse, they heard the news; Judas had taken his own life. Chances are many of them considered doing the same. Better to die a quick death at your own hands, than a slow painful death at the hands of those who had taken the life of Jesus.

On the tail of all this they hear from others of Jesus, so called, raising from the dead. Maybe they had delusions, or perhaps they were just trying to prevent more suicides. Could be they were just trying to lift the spirits of the disciples. This past week had been an emotional whirlwind. Even if they wanted to, they couldn't believe He had risen from the dead. When you look at the events of the last week it is a little easier to understand their reluctance to believe. When they were in the depths of despair, doubt had crept in and consumed them, so much so, that they couldn't even believe the words of their own friends. Doubt is one of satan's most powerful weapons, chances are you yourself have felt the iron grip of this weapon. For you it could be that doubt crept in through the door with the words of a physician announcing you have cancer. You have seen the devastation of cancer before and there is nothing pretty about it. It touches 3 out of every 4 families. My family has witnessed its power on more than one occasion. There was a day when my father-in-law Doug was a big strong man. Farmed and did heavy work all his life. It seemed there was very little he couldn't accomplish. Then, one day, his wife noticed he was struggling. He became seemingly unwilling to do anything, confused rather easily, had headaches all the time. After visiting the doctor, came the bad news. He had a brain tumor that proved to be malignant. Within a few short months cancer had transformed this, once powerful man, to a man who could do virtually nothing for himself. Then came his death. I don't pretend to know why God allowed him to die. He was a very godly man. He led more people to Christ every year than most churches. We all prayed regularly for his healing and I believe we had the faith God could heal him. Yet still he died. So what do you do to keep doubt from creeping in at times like this? What do you do? You trust. I'm not saying it's always easy, but you still trust. And what do you trust in? Well, to begin with you trust in His word. Let's go back to the passage we are currently looking at for an example. The disciples had gone from the ultimate in excitement to the ultimate in disappointment in one short week. Nothing made sense to them any more. They fully expected Jesus to come forward that week and take over the throne of David as ruler of Israel. They were ready to do battle against Rome alongside this powerful leader, who had the power to raise the dead, heal the sick, make blind eyes see and calm storms. All with nothing more than the sound of His voice. Instead, Jerusalem had turned against Him and He was dead. They expected one thing, God allowed the opposite. Ah, but you and I know the rest of the story. We know that Jesus had to die to pay the price for our sins. We know that His mind wasn't just on an earthly kingdom but also a spiritual one. Eventually He would rule over both but in order to do so, He had to die. Because of that we know we can trust Him even when it looks like what he is allowing doesn't make any sense. He has proven Himself in the pages of His word.

God's word isn't the only thing we can trust in where God has clearly proven Himself. There are also the true stories of what God has done in the lives of others. Take, for instance, the life of Joni Erickson Tada. One moment she is an active teenager swimming with her friends, the next she was paralyzed for life from the neck down. From first impressions you would assume that God blew it this time. Surely the rest of her life would be filled with great disappointment, despair and depression. If you are familiar with Joni, you know this couldn't be farther than the truth. While Joni could have allowed those these things to happen in her life, she chose not to, and because of her choice millions and millions have been blessed by her ministry.

For most, if not all of us, God has always proven Himself in our own lives. Think through your own life for a moment. Chances are, if you have been a Christian for very long, you can think of times in your life where it seemed God blew it. Nothing good could come out of the situation you found yourself in. Now, however, you know the rest of the story. You watched as God took a great time of turmoil, moved in with His own special touch, took the threads of despair and wove them together into a blanket with incredible beauty. Beauty that could only come from the hand of God.

The stories I could tell you from my own life. Let me share one with you this morning. Daniel was born January 21, 1993 in Valdivia, Chile. His birth mom was Rosa a young Chilean servant girl to a native Pastor and his family. She felt that it was in the best interest of this newborn that she placed him up for adoption. The Pastors wife had a sister who met and married an American while she was in the states for college. Over the years she had helped 10 different American couples adopt babies from Chile. She and her family were members of the church where I was serving as a youth pastor. Pam and I had always loved and wanted children but were unable to have our own by birth, as a result we were pursuing adoption. She along with our senior Pastor met with us and asked us to pray about adopting this soon to be newborn in Chile. In July of 1992 we began the process of international adoption. It was a long process but God seemed to be at work in every part of the process. International adoption can be very difficult but with God's hand at work every door seemed to open and every hurdle seemed like nothing more than a small fence you might have around a tomato plant in your garden. International adoption can also be very expensive but in God's graciousness He took care of all our financial needs to the tune of $15,000 +. So on January 28th Pam and I along with our Chilean friend and her son boarded a plane for Chile. The next morning we held little Daniel in our arms for the first time. We were certain that it wouldn't be long until Daniel would be home with us in America Sleeping in his own crib in a room we had joyously decorated for him. There were still a few loose ends to tie up so one week later I headed back to the states leaving Pam behind to care for Daniel. One thing led to another and as quickly as the doors had opened before, they were now closing and the hurdles were turning into insurmountable walls. Confidently we moved on, if the walls of Jericho were no problem for God then why should these be any different? For the next four months Pam lived in a foreign country with very little ability to communicate, pouring everything she had into Daniel. With no other family within 10,000 miles of her, Daniel became everything to her. Each day she took long walks carrying Daniel in a pouch across her chest, each night he slept in a basket within her reach. The bond was very strong. That mattered little, as the door was quickly closing. Finally, at the end of April, I boarded a plane headed for Chile, still hoping to bring Pam and Daniel home with me. As our final attempt, we flew to Santiago, the capital of Chile and met with a wealthy lawyer. As if it were yesterday, I remember sitting across from the lawyer in his high backed leather chair. He reclined slightly, folded his hands across his chest and told me that for another $10,000 American dollars we could take Daniel home with us. As I listened I knew, his intention were not legal. I can honestly say that money had nothing to do with our decision. Had it been legal, God would have provided. We knew God would not bless our family if we chose to do what we knew to be wrong. With heavy hearts, I turned to walk out of the door. That night, we placed Daniel back into the arms of his birth mom, Rosa, went back to our room and wept as we held each other. Soon we were back in the States facing an empty crib. The pain was incredible. At times like this it is hard to see the hand of God. All you can do is trust that God knows what He is doing. While this may be reassuring intellectually, it does virtually nothing to remove the tears. Over the next 2-3 years our tears flowed frequently.

You have heard the phrase "hind sight is 20/20". Well now, 6 ½ years later, our vision is clear. God did several great things through that tragic time in our life. Our next door neighbor watched us closely as we traveled those troubled waters. She had two children from two different men and many a night different cars would be parked in front of her house all night. Several months later there was a knock at our door. When we opened the door we stood face to face with our neighbor. Her eyes were wet with tears. That morning one of the owners of those "different cars" had taken his own life. She had broken off the relationship and it was more than he could handle. She watched how we had handled the loss of Daniel and wanted to know what enabled us to survive. Within a week she bowed before the throne of the One who laid His own life down for her. Our loss opened the door for her gain.

Many things have happened in the years since we went home empty handed. Yesterday as I was recording my thoughts in the very journal you are reading from, my two year old daughter sat on my lap helping me write, and what a big help she is! As a direct result of our adventure in Chile, God opened up the door for us to adopt, not one but 2 children. Brittany came from a family whose grandmother had prayed for us as we traveled those rough waters. Later, one of her granddaughters, age 19, became pregnant, out of wedlock. She had been raised in a fatherless home and wanted a different life for the child she was carrying. Brittany was that child. Because of her grandmother praying for us she wanted us to adopt her baby. Our 9 year old, Steven, is also a direct result of what took place in Chile. God was at work opening doors only He knew existed. That is the way He works.

Are you traveling through some rough waters today? Have you reached a point where you feel as though God has blown it, lost control, let you down in a major way? Wait patiently, my friend. Chances are He is opening a door for you that you do not even know is there. For if His eye is on the sparrow, you can know He watches you!

2 comments:

Marcia Bloom said...

jim, I have gotten to know you through the crisis in Bob and Sarah Bye's life. I want to thank you for the wonderful testimony I just read about how God worked in your life. We need to sit down and share someday how God can turn tragedy into lives changed for His glory.
Mike and Marcia Bloom

Jim Canady said...

Mike and Marcia, Pam and I would love to sit down and talk. God has done some amazing thing in our lives over the years, it seems sometimes that His greatest work comes from the tragedies He permits us to go through!

Jim

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