“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight 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.  And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.'”  Matthew 11:2-6

John had obeyed God.  He was leading a revival with the spirit of Elijah on him and people were repenting and being forgiven of their sins.  The only thing left was for the leadership to repent so the whole nation could return to God.  With that in mind, he confronted Herod Antipas about his wrong relationship with Herodias.  Instead of repenting and being part of the revival, Antipas had John thrown in prison.  This was not what John had prayed would happen nor what he had expected; he was disappointed.  This is a dangerous place for a leader to be in.

It was in that place, in prison, alone, disappointed, that the man of God began to question everything.  His predecessor (Elijah) went through a similar experience.  He had called fire down from heaven and prayed for the drought to be broken thinking that Ahab and Jezebel would now repent and a nation wide revival would break out.  Instead, Jezebel made a vow to have him killed, so Elijah ran away and hid alone in a cave, expressing his disappointment to God. (See 1Kings 19)

We all have desires and expectations that we want God to meet.  When He doesn’t follow our plan in our time, we experience disappointment which can easily turn into an offense against God.  What John needed was the same thing Elijah needed; a fresh word from God.  How intimate that Jesus would take time to give His friend in prison a specific word.  He quoted Isaiah 61 to John, a familiar Messianic scripture, insuring that He indeed was the Expected One.  John had heard right and had done just what God had wanted him to do but was now faced with his biggest test – disappointment.  Jesus gave him the path to freedom: “Blessed is he who does not take offense with Me.”

God had done the same with Elijah.  He didn’t send him to the cave of discouragement but followed him there and told him to go out on the ledge because He was going to speak.  God didn’t speak in great signs and wonders but by the intimacy of a whisper to Elijah’s spirit.  That word was enough to help him leave the cave and finish his race strong.  In fact, he never died, but was translated directly to heaven.

John wasn’t translated to heaven; he died a martyr’s death, in prison.  Both fulfilled God’s plan and both will be recognized as heroes of faith for all eternity.  None of us can do more than God’s will for our lives, but we can do less. Let’s make sure we don’t get offended when God’s plan is different than ours.

It’s easy for pastors to become offended when we’ve been trained in the “bigger is better” church growth model.  Jesus is building His church and sometimes our part is like Elijah being translated in glory, but often times it feels more like John the Baptist being martyred.  When Isaiah said, “Here am I, send me.”  God told him his ministry was going to be very frustrating from man’s perspective.  Thank God we don’t have to compete with each other; we only have to be faithful to God.

Maybe you’re sitting in the cave of disappointment today and need a fresh word from heaven.  Why not ask for one right now?


Tom Flaherty is the Lead Pastor of City Church in Madison, WI.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Get Offended

  1. Tom, thank you for this outstanding reminder not to allow our disappointment to rob us of obedience to God’s plan, especially when we don’t understand it.

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