The invisible prisons are the ones we create ourselves without noticing and because of that, we don’t know how to get out of them.
In this teaching, we are going to talk about the prison of expectation which is something that I’m sure you have experienced. I mean, we all have experienced a frustration o disappointment due to an unfulfilled expectation.
We go through life with expectations of how things should be or how others should act. Even more, I guess you already have an expectation about this teaching which can be good and bad.
When you set your expectations too high two things can happen. The first is that your faith gets stronger or the second is that your faith gets weaker. Although, we are going to learn here that it doesn’t depend on the circumstances. The outcome depends on how you take disappointment.
For this message, we are going to learn from one great disappointment that led to doubt. I’m talking about John the Baptist.
Jesus and John the Baptist
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”Matthew 11:2-3 NIV
On those two verses, you get the context for John and what it produced to him. He’s now doubting about Jesus as the Messiah even though he proclaimed him. Although, we are going to analyze that later because his shift of faith is very shocking.
For now, I want to share with you the first rule in every relationship which is that you cannot understand other people disappointments unless you first understand their expectations.
We tend to disappoint a lot of people because we just don’t always do what they expect and when there’s not good communication this is very common.
By the way, faith is also an expectation. As the scripture explains, faith refers to something that doesn’t exist as if it did. The expectation is that it will exist or that it will become.
We wake up every morning with faith because we act as if God will be with us, blessing us, all along the day. We act through the day as if mercy and goodness will be following us. Otherwise, there will be no point to wake up.
Through God we know that our day is important because that’s the purpose to be alive. We are not living just to enjoy a meal or to do work, we live to do something meaningful with our lives.
Call me crazy but for me, it will be easier and greater to be by the side of my God all the time (I mean to die). That sounds awesome to me. Although, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to live. That means that I need to take advantage of my life because God wants me here and it’s an honor to serve God with my life as I’m still alive.
You only live once anyway.
Ok. Let’s get back to John. I suppose you already know his story so I’m just going to say that even when he was at his mother’s womb he had a calling that was announced by an angel. His calling was to prepare the way for the Lord.
It’s interesting because Jesus and John were relatives. Actually, the story says that after Mary got the good news about his son and how he will be the Messiah, she went to Elizabeth’s house. When Mary arrived, John moved in Elizabeth’s womb as if John recognized the Messiah.
Here I want to add something very useful for us and is what Mary did which is to surround ourselves with the people who have the same expectations and faith than us. That will help us in our journey.
Now let’s continue with the story. We don’t know if Jesus and John were close friends or if they met in their youth but we do know that they met when John was baptizing people. And on that occasion, John recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, again.
I’m telling you all of this so you can understand the magnitude of his doubt because after all those years recognizing Jesus as the Messiah he started to doubt.
It’s important to say that John recognized Jesus not by his deeds (miracles) but because of his essence which is way better.
We tend to recognize God only by what He does and not by who He is, that’s why we are constantly in danger of losing our faith because it’s not founded in God but in God’s work. The problem of doing this is that most times God will not do what we expect and if our faith is based on his work then our faith will break.
For John, it was a very difficult time because his calling was to confront people and bring them to Jesus but when he confronted Herodes it all went down the hill. So, he started to doubt because that’s not what he expected.
Let’s understand what John was expecting.
I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.Matthew 3:11-12 NIV
Now that we know what John was expecting from the Messiah we can understand his doubt which was:
to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”Matthew 11:3 NIV
Now, let’s make this personal because maybe you can relate to John. Maybe you are feeling the same way. Maybe you were expecting God to do something that he didn’t do. Is that your case?
I bet it is or at least it was because it’s something normal that we all experienced.
Up to this moment, it all has been about John but now it’s time for us to see what Jesus has to say about this.
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”Matthew 11:4-6 NIV
The invisible prisons I was talking about from the beginning are all of those expectations we have from God. Jesus knows we all have expectations, very distorted expectations, so He’s saying to us: “I’m not going to do it your way”.
It’s hard to accept but when God doesn’t follow our expectations is because He wants to exceed them. I know that if you haven’t experienced that already, you will.
I’ve also said before that disappointment can have two outcomes. One where your faith gets stronger and the other one where your faith gets weaker.
The reason why there are two outcomes for disappointment is that God uses disappointment to make your faith stronger meanwhile the devil uses your disappointment to destroy your faith.
You need to pivot the foundation of your faith so the devil doesn’t use the disappointment. I mean, stop putting your faith in what God should do and put your faith in God himself.
That’s easier said than done but that should be your goal with every decision and every thought you may have.
For all of you scripture lovers (as me), there’s something really awesome in what Jesus said because he is mentioning a prophecy by Isaiah (that He’s fulfilling) and that we can read here:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.Luke 4:18-19 NIV
You can notice Jesus left out something that John could consider very valuable and that is “freedom for the prisoners”.
Sure, it would have been awesome if an angel came down to set free John and that John keep preaching the word of God but that didn’t happen. Actually, John got beheaded.
It seems like a very sad ending for this teaching but there’s something we are not reading which is what Jesus said after John’s messengers left.
As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “ ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.Matthew 11:7-15 NIV
The problem with John or us is not that God didn’t bless us because He does. The problem is that He doesn’t do it the way we want it.
We need to resist the temptation of controlling God and learn to trust him especially when we don’t understand what He is doing.
The first place God wants to deliver us from is the place of our expectations.
Prayer about our expectations
Father, I’m learning to trust you but it’s not so easy because the pressure makes me wanna do things my own way and most of the times I just don’t understand what you are trying to do so it’s really hard for me to maintain calm. That’s how much I need your spirit to maintain myself strong and to keep trusting you. In the power of Jesus name, I declare myself forever yours.
This teaching, in particular, was very short and direct. We just needed to get into the same conclusion of this series which is that we need to trust God. That’s not easy and God knows it. That’s why it’s a process we must endure.
By the way here’s the original sermon of Steven Furtick called [Invisible prisons] on which I based this teaching of.
I’ve to tell you also that probably this series will be the last one I make. It’s sad but it is time for me to make a more profound scripture study. In any case, if you wanna get notified of whatever I will be writing then you should sign into our Elite community by adding your email [here].
By the way, this post was sponsored by Ulysses which is the writing app that I use. It’s really amazing and they are making a new update that makes it the best app for writers. I recommend you to try it. You can get it in the App Store, it’s available for [iOS] and for [Mac OS].
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See you in the next post.