Adam Northcroft
Does pain stop you believing?

We have just started a new preaching series looking at the gospel of Luke. Almost immediately this account introduces a character called Zechariah, who’s an older man, a priest and someone given an amazing reference early in the story. He is described as being righteous and blameless in God’s sight.

However, things don’t continue on such as positive note because he is severely lacking in an area essential for all believers. He struggles with faith. When told the Almighty had plans to break in with a miracle, he just can’t believe even though the news was meant to bring him joy.

This deficiency doesn’t go well for Zechariah, who must now endure a bumpy ride in order to change and enable him to embrace God’s plan.

So, was there a reason for his lack of faith? We are given a clue in the text. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were unable to have children despite their longing for a family and were now too old. We know they had prayed for children, but without success, and this would certainly have resulted in deep, unremitting pain.

After decades of this, it seems likely Zechariah just buried his agony and tried to get on with life. So, when the subject was re-surfaced by God’s messenger, telling him he would have a son, he rejected it for fear of more pain.

The bible has a saying: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”.

Faced with ongoing painful situations, some Christians can shut down and just stop believing. Some walk away from God altogether, while others find a way of isolating the area that has caused them such difficulty and limp along, but with a ‘sick’ heart.

While the story of Zechariah is raw and painful it does raise an issue that should ultimately give hope to others in a similar situation. It reveals that God has a way of breaking through and restoring a hurting heart. It also shows that God had heard him over the years and did answer, although not in the way that had been expected.

We should see as well that God wasn’t shy of speaking into his woundedness. God knew that to be free the subject couldn’t remain buried, but had to be faced so that faith could flourish.

While Zechariah thought his situation was hopeless, God had a very significant purpose for him. He wanted him to be the father of a miraculous child, who would pave the way for the greatest purpose of all - the coming of Jesus.