If we ever want to learn more about our heart then the Bible is a great place to start. By studying God’s Word you won’t learn about the anatomy and physiology of the heart. There’s not a verse in the Bible that tells us that the heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. None of the Gospels speak about the four chambers of the heart. The Prophets don’t mention the two pumping units that move our blood from our heart through nearly 60,000 miles of veins that make up our bodies. To learn how the heart functions you would need a class on cardiology, but we all know that there is much more to our hearts than merely its function.
The Bible speaks about “heavy hearts,” “glad hearts,” “broken hearts, “clean hearts,” “double hearts,” “deceitful hearts,” “evil hearts,” “fearful hearts,” “hard hearts,” “good hearts,” “proud hearts,” “prideful hearts,” “rebellious hearts,” “stone hearts,” “soft hearts,” “tender hearts,” “understanding hearts, “willing hearts,” and “new hearts.” There is another kind of heart that the Bible speaks about which I want us to take the time to learn about today and that is the “troubled heart.” Let’s read our Scripture for this morning and then we will see what we can learn.
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:1-7 NIVO)
The section of John 13-17 is called the Upper Room discourse and it is filled with Jesus’ most intimate conversation with His disciples. We’ve finished our study of John 13 and this morning we are beginning our study of John 14. I want to forewarn you that we will need to come back to this same Scripture next week because we are going to focus all of our time this morning on Jesus’ first sentence. It’s interesting that Jesus begins by saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” The Bible has much to say about the trouble that visits our hearts because this life that all of us are experiencing is filled with trouble.
Job knew all about the troubles of life. The troubles of life ransacked Job’s life as he lost his children who were all gathered in one house when a violent wind came sweeping through and the house collapsed on all ten of his kids. Job not only lost his children, but he lost his livelihood as well. His oxen, sheep, camels, donkeys, and hired hands were taken from him by fire and raiding parties made up of the Sabeans and Chaldeans. He lost his children, his livestock, and all but three of his hired hands. Job wasn’t postulating theories in an academic setting when, in Job 14:1-2, he said,
1 “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. 2 He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure. (Job 14:1-2 NIVO)
There is another person that comes to mind when I think about a troubled heart. Jeremiah was a prophet of God, a faithful prophet who spoke God’s Word even though no one ever responded, even though he paid a great price for what he had to say. The people wanted to kill Jeremiah, but instead they got permission from King Zedekiah to put him in a well where they wouldn’t have to listen to him talk any longer. Jeremiah had been faithful to God, but it didn’t get him anywhere. Is it any wonder that he said,
18 Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame? (Jeremiah 20:18 NIVO)
There are few things as troubling as a troubled heart and yet there is no escaping it. This life is full of troubles that are as varied as the flowers of the field. Troubles come at us from every direction. Sometimes we can see trouble coming in the distance and as much as we prepare for them our troubles still shake us to the core. Troubles also catch us off guard, they come when we least expect them. Our heart can become troubled because of those who mean us harm, but we can suffer a troubled heart because of those we love the most.
There are some within the Body of Christ who claim that being a follower of Jesus will exempt us from life’s troubles. They are the folks you’ve heard me speak about before, they are the people of the health, wealth, and prosperity Gospel. They believe that sickness is not part of the experience of those who belong to Jesus. They believe that God only wants good things to be part of our experience once we come to know Jesus. I don’t know of any belief system that is more damaging than the teachings of the health, wealth, and prosperity Gospel. Jesus, when He was speaking to the crowd about the things we worry about, what we will eat, drink, what we will wear, said,
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34 NIVO)
I would think that if there was ever an authority on the reality of life and the experience of life in this broken world that it would have to be Jesus. Jesus knew trouble. In our verse for today, we read, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” The Greek word for “troubled,” is “???????” (tarasso) and it means, “to agitate, to render anxious and distressed, to make restless, to take away calmness of mind, to be disturbed, or to strike one’s spirit with fear and dread.” Does that ring a bell with any of you here this morning? Have you ever been struck with fear and dread? Have you ever had your calmness of mind taken by the news that came from the doctor, a boss, or your loved one? I’m certain we can all relate to what it means to be “troubled.” Here’s the good news–Jesus knows those same emotions. Three times in John’s Gospel we find this Greek word for “trouble” used to describe the emotions that Jesus was experiencing. Let me show them to you. First, turn to John 11:32-33. The Scripture we will read is imbedded in the story of the death of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus. When Jesus arrived Mary told Jesus that her brother wouldn’t have died if Jesus had only been there. Let’s read together.
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. (John 11:32-33 NIVO)
Now, there has been a lot of discussion about what caused Jesus’ heart to be troubled. Some say it was the lack of faith of Mary and the crowd that was weeping at Lazarus’ death that caused Jesus’ troubled heart. Others say that Jesus was troubled because He was compassionate and the sorrow of Lazarus’ friends caused Him to be troubled. Still others say that Jesus being omniscient, knowing all things, knew that His raising Lazarus from the dead would spark a relentless effort on the part of the authorities to put Jesus to death. There may be some truth in all of these possibilities, but I think many Bible teachers leave out an important fact–Jesus loved Lazarus; Lazarus was Jesus’ friend.
In John 11:3 we read that when Lazarus fell ill his sisters sent word to Jesus. Here’s the message they sent: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (John 11:3 NIVO) Just two verses later we read, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5 NIVO) Just six verses later we read where Jesus told His disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” (John 11:11 NIVO) Jesus loved Lazarus. Lazarus was Jesus’ friend and he had died. Even though Jesus was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus knew Lazarus would die again and the loss, sorrow, and troubled hearts that were weeping at his tomb would be troubled once again. Jesus was troubled at the grave of His friend Lazarus.
There is a second instance in John’s Gospel where Jesus was troubled. This trouble was much different than the trouble Jesus experienced at Lazarus’ tomb. Turn with me to John 12:27-28 and let’s read together.
27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27-28 NIVO)
The Cross was in view and it was weighing heavy on Jesus’ heart. The thought was troubling and yet Jesus knew that it was for the Cross that He had come. Dr. John Stott wrote about this verse by saying,
The realization of his imminent suffering breaks over Jesus: ‘Now my heart is troubled.’ The verb is a strong one, signifying shock, agitation, even revulsion. We recall Hebrews 5:7 referring to Jesus’ ‘loud cries and tears,’ and more specifically ‘the agony in the Garden.’ ‘Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground’ (Luke 22:44). (Stott, John R.W. The Message of John. pg. 188.)
Jesus felt the weight of the Cross, more specifically, He felt the weight of my sin and your sin laid upon His shoulders while He hung on the Cross and His heart was troubled. Can anyone not understand why His heart was troubled?
There is one more instance in the Gospel of John where we find Jesus suffering from a troubled heart and it is found in John 13:20-22. Jesus had just washed the feet of His disciples and shared with them the significance of what He had done when He took the conversation in a different direction. Read along with me.
20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” 21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” 22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. (John 13:20-22 NIVO)
One of Jesus’ disciples, one of the men who had walked with Him, given up everything to follow Him, served Him, and leaned in to listen to every word He had spoken to the crowds and in private would betray Him. You say, “But Mike, Jesus was omniscient, He knew everything, He knew Judas was going to betray Him all along.” You are right, and yet I have to believe that omniscience would not have softened the blow that one of those who was closest to Jesus was going to hand Him over. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus could sympathize with our weaknesses because He was like us, yet without sin. Let me read it to you.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 NIVO)
We’ve spend a lot of time taking a look at three different situations in which Jesus’ own heart was troubled. I wanted to take this time because we need to understand that Jesus knows that we are troubled and He knows what troubles us because He Himself was troubled at various times by various experiences He went through in life. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t exempt us from the troubles of life. We all experience the troubles of life, but the impact that the troubles have on us and the ways that we experience them vary widely. Let me give you an example of one way the troubles of life can have an effect on us.
Albert Camus was born in Algeria in 1913. In 1914 his father died and he was left to live with his mother who had serious health issues. He made his way to University where he was the goalkeeper on the soccer team until he developed tuberculosis at the age of 17. Camus knew what it was like to have a troubled heart. He was married and divorced twice while he was a young man. His second wife had a mental breakdown no doubt partly caused because of his incessant womanizing. Camus is most remembered for a school of philosophy that is called Absurdism. Camus believed that what ails us most is our desire for clarity and meaning within a world that offers neither. Camus wrote many books and essays, but his best known work is The Myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus is a figure from Greek mythology who was the king of Ephyra or Corinth. He was condemned by the gods because of his arrogance and deceitfulness. His sentence was to spend all of eternity pushing a huge boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down at the end of each day. The next day Sisyphus would begin his meaningless task all over again. Camus used the character of Sisyphus to illustrate humanity’s futile search for meaning in the face of a meaningless world devoid of God and truth. In his essay Camus wrote,
There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that. (Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus. p. 3.)
That’s hopeful isn’t it?! To give Camus some credit, life can be incredibly difficult and oftentimes the difficulties don’t come with a note detailing for us the reason or purpose for their coming. Our greatest need is not to find meaning in the midst of the troubles of life, but to have faith, to trust in the One who has given us life. Jesus said,
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. (John 14:1 NIVO)
In our time together next week we will take a look at some very specific things that Jesus offers to His disciples in the verses that follow that should have given them great reassurance. In the time we have left I want to emphasize that our greatest need is not for meaning in the midst of our troubles, but it is to simply and resolutely trust and rely upon the Lord. This has always been true for God’s people. Turn with me to Psalm 46:1-3. Let’s read together.
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah (Psalm 46:1-3 NIVO)
The Psalmist says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” I want you to pay special attention to the first and last words in the sentence. “God” and “trouble.” I also want you to pay attention to the order of the words: “God” precedes “trouble.” Our biggest problem is that we get those words out of order. For many of us our troubles take precedence over God.
In a solar eclipse the moon moves between the earth and the sun blocking the light of the sun from reaching earth. We can’t live without the light of the sun and thankfully a solar eclipse doesn’t last very long. Our troubles can and often do act like the moon and move between us and God blocking out our understanding of who God is and what He is for each of us.
Notice what the Psalmist says about God: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” He doesn’t say that God gives us a place of refuge. He says, “God is our refuge…” He doesn’t say God gives us strength.” He says, “God is our…strength.” We don’t need answers we need to cling to and trust in the Lord. He is our refuge, He is our strength, He is our ever-present help in trouble. Charles Spurgeon wrote,
A help that is not present when we need it is of small value. The anchor which is left at home is of no use to the seaman in the hour of storm; the money which he used to have is of no worth to the debtor when a writ is out against him. Very few earthly helps could be called “very present”: they are usually far in the seeking, far in the using, and farther still when once used. But as for the LORD our God, He is present when we seek Him, present when we need Him, and present when we have already enjoyed His aid. He is more than “present,” He is very present. More present than the nearest friend can be, for He is in us in our trouble; more present than we are to ourselves, for sometimes we lack presence of mind. He is always present, effectually present, sympathetically present, altogether present. He is present now if this is a gloomy season. Let us rest ourselves upon Him. He is our refuge, let us hide in Him; He is our strength, let us array ourselves with Him; He is our help, let us lean upon Him; He is our very present help, let us repose in Him now. We need not have a moment’s care or an instant’s fear. “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” (Spurgeon, Charles.)
The troubles of this life will come, but we have to remember Jesus’ words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” We can’t stop the troubles of life from coming. We can’t prevent our hearts from ever being troubled. Every single one of us here this morning has experienced a troubled heart. A troubled heart happens as a natural reaction to troubling times. Let me give you an example. When someone you dearly love is going through a difficult time and you have tried everything in your power to help them but it hasn’t worked, they just won’t listen, it troubles your heart. That is a normal and natural reaction that we don’t have to be taught. It’s like breathing, it’s an involuntary reaction. When our heart is troubled by the occurrences of life we can remember Jesus’ words and turn our troubled heart into a trusting heart.
There may be someone here this morning who is in the midst of troubles right now. I want to encourage you to put God’s Word into action in your life. Right now, confess out loud, “Lord, I trust you. Lord, you are my refuge, you are my strength, you are my ever-present help at this moment.” Trust Him. Now, I want to forewarn you. What I’ve just encouraged you to do is not some magic incantation or take-one-a-day prescription. Every time you sense trouble coming back to steal your peace you must confess again, you must run to your Refuge once again, you must allow Him to be your strength again and again knowing that He is your ever-present help in every moment of trouble if you will rely upon Him. You can trust Him this morning.
Britton Christian Church