“Trouble… trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble. Trouble been doggin’ my soul since the day I was born. Worry… worry, worry, worry, worry. Worry just will not seem to leave my mind alone.” These are the lyrics of Ray LaMontagne’s hit song, “Trouble” from a few years ago. Trouble and worry. They are just two words, but there’s not a person present this morning that doesn’t know about trouble and worry. Trouble and worry come to our hearts and minds in all kinds of packages, but their delivery is certain…you just aren’t going to escape the troubles of life and the worries that can keep us up at night. Jesus said,
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIVO)
Sickness, the loss of a loved one, financial problems, conflict in our relationships, an emptiness that gnaws at our soul, parents worrying about their kids, kids worrying about their parents, the list of troubles and worries seems to have no end.
Joseph Parker was the pastor of the second largest church in London during the days of my favorite preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Pastor Parker once said, “Every pew has at least one troubled heart.” There’s no doubt that what Pastor Parker said well over one hundred years ago remains true today. This shouldn’t be any shock to any of us who read God’s Word. We read in the book of Job, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1 ESV) The Good News for you and me is that we have a place to take our troubles and worries that is certain to ease our troubled minds and worrisome hearts.
We began our study of John 14 several weeks ago and we learned that the disciples were troubled. They were troubled and worried about the news they had received that Jesus would soon be leaving them. Let’s read our Scripture and then we’ll see what we can learn from Jesus’ conversation with them to help ease our troubled hearts and minds.
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.” 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:1-14 NIVO)
We’ve already spent a few weeks taking a look at verses 1-6 where Jesus reassured His disciple’s troubled hearts by telling them that He was going away, but He would come back for them. He said, “You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus then spoke those famous words, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
In our last study, “Are There Many Ways?” we took a look at the world’s religions and the popular, but misguided notion that every way, any spiritual path, is the way to God. I mentioned to you that those who say that all religions teach basically the same thing, worship the same God, and are all trying to get us to the same place simply have never really studied the world’s religions. Jesus can’t be THE way and simply one of the ways at the same time. Today, we’ll turn our attention to John 14:7-14. Jesus makes a statement to His followers that should stop all of us in our tracks and make us think, I mean really think. Jesus speaks to His followers about what it means to know God. Jesus said,
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 14:7 NIVO)
Jesus’ statement should cause you and me to stop and really consider the question: “What does it mean to know God?” There are all kinds of answers that people would offer, but we can put most all of the answers into two categories: “factual knowledge” and “relational knowledge.” Knowing God for many people means to know about God, to know what God is like. They would describe any number of God’s attributes. “I know God is holy, He is Sovereign, God is good, He is righteous, and merciful.” That’s factual knowledge. I know that 2+2=4. I know that water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. I know the earth revolves around the sun. Those are facts and most people believe that knowing facts about God is equivalent to knowing God.
In our English language we have one word to describe the different kinds of “knowing.” I know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. I know Connie better than I know any person in the world. I know both of these and yet the knowledge I possess is very different. In some other languages they distinguish the kinds of “knowing” by the words that are used. In Spanish, the word, “saber,” is used to describe learned skills like math or science. If I wanted to express my desire to learn math I would say, “Quiero saber matemáticas.” If we want to talk about relational knowledge then we would use the word, “conocer.” If I wanted to express my desire to get to know my wife better I’d say, “Quiero conocer a mi mujer mejor.” Two different words for “know,” which have different meanings. In John 14:7, Jesus uses the Greek word for “know” three times. He’s not talking about book knowledge when He says,
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 14:7 NIVO)
Jesus used the Greek word, “???????” (ginosko) three times. This is a really interesting Greek word because it encompasses a broad range of knowledge. It’s used 222 times in the New Testament and is used to describe understanding, obtaining knowledge, to become acquainted with as in another person, to perceive, and to recognize. Jesus said, “If you really knew me you would know my Father.” Philip responded to Jesus by saying,
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (John 14:8 NIVO)
Troubling times lead to confusion, uncertainty, and distress. Jesus was preparing to leave His disciples and that would cause them trouble and worry their hearts like nothing they had ever experienced in life. Jesus was their life. They had left everything to follow Him. They could not even imagine the horror that awaited them the next day as the One they loved would hang, bloody and beaten on a cross. The trouble and worry they began to experience in the Upper Room would crush them as they gazed upon the cross. Philip spoke up and said, “Just show us the Father…” James Montgomery Boice writes,
There are times when each of us earnestly wishes that the experience Philip asked of the Lord Jesus Christ could be possible. We know, of course, that God does not possess a tangible form…But still there are times when God seems so remote, so untouchable, that we earnestly wish we could see Him. We would like to gaze upon God and hear His voice in words that actually strike our eardrums. In such moments we believe that if we could have this experience, then we should find it easier to live for God in the midst of this world. (Boice, James Montgomery. The Gospel of John: Volume 4. pg. 1087-1088.)
When I read those words this past week I thought back to some of the darkest, most troubling times in my own life. There have been times in my life when it seemed like my prayers bounced off the ceiling and pounded me into the ground. Times when I cried out to God with tears and there seemed to be no answer, the trouble remained and my heart was not comforted. I admit to you that the answers I was seeking was simply for God to deliver me out of my troubles.
I listened to the testimony of a young man a couple of weeks ago who told about a time in his life when he was so troubled. Chinedu was 15 years old when he found out his dad had cancer. He believed his dad would get better. His dad was a big strong man, but he continued to get worse. Chinedu said that one day he prayed to God for his dad to get well and he literally died the next day. Chinedu said that from that day forward, for the next ten years of his life, he didn’t believe anything. The answer he was looking for didn’t come so he stopped believing. I have met several people through the years that had a similar experience. In their trouble, with hearts ravaged by worry and distress, they cried out to God and were disappointed…so they stopped believing.
There are probably some of you here this morning who have had a similar experience. First of all, I want you to know how grateful I am that you are here. Your faith may be frazzled, hanging on by a thread, but you are here and for that I am grateful. There may be others who have given up on God. You are here this morning for purely social reasons. Your friends come to Britton Christian Church and so you’ve come along with them. I’m glad you are here this morning. I want to share something with you that I think is of great importance to all of us.
We become disappointed with God when we fail to see what we desire to see. For Philip, and for us today as well, seeing is believing, the proof is in the pudding. Jesus wanted His disciples to know that knowing, not seeing, is believing. Let me show you what I’m talking about by going back to the conversation Jesus had with Philip. Philip said, “Show us the Father and that will be enough.” If Jesus would just give them a glimpse of God then they could rest, they could know that everything would be ok in the end. Jesus answered Philip,
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9 NIVO)
Jesus pointed out the obvious. The disciples had seen Jesus for three years and yet they still did not really “know” Him, they didn’t understand who Jesus was, what He was all about, and why He had come. They loved Him of course. Their actions had demonstrated that they loved Him, but each and every time Jesus spoke about His coming death the disciples bristled. They wouldn’t have it.
The sight we desire, simply to be able to see the reality of God, is inadequate. I hear people say, “If I had only lived during the time that Jesus walked on the earth I would have a much stronger faith.” I seriously doubt that and the reason for my doubt is because I read God’s Word. After three years of living among the people, healing the sick, teaching like no teacher had ever taught before, and comforting the afflicted, very few people followed Jesus. We need new eyes to truly be able to see. Let me illustrate what I’m talking about for you.
Turn with me to John 20. In this section of Scripture Mary Magdalene had been to visit the tomb and found that it was empty. She went and told Simon Peter. Peter and John ran for the tomb to see what she was talking about. Turn with me to John 20:3-8 and let’s read together.
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (John 20:3-8 NIVO)
You probably noticed while we were reading the Scripture that Peter “looked,” then he “saw,” and then John “saw and believed.” Each of these three words are different in Greek. When we read that Peter “looked in at the strips of linen bying there…” the Greek word, “?????” (blepo) is used. The word means, “to see” or “to perceive by the use of the eyes.” Peter simply looked at what was before him. In the next instance we read, “He saw the strips of linen lying there.” This time the Greek word, “??????” (theoreo) is used and it means, “to behold, to view attentively, to consider.” And then, last of all, we read that John “saw and believed.” The word used is “????” (eido) which is a form of the word, “????” (horao) and means, “to see, discern, or to discover.” John not only saw, but he put the pieces together and believed.
So you see, simply having sight is inadequate when it comes to the things of God. We can know all of the facts about God that are discoverable and yet not believe. The most glaring example of that is found in the New Testament when we run into the Pharisees. Nobody knew more about God than the Pharisees. They knew God. They knew all of the facts about God. They also knew Jesus. They knew where He was born, they knew what He taught, they could recognize Him in a crowd and yet Jesus told them,
…”You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8:19 NIVO)
They knew everything there was to know about God and were more than familiar with Jesus, but they didn’t know either. If someone were to ask me today, “How can I get to know God?” I would tell them, “Read God’s Word.” That would be really good advice, but I’ve learned this week that it wouldn’t be a complete answer. I discovered this by listening in on another conversation Jesus had with the Pharisees. In John 5:39-40 Jesus told the Pharisees,
39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40 NIVO)
The Pharisees had the Hebrew Bible, what we call the Old Testament, and they wore it out in their study. Out of all of the Pharisees in the Bible we know of only a few who became followers of Jesus, Nicodemus and Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the author of the majority of the New Testament, being the most famous. Diligently searching the Scriptures will not ensure our coming to know God.
In John 14:10-11 Jesus gave His troubled disciples insights into how they could know God and in turn their knowing God would bring them great comfort and stir within them a desire to be used by God. Read along with me.
10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (John 14:10-11 NIVO)
Jesus told His disciples to pay close attention to two things: First, pay attention to His words, His teaching. Secondly, pay attention to the evidence produced by His works or the miracles that He performed. If we will consider the teachings of Jesus and the works of Jesus then we will know what the temple guards discovered in John 7. The temple guards had been sent to arrest Jesus by the chief priests and the Pharisees. When they found Jesus they heard Him teaching. They went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees and said,
46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. (John 7:46 NIVO)
Why was Jesus’ teaching so different? That’s a great question and Jesus answered the question for those in His day. Jesus said,
49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:49-50 NIVO)
When we read Jesus’ teachings we are reading the teachings of God Himself. This is why everything that Jesus said is a fulfillment and not a contradiction of the Old Testament. Jesus did many works during His lifetime. He healed the sick, He fed more than 5,000 with just a few loaves of bread and a handful of fish, He raised Lazarus from the dead, and He made a lame man jump for joy as he praised God, but each miracle was more than a miracle, it was a sign. John told us as much when He said,
30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 NIVO)
You may say, “But Mike you said you were going to show us how to know God, but you’ve been telling us about Jesus.” Exactly! To know Jesus is to know God. John said,
18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (John 1:18 NIVO)
Jesus has come to make God known to you and me. The Holy Spirit will enable you and me to move from merely “seeing” the facts about Jesus to knowing and trusting Him regardless of our situation in life. I want to invite you today to ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to what we’ve just been talking about, the Scripture we’ve been reading, the teachings and works of Jesus, and enable you to surrender your heart to the King of kings.
Britton Christian Church