Trouble. Trials and tribulations. Persecution and pressure. There’s not a day go by that I’m not constantly reminded that the troubles of life come consistently, often without notice, and we don’t all deal with them in the same way. Last week I attended the funeral for my brother-in-law’s mother, Jean McGrady, a godly lady who had experienced many troubles during her lifetime. She and her husband had a seven year old son and a nine year old daughter, when at the age of forty-two her husband was traveling to a youth camp in Arkansas to share the Gospel with a group of kids and was killed in a car accident. The year was 1967. Jean, rather than pulling the blinds and suffering in isolation, leaned upon her faith in the Lord, went back to college, finished her teaching degree, and for the next nearly 50 years trusted the Lord through every hardship and trial she endured. Jean had planned her funeral about five years ago. Included in her instructions were these words, “My service is to last no longer than thirty minutes. Make much of Jesus and little of me.”
This week I prayed for a friend who attended the funeral of her cousin last weekend, a 36 year old man who was so overwhelmed by the troubles of life that he ended his own. This week I prayed for a friend whose mother has had a severe stroke. Now the family is anchored in their faith that God is Sovereign and He will lead them as they deal with the aftermath of the stroke. This week I read an update about Asia Bibi, a wife and mother of four children, who has sat on death row in Pakistan for the past seven years charged with blasphemy because of her faith in Jesus. When her co-workers learned that Asia had become a follower of Jesus they tried to force her to renounce her faith and convert to Islam. Asia told them, “Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins…our Christ is alive.” It was that statement that led to her being charged and found guilty of blasphemy. The American Center for Law and Justice has more than 500,000 signatures on a petition which they have given to Pakistani government officials calling for the release of Asia. Whether she is released or executed by being hung, she will not renounce her faith in Jesus. This week I had lunch with a friend who has learned that his brother has internal scleroderma, a disease which hardens the internal organs. As many advancements as our medical experts have made during our lifetime, they have no idea what causes the disease. My friend told me when he received the call, his sister-in-law was terrified. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been praying for a young guy who has been part of our church. While you and I sit in worship, Tammi Ivy is sitting by the bedside of her son in ICU at the OU Medical Center. Tyree was brutally beaten and then someone dropped his lifeless body at the Emergency Room. Doctors say Tyree is in a permanent vegetative state. I could go on and on sharing the wide variety of troubles that people I know are going through at this time, but I’d rather spend the rest of our time focusing on Jesus’ words to His disciples as He prepared to go to the cross in a matter of hours. Jesus said,
“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)
We need to remember that these words of Jesus close the discussion He had with His disciples in the Upper Room, a discussion that began in John 13. Next week, when we begin our study of John 17, we will find Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. There are two things we need to pay special attention to as we begin our study of what Jesus told His disciples. First, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” What are “these things?” What were the things Jesus said to them that would be so important for them to experience peace “in Him?” This is important for us to understand because I’ve met many people who are followers of Jesus who believed at one point that peace is simply a by-product of surrendering our lives to Jesus. You pray to receive Jesus as Lord of your life and suddenly the birds start singing, all of our problems work out for the best, and we spend the rest of our lives skipping down a primrose path. They believed peace would permeate their hearts and minds, but what they experienced when trouble came knocking was anxiety, dread, and fear. We will talk more about this later, but let’s stay focused on the question.
What was Jesus referring to when He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” Jesus was referring to the sum total of all that He had shared with them in the Upper Room. If we go back through John 13-16 we will recognize many very important truths Jesus shared with His disciples, which, if they would learn these lessons, and apply the lessons to their daily lives, they would experience the peace that Jesus makes available to those that are “in Him” even in the midst of painful hardships. I want to highlight just a few of these important truths.
Loved By Jesus
Let’s go back to John 13 and learn the first of the powerful, transforming lessons Jesus shared with His disciples. John tells us Jesus and the disciples entered the Upper Room and Jesus showed His disciples the “full extent of His love.” Turn to John 13:1 and let’s read together.
1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. (John 13:1 NIVO)
And then He washed His disciples’ feet as an act of love. Peter balked and the rest of the disciples were shocked that their Lord and Master would stoop to such a lowly posture, but Jesus was showing them what real love looked like. Towards the end of the chapter Jesus told His disciples,
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34 NIVO)
“As I have loved you…” The disciples would experience the tribulations and trials of life from that day forward, but they would never forget Jesus’ love for them. The love of Jesus would sustain them, comfort them, and compel them to continue on in the mission He had given them.
Jesus Has Prepared a Place for His Own
At the beginning of John 14, Jesus shared another invaluable truth with His disciples which would serve to enable them to know His peace regardless of what they were experiencing in life. Turn with me to John 14:1-3 and let’s read together.
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. (John 14:1-3 NIVO)
The disciples could know that though Jesus was going to be leaving them, He would come back for them. In His absence, Jesus would be preparing a place for them so that when He came back for them they might forever be with Him. The reality of Jesus’ promise comforted them, encouraged them, and steeled their resolve in the face of the hardships of life. What was true for the disciples is true for you and me as well. The Jesus who saved us on Calvary’s cross, the One who has reconciled us to the Father, knows us, He knows where we are, and what we are going through in life, and He has promised to come back to get us so that we might be with Him forevermore.
Jesus Gives Us the Holy Spirit
The next important lesson that falls into the category of the things Jesus told His disciples is the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus would be leaving His disciples, but He would not leave them alone, He would send the Holy Spirit to indwell them, teach them, remind them, and go before them to work in the mission He was calling them to in sharing the Gospel with an unbelieving world. Take a look at John 14:16-18 with me.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18 NIVO)
“He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Jesus has never failed to keep His promise. He would leave them when He went to the cross, suffered and died, was resurrected, and then ascended to the right hand of the Father, but He would not leave them alone. This was such an important truth for the disciples to learn that Jesus repeated it time and time again, in various ways, while they were still in the Upper Room. In John 14:26, Jesus told the disciples,
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 NIVO)
Jesus’ voice would not be silenced when He ascended to the right hand of the Father in Heaven. His teaching would echo in their hearts and minds through the presence of the Holy Spirit. At every turn, when they needed the counsel of the Word of God, the Holy Spirit would remind them of all of that Jesus had taught them while He was with them. This lesson was so crucial that Jesus repeated it again while they were in the Upper Room. In John 16:12-15 we read,
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:12-15 NIVO)
And Jesus’ promise remains true to this day. You and I are so blessed to have the written Word of God so that the Spirit of God can guide us into all truth. The Psalmist said the Word of God was “sweeter than honey to his mouth.” (Psalm 119:103 NIVO) The Psalmist said of God’s Word; “Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105 NIVO) The Word of God is relevant and a treasure for the young and old alike. The Psalmist asked a question which is just as relevant today as it has ever been. He asks, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9 NIVO) Through the prophet Isaiah, God’s people were reminded in catastrophic times, that even when they were old and gray He would sustain them. Turn to Isaiah 46:4 and read with me.
4 Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:4 NIVO)
The Spirit of God used the Word of God to comfort and strengthen God’s people in times past and this is still how God works in our day. Oh, how grateful we should be for the Holy Spirit and His indwelling presence in our lives! How humbled we should be when we recognize that we are a temple of the Holy Spirit of God who resides in us to teach us, remind us, and go before us in this mission God has given us to share the Gospel in an unbelieving world!
Jesus Gives Us Peace
There are many more important truths that Jesus shared with His disciples in the Upper Room as He prepared to go to the cross, but I only have time to share one more with you before we move along in our study. In our study for this morning we read,
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)
Jesus spoke to His disciples about peace. He had spoken to them about the most important truths in life to enable them to experience peace in the pressure cooker of life. Their peace would be experienced only in Him. What’s interesting is that this is not the first time in the Upper Room that Jesus spoke to His disciples about peace. If you will turn with me to John 14:27 we can read the first time Jesus spoke about peace while they were all gathered in the Upper Room. Jesus said,
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27 NIVO)
“My peace I give you.” “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” In John 14:27, Jesus told them not to let their hearts be troubled and not to be afraid. In John 16:33, Jesus told them in this world they would have trouble. Superseding any experience of trouble, transcending any persecution they might encounter, the peace that He would make available to them would raise them above every painful trial of life. The same promise holds true for you and me.
The peace the world is longing for can’t be found in the absence of terrorist threats. The peace the world is yearning for can’t be found when one achieves financial security. I met with a man recently who has lots of money and yet he told me, “I feel so empty inside.” The peace we are desperately searching and hoping for isn’t waiting for us if we can only shake free from this life’s troubles. No, the peace that you are longing for can only be experienced by abiding in Jesus. Do you know what abiding in Jesus means? I will tell you what it doesn’t mean. It’s doesn’t mean that you go to church on Sunday and never give Jesus a thought the rest of the week. It doesn’t mean that you pray the sinner’s prayer, get baptized, and then head down the road living life however you want. Abiding in Jesus means you recognize that when Jesus calls you to Himself, He calls you to come and die to self so you might live solely, exclusively, and gratefully for Him. It means you give Him your calendar and your checkbook. It means when trouble comes knocking at your door, you turn to Him before you turn to a friend. It means that even in the most fiery trials of life you live in full recognition of the Sovereignty of God and His purpose for everything you will ever experience in life. It means that you join the Psalmist in saying, “Your word is sweeter than honey to my mouth.”
I told you there are two things that we need to pay special attention to as we seek to understand what Jesus told His disciples. It is crucially important, vitally important that we as followers of Jesus understand that in this world we will have trouble. The Greek word for “trouble” used here is “??????,” (thlipsis) and it means “crushed, a pressing, pressure, oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits.” John MacArthur writes,
Thlipsis (tribulations) has the underlying meaning of being under pressure and was used of squeezing olives in a press in order to extract the oil and of squeezing grapes to extract the juice…In Scripture the word thlipsis is perhaps most often used of outward difficulties, but it is also used of emotional stress. (MacArthur, J. Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press)
The pressures of life can be crushing. They come in such a variety of ways, but they press our souls causing emotional stress and sorrow that weighs us down. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” The disciples to whom Jesus spoke these words would know the truth of what Jesus said to them before He went to the cross. They were arrested, beaten, run out of town, and all but one was killed because of their allegiance to Jesus and their unwillingness to stop telling others about him. Paul was pelted so violently with stones that they dragged him outside of the city and left him for dead. These are not the only pressures they experienced in life. They were people just like you and me. The pressures that keep you up at night are common to all people.
I want to stress how important it is for you and me to know in this world we will have trouble. I can’t stress this enough and it is vitally important for us to take this to heart because there has come a strange teaching in the Church that has replaced the doctrine of suffering with the doctrine of prosperity. We’ve erased God’s call to “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16 NIVO) In its place we’ve heralded the happiness of a pop culture pseudo gospel.
We must embrace the fact that we follow a Savior who was run out of town, had His hands and feet pierced with spikes, and His back lacerated into ribbons. It is this bloodied and beaten Savior who calls us to take up our cross and follow Him into this unbelieving world with the Gospel. This is what moved His followers to throw caution to the wind and go. This is what moved His followers to say,
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIVO)
Light and momentary troubles? That’s sure not how you and I might define all that we’re going through in life is it? Not at all. Yet, if we will fix our minds on the One who loves us, if we will keep in the forefront of our minds what awaits us, if we will meditate on Who is with us to lead us and guide us through the trials and troubles of life, then we will be able to know the peace that surpasses all understanding as we abide in Him.
In Jesus, abiding in Jesus, there is peace. In Jesus, as we abide in Jesus, there is rest for the weary. In Jesus, as we abide in Jesus, there is quietness, though the storms will continue to rage. I have known times in my life when I could not find peace to save my life, but I’ve learned that in those times when my heart won’t stop racing and I can’t sleep because of the turbulence raging in my soul, I must continue to seek Him until His peace comes…and it does. The Apostle Paul wrote,
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NIVO)
Oh my friend, take your troubles to the Lord in prayer. Don’t pray once and think your prayer will work like magic. Abide in prayer, labor in prayer, wear your knees out in lifting up to Him that which is pressing against your soul and in time His peace will replace your anxiety and fear. As you pray be reminded of those parting words of our Lord before He headed out to the Garden of Gethsemane where He would labor in prayer as well. Jesus told His disciples, “But take heart! I have overcome the world!” Notice, Jesus didn’t say, “You will overcome the world.” He says, “I have overcome the world.” Our great God and Savior has won! It may not look like it at times, you may wonder when you are in the crucible of crisis, but take heart my friend–He has overcome the world!
There are times I want to watch a ballgame, but am busy and unable to do so. I’ve learned to use the DVR so I can watch it at a later time. A few weeks ago when OU played Texas Tech I knew it was going to be a big game, but it was on Saturday night so I had to get ready for Sunday and go to bed early. I didn’t want to know the score, but that’s almost impossible these days. Sure enough on my way to church I heard the score on the radio. They were going on and on about what a nailbiter it was all night. Sunday afternoon I played the game, but I never stressed at all. I wasn’t worried. I never bargained with God. I knew the outcome so I just watched the game totally stress-free.
I want to tell someone this morning, I already know how this is going to turn out–Jesus won! The Enemy has been defeated. There’s no need for you or me to wonder how things will turn out. Will we be beaten and battered by the troubles of life? You better believe it. In this world you will have trouble, but don’t let your heart be troubled, trust in the One who has overcome the world. In Revelation 12:10-11, John is given a glorious vision of heaven. Listen to this.
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:10-11 NIVO)
This life will be full of difficulties, trials, and heartbreaking troubles, but He will be our peace if we will abide in Him, trust in Him, and never give up on the One who has overcome on our behalf. Won’t you turn to Him this morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 6, 2016