Jesus' disciples were a curious bunch who asked a lot of questions. And it's good they did too, because if they hadn't asked some of the questions back then, we might not have the answers today. So join Stephen in this message as he examines some of the most troubling questions before giving us the timeless answers.
“Troublesome Questions . . . Timeless Answers”
John 14:3-15; 16:23-28
During the average lifetime, I have read, a person will spend 5 years waiting in line, 3 years in meetings, 19 years sleeping , 6 years eating, 7 years in the bathroom and 2 years calling people who aren't home, 3 1/2 years eating, and 5 months praying. In fact, if you never missed a Sunday morning worship service your entire life, you'd only be spending 5 1/2 months in church.
5 years waiting in line. . .5 months of waiting on God.
Even though it may be no-ones' fault that we have to stand in line for several years, still, is it any wonder why we can have frustrated, hurting, troubled hearts.
You know by now that the disciples hearts are also frustrated, troubled and afraid.
Jesus has just informed them that a betrayer is among them; that their courageious lion-hearted Simon Peter is going to turn chicken and run away; that He, their teacher and closest friend is going to leave them alone.
From here on, the gospel account is nothing more than rapid fire, panic stricken quesstions and calm gentle, thrilling answers.
Thus far, we've studied in this Gospel account, Peter asking the question, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, to the Father's house, and I'm going to add on a wing for you. Then Thomas asked the question, "Lord, how do we get there." Jesus said, "You don't need a map, just follow Me, I am the map.
Now it's Philip's turn to raise his hand and ask question that, just like the others, will recieve a profound answer.
Let's go back to our study of John's Gospel, 14:8
He raises his hand and asks his question, or more literally, his request, "Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." You could summarize his quesiton this way, "Lord, you've said you're going somewhere we've never been and we've never seen; now you tell us we don't need directions - that we're to just follow You, but you've just said you're going away. . . "Look, Lord, could you just give us something tangible to hang our faith onto. . .just show us a vision of the Father and we'll all be satisfied, isn't that right fellas. . .?" And all the other fellas probably chipped in a "Yea, Lord that'd be terrific. . .how bout showing us the Father."
In a voice that I believe was gentle yet firm, pointed yet kind, Jesus responds Philip and the others v. 9. "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, "Show us the Father?
10. Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? (By the way, there isn't a passage any stronger in declaring the deity of Jesus Christ than this passage...you want to see the Father? Your'e looking at Him. You want to see God - look into my face." Now notice, 10b. The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and teh Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves.
Jesus says, you hear me speak - it's the words of God. You see the works that I do, it's the works of God.
Now what I want to do this morning is ask and answer 12 questions. If we spend 2 minutes only on each question, we just might make it to lunch. If not, I'm sure you'll be kind.
Question #1 - (8-11)
What tangible things did Christ remind Philip of that could reassure his heart?
You ought to circle in your Bibles the two things that we just read that Christ pointed to as tangible things that would reassure his and our hearts.
10a. . ."the words that I say to you..."
11b. . ."otherwise believe on account of the works themselves..."
These are tangible hooks you can hang your shield of faith upon!
We have the assurance of our future home in heaven and the way to heaven by means of the words and works of Jesus Christ. John would write in a later epistle, "These things have I written unto you that you may know that you have eternal life." That you may know - be assured of; not hope so, thinks so, guess so - know so!
But many Christians overlook the relationship of that "knowing" with the first part of the verse - "These things have I written unto you - that you may know." Our assurance comes from reading the record of Christ's words and works.
In other words, what Jesus Christ intended to bring reassurance to Philip is the same things that you and I have access to - His words and works.
Question #2 - (12a)
Will we, as Christ's disciples be able to do greater miracles than He did?
Notice the first part of verse 12. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; becuase I go to the Father.
Wow! Can I expect to do what Christ did - cause blind people to see, lame people to walk; can I walk on top of water, break bread and fish inot a meal to feed 5,000.
Well, He said so! Now listen to me very carefully. While I believe that God is still performing miracles today in a myriad of ways, I do not believe that he has made any of us miracle workers.
As the country preacher would say, "This is a whole nother subject." And if you want a longer answer, come to the Greenhouse Catalyst course - we'll spend an hour on it.
Let's, however answer the dislema raised. . .Jesus said, You will be able to do greater things than I have done. Now that's troubling - is it possible for the creature to be stronger than the creator. Can we do greater things than Jesus did.
The answer is yes - He said so here - the question then becomes, "What does he mean by the word "greater" . . ."you shall do even greater works than these..."
That's the key.
I believe the word "greater" does not refer to more powerful, or more amazing. I believe it refers to two things:
1) our works are greater in kind.
Let me illustrate. The skin of the leper whom Christ healed would again be wrinkled with age; but if you, like Philip Yancey, lead a leper to salvation in in Christ, that leper will live in heaven with a new body one day. Lazarus would have to die again. But when you lead an unbeliever to faith in Christ, even though you cannot bring him back from the dead, he lives forever in heaven...the results last forever.
2) our works are greater in breadth
If you study the ministry of Jesus, you'll soon discover that his ministry was incredibly small. He traveled some 100 miles from north to south and some 40 miles from east to west. He had never preached outside of Palestine. . .Europe, China, far away countries and nations had never heard his name.
At the end of his minitry He had a handful of disciples who had believed.
His ministry was so limited that the famous agnostic, David Hume, once said that it was immoral for God to expect the whole world to believe something that was limited to such a small area of the world, given in such a short span of time, and in only one culture.
But now we know that Christ was a rock, thrown into the pond of human history, and the ripples are reaching to every shore.
Today, are our works greater in breadth? Oh yes. . .millions of believers live in China alone; in fact now the Bible is available in more languages than any other book.
Our church has a member, in Hungary today working with the missionaries we support. Our church in involved in the ministry or reaching through our global staff is reaching into: Nagano Ken, Japan
Indian reservation in Canada
radio listeners in Slovakia
French servicemen in Toulon, France.
"You will be part of an operation that is far greater in it's kind and breadth than what I've been able to do in three years, Jesus said." And he was telling the truth.
And don't overlook the last of this verse - "Becuase I go back to the Father." You and I will do greater things, not becuase of great faith; but becuase of His faithful intercession on our behalf.
And that introduces us to a sweeping promise regarding prayer.
John 14:13. And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. v. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
That raises another quesiton: Question #3
Will Jesus give us anything if we ask in faith, believing?
Notice 16:23,24 23. And in that day you will ask Me no question. Truly, truly I say to you, if you sahll ask the Father for anything he will give it to you in My name. 24. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full.
First of all I want you to notice the way Jesus interchanges Himself with the Father, as another subtle yet obvious expression of His oneness with teh Father and His own deity. Notice again 14:14. "If you ask Me anything, in My name, I will do it..." Now over to 16:23...
If you shall ask the Father for anything he will give it to you in My name.
Now back to the question - Will Jesus give us anything we ask for?
You may have noticed two restrictions, or qualifications:
Qualification #1 - We must pray in Jesus name.
We'll talk more in a moment about what this means, but for now, Jesus is saying something far deeper than simply encouraging us to end our prayer with the words, "in Jesus name, Amen".
But it is indeed a Biblical way to pray and it should hold us accountable to the fact that we are going to God by the authority of Jesus Christ, and what we are praying, ultimately is something that Jesus would be pleased to lend His name to.
To pray in Jesus' name is like signing His name to your prayer. This was a new concept to the disciples - not a new formula. Jesus said, "Pray in a way that when you finish you can attach my name to it as if I had said it, knowing that you've prayed something that I could agree wholeheartedly with.
Qualificiation #2 - We must pursue God's glory.
Look back at 14:13. And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
The main purpose of pryaer is not to get us out of trouble, get us through the pain of life. God is interested in these problems and is deeply interested in conversing with you over every area of life. But His primary purpsoe goes beyond our immediate needs...prayer that seeks His glory is of primary importance.
So much of our prayer treats God like a genie. We rub the lamp of prayer and He appears asking, "Yes Master, what do you wish."
When our daughter was learning to color as a young child, she did the same thing that all young children do. They have two problems.
choosing the appropraite colors staying within the lines
As children of the Father, prayer is the same way - we learn to choose what and how to color our requests, and we also learn to stay within His guidelines.
Prayer in the name of Christ and for the glory of God - is the right picture!
Question #4 How do you know if you are praying in Jesus' name or not?!
In verse 13, Jesus reveals a completely new truth to the disciples. You remember in In Matthew 6 Jesus had taught the disciples to pray to the "Father" in heaven. Now He reveals that their prayers will be answerd when asked in His name (onoma).
So the question to ask is, how do we know if we are really praying in Jesus' name?!
1) First of all, are you even qualified to pray?
-unbelievers are not.
TURN BACK to John 9:31.
John 9:31 We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does his will, He hears him.
David wrote in Psalm 34:15. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry....the righeous cry and the Lord hears..."
I have said it before, and I still believe it's true, that the first prayer that God "hears" is the prayer for salvation. . .until then, you are simply speaking to air. God is wanting to hear your prayer of repentance.
If you haven't claimed the name Christian in life, you can't claim the name Christ in prayer.
You say is that fair...well, the Bible also says that, not only are unbelievers disqualified from praying an effectual prayer, but . . .
-disobedient believers are not qualified either.
David wrote, If I regard (*cherish and defend) iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear."
Chuck Swindoll told the funny story of something that happened to him when he visited the hospital one evening. he was coming down this long hall to visit a woman, and he saw that her husband was standing out in the hallway smoking. Obviously this story occured a few years ago. . .when the man caught sight of Swindoll walking toward him, he evidently didn't want his pastor to see him smoking, so he stuck his hand, with the lit cigarette into his front pants pocket. Swindoll decided to carry on a conversation with him. . .this man turned red, fidgeted, smoke was coming out of his pocket...finally, Chuck laughed and said, "Listen, why don't you go ahead and finish it?" The man said, "Finish what." Then he hurried off in a cloud of smoke.
Don't be as foolish, to go before a Holy God and try to carry on a conversation with Him while at the same time trying to hide some smoldering disobedience.
2) Are you praying with pure motives?
The test of a prayer is whether Jesus would pray your prayer. Praying in Jesus' name is praying a prayer and then asking Jesus to sign His name to it. So would He pray it?!
The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was criticized for his fleet of expensive cars. . .he was quoted in the New Yorker as saying, "If you Americans came face to face with your God, you'd ask Him for a Chevrolet."
James exhorted the church with their mistaken use of prayer and the reason they were'nt getting any answers. Listen, "You ask but do not receive, becuase you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures."
The word translated "pleasures" is the greek word that gives us the english word hedonism. Pleasures.
3) Are you demanding God's timetable match your own?
And why are we in a hurry. . .is it becuase our answered prayer will make life easier.
And so the majority of our praying focuses primarily on a comfortable life - "Lord, protect me from anything that would make life difficult...and hurry!"
Is that the prayer Jesuse would pray. It's interesting that Jesus prayed in the garden and was so intense in his praying that small corpusles burst beneath his skin and blood oozed from his pores along with sweat.
Prayer for Him was the means He used to gather his strength to go through with His assignment; prayer was not the means of delivering Him from it.
In other words, prayer is not always a substitute for pain; sometimes it prepares us for it!
4) Are you more concerned with your requests to God than your relationship with God.
George MacDonald said this, "What if God knows prayer to be the thing we need first and most? What if the main object in God's idea of prayer is a supplying of our great, our endless need - the need of Himself. Hunger may drive the runaway child home, and he may or may not be fed at once, but he needs his parents more than his dinner. Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond every other need.
5) Are you requesting that God respond in the way you're expecting.
In other words, do you believe you already know whats best? And prayer is just a way to get God's stamp of approval?
Vernon Janzen told the story of sitting in a worship service one recent Sunday morning. A young child was acting up during the morning worship hour. The parents did their best to maintain some sense of order...evidently their church didn't have nursey and children's care like we do. Finally the father picked the little fellow up and walked sternly down the aisle on his way out. This kid was in trouble. Just as they reached the doorways to the foyer the little boy called out loudly to the congregation, "Pray for me! Pray for me!"
That's one spritual kid. . .not really. . .in fact, he expected his prayers to be answered only one way. . .how about us?
6) Are you more interested in what God will give you than what God will do in you?
Philips Brooks, a great preacher from a century ago said, "Don't pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger people. Don't pray for tasks equal to your power; pray for power equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall become a miracle.
Jesus never taught his disciples how to preach. He taught them how to pray.
Say it with me. . .Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven -stop.
THY KINGDOM COME; THEY WILL BE DONE
See, you and I pray, not to have our will done in heaven; but God's will done one earth.
Prayer, then is aligning my will to God's will, not His will to mine!
I often think of being in a rowboat...I have no oars, but I do have an anchor attached to a rope. With all my might I throw the anchor to shore and begin to pull. Finally I'm safe. Now, did I pull the shore to myself, or did I pull myself to shore?
Praying in Jesus' name is like pulling my will over to the sovereign will of God.
7) Are you really expecting God to be listening, Christ to be interceding and an answer to be forthcoming.
Truth is, when you pray, do you really expect God to follow through?
"Lord, give me eyes to see your will accomplished..."
I think we're a lot like that father and son in the autobiography of Helen Hayes, the actress told the story about Thanksgiving day, and she was cooking her very first turkey dinner for her family. Before serving it she announced to her husband Charles and their son James, "Now I know this is the fist turkey I've ever cooked. If it isn't any good, I don't want anybody to say a word. We'll just get up from the table, without comment, and go out to a restaurant to eat." Then she went back into the kitchen. When she entered the dining room bearing the trukey on a platter, she found her husband and son seated at the table...with their hats and coats on."
They weren't expecting much!
So we go to God with our hats and coats on. . .as if to say, "Good Christians pray but I'm not really expecting much from our time together.
Then you're not praying in Jesus' name and for the glory of God to be revealed.
I happen to believe that the faith of a child is a powerful lesson to us older disciples. The prayers of children convict us.
They pray assuming God is listening.
Last Sunday night we dedicated 17 moms and dads to theLord along with their little children. One family adopted a boy and they told how that little boy was an answer to their own daughters prayers. It reminded me of the little 5 year old boy who told his dad and mom repeatedly he'd like to have a baby brother. Now at the time, he didn't know it at the time , but Mom was 2 months pregnant. So Dad decided to shore up his sons faith in prayer accomplishing much, so he pulled his son aside and said, "Listne son, if you'll pray for about 7 months (he explained how long that was), I'm convinced that God will answer your prayers. That night, this young boy went to his bedroom early to start praying for a baby brother...several months later, his mother returned home from the hospital, she and Dad called their son into the living room...his dad pulled back the blanket and there were, not just one baby brother, but two baby brothers - twins! Dad put his hand on his sons shoulder and said, "Now, aren't you glad you prayed?" The young boy hesitated a moment and then said, "Yes, and aren't you glad I quit when I did."
Do we pray assuming God is listening?!
Question #8. Are you willing to become the answer to your own prayer?
Lord provide for the needy...maybe He wants you to buy a bag of groceries.
Lord encourage the saints...maybe He wants you to write a letter.
Lord, help the foreign missionaries...maybe He wants you to be one.
The greatest thrill in praying is not recieving an answer, but becoming an answer.
Well, disciples, Jesus intended to bring healing to your troubled hearts - so He told them and us about our future home in heaven. Then he told them and us about our presnet privilege in praying...how to do it, what it means...
As life goes on we will undoubtable suffer many of the things that bring trouble and pain. We will get sick. Friends will get sick and pass away. Many disappintments will come in our homes, work, and other aresas. How will you and I react in these circumstances? Will we complain and blame God? Or will we keep praying, in Jesus' name and for His glory. If we choose the latter, Jesus said, our joy will be full.
I want to tie this all together with one final thought.
A ray of light travels at 186,000 miles a second. So a beam of light from here will reach the moon in a second and a half...reach Merury in 4 1/2 minutes...Jupiter 35 minutes. If you decided to...Saturn in about an hour, but if you traveled just to the edge of our galaxy, the Milky Way, it would take you about 100,000 years. Now if you had counted the stars along the way, you would have counted more than one hundred billion.
The God who created all of this with the power of his word, invites you to come close and talk to Him...tell Him you heart, you problems, your dreams. . .and when you come to Him in Jesus name, desiring to be like Jesus and live a life that pleases Him, you will never leave His presence emptyhanded.
Hudson Taylor said, "I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked Him if I might help him; finally I ended up asking Him to do his work in me and through me.
That's praying in Jesus name. And that will bring healing to your troubled heart.