Are you discouraged today? Has the weight of depression or doubt or fear overtaken you? Be encouraged by this message. God was strong enough to bear your cross . . . He's strong enough to bear your doubts too!
In Case You Lose Heart
We arrive this morning at the final section of Christ's farewell message to His disciples. In a matter of a few hours Judas will identify the Master with a kiss of deceit. The soldiers will take him away to a series of mock trials and trumped up charges.
I have discovered, in reading this passage over and over, that it is one of the most emotional messages Jesus ever delivered. There are dozens of emotion laden phrases. . .
"They will make you outcasts" v. 2
"sorrow has filled your heart" v. 6
"a little while and you will no longer see me" v. 16
"you will weep and lament" v. 20
"you will be sorrowful" v. 20
"...travail, sorrow anguish..." v. 21
"...tribulation...peace...joy...courage" v. 33
There is great concern and love in our Lord's heart for his disciples. If you have any doubt of his concern all you need to do is read why Jesus was saying all the things he had said beginning in chapter 14 and would yet say in this chapter, chapter 16.
Look back to chapter 14 as Jesus began to deliver his final words to them before going to the cross. V. 1 "Let not your heart be troubled" literally, stop being troubled.
The word "troubled" refers to a heart that is stirred up, restless, anxious and fearful.
So Jesus begins his last speech that covers these three chapters of John's Gospel by saying - "I don't want your hearts to be disturbed; to be filled with anxiety and fear.
He closes his message to them in chapter 16:33. "These thing I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage (take heart); I have overcome the world."
Strange words to say, while at the same time, religious leaders are huddled in closed door meetings, guards are gathering their swords and Judas is bargaining for the price of his own soul.
Now chapter 16 is an interesting chapter for in it the Lord seems to summarize and repeat several of the themes that He's already referred to. He's like a preacher who just before finishing his sermon says, "Now let's review the main points before closing."
There are five of them in all.
POINT # 1 PERSECUTION IS GUARANTEED!
Let's pick up our study at John 16:1 These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling.
Stop here. You notice that the Lord slips in another purpose statement for His message to them. "These things have I spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling." In other words, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
The word translated stumble or offense is the word scandalon. It's a word that refers to that which causes offense or a scandal. It refers to a person who's faith is crushed; a person whose been misled and mishandled and their future growth in Christ is handicapped.
Jesus Christ is concerned that His disciples wouldn't be misled by their own misconceptions.
Again, Jesus never hides from his disciples the sight of a their own personal cross. . .you'd think that Jesus could have recruited a lot more disciples by saying, "Listen, you follow me and you'll have it made."
Oh no. . .Jesus says in chapter 16:1 in effect, "I don't want you to stumble becuase you have been uniformed or misinformed. . .verse 2. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God
I can offer you nothing but blood sweat and tears. . .do you still want to be my disciple?! Because if you want to follow Me in the trenches and serve me in the harvest field and on the battlefields...you will experience these things.
I don't want you to be misled! If you never want to be exposed to pain, sorrow and the weight of a rugged cross, don't sign up. . .look at verse 2 where Jesus says they will experience being outcasts/ostracized from the synagogue.
Now today, we'd say, big deal, I can't go to church services anymore.
But for the Jew to be excommunicated from the synagogue was to be denied exposure to spiritual things...it wasn't just worship, it included even the reading of scripture - the only Scriptures that could be found and heard was in the synagogue. They didn't have a personal copy of a New American Standard, or for the less spiritual an NIV...
The synagogue was the primary place of teaching. The scriptures were explained...in fact it became the place where children received an elementary education. So to be barred from the synagogue was to be barred from exposure to the Word of God, and a chance for a formal education.
Also, to be banned from the synagogue was a devastating thing to the social life of a believer. The synagogue was the place of fellowship, friendship, weddings and village meetings. To be barred cut a person off from all of that. Former friends would shun him, considering him worse than a pagan. He would be exiled from his orthodox family. He would lose his job in the community. . .he would even be denied the right of an honorable burial.
So when Jesus told His disciples they were going to be barred from the synagogue, he was telling them - "You're about to lose every friend and family member; every advantage, every economic possibility in the community. . .you will live alone and die forgotten.
But that isn't all - v. 2b. but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. In other words, you will be hunted by those who think that to take your life would be an act of worship and service to God. Saul of Tarsus fulfilled that prophecy within their own lifetime.
Jesus says then in verse 4, "But these things I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them.
"I'm warning you!!!" Following me may cause you to lose heart...
But Jesus doesn't stop with what we can expect. . .what we will experience. He goes on to tell his disciples how we can survive - and survive with the undercurrent of joy.
POINT #2 THE HELPER IS ON THE WAY!
I love the way verse 5 begins. . ."But now, I am going to Him who sent Me."
What a wonderful phrase "but now" is. Preceding that little phrase is devastating news. . .isolated, ostracized, hunted.
"But now" . . . that means Jesus isn't finished!"
There are many verses hinged by the word "but" that end with wonderful news.
"With men this impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Joseph said to his brothers, You meant evil against me, But God meant it for good.
Paul wrote, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain, you are still in your sins. . .but now is Christ risen from the dead.
The wages of sin is death, but - the gift of God is eternal life.
What a powerful little conjunction. . ."but"
Look at verse 6. Because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart, BUT I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
We've already discussed in a former session the ministry of the Holy Spirit as an advantage to the believer. . .but again for now, remember that the word Helper is parakletos - para - beside, alongside; kaleo - to call. . .literally, He will be called alongside of you.
Jesus said, "I'm going up and the Spirit is going to come down and indwell you." He will as it were, walk alongside of you.
Chuck Swindoll commenting on this passage wrote, "This is no shallow sympathy card with rhyming words for grief stricken people. It is eternally more than a "slap on the back" or a quick "cheer up" bit of advice. Our mighty God is called alongside as we suffer! Here is genuine comfort, personal assistance, deep involvement and infinite understanding."
That's why God is called, the God of all comfort!
Persecution is guaranteed. . .BUT the Helper is on the way!
POINT #3 SORROW IS ONLY TEMPORARY!
We're invited into the experience of a labor and delivery room.
Notice verse 20. Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy. Whenever a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because he hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world.
Now many of you men in your 50's and up never went into the delivery room - in that era you paced the hallway and nervously waited. In my era, you can go in and set up video camera's - which I really question. I mean, who's gonna watch the video - I was in the delivery room and I took some pictures of our babies right after they were born and I don't even want to look at them now - what would you do with a video? Sit around with your friends and eat popcorn - "Oh look at that expression on her face, she's really in pain now - oooh, did you hear that scream?
For those of you who've been there, it is traumatic. Our last baby, born one year ago this Halloween created great pain. My wife was hooked up to the monitors that through a series of connection, graphed out onto computer paper the highs and lows of contractions. Now just relax, I'm not going to get graphic here - as soon as the lines on that computer readout began to go up on the paper - a contraction was under way - I hated to see that squiggly line begin to go up. . .my wife said some things during those moments; nothing that ruined my future ministry - but in great pain I remember her saying to me "Help me."
What could I do? I figure the only thing I could do to help her would be to hit her over the head with a mallet until it was over. . ."
I'll never forget how helpless I felt and I know she felt. Then our little Charity was born, and in my ecstasy I took pictures that I don'twant to see.
Jesus put the word sorrow into this context and this vivid, traumatic context helps us understand what He means: Sorrow = pain combined with total helplessness. He says, "I will turn that into joy." How?!
Notice vs. 22. "Therefore you too now have sorrow (pain + helplessness); but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you.
There are good men on all sides of when this time is that Jesus is referring to; is it His resurrection appearances to them - certainly that caused great joy. Some say it would be at Pentecost when the Spirit descends and the church age is born. Others say it must refer to heaven, when we all forever uninterrupted see Him face to face.
I believe all three could have significance - yet I find interesting that is isn't until we reach the new heaven and the new earth that God forever wipes our sorrow away.
Turn to Revelation 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
2. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband..
3. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them. 4. and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.
Joy is a residing benefit of the Spirit's control. . .it is one of His fruits.
But the absence of sorrow won't occur until we see Jesus. And the Lord is saying, "I'm warning you about this, so that when sorrow comes you won't say, "Hey I didn't think this would be part of the plan."
But He goes on to say, "It's only temporary... as David wrote, "Weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning."
I personally believe joy occurs when we catch fresh glimpses of Christ by faith and joy will come uninterrupted by sorrow when he wipes our tears away for good.
POINT #4 PRAYER IS YOUR PRIMARY LIFELINE!
Now in chapters 14-16 the principles of prayer have been taught - we've already studied them in our former sessions. But in chapter 17, the principles of prayer will be illustrated in the very prayer life of Jesus Christ.
In these passages, the truth about prayer is taught - in ch.17 the truth about prayer will be applied.
Here it's heard - later it's observed first hand.
I have the privilege of studying one or two Sunday afternoons with a group of men who've trusted Christ in the last 24 months or so. We're studying through the Book Disciplines of A Godly Man by Kent Hughes. Recently we read and discussed the chapter on the discipline of prayer.
I happen to believe Dr. Hughes rightly labels it - discipline. If it were easy, more of us would pray and we would pray more often.
I also believe that the question today is not necessarily "Should I pray" - I think we're all still convinced we should - I believe the question is, "Why should I pray - what difference does it make."
Let me read you 10 reasons why? These were written originally by a former President of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. A man named Reuben Torrey (commonly referred to as R.A. Torrey). round the turn of this century he wrote WHY We should pray:
1) because there is a devil and because prayer is the God-appointed means of resisting him.
2) because prayer is God's way for us to obtain what we need from him
3) because the apostles, whom God set forth to be a pattern for us, considered prayer to be the most important business of their lives
4) because prayer occupied a prominent place and played a very important part in the earthly life of our Lord
5) because prayer is the most important part of the present ministry of our Lord, since He is now interceding for us.
6) because prayer is the means God has appointed for our receiving mercy from him and of obtaining grace to help in time of need
7) because prayer is the means of obtaining the fullness of God's joy
8) because prayer with thanksgiving is the means of obtaining freedom from anxiety and, in anxiety's place, that peace which passes understanding
9) because prayer is the means by which we are to keep watchful and be alert at Christ's return
10) because prayer is used by God to promote our spiritual growth, bring power into our work, lead others to faith in Christ, and bring all other blessing to Christ's church.
In other words, the question is not should we, but how can we afford not to.
POINT #5 COURAGE WILL ALWAYS BE NEEDED!
Jesus says in verse 32. "Behold an hour is coming and has laready come, for you to be scattered, each to his own hom, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, becuase the Father is with Me. 33. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace." In your circumstances? No. In your distress and in your tears? No. He says, In me you will have peace. In effect, then in Me and by Me you will experience peace and assurance and contentment. He goes on. . ."In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
The words take courage could literally be rendered, "take heart". It's interesting that courage is like faith - the key issue is the object of our faith - the object of our courage. Jesus didn't say, "Take courage, I know you can do it. . ." No, He said, "Take courage, I have overcome the world."
In fact, notice the false courage and assurance of the disciples in verse 29. (this is classic) "His disciples said, "lo, now You are speaking plainly, and are not using a figure of speech.
30. Now we know (!) that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God."
Ha. . .Lord, now we've got it figured out - we now know for sure that You're deity, and that you have everything under control.
In other words, ladies and gentlemen, they expressed courage; they expressed understanding. . .and assurance - and in a matter of hours they would be trembling with fear, in hiding for their very lives.
The moral of the story is - past understanding does not guarantee future understanding. Present courage is not good enough for future testing.
The trials of yesterday are different from the trials of today and today is different from the challenges of tomorrow! Jesus Christ is in the process of teaching and adapting and developing us to handle today, and we will need to allow Him to continue to do so tomorrow.
At any given moment in the race, every believer can either be an overcomer or overcome.
Jesus is saying, "I'm telling you. . .courage will always be needed!"
APPLICATION. . .let's summarize Jesus' sermon:
Surviving with Joy Means. . .
*recognizing that sorrow will cause you to stumble unless viewed as temporary, allowed, and designed for maturity.
A mark of a maturing disciple is learning not to judge God finished until he is finished...in understanding that temporary sorrow turns into permanent joy.
*developing a relationship with the Holy Spirit that is not satisfied unless He is your guide, your teacher, your companion.
*disciplining your life to include times and seasons of honest prayer that ultimately seek His honor and purposes instead of ours.
*accepting the challenge to acknowledge Christ as, not only the ultimate Sovereign over the events of the world, but Sovereign over the events of your own heart and life.
You know what, it doesn't take courage to believe that God is in control of the world system - but it does take great courage at times to believe and act upon the fact that God is in control in your world.
If God is big enough to be in control of the whole wide world, don't you think He's big enough to be in control of yours?
Before our children's bedtime, my wife reads to them . . . typically in the living room with our three older children perched around her. One of them is usually stroking her hair . . . that's their way of getting her to read longer than she normally might. It's a sight I happen to cherish. She's reading lately from the missionary biography of Adoniram Judson.
And what a sad tale it is as Adoniram, barely into his work in Burma is captured and held prisoner . . . under trumped up charges as an English spy. His wife, Ann faithfully and courageously attempts to have him released through every possible channel. Adoniram was imprisoned in a tiny cell, forced to stand so others could lie down and sleep. The sun was unbearably hot and times and since they were never allowed to bathe, the stench was horrible. One day the officials decided prison was not enough punishment for this infidel, so they hoisted Judson into the air by his thumbs - pain filled every fiber of his body. When he returned to his cell, Anne, would come and visit him and her message usually included the words, "Hang on, Adoniram, God will give us the victory."
Week after tortuous week, Anne would come and encourage him as best she could, always with the same words, "Hang on, Adoniram, God will give us the victory. But then, Adoniram was released to be an interpreter between the English and Burmese. He was seperated from Ann for some time. . .during that time noone told him that Anne was dying. Months later he was released, a man whose body was so broken it was a miracle he could walk. He returned to the place where they used to live. As he slowly limped toward his home, he saw a child sitting in the dirt, a little girl so covered with filth that he failed at first to recognize her as his own daughter. When he arrived at their simple hut, he went in and squinting through the darkness he saw her - a bundle of bones and rags lying on a cot, so weak and frail. . .hugging his daughter to his chest, he knelt down and wept, calling her name over and over. . .Jeremiah writes, "His hot tears fell on her face and slowly her eyes began to move with recognition. She struggled to speak and then, her last words to him were, "Adoniram, God will give us the victory."
This morning I want you to hear the words of Jesus saying, "Don't lose heart - take courage, I have overcome the world. . ."
Hear the words of Anne Judson say the same thing, "Hang on, God will give us the victory."