Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 27, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 14:1-11. Today we will begin to unpack this amazing chapter, John 14. Because of the depth of Jesus' teaching, we will only get through verses 1-4 today, but I thought we should read a little bit more so as to get a feel for the conversation. After this week, we will take a break for the month of December and then get back on the horse in January and pick up again in John 14:5. Even though we are only looking at a few verses, we have a lot to cover this morning, so let us jump right in by reading our text, then we will pray that God will open our eyes, and then see what God has for us this morning.
Trouble on the Horizon
Verse 1 of our text begins with the famous words, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Many times these words are uttered out of context. In fact, if you watch Fox News, you hear Sean Hannity use this phrase almost every single night on his TV show. Unfortunately, very few of Hannity's listeners understand the eternal realities and magnificent consolation of these words. So let us turn our attention to the events at hand so we can grasp the sweetness of Christ's words.
Approximately three years prior to this particular night, the disciples heard the call of Jesus and left their jobs, their homes, their families, and their dreams and followed Jesus Christ. The best way to explain their devotion is summarized in the parable of the Kingdom of God found in Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” For the11 disciples still sitting around the table, they had found the hidden treasure and it was God in the flesh of a Galilean Carpenter.
The cost of following Jesus was not easy. They were pilgrims. Regularly moving about from town to town, caring for the sick, managing the crowds, baptizing converts. According to Mark 3:20 there were times when they were so busy they couldn't even eat. And the times they did eat, the plucked grain from the grain fields, which was the food for the pauper not the prince. The life of a disciple was not easy street.
However, no matter how hard their life was, they wouldn't want it any other way. They were in the presence of Emmanuel. You can see this in John 6:68 when Jesus asked the disciples if they want to throw in the towel and stop following him. Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” As long as they had Jesus, they were satisfied, and they were not going anywhere.
However, as we saw last wee, this night in the upper room, Jesus tells them that he is going to leave them and they cannot follow. In John 13:33 Jesus tells them, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.” As we saw last week, the work of the cross is a singular event reserved for Jesus alone. Only Jesus can drink this specific cup of God's wrath.
This news of Jesus leaving was devastating to the disciples. Christ was all they had. Couple this with the betrayal of one of their own, Judas, who had just walked off into the night, probably with the only money to their name. Then there was Jesus telling Peter that Satan has specifically requested to sift Peter like wheat, and Jesus' revelation that Peter will deny Christ three times. Not to mention that the entire town was abuzz because of the presence of Jesus and everyone knew that the Sanhedrin wanted Jesus dead.
As this night unfolds, it also appears to unravel. And as Jesus peers into the hearts of those whom he loves, he sees anxiety. He sees a troubled heart. The Kingdom of God that Jesus had been proclaiming from town to town isn't shaping up the way the disciples thought it would, and they were beginning to worry.
The Narrow Way of Trials
My guess is that all of us, to an extent, can relate to this. When we think about what it means to be a Christian, what do we tend to think about? Forgiveness, eternal life, hope, peace, love, joy. All those things are true, but they only tell half of the story. Later on in the night Jesus will say in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation.” This statement is not made to those who have rejected Jesus, this is spoken to the 11 disciples who he has loved to the end.
If we are honest with ourselves, as Christians, we can relate to the tribulation more than we can with the joy. Life is difficult. Families are broken, health is failing, money is lacking, work is hard, natural disasters loom, nations are falling, tragedy is around every corner. In our 24 hour news cycle, the reality of the fallenness and brokenness of the world is always thrown in our face. As Christians, we are not immune from these influences.
In addition to this, as Christians we are called to live differently then the world. We are called to be Holy, swimming against the cultural current. Many times this pursuit of holiness leads to us being called closed minded, intolerant, bigots, ignorant, etc. 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” On top of this, we are called to go and make disciples as sheep among wolves. I am not a sheep farmer, but that relationship doesn't sound good for the sheep.
Make no mistake, the life of a Christian is not easy, which causes stress, anxieties, and troubled hearts. In fact, it seems to be an epidemic within the Church. I don't have any stats to back this up, but from my vantage point, it seems to be one of the largest problems in the American Church, worry.
And Jesus is not oblivious to this. As he looks down upon your life, he knows what is in your heart, and the words that he speaks to the eleven, he also speaks to you, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”
The War Against Worrying
To begin, lets state the obvious. Sometimes the obvious is the most neglected truth in Scripture. First, notice that Jesus does not approve of a troubled heart. As he sees it in the hearts of his disciples, he does not shrug it off. He does not tolerate it. He addresses it and corrects it. He does not want his disciples heart to be trouble.
In this moment, Jesus is doing the same for all of us. If you are anxious, Jesus wants it to end. Anxiety is not something that we should acquiesce to, but we should fight against. We should war against worry. Too often, I think this is the largest problem. Instead of doing something about our troubled hearts we wallow in it. This should not be. The Church should not be known for its anxiety, but instead should be known for its peace that surpasses understanding. A peace that is supernatural. A peace that the world stares at in awe and wonder.
Second, which is connected to the first, not only should we not tolerate our troubled hearts, but we should recognize that it is a choice. Notice the phrase “let not.” As Jesus speaks into the life of the disciples he tells them that they have a choice; that they have a power to be troubled or not to be troubled. The solution, in a sense, is in their hands.
The Greek Word for troubled is tarassō, which means to stir up, to agitate, to put in motion things to and fro, Just think of troubled waters, waves. Jesus is telling them, do not set in motion this stirring of your heart. Stop stirring. Stop putting into motions these wave of worry. Don't let it happen.
My guess is that everyone knows someone, perhaps yourself, who is stirrer. You turn ever moment of life into a potential moment of tragedy. What if I lose my job? What if our child gets sick? What if we get into a car accident? What if every white van is driven by a kidnapper? What if I get malaria or zika? With each thought the waves get bigger and bigger and bigger, until you feel like you are drowning. But let's be honest, the problem is not the risk, the problem is that you are letting it happen. So Jesus' command to you is to stop it. Stop worrying. Stop stirring up anxiety. This is the first step in warring against a troubled heart, let it not.
The Shield of Faith
Having said that, the first step is not the only step, nor the most important step. The second step is where the secret truly lies. Look at the end of verse 1, “Believe in God; believe also in me.” The way that you fight against a troubled heart is by faith; faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ. By this point, we should not be surprised that faith in Jesus is the answer. This is the entire theme of John's gospel, faith. Believing in Jesus seems to be the answer to everything. Faith to receive forgiveness, faith to receive eternal life, faith to quench your spiritual thirst and hunger, faith experience joy, faith for everything. Everything is this world boils down to one thing, faith in God. This is one reason I am so opposed to secular psychologist, and secular counselors. The answer to a troubled heart is not lying on a couch or venting about your problems. The answer is faith in Jesus Christ.
But what is this belief, what is this faith? Perhaps the best definition of faith in the entire Bible is found in Hebrews 11. This chapter is commonly dubbed the Hall of Faith, listing such people as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, and David. The author of Hebrews said this about these people in 11:36, they “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Talk about trouble. What was one thing that these people had in common? Faith. And this is the definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Faith is not wishful thinking. Faith is characterized by assurance and conviction. And this conviction, this assurance, is not unfixed and nebulous it is anchored in God and anchored in his Son Jesus Christ. And as Jesus looks into the eyes of those whom he loves and he sees their troubled hearts he says to them, “Trust me.”
Because of sin, we have a tendency to look for security in our circumstances, and when the shifting sand of our circumstances changes, and the storms of this life beat against our lives, we are swept away and our life is a mess. What Jesus is saying instead, is to repent and believe in Him. To build your life, not upon the circumstance of this world, but on God himself. He is the rock that is the firm foundation. So that when the storm comes, you are not swept away, but your house stands.
This is where many of you struggle in your warring against worry. You sweep out the demons of worry from your house, yet you do not replace it with the Word of God, so as Satan prowls looking to devour you, he finds a foothold and he attacks, and you are standing their vulnerable, lacking the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit to fight back against the spirit of trouble, stirring up your heart.
If you recall, earlier I mentioned John 6:68, when Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” In the moment of their anxiety they had forgotten all the words spoken to them by Christ over the last three years, but were only focused on their circumstances.
This is Not Our Home
Now what is important, is that there is one more aspect to fighting against a troubled heart. First, we are to stop worrying, Second, we are to believe in Jesus. Third, we must remember that this is not our home.
Look at verse 2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
The faith that we have in the Father and the Son is a faith in what he has promised to those who believe in Him. What has God promised? He has promised us salvation through Jesus Christ. This is the reason why Jesus, God himself, took on flesh and became a man, to reconcile us to God. 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”
Because of sin, we have no place in God’s house; for sinners cannot stand in the presence of God. He is holy and we are not. if you have one blemish upon you, you are not welcome in His presence. Habakkuk 1:13 says, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong,” However, Jesus prepared a place for us through death on the cross. Without his death, there is no place for you in the Mansion of God. You must be washed in the blood.
However, praise the Lord, there was a death, and following that death there was a resurrection. And as we speak Jesus is in the presence of God waiting for those who believe in Him to finally come home. And where is home? Home is where Jesus is. Verse 3, “I will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
For those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, this is our destiny, living in the presence of God. Through faith in Christ, we are God's children, and our father has made for us a place through the blood of His Son. The House of God is our eternal abode. Once we are there we will never leave.
Life here, on the other hand, is but a vapor. The moment we are born, we begin to die. The way I like to think about it is that our life is like a grain of sand on an endless beach. Every difficulty we face must be viewed through this gospel lens.
Paul, a man who was more acquainted with trials and tribulation than any of us, said this in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” Paul was beaten, stoned, whipped, imprisoned, shipwrecked, hungry, poor, rejected by those he loved, undermined in the Church's he planted, and how does he describe these events? Light...momentary...can't even compare them to what is in store for us.
This is they way Christians should live, above the fray. With a resolve, a peace, a joy that flows, not from the ups and downs of life, but one that is rooted in the promises of God. This is they way that you live worry free, take you eyes off the world, believe in Jesus, eagerly await for the Courts of God.