John 14:23-27; 16:33
Our scripture lessons offer words and phrases that have been used to encourage Gods people for the entire history of the Christian Church. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you... my peace I give to you... I do not give to you as the world gives, so do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.” “I told you these things so that you may have peace... in this world you will have trouble... but take heart (which could also be translated have courage) I have overcome (or I have triumphed over) the world.”
In this world we will have troubles - we can testify to that truth, can’t we? Yet, Jesus calls us, as his followers, to take courage... for he has overcome the world.
Of course, the fact is... we experience trouble un-equally in this life (things that trouble you may not trouble me) - but regardless, we all know trouble... and that reminds us that trouble and suffering are not interruptions to our carefully orchestrated, carefully planned-out lives, but they are a part of life.
Jesus promised that he would be present with us and never leave us, but... he also reminds us that we will have trouble in life... sometimes that trouble will come simply from the fact that we follow him. We all know that believers from the beginning of the church have suffered. Some from persecution. Some from plagues and wars. Some from floods and hurricanes... sometimes from epidemics and pandemics.
I was reminded the other day of an epidemic that no one seems to talk about anymore because it’s been eradicated... but during the early to mid-20th Century... polio affected countless lives. Some of you can probably remember that season in the life of our country, and the fear that took place among young people during that epidemic... or others. Small pox, measles...
Such things are part of life... not interruptions. Which reminds us that no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves to the contrary: trouble, in some way or fashion comes for us all. We are not in control of our lives.
It’s amazing, that over this last year... we’ve watched as the most powerful nations in history of the world... the wealthiest nations in the history of the world... the most technologically advanced AND medically advanced nations... have been crippled by something so tiny, that we can’t even see it!
It reminds us that we’re not in control.
But God is. And as followers of Christ, you and I are called to place our lives into the hands of the God who is in control.
We belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to Jesus Christ... who died to redeem us, and to preserve us - through all the troubles of this life - in his perfect peace.
These words from John are comforting... reassuring... especially in times of trouble and confusion. But they’re really more than simply comforting - they’re foundational promises that you and I are called to build our lives - and to build our faith - upon...
It’s interesting... in John 14:1 Jesus says to his disciples (and therefore to us)... “do not let your hearts be troubled.” He says it again and John 14:27 he says, “do not let your hearts be troubled.” Then... he says, two chapters over, “In this world you will have trouble!”
What does it mean that on the one hand Jesus says “you will have trouble” while at the same time saying “don’t be troubled.”
What is Jesus getting at?
I think in telling us “don’t be troubled” Jesus is saying... don’t be surprised... don’t be shaken by what we should be expecting, every day in this life. Don’t be anxious, don’t be distracted away from the things that are truly important.
We should be careful not to allow our anxiety to draw us away from the One who has promised to never leave us, nor forsake us.
In Matthew 6:34, Jesus says, “don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “Don’t be unduly concerned.” One commentator said, think of it like this... don’t rehearse your fears. Don’t rehearse your worries!
Of course we should be concerned! Of course we should plan and take precautions... but don’t be so distracted from what’s truly important... don’t be so concerned that we spend our time rehearsing our fears instead of rehearsing the promises that God has given us. Rather Jesus says take courage... take heart... have faith.
And a logical question... the question that many people surely ask in moments of trouble... is... what is it that we are to have faith in? What is it that we are to put our trust in?
Jesus has an answer for that: he says put your trust... your faith... in the reality that He has triumphed over the world... “I have overcome the world.”
We sometimes have a tendency to let our circumstances define our lives. And we begin to convince ourselves that our life has become the very definition of what it looks like to have trouble.
But... friends remember... the promise we have in Jesus Christ... is that our hope is not in our circumstances. Our hope, our assurance, is in Christ himself.
We can hope that things will improve... they usually do... and they likely will. But ultimately, our hope isn’t in the things of this world...
Not in the economy... not in the government... not in the church... our hope is in the Lord... who is sovereign over all our circumstances.
I choose not to be afraid... not because I have no reason to fear... but because I KNOW that God is in complete control.
I am not my own... I belong to Christ! I know who and Whose I am... my life is his. And wherever he has placed me, is EXACTLY where I need to be...
Jesus, our Lord, our Savior... the only One who could, and did, give his life for our eternal salvation... the One who redeemed us and holds us in the palm of his hand, says, “Peace I leave with you... my peace I give to you... I do not give to you as the world gives, so do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.” “I told you these things so that you may have peace... in this world you will have trouble... but take heart, I have overcome the world.”