Trusting Jesus in Troubled Times (John 14:1-3)

Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | May 18, 2014


The next few weeks we will be looking at how Jesus prepared his disciples for his departure – in his death and his ascension first by assuring them that their separation from him was only temporary, that they would be together again one day. And second, by assuring them that, in fact, it was even better that he should go away, so that a new stage of his redemptive plan – his world-wide work of redemption – might begin through the coming of the Holy Spirit. We will look at Jesus’ promise here to go and prepare a place for them, his promise to send the Spirit later in John 14, his high priestly prayer for them in John 17 and Jesus’ sending the Spirit and Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. This sermon is based in large part on a sermon by James Boice entitled, “Calm Words for Troubled Hearts,” but adapted to our situation here today.

Think for a moment about the greatest source of trouble in your life right now, or in the life of someone or something close to you. Write down the greatest source of trouble in your life right now – it might be something happening to you, or someone close to you, or something happening in your workplace or church or community.

What should a Christian do when the world falls in? What should he or she do in the day of trouble? Though we don’t always like to think about it, life is filled with troubles.

Disappointment is a source of trouble, and there are many disappointments. We’re disappointed with ourselves because we’re not always what we want to be. We want to be strong but we are weak. We want to be successful but we experience many failures. We want to be liked but often people are at best indifferent toward us. We’re also often disappointed with other people, a husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, employer, partner, employee, teacher, student or classmate.

Circumstances are also a source of troubles. Sometimes we can do something about  circumstances, and sometimes not. We may try, but we may not always succeed. Poverty can’t always be changed, and poverty is troubling. The loss of a loved one is also beyond our control, and this is devastating. So is the loss of a job, sickness, or uncertainty about the future, especially in these days.

What about spiritual troubles, when it seems as though the Lord’s presence is withdrawn and we seem to sink alone into what has been described as the dark night of the soul? What should we do then? What should we do with feelings of despair? The answer is that we are to choose by an act of our mind and will to strengthen our faith in God. We are to think of Christ, and overcome our troubles by reminding ourselves of the power and promises of God and by trusting in his Son Jesus.

Our text is a call for to us to become strong Christians, not the kind who cry and whine and expect everyone to pity us, but rather the kind who are growing great in faith and who are a source of strength to others. Jesus says in v 1, “do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Cause to be troubled

There are two important things about this text. The first is that as Christians living in a fallen world we have cause to be troubled. The second is that we have more cause to trust in Jesus.

We do have cause to be troubled.

Since they are so self-evident it wouldn’t be necessary to say much about our troubles if there weren’t that so many who believe in a kind of name it-claim it or health-wealth gospel today. It’s the kind of Christianity that pretends that there are no troubles for a Christian who is truly surrendered to God, who has enough “faith,” or who “claims” God’s promises positively enough. Name it and claim it teachers tell us that we can use the “power of faith” to create our own reality or get what we want. In essence faith is redefined from trusting in a holy and sovereign God despite our circumstances to a way of controlling God to give us what we want. Faith becomes a force by which we can get what we want rather than trusting in God during times of trials and suffering.” Read more: These folks understand Romans 8:28 to mean that only good things come into the life of one who truly loves God, rather than seeing that it actually means that evil will surely come, but that God will accomplish his own good purpose in spite of evil. (Repeat). Troubles are an authentic part of the believer’s life, including our enemy, death. Rather than denying them, we should begin with a  realistic acknowledgment of them.

That’s why Jesus said what he did to the disciples. He knew they had many causes for concern. For one thing, he himself had experienced trouble. In the previous chapter, verse 21 says Jesus was troubled in spirit concerning his betrayal. And He knew that if he had troubles, so would his disciples. For another thing, he had just announced again that he was going away, and it was beginning to sink in. He had been the center of his disciples’ lives for the past three years. They had left homes, families and occupations for him. What would they do once he was gone? Also, he had also told them that Judas would betray him and that Peter would deny him three times before morning. The disciples had all kinds of reasons to be troubled. We learn from this that it isn’t wrong to honestly recognize and understand our own problems.

Also it’s not wrong to recognize that others have real troubles. Sometimes when a person comes to us with a problem we want to minimize it by telling them it’s no big deal or by telling them about someone in a worse situation. But nothing is gained by minimizing problems. Instead, we should hear them out, and acknowledge the reality of their troubles. We should even “mourn with those who mourn” as Paul says (in Romans 12:15.)

Reasons to trust Jesus in our troubles

So Christians should be realistic about life’s problems. But at the same time, we should also be realistic about the power of God and his promises. This means that although there is cause to be troubled, there is even greater cause not to be. This is the second important point. Regardless of the reasons for our troubles, there are more reasons to trust Jesus in our troubles. There are five reasons here.

The first reason is that we know Jesus. He challenges us in v. 1 by saying, “You trust in God, trust also in me.” He is God, he knows about us and our circumstances. He’s able to deal with them. There’s every reason to trust him. The problem was that Jesus was about to be taken from them and they were concerned. They probably weren’t concerned that God would take care of them in some far off general sense. But they didn’t understand how Jesus could abandon them. So Jesus says, “I know you trust God, trust me also in these circumstances. Believe that I know what I’m doing, that I’m going away for purpose. But once that purpose is accomplished, I will return so we can be can be together again.

We have the same reason to trust Jesus. We know him. We have seen what he’s done for us in the past in similar difficult circumstances. We have more reason to trust him than those first disciples. They stood on the other side of the resurrection. They didn’t know like we do that the cross of Christ was our salvation or that the resurrection would follow. Did Jesus know what he was doing then? Yes he did. Could he be trusted then? Yes he could. So let’s also trust him now. Whatever our circumstances, whatever our difficulties, let’s believe he has a purpose in our situations too and is certainly working them out for our own spiritual good.

A home in heaven

The second reason to trust Jesus is that there is a place for us in heaven. V 2. “In my fathers house are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you.”

For many people, talking about a home in heaven sounds like escapism, a “pie in the sky philosophy.” As if in the face of trials Christians turn our backs on real life and live only for glory. This is true in some cases. But there are also circumstances where those who are not escapists have gained great comfort and strength from these promises.

Example…When my grandfather was dying of prostate cancer in 1974… my brother and I visited for last time before going to England.. Later heard story from my dad how g had been afraid near the end… grandmother said…“Hold onto your faith…” iow, you’ve trusted Jesus in life, now trust him in death…as he has take care of you in life, he will take care of you in death…

The death of the Christian is not like the death of an unbeliever. The Christian knows where he or she is going. He is sure of his heavenly home. Also, the life of a Christian is not in most cases like the life of an unbeliever. Knowing his or her destiny, knowing that he will again see Jesus in that heavenly home, the faithful Christian follows Jesus knowing, as Paul said, “…our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await the savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 3:20). John says something similar. “Dear friends we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3: 2–3). To know our destiny is a great motivation, not only for the enjoyment of peace in the midst of turmoil but also for godly living. For those of you who have had to move around a lot in this life you may be encouraged to know that “many rooms” is best understood as “permanent residences.” You won’t have to keep packing up your stuff to move to the next place.

Our personal dwelling

The third reason Jesus tells us to trust him is that he has gone to prepare a place for us. This may seem like the same point as before, but it’s more than a repetition. There is a place called heaven. Jesus was going there. But also he tells them that there was a  work he is going to do for them once he gets there. Have you ever decorated a room for someone special? If you have, you know what it’s like to make a room suit one particular personality. If it’s a daughter you might make the room pretty, hanging up the pictures, making a place for her hobbies. If it’s a son, the room might have airplanes or model cars. If it’s for grandma, the room might have her favorite books. And it might be far from the playroom or the children’s bedrooms. We take care in such preparation. Would Jesus take any less care for those whom he loves, those who are to spend eternity with him?

With Jesus

The fourth and fifth points can be taken together. They are that Jesus is returning again for those whom he has left behind and that from that point on they will be with him forever. He said in v.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.”

This is what Paul describes in 1 Thess 4:16-18 when he says, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command with the voice of the Archangel and the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” It’s one thing to be left behind. But it’s not so bad when you have the  assurance that one is coming back for you. Others may leave us and never return, but Jesus will never do so. We can trust him. Anne Blackley story? Rest stop.

We can do something

Let’s go back to the question we asked at the beginning. What should a Christian do when the world he knows falls in? What should he or she do in the day of trouble?

The answer is that we are to choose by an act of our mind and will to strengthen our faith in God. We are to think of him and overcome our troubles by reminding ourselves of the power and promises of God and by trusting in him. We are to remind ourselves and then meditate on God’s great strength and promises.

There are those for whom this doesn’t sound spiritual at all and who would prefer to grope around in the dark waiting for a great bolt of lightning to break through. This is not Christ’s teaching. He did not say “mull over” your problems. He did not even say, “Tell me about them,” though of course we may do so if we wish. He said, “Do not be troubled; don’t let your present troubled state of mind continue. If Jesus says, don’t let your heart be troubled, then our hearts don’t need to be troubled. If Jesus says, don’t be afraid, we don’t need to be afraid. We can be at peace if we will remind ourselves of what we know of him and trust him. Though Jesus knew that God would leave him temporarily – “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – he trusted in God to finally vindicate him. Jesus was forsaken so that everyone who trusts in him might never be forsaken as he was. Jesus was left alone that we might never be left alone. Jesus took on himself all our troubles that we might never need to remain troubled. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation – you will have troubles in this world – but I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33)

Categories: 2014, Easter, Sermons, The Life and Ministry of Jesus

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