How can Jesus transform our grief into gladness? Part 4

“Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:24

We are learning from Jesus’ instructions to His disciples how He can transform our grief into gladness. Christ can do this when we…

– Ask Him to help us properly understand His word as it relates to our situation (John 16:16-19).

– Accept that pain and suffering are part of life (John 16:20a; cf. 16:33).

– Assess our circumstances with an eternal perspective (John 16:20b-22).       

The fourth way the Lord can transform our grief into gladness is to ALLOW OUR GRIEF TO DIRECT US TO THE FATHER IN PRAYER (John 16:23-24). Christ’s resurrection would change relations. Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples, “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” (John 16:23). “In that day” after His resurrection and ascension, Jesus would not be with His disciples physically and so they would not be able to ask Him questions. But the Holy Spirit would teach them and answer their questions (John 16:13-15).

We also see that Christ’s resurrection and ascension provided unlimited access to the Father in prayer. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the disciples had often asked the Lord to meet their needs while they were with Him, but they had not asked the Father in heaven for anything in His name. Christ promises that after His ascension to heaven, the “Father …will give” them “whatever” they ask in Jesus’ name.

Praying in Jesus’ name is not a magical formula that we add at the end of our prayers. To pray in Jesus’ name means we pray what Jesus would pray to accomplish God’s will and bring Him maximum glory. When we pray according to God’s will, He will hear and answer our prayers to magnify the name of Jesus (cf. I John 5:14-15).

Next Christ says, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24). “Now,” because of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the disciples would be able to approach the Father directly in Jesus’ name. The word “ask” (aiteite) is a present imperative verb and conveys the idea of asking God continually and persistently. Christ assures them that the Father would “give” them whatever they prayed in Jesus’ name to accomplish His will. The purpose of all of this was so that their “joy may be full” or complete. 

No matter what pain or sorrow we experience, it is essential that we stay connected to Jesus because God the Father is still in the prayer-answering business when we love and seek to honor His Son. 1 A disciple of Christ centers his or her life around Jesus (cf. Philippians 1:21), so when Jesus is glorified, his or her joy will “be full” or complete. Nothing is more enjoyable or satisfying for a follower of Christ than to see his or her Lord magnified.

When we go through painful times as did Jesus and His disciples, we have a choice to make. Will we turn away from the Father and pout or will we turn to the Father and pray? If we turn to the Father in prayer, He can fill our hearts with joy that the world cannot take from us. Our joy is connected to prayer. It cannot be made complete in any other way. Isn’t this exciting!?! God desires to make us glad by working in and through us as we pray to Him.

How do you respond to trials? Do you allow pain in your life to turn you to God or away from Him? Many of us want to take matters into our own hands when we experience pain. We may try to medicate our pain with different behaviors, feelings, people, or substances (e.g. alcohol, anger, anxiety, cell phones, depression, drugs, friends, gossip, lust, ministry, music, pornography, rage, romantic relationships, shopping, sports, TV, video games, work, or worry, et al.). But the Lord  wants us to turn to Him as we face painful times. He is waiting to hear from us, so He can fill our hearts with gladness.

What keeps believers from turning to the Lord in the midst of their pain? I believe much of it has to do with the lies we believe.  Let’s look at some common lies and the corresponding truth with which to overcome them:

Lie #1: God must not love me to allow all this pain in my life.

Truth #1: No one and nothing can separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

Lie #2:  God is against me, not for me.

Truth #2: God is for me and He proved it when He gave His only Son for me (Romans 8:31-32).

Lie #3: God will not understand my feelings.

Truth #3: Christ experienced the same feelings as you, so He could understand your feelings and help you process them (Hebrews 4:15).

Let’s lean into the Lord especially during these uncertain times. He longs to fill us with His joy that cannot be taken from us.  

Prayer: Father God, I come to You now through the Lord Jesus Christ Who loved me and gave Himself to die in my place on a cross for all my sins and then rose from the dead. Please forgive me for embracing lies that lead me away from You instead of the truth that brings me closer to You. I am so thankful that I now have direct access into Your presence because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I can talk to You at any time about anything knowing that You understand and are listening. Right now my Lord and my God, I give everyone and everything to You. I surrender everyone and everything to You, Lord. You are a good, good Father Who wants to bless His children. Thank You for the safety and security that I find in Your everlasting arms of love and mercy. Hold me, Lord. Hold me…. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1811.

How can Jesus transform our grief into gladness? Part 2

“Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.” John 16:20a

As technology advances at exceedingly high rates, we may come to the conclusion that life should be easy. After all, we have all of these gadgets that are intended to make life easier for us. Things like automatic dishwashers, microwave ovens, central air-conditioning, garage door openers, GPS, cell phones, etc. Once we obtain these gadgets, we think we cannot live without them.

There is nothing wrong about finding ways to make life easier. But when we do, we can often shift this attitude into a demand that life must be easier. And when life does not comply with this thought, we can easily become angry or even bitter. Our grief over the problems in life can turn into depression.   

We are learning from Jesus’ instructions to His disciples how He can transform our grief into gladness. We discovered in John 16:16-19 that Christ can do this when we ask Him to help us properly understand His word as it relates to our situation. Today we see that our grief can be transformed into gladness when we ACCEPT THAT PAIN AND SUFFERING ARE PART OF LIFE (John 16:20a; cf. 16:33).

Christ said to His eleven believing disciples, “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.” (John 16:20a). Jesus assures His disciples (“most assuredly, I say to you”) that they “will weep and lament” over His departure when He dies on the cross. These words combine the thoughts of deep grief and the outward expression of that grief. Watching their Lord endure false accusations, beatings, mocking, and the shameful, humiliating death of crucifixion, would be extremely difficult for the disciples. Yet while they would experience great anguish at the crucifixion of Christ, the unbelieving “world will rejoice.” The religious leaders especially rejoiced over Christ’s sufferings and death because they had removed the One Who threatened their power.

When we see evil appear to triumph over good, we will experience grief and sadness. For example, when militant Muslims murder innocent Christians and boast about it on TV, Christians will feel deep sorrow over this. Believers must realize that being a Christian does not insulate us from grief and sorrow. Christ never promised believers that life would be easy. It is not sinful to experience grief and sadness since both Jesus and His disciples did (cf. Matthew 17:23; 26:22, 37-38; Mark 14:19, 34; Luke 22:45; John 11:33-35; 16:6, 20, 22). In fact, the prophet, Isaiah, describes Jesus as “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). So feeling grief and sadness is not ungodly. It is Christ-like.

There is some teaching in Christian circles today that says life should be easy if you are a Christian. If life is not easy for you, then you must be the problem because God wants all His children to have it easy. Is this true? No. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (16:33). He did not say “you might have” tribulation. He said you “will have” tribulation. The word “tribulation” (thlipsis) is used of a narrow place that “hems someone in”; it is an internal pressure that causes someone to feel confined (restricted, “without options”). Christ uses this word to refer to “persecution, affliction, and distress.” 1

Jesus also said, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34b). Most people would agree with this. On Monday, your electric bill arrives, and it’s three times as much as you have left in your bank account. On Tuesday, your car won’t start. On Wednesday, your child is exposed to COVID and your entire family must quarantine. On Thursday, your spouse tells you they don’t love you any more. On Friday, you find out you have lost thousands of dollars in a poor investment. And the list goes on and on. Jesus did not say Christians would have it easy. He said life would be difficult. He wasn’t being pessimistic in these verses, He was simply being honest.

Life can also be internally difficult for us as Christians because there is this internal battle going on between our sinful flesh and the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17). All people are born with a sinful flesh that has a bent toward selfishness, laziness, immaturity, distorting reality, lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, the pride of life, etc. (cf. Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:23; 7:18; Galatians 5:19-21; I John 2:16). 2

The apostle Paul describes this battle when he says, 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.” (Romans 7:15-21).

Paul is very clear in these verses that a battle raged inside of him between his sinful nature that operated in the flesh and the new person he was in Christ that operated in the Spirit. We may agree intellectually that life is difficult both externally and internally, but deep down inside the recesses of our minds we believe the lie that says life should be easy. So when life does take a turn for the worse, we can throw an emotional tantrum.

Christian counselor, Dr. Chris Thurman, shares how many of his clients come into his office believing this lie that life should be easy, and when life proves otherwise, they have a lot of intense anger that can turn into bitterness and resentment. They refuse to accept that their problems or disappointments are a part of life. 3

Accepting that life is difficult does not mean we must like the problem or be glad it happened. But you can choose to hurt over it and accept it. Thurman writes, “Accepting it means you have faced the fact that it happened (versus refusing to), understand why it occurred (versus being in the dark about why it did), have let it hurt (versus feel numb about it), and have come to a place of peace about it (versus still in turmoil over it).” 4

We need to ask ourselves, “Am I going to face my problems or run from them?” Satan “wants us to run from our problems, both foreign (external) and domestic (internal), because he knows our problems get worse and we end up suffering at a greater level when we do. God wants us to face our problems because He knows doing so resolves them and the suffering we experience helps us mature in Christ.” 5

If we tell ourselves that life should be easy, we are going to experience bitterness because our expectations are not realistic or biblical. We will either become very angry or discouraged and depressed when life does not match our expectations. The truth is life is difficult and the more we accept this truth, then the more we can move on from our past problems and experience the joy Jesus wants us to have, even when life is difficult.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, this message really convicts me about my bad attitude. It is so easy for me to complain about problems in life and develop a lot of anger and even bitterness. Much of my anger is connected to believing the lie that life should be easy. Thank You for making it so clear that life is not always going to be easy. It can be very difficult. Even if I am living for You, Lord Jesus, You said I “will have tribulation” (John 16:33) because the world hates You and those who follow You (John 15:18-21). I pray You will help me replace this lie that life should be easy with the truth that life is difficult so I may accept that pain and suffering is a part of life. I want to invite You to walk with me as I face the pain and process it so I may move on and experience Your joy no matter what happens in life. Thank You for hearing my prayers, my Lord and my God. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. see https://biblehub.com/greek/2347.htm.

2. Dr. Chris Thurman, The Lies We Believe (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 201.

3. Dr. Chris Thurman, The Lies We Believe (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), pp. 160-161.

4. Ibid., pg. 165.

5. Thurman, The Lies We believe (2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 209.

How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? Part 1

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:26

Fear is a normal human response. It is a part of every person’s life – perhaps more so in some people than others – but still everyone has to deal with fear at some time. There are many things that can cause unexpected fear to grip our hearts. The nuclear build up in North Korea has caused nations to fear the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. Parents fear for the safety of their children with so many reports in the news of people who would want to harm them. We are afraid to leave our homes unlocked, or to walk in the dark at night. We fear failure so we scramble to meet our tight schedules, duties and obligations. Many people are afraid of COVID-19 which may take their health, their job, or a loved one. And where there is fear, there is no peace.

Earlier in John 14 Jesus told His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1a). The word “troubled” (tarássō) in the Greek is a picture of a stormy sea. Has that ever happened to you?  Have you ever had a heart that just feels like there is a storm surging inside of you? You talk to it, you tell it things, you read it Scripture, and you bring it to church. But the storm just keeps stirring inside of you.

Jesus understood that a storm was surging in the hearts of His disciples. Their hearts were troubled. Why? The same reasons our hearts are often troubled. They had troubled hearts because of failure. Remember what Jesus had said just before this? He had just looked at Peter and said, “Peter, you think you are going to follow Me even if you have to lay your life down for My sake?! No. You are going to deny knowing Me three times” (John 13:38). Christ had also told them that one of them would betray Him (13:21). So their hearts were troubled.

The disciples were also troubled by confusion. Not knowing what God is going to do next can be very troubling to us. Or not knowing why the circumstance is happening. Jesus was talking about going somewhere else and His disciples not being able to go with Him (John 13:33, 36). That was confusing. The disciples’ world was turning into chaos.

It was also very disappointing. They had a dream. When they marched into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday they waved palm branches, dreaming that Jesus was going to stay in Jerusalem to sit on the Davidic throne to rule over Israel and the entire world. And they would sit next to Jesus as His right-hand men, right? But Jesus was saying, “I’m going somewhere, and you can’t go with Me.”What does that mean?” the disciples must have wondered. “Is Jesus not going to be our King? Or He is going to be King and we are not going to be His right-hand men?” So they are very disappointed. Their dream is being shattered this very night. God’s got a different dream than their dream. Their dream seemed to be turning into a nightmare.

They also faced fear. The fear of not knowing what would happen next. The fear of the Roman Empire persecuting them. They knew that the Jews were plotting to kill Jesus. The disciples were afraid of losing their beloved Shepherd.

All of these things combined to give them troubled hearts. Jesus could see this in their eyes and in their hearts. He then begins to share truths with them to calm their troubled hearts. Jesus can also see what is troubling us.

How do you deal with what is troubling your heart? Do you ignore it? Do you pretend it is not there and that everything is going to be okay? Do you hide from the storm that is stirring in your heart? There are many ways to hide from it. We can hide from our troubled hearts in alcohol, drugs, and sexual relations. We can even hide from our heart trouble by staying busy at work. Or we bury ourselves in a book, in the computer, or in the television. We hide from our heart trouble because we do not want to face it. But is that the best strategy?

No, for the next few days Jesus will teach us truths to calm our troubled hearts. We can calm our troubled hearts by focusing on THE PROMISE OF INSIGHT FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT (John 14:25-26). Christ said to His eleven believing disciples, “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.” (John 14:25). The phrase “these things,” refers back to Jesus going away to a place where the disciples could not follow now (John 13:33). He would go prepare a place for them in heaven (John 14:1-3) and while He was gone the Holy Spirit would permanently indwell them (John 14:16-17). The idea in verse 25 was that Jesus was physically “present with” them now, but that would soon change because of His departure. Christ now speaks about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26). This verse identifies “the Helper,” the One called alongside to help, as the “Holy Spirit.” We observe in this verse that the Holy Spirit is closely related to God the Father and God the Son. The Father had sent Jesus to reveal Himself and now He is sending the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ “name.” The phrase “in My name” means in Jesus’ place and for Him. In this one verse we see all three Persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 28:20; John 14:16; 15:26).

The Holy Spirit will continue the teaching and work of Jesus Christ after Christ’s departure. Jesus promises that the Spirit “will teach you all things” that you need to know. We see that the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. He is a Person because He teaches. The Holy Spirit would provide insight into the meaning of Jesus’ teaching. He would cause Christ’s disciples to understand those aspects of Christ’s instruction that had remained beyond their comprehension. The disciples did not fully understand all of Jesus’ teaching at this time, especially concerning His going away, that is, His death and resurrection.

In addition, Jesus promised that the Spirit will “bring to” their “remembrance all things that” He taught them. It is likely they would forget the things they did not understand. We do that, too, don’t we? If we don’t understand something, we tend to let it slip away from our memory. But God wants us to rely on the Holy Spirit to give us understanding and remembrance. Jesus is telling us that the Holy Spirit will supply what we lack.

Did you ever wonder how John remembered all those things that Jesus said in the Upper Room? The Holy Spirit reminded him. The Holy Spirit would remind the disciples of the precise things Jesus had spoken to them. The Spirit would not start teaching something contrary to what Jesus taught. He would cause the disciples to recall Christ’s exact teaching, so they could write it down years later to form the New Testament Scriptures. The Holy Spirit would not only bring to their remembrance exactly what Jesus said, but He would also teach them what Jesus meant. When the apostles wrote the New Testament, the Holy Spirit empowered them to remember precisely what Jesus had said so that it was without error in the original manuscripts (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21; 3:15-16). These verses provide a strong argument for the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.

This truth was not limited to the apostles back then. “The Spirit also helps believers today, enabling us to recall Scripture at the appropriate time and helping us to understand its meaning and its application to our lives, as He activates ‘the mind of Christ’ in us (1 Cor 2:10-16).” 1 There is comfort, strength, and hope in the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us when we are troubled.

The Holy Spirit continues His teaching ministry today by enlightening Christ’s followers as they study Jesus’ teachings. The Spirit of God knows and understands the deep things of God (cf. I Corinthians 2:10-16). He is to be the true Guide and Teacher of every believer, with human teachers serving in a secondary role (cf. 1 John 2:27). 2

Before I got saved, the Bible did not make much sense to me. It seemed like a boring text book. But when I came to faith in Jesus Christ at the age of nineteen, the Bible came alive because of the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life. God’s Spirit provides direction for His church through His Word. He will not contradict God’s Word. If we let Him, He will lead us into a better understanding of the Bible. So many times, I come to God’s Word not knowing what is meant and I ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand and He does. Sometimes He uses other believers to give me more insight into His Word and sometimes He fills my mind with insight as I study.

We are told in I John 2:27, “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”“The anointing” or Holy Spirit is a sufficient Teacher. As we grow in our spiritual lives, we become less dependent on human teachers. Do not always take what a pastor or teacher says as truth without checking it out in the Bible. Learn to depend on the Holy Spirit for insight, not human teachers. Many times, churches have a pastor or teacher move on and as a result, God’s people flounder because they were depending too much on that pastor or teacher for insight instead of the Holy Spirit. When our hearts are troubled, we must depend more on the Holy Spirit for comprehending and applying God’s Word to our lives. The Spirit’s insight into the Bible can calm the storm in our hearts.

I heard one preacher say that “the Holy Spirit is like a personal trainer in our lives. He’s not some video that you watch on TV where you find out how. He actually comes into our lives to be a personal, spiritual trainer. You know how you want to have discipline and do it on your own but if you could just get a personal trainer to come alongside you to encourage and tell you what to do? Wouldn’t that make it easier? Jesus is saying, that’s what the Holy Spirit is. So when you’re trying to pray and it’s like push-ups – You can’t do any more. The Holy Spirit comes alongside and says, ‘I’ll help you out. I’ll even pray for you.’ And He does” (cf. Romans 8:26-27).3 

When we feel so discouraged to the point of wanting to quit living for Christ, the Holy Spirit comes along side and He helps us and He encourages us in our hearts where we most need Him. Jesus said that is Whom My Father will send to you (John 14:26a).

May I suggest that you take time this week to read John 14:1-31 right before going to sleep. Then set your Bible aside, turn off the light, and go to sleep. Review the verses in your mind as you fall asleep. See what the Holy Spirit does for your heart the next morning as you put His word in your heart.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank You that You understand us. You know what it is like to have a troubled heart. You did the night before Your crucifixion. And we praise You, Jesus, for giving us answers when we talk to You in prayer. We are so grateful we can talk to You about anything. Father God, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit so we are not left alone. Holy Spirit, we praise You for helping us remember Scripture at the appropriate time and for giving us understanding so we can apply Your Word to our lives. Lord God, when we look at the trouble in our lives and what it does to our hearts, the storms that it brings, there is part of us that thinks nothing can calm them. But we put our faith in You and Your Word right now. Thank You in advance, Holy Spirit, for the insight You will give to us that can calm our troubled hearts. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans; CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1804.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition, pp. 253-254.

3. Tom Holladay’s message, “Calming Your Troubled Heart” – John 14:1-27, May 29, 1996.