God’s solution to anxiety

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

As we begin 2021, we may be overwhelmed with anxiety. Perhaps we are anxious about the future especially with all the political and social unrest connected to the upcoming change in our government’s leadership in the USA. Many are anxious about the ongoing impact of the global pandemic. Our needs are greater than ever before. Due to social distancing and isolation, we cannot connect with one another as easily as we did before COVID-19. We may have greater physical needs due to the loss of our health, the loss of a job, and/or the loss of financial security. The additional stress caused by COVID increases the chance of conflict with one another. Emotional needs are much greater during this pandemic. There is more depression. More people feel hopeless and think of taking their own lives. All of these factors can increase our anxiety.

How does God want us to respond to these anxious times? The Lord gives us a solution to this struggle in Philippians 4:6-7, where the apostle Paul writes:

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  

God says, “be anxious for nothing” (4:6a). What does God want us to worry about? Nothing. “How can I worry about nothing?” You might ask. God says “in everything by prayer” (4:6b). We can worry about nothing by praying about everything. The word “prayer” refers to talking to God. When we are “anxious” or worried about something, God instructs us to talk to Him about it through “prayer.” When was the last time you got alone with God and talked to Him about what you are worried about? Talking about it helps to diffuse the power of worry. But it does not stop there.

Then God says, “in everything by… supplication” (4:6c). The word “supplication” means to tell God what you need. Few people ever identify what they need because they are so busy worrying.

For example, some of us may be worried about our health. So we talk to the Lord about that. And as you do that, ask God to help you identify the underlying need. Perhaps we need protection from illness especially during COVID. Or perhaps we are afraid of death because we are not prepared for it. So we need assurance of life after death. Ask God to give you the assurance that there is everlasting life both now and after death through believing in Jesus (cf. John 11:25-26). So talk to the Lord about what you need from Him.

Next, God says, “with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (4:6d). Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” The word “delight” means to lean into God.Just as a house plant leans in toward the sunlight coming through a window to get nutrients from the sun, so we need to lean into God during these challenging times to nourish our souls, and He promises to give us the desires or dreams of our hearts. So talk to God about your desires or dreams. Ask God what He wants to do in your life.

Notice that God wants you to pray with “thanksgiving.” He wants us to have a thankful heart. Why? Because when you trust God to supply your needs and wants in advance during difficult times, you can accept those circumstances and respond more appropriately. Also, gratitude stimulates the release of dopamine (happy chemical) in our brain which decreases our stress and enhances sleep.

Keep in mind that gratitude is a skill or learned behavior that is independent of our circumstances. Many people are overwhelmed with all the bad news in the world today. But it’s important to understand that we can increase our gratitude without seeing improvement in our situations. Try taking time each day to be aware of moments you may be tempted to overlook and thank God for them – such as your beating heart, each breath you take, the taste of Talapia (fish), the sound of birds in the morning, or the smile of a colleague. Take time to thank people during the day because it will also stimulate more dopamine to be released in your brain. It will also create stronger neuropathways in your brain containing thoughts of gratitude, so it will become easier to be grateful the more you practice this skill. What would happen to your anxiety if you spent time each day thanking God for His goodness in your life? No doubt your anxiety would decrease significantly.

As we talk to God about our anxiety, needs, and desires with thanksgiving, He promises that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:7). The “peace of God” is like a deep calmness in the midst of life’s storms. For example, the water underneath the surface of the ocean remains calm during a storm (see above photo). We can experience a deep-seeded calmness in our souls when we surrender to God in prayer as we face these challenging times.

The phrase “will guard,” pictures an armed soldier walking back and forth in front of the city gate, protecting the occupants inside the city from intruders. God’s peace constantly protects those who choose to talk to Him about their worries, and ask Him for what they need and want.

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for the unchanging promises of Your Word. When I focus on what is happening around the world, my heart can easily be overwhelmed with anxiety. But when I get alone with You and talk to You about my worries, You help me to identify the need underneath those worries so I can ask You to meet that need. There is no need in my life that is too great for You to meet. Thank You for reminding me to lean into You during these challenging times so you can nourish my soul and grant me the desires or dreams of my heart. There is so much to be thankful for at all times because of Your constant goodness to us! What peace fills my soul as I talk to You with thanksgiving about my worries, my underlying needs, and desires or dreams. Thank You for giving me Your peace which surpasses all human understanding when I surrender everyone and everything to You in prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

How can we endure difficult times? Part 1

“When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron…” John 18:1a

All of us face stressful times, but how do we handle them? Some people spend time serving those less fortunate than them. For example, one psychologist says, “Every Friday for ninety minutes at lunch, I become the Beverage Lady at a local soup kitchen. I serve coffee, tea, and juice to people whose problems are much bigger than mine – poverty, homelessness, paralyzing disabilities. Having direct contact with folks with real problems is a big stress-reliever.”

A physician comments, “Staring into our aquarium with its Angelfish and Fantail Guppies, puts me in touch with another realm. And whenever I get especially upset, I spin the globe in my office. San Jose, CA, where I live, is just a tiny spot. California is a sliver. There’s a huge world out there, and even my worst problems are just a microscopic part of it.”

Retreating to the bathtub is where one psychologist goes to prepare herself to deal with stressful times. “A long hot bath is a luxurious way to relax. In addition to the soothing effect of the steamy water, bathing gives me time to catch up with all the little things I do for myself. Sometimes I read cookbooks or magazines. Other times, I shop through catalogues. I might bring in a TV and watch sitcoms or videos.”

When stressful times approach us, how do we respond? In John 18, Jesus Christ was about to face the most stressful time of His earthly life. We saw in John 14-17, Jesus and His disciples making their way from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane. It is in the garden where Jesus prepares Himself to face His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. We are going to learn more about who Jesus is and what He can do for us in the first twelve verses of John 18. So how we can endure difficult times?

The first way is to LEARN ABOUT THE LOVE OF CHRIST (John 18:1a). This may not seem obvious to you at first, but please allow me to explain how the Lord showed me this principle. John tells us, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron…” (John 18:1a). After finishing His High Priestly prayer in John 17:1-26 (“spoken these things”) on the west side of the Kidron Valley, Jesus and His disciples crossed “over the Brook Kidron” to go up to the Garden of Gethsemane. The Kidron Valley lies east of Jerusalem and separates the city from the Mount of Olives. The valley has a small stream that flows during winter and spring rains, but it is dry most of the summer. 1 None of the other gospel writers mention Jesus crossing the Brook Kidron, but John does. Why?

One major reason for including this detail is because the apostle John is presenting Jesus as the New Passover Lamb in his gospel (cf. I Corinthians 5:7). In John 1:29, John the Baptist says of Jesus, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” If you read through the Old Testament, you will find it is filled with many blood sacrifices. Abel, the son of Adam, offered a lamb to God and God smiled upon that sacrifice (Genesis 4:4). Later Abraham made offerings to God (Genesis 15:9-21).

While slaves in Egypt, the children of Israel were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, so the angel of death would see the blood and pass over their family without killing the firstborn (Exodus 12:1-13). To commemorate His deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, God instituted the Passover feast to be observed every year (Exodus 12:14-51). But this feast also pointed to the coming Deliverer and Savior of all people – Jesus Christ.  

John wants his readers to know that Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb. Just as “the blood of the lambs served as a substitute for the blood that the people should have shed as punishment for their sins (see Leviticus 4:32-34; 5:6),” 2 so Jesus is our Substitute Who died in our place to satisfy God’s demand to punish the sin of the world (John 1:29; 19:30; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18).

Consider these similarities between the Passover lambs and Jesus: 3

  • Passover lambs had to be a young male “without blemish” (Exodus 12:5). Jesus was also a relatively young adult male without blemish or sin (Luke 3:23; John 19:38; 19:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 1:19).
  • Passover lambs had to be examined four days from the selection to the sacrifice (Exodus 12:3, 6a). Christ lived a meticulously examined life.
  • The Passover lamb had to be slain in public (Exodus 12:6b-7). Jesus also died publicly (John 19:16-30).

Beginning with John 19:24 and continuing to verse 37, John the apostle records four events that demonstrate Jesus truly is our substitutionary Passover Lamb which the Old Testament animal sacrifices foreshadowed: 4

  • They cast lots for His garments (John 19:24)…………… Fulfillment of Psalm 22:18
  • His legs were not broken (John 19:33)……… Passover fulfillment of Exodus 12:46
  • He was pierced (John 19:34a-37)………………………… Fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10
  • Blood and water came out (John 19:34b)…………………………… Fulfillment of what??

Why did John record this last detail involving “blood and water” coming out of Jesus’ side when He was pierced with a spear? John’s reference to Zechariah 12:10 says nothing of the “blood and water” flowing together. This is an important detail because John writes, 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.’ 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” (John 19:34-37). John testifies to these events so his readers “may believe.” John recorded this blood and water coming out as a proof of Who Jesus was by what He fulfilled. But there is no Old Testament verse referring to lamb’s blood and water streaming in unison. So what did Jesus’ blood and water coming out of His side fulfill?

“John was also thinking of the Passover in his day, not the Egyptian Passover only. What is the difference? In the first Passover there was no temple. Even its predecessor, the tabernacle, had not been set up; this did not occur until the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai where they received Torah, the Law. At the first Passover the lambs were slain at home and eaten at home, Exodus 12:1-8. Since there was no tabernacle or temple, there was also no central sacrificial altar for the slaying of such animals. However, in John’s and Jesus’ time centuries later, there was a resplendent white limestone temple atop Mount Moriah (today’s Temple Mount in Jerusalem) where hundreds of lambs were slain.

“As a result, thousands of gallons or liters of lambs’ blood had to be disposed of. But how? By being poured into a drain at the ‘base of the altar’ (Leviticus 1:11, 13; 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34), a rule that applied to both tabernacle and temple. For instance, the First Temple ( i.e., Solomon’s ) required ten lavers of water for rinsing blood from sacrificial offerings, II Chronicles 4:6. Therefore in the Second Temple of John’s day, voluminous amounts of water were poured into the altar’s drainage system to flush away the blood of lambs. Since the Temple Mount was a hill with a flat limestone surface, where did the drains empty? They spewed into the Kidron Valley below. The Temple’s drains are referred to in various sources such as the Jewish Talmud and in archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer’s, The Temple and the Rock, p. 57.5

Only John records that Jesus compared His own body to the Temple:  19 Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20 Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:19-22).

According to John, Jesus not only became the New Atoning Passover Lamb, but also the New Temple through whom the Divine Spirit – symbolized by water (cf. John 7:37-3) – could now flow to the masses, as had been symbolized by the gushing drains of King Solomon’s Temple and later by Herod’s Temple. To John, at least, “the blood and water” was proof that the Temple building and its sacrifices paralleled Jesus’ body and His crucifixion (John 2:19-21). Hence, the “missing” fulfillment verse is not an Old Testament one, but rather one spoken earlier by Jesus, which implies that Jesus saw Himself as the Temple personified, and John the gospel writer is the only one who recorded this. 6

  • Blood and water came out (John 19:34b)……………… Fulfillment of John 2:19-21

At the risk of being redundant, one of the possible reasons why John included the detail of Jesus crossing “over the Brook Kidron” was because the people in Jerusalem would have known that during the time of Passover something significant would have happened if Jesus would have crossed over the bottom of this valley to the top of the other side. William Barclay writes, “All the Passover lambs were killed in the Temple, and the blood of the lambs was poured on the altar as an offering to God. The number of lambs slain for the Passover was immense. On one occasion, thirty years later than the time of Jesus, a census was taken, and the number was 256,000. We may imagine what the Temple courts were like when the blood of all these lambs was dashed on to the altar. From the altar there was a channel down to the brook Kidron, and through that channel the blood of the Passover lambs drained away. When Jesus crossed the brook Kidron, it would still be red with the blood of the lambs which had been sacrificed; and as he did so, the thought of his own sacrifice would surely be vivid in his mind.” 7

So Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who was going to be slain for the sins of the world (John 1:29), had to step over this brook which by this time was soaked with the blood of the Passover lambs (cf. Luke 22:7). As Jesus and His disciples stepped over this brook, no doubt they saw and smelled this water mixed with the Passover lambs’ blood. What a foreshadowing of what Jesus was going to do for them, and for you and me. What a beautiful picture of His love for us (cf. Romans 5:8). He was willing to go up to the Garden of Gethsemane where He would be arrested even though He knew what was going to unfold that night. That is love! When people are at their worst, God stills gives us His very best. He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place for our sins.

When we face difficult times, we may doubt that God loves us. We may feel like He has abandoned us. We may accuse God of being unfair when He allows us to suffer. But please understand there was a time when God was unfair. It is when He sent His sinless Son to die in the place of guilty sinners. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The perfect Son of God was punished on the cross instead of guilty sinners. Was that fair to Jesus!?! Of course not. But thank God for His love and grace which sent His perfect Son to pay the debt for our sins that we could never pay – “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18). We can endure these difficult times when we ponder our Savior’s great love for us. Christ knew what was going to happen that night before His crucifixion, yet He still crossed the Kidron Brook because of His love for you and me. Learn about His infinite love. It will give you the hope you need to endure trials.

The Bible tells us, 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5). As Christians suffer, they learn to “glory in tribulations, knowing” that their sufferings develop spiritual growth (“perseverance… and character, hope”). 

As Christians faithfully endure difficulties, it results in a sense of “hope” or confidence that God will see them through to the end of their sufferings. This “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” the moment we believed in Jesus for everlasting life (cf. John 7:37-39; Romans 8:9; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 1:13-14). Our hope does not disappoint us because it is the hope of God’s love. God’s love gives us this hope. Knowing He loves us and has our best interest in mind, increases our hope. Tony Evans writes, “Even in our suffering, God’s Spirit provides a fresh experience of God’s love to us and for us.” 8 Hope is the confidence that we will receive good from God. Without this hope, we would not be able to remain faithful to God when we face difficulties in life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your Word is so powerful and relevant to us today. All of us are facing difficult times. And all of us need to know You still love us when we face these hardships. You understand what it is like to suffer for a greater cause. The night before Your horrible death on a cross, You crossed over the Brook Kidron which was still red with the blood of the Passover lambs which had been sacrificed in the temple above, and as You did this, You were probably thinking of Your own upcoming sacrifice on the cross when both blood and water would flow from Your pierced side after You would die. Jesus, thank You for going up that hill to the Garden of Gethsemane to be arrested. Even today You still give us Your best when we may be at our worst. Knowing Your amazing love for us empowers us to endure difficulties without fear or shame (I John 4:18). O Lamb of God, thank You for being our Passover Lamb!!! In the matchless name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 316.

2. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), pg. 1161.

3. The NKJV Study Bible, General Editor Earl D. Radmacher (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), pg. 108).

4. See Tony Badillo’s article at http://templesecrets.info/jnbldwtr.html.

5. Ibid., also on the Temple drains, see also Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 5, p. 696, and the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Middoth, Chapter III, Mishnah 2 Soncino 1961 Edition, page 12; and Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah, Folio 4.

6. Ibid.

7. William Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, Commentary on John, 1956-1959, vs. 18:1-14. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/john-18.html.

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1930.

How to Cope with Stress during Covid (Video)

This video was created to help high school teachers in the Philippines to cope with stress during Covid. The biblical principles in this video are based on the life of Jesus Christ and can be applied to stress in general. Please share this with those you know who are battling stress.

How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? Part 4

“But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” John 14:31

In our study of John 14:25-31, we have learned so far that we can calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world by focusing on…

– The promise of insight from the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26).

– The peace of Christ (John 14:27).

– The prophetic word of Christ (John 14:28-29).

Finally, we can calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world by focusing on THE PRESCRIBED WILL OF GOD (John 14:30-31). The night before His crucifixion, Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.” (John 14:30). Jesus was not going to teach them much longer because Satan, “the ruler of this world,” was moving his forces against Christ through Judas.

Tony Evans explains how Satan became “the ruler of this world”: “When Adam and Eve sinned [Genesis 3:1-7], they gave up their role as king and queen, ruling creation on God’s behalf, and turned it over to Satan. Therefore, the devil is appropriately called ‘the ruler of this world,’ ‘the god of this age’ (2 Cor 4:4), and ‘the ruler of the power of the air’ (Eph 2:2). He holds ‘the power of death’ and keeps people in slavery by ‘the fear of death’ (see Heb 2:14-15). But Satan had no power over Jesus (14:30) because Jesus is without sin. The Son of God became a man so that he might defeat the devil as a man and restore God’s kingdom rule.” 1

As the “ruler of this world,” Satan seeks to desensitize people to their need for God through the world system’s human governments, economies, educational systems, media, entertainment industries, and false religious systems. He will use these systems to manipulate peoples’ thoughts and feelings so they are drawn away from the true God and led down a path toward self-destruction.

When Jesus says that Satan “has nothing in Me” (John 14:30b), He is saying that the Devil has nothing in common with Him. There was no sin in Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18) for Satan to take hold of like there is in us. Because Jesus was and is God (John 1:1; 5:18-47; 8:58; 10:30; 14:9; 20:28-29; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20), Satan could not deceive Christ to yield to temptation (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:15). There had to be a perfect sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world, and Jesus was that sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). “Satan thought Jesus’ death was a victory for him, but actually it was Jesus’ victory over Satan (John 16:11; Colossians 2:15).” 2 One day Jesus Christ is coming back to earth to restore His perfect rule on the earth (Psalm 2; Revelation 19:11-20:6). What a glorious day that will be!!!

Then Christ said, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” (John 14:31). Jesus would enter this conflict with Satan not because He would be overpowered by the evil one, but because He was always obedient to His Father in heaven. Jesus’ death on the cross would show “the world” that He loves His Father. It shows His submission to His Father’s will (cf. Philippians 2:8). Christ could have avoided His enemies and the cross, but instead He was willing to face them as He says, “Arise, let us go from here.” Jesus could have said, “Arise, let us flee to the mountains for refuge while we still can!” But He does not. Instead, He calmly went to Gethsemane and the cross (cf. Luke 22:39-23:47; John 18:1-19:30) because He knew that He was doing the “commandment” that His Father “gave Him.

Likewise, if we know that we are doing what God has commanded us to do, we can calm our troubled hearts even when we face fierce opposition or difficult circumstances. But if we are deliberately living in disobedience to God’s commands, we cannot expect to calm our troubled hearts. In fact, we can expect to have more trouble and anxiety because we are not living as God wants us to live. His discipline may cause our hearts great anguish and pain (Hebrews 12:5-11).

Two artists set out to paint a picture representing perfect peace. The first painted a canvas depicting a carefree boy relaxing in a boat on a little placid lake without a ripple to disturb the surface. The second artist painted a raging waterfall with winds whipping the spray about. But on a branch of a tree overhanging the swirling waters a bird had built its nest and it sat peacefully brooding over her eggs. Here she was safe from her predatory enemies, shielded and protected by the roaring waterfall. This is real peace – the result of remaining calm in the midst of raging trials and difficulties in life. And this is the peace and calm that Jesus can give to us in a chaotic world when we focus on the promises of insight from the Holy Spirit, the peace of Christ, the prophetic word of Christ, and the prescribed will of God.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) Who can calm our troubled hearts amidst great stress in our chaotic world. Some of the stress we face is due to our disregard for God’s will in our lives. The more we disobey the Father’s will, the more chaos we will experience in our own lives as we try to live life independently of Him. Satan has designed the world system to mislead us away from You. Thank You for bringing me back to You, my Lord and my God. You are not only a perfect Savior, You are also a perfect Friend Who wants to calm our troubled hearts. But we are responsible to create space for You in our lives so we can focus our hearts and minds on Your promise of insight from the Holy Spirit, Your peace which surpasses human understanding, Your prophetic word about the future, and Your prescribed will for our lives. Thank You for helping us center our lives around You once again. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1805.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pg. 325.

3. Many students of the Bible interpret Jesus’ words, “Arise, let us go from here” (John 14:31b), as an indication that Jesus ended His teaching here, and that He and the Eleven left the upper room immediately (see Brooke Foss Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John: The Authorized Version with Introduction and Notes, [1880 London: James Clarke & Co., Ltd., 1958], pg. 211; Robertson, Archibald Thomas Roberston, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V. [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932], pg. 256; J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV., Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983, pg. 464.) They view the teaching and praying that we find in John 15-17, as happening somewhere on the way to Gethsemane – before Jesus’ arrest (cf. John 18:1). Some Bible students see this phrase referring not to a change in location but to a change in anticipation especially in view of John 18:1, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.” Constable writes, “Anyone who has entertained people in their home, knows that it is very common for guests to say they are leaving, and then stay quite a bit longer before really departing. Why would John have recorded this remark if it did not indicate a real change of location? Perhaps he included it to show Jesus’ great love for His followers that the following three chapters articulate.  Another view is that when Jesus got up from the table, He prefigured His resurrection, and what follows in this discourse deals with post-resurrection realities: ‘There must be resurrection-life before there can be resurrection-fruit.’ The time of departure from the upper room is not critical to a correct interpretation of Jesus’ teaching. (see Dr. Tom Constable’s Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 279; cf. Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John [Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991], pg. 479; Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, Vol II, [Swengel, Pa.: I. C. Herendeen, 1945; 3 vols. in 1 reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973], pg. 393).

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.

How can we find peace under pressure? Part 4

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” John 14:6

We live in a world today that teaches there are many different ways to God. Many people insist that all religions lead to the same God (Universalism). Is this true? The God of the Bible has told us Himself  that “besides Me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11). If God had said there are many ways to Himself, then, yes, there are many ways to Him. But He has not said that. He says that He alone is the “savior.” 

In our verses today, the Lord Jesus Christ makes it very clear that He is the only way to God the Father in heaven. This is essential for us to understand if we are going to find peace under pressure. So far we have learned that we can find peace under pressure by focusing on Jesus’ promises of peace of heart, a prepared place in heaven, and His presence in heaven. The fourth and final way is to focuson Jesus’ PROMISE OF A PREPARED PATH TO HEAVEN (John 14:4-6) for those who believe in Him.

Christ makes it clear in response to Thomas’ question that for anyone to enjoy the prepared place in heaven, he must know the prepared path to heaven. “And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:4). Jesus affirms that the disciples “know” both “where” Jesus is going and “the way” to get there. Throughout His ministry Jesus had taught His disciples the way to heaven.

Now Peter had an answer to his question, “Lord, where are You going?” (John 13:36a). Christ was going to His Father’s house. Even though He must first go alone, He would return and take them to His Father’s House where they would be with Him forever. This seems to have satisfied Peter as he asked no further questions. But Thomas did not fully understand what Jesus was saying.

“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ ” (John 14:5). Thomas did not understand Jesus’ reference to His Father’s House. Thomas renews the doubt about Jesus’ destination including the path that would take one there. Thomas was honest and uninhibited as he expresses his confusion. Jesus had said they could not come with Him at this time (John 13:33, 36b). How then can they know the way?

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” (John 14:6). Since Jesus is going to the Father’s House, He now makes it clear that He is “the way” to His Father’s home. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his lack of understanding and we must not either. We are to be gracious with those who may not see things as we do.

The Lord explains to Thomas, “I am the way” to My Father’s House. Jesus did not say He was “a way” to heaven, leaving open the possibility of other ways to heaven which is commonly taught today. There is only one “way” to heaven and that is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (John 3:5, 15-16; 10:9; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-5).

Many people today think there is more than one way to God. They are placing their trust in people or religions that will only lead to eternal destruction (cf. Matthew 7:13-23). Jesus warned His disciples that there are many “false prophets” (Matthew 7:15) who stand in front of the “broad… way” that “leads into destruction” (Matthew 7:13). These false prophets are dressed in “sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15) and appear to be Christians.

But Jesus will refuse to let them into heaven because they were trusting in their confession of Jesus’ lordship (“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ ”Matthew 7:21) and their works that they did in Jesus’ name for His glory (“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’” – Matthew 7:22). They were not permitted entrance into “the kingdom of heaven” because they failed to do “the will of” the “Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21) which is believing in Christ alone for everlasting life: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40; cf. Matthew 18:3; 21:31-32).

Jesus said you may know these false prophets by “their fruits” (Matthew 7:16-20) which are their “words,” not their works (Matthew 12:33-37). Any teacher who says you can go to heaven through some other way than faith alone in Christ alone, is a false prophet and must be avoided (cf. I Timothy 6:3-5).

When Jesus said, “I am the truth,” He is referring to the truth about the Father. Even though the disciples may have felt strange going to His Father’s House because they had not met the Father, yet since they knew Jesus, they did know the Father as well because Jesus and the Father “are one” (John 10:30). To see and know Jesus was to know and see the Father because Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father as God the Son (John 14:7-11; cf. 1:1; 12:44-45).

As “the truth,” we can believe in Christ’s promise of everlasting life to those who believe in Him (John 3:15-16; 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26) because He never tells a lie. He is always faithful to keep His promises.

When Jesus said,“I am the life,” He was saying that He is the only Person who can provide “the life” or relationship (John 1:4, 12; 5:21; 17:3) that is needed to come to the Father’s House. Jesus claims that He is the exclusive way to the Father, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The path to heaven is a Person – Jesus Christ Himself. You can begin a personal relationship with Him simply by believing in Him alone for His free gift (John 3:15-16; 17:3).

Jesus’ claims in this verse are very personal. Jesus did not merely claim to know “the way, the truth, or the life” as if it is some formula to give to the ignorant. He claims to be “the way, the truth, and the life.”

One continuing concern about American tax structure is the problem of loopholes. Some people spend more time looking for loopholes than they do figuring how much tax they owe. Corporations hire experts to look for legal ways to avoid taxes – and they find them. The result for the U.S. government is the loss of millions of dollars – all because of loopholes.

Some people develop a “loophole mentality” in their relationship to God. For example, when comedian W. C. Fields (1880-1946) was on his deathbed, a visitor found him reading the Bible. Asked what he was doing, he replied, “Looking for loopholes, my friend. Looking for loopholes.” 1

The Bible says that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and that we must believe in Him alone as our Savior (John 3:15-16; 10:9; 14:6). But some people secretly feel that when they die and stand before the judgment seat they will find some other way to get in. They refuse to believe the Bible’s teaching that salvation is through Christ alone (John 3:5, 15-16; 14:6; Acts 4:12) and that eternal punishment awaits those who reject Christ (John 3:36; Revelation 20:15). They have convinced themselves that they will somehow escape the final judgment and its terrible consequences.

But they are wrong. Jesus is the only “way” to heaven. According to Jesus Christ, there are no other ways to God the Father. You may ask, “What right does Jesus have to make such an exclusive claim?” The Bible affirms that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power… by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8).

The resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of history. Thomas Arnold authored a three-volume history of Rome and was appointed to Oxford’s Chair of Modern History. Concerning the evidence behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he said, “I have been used for years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than that Christ died and rose from the dead.”  2 

The early followers of Jesus made it clear that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) other than Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 4:10-11). The Bible, God Himself, and His followers teach that there is only one way to God and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. To believe or teach something else means you must deal with the authority of the Bible and the credibility of Jesus Christ. 3

If you have never understood and believed this, listen to what God says in Isaiah 45:22: “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” God the Son, Jesus Christ, now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from eternal death and give you His free gift of everlasting life. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). When you believed in Jesus, the Bible says you can “know” you have eternal life. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13).

When you believe in Christ, He comes to live inside of you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39; Romans 5:5; 8:9-11; I Corinthians 6:19; 12:13; Galatians 3:2; 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14). Then you can begin to experience His promise of peace of heart and look forward to a prepared place in heaven where you can enjoy His presence forever unhindered by sin and shame. But it all begins when you realize and accept that the only way to heaven is through a Person – Jesus Christ Himself.

If you have never made the decision to believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life, you can do so right now because there are no loopholes. You can simply tell God through prayer that you are now believing in His Son, Jesus Christ, as your only hope of heaven.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I come to You now as a sinner who deserves to be separated from You forever. I now realize that You are the only way to heaven. You proved this through Your words and works, the greatest of which was when You died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead. Lord Jesus, I am now believing or trusting in You alone (not my religion, my prayers, or my good life) to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and the future home I will have in heaven. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

If you just believed in Jesus as your only hope of heaven, we would love to hear from you. Simply send a message to us through the “Contact Us” page. To grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please explore this website or www.knowing-jesus.com. Thank you, and may Jesus richly bless you.

ENDNOTES:

1. See Our Daily Bread, October 5, 2002 – https://odb.org/2002/10/05/looking-for-loopholes/.

2. Arnold Thomas, Sermons on the Christian Life – Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close, 6th ed. (London: T. Fellowes, 1859), pg. 324.

3. See EvanTell’s The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014), pg. 776.

How can we find peace under pressure? Part 3

“I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3b

We are learning from John 14:1-6 how we can find peace under pressure. Not only can we find peace under pressure by focusing on Jesus’ promise of peace of heart (John 14:1) and a prepared place in heaven (John 14:2-3a), but also on the PROMISE OF HIS PRESENCE IN HEAVEN (John 14:3b). Jesus had briefly referred to the mansions He would prepare for us in heaven (John 14:2-3a). We might have expected Jesus to give more details about His preparations, relieving any anxiety His disciples might have felt. Instead He emphasized His presence, not His preparation.

Christ said to His eleven believing disciples, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3b). In Jesus’ mind, what would make heaven so special is that they would be with Him and He with them. Yes, Jesus is preparing a wonderful place for us in heaven. But all the beauty of that place will not match the beauty of His presence.

One Saturday, a dentist went to his office to give treatment to a patient and took his dog along with him. Leaving the dog in the waiting room, the dentist examined his patient. After treating him, he spoke to him about the Lord. As they talked, the patient commented, “Sometime I wish you could show me what heaven is going to be like.” The dentist answered, “I think I can and I think I can do it now.”

Going to the door, he called his dog who immediately came running and sat down at the dentist’s feet. As the dentist cupped his hands beneath the dog’s head, the dog rested his head in his owner’s hands and stared into the face of his lord and master. The dentist said to his patient, “This is what I think heaven will be like. We will be looking in to the face of our Lord and Master.”

The greatest blessing of going to heaven is not the splendor of that wonderful place, but being in the presence of our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Enjoying ceaseless personal fellowship with Christ is what will make heaven so special. This is why the apostle Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). Life on earth for Paul was focused on the all-consuming Lord Jesus Christ. But he saw death as “gain” or an advantage because then He would be face-to-face in the presence of the most important Person in his life – Jesus Christ. This is what Paul lived for and it is what we can live for as well.

I love the chorus in the hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” written by Helen Howarth Lemmel:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for emphasizing Your presence in heaven, not Your preparation of that incredible place. We were created to enjoy a personal relationship with You more than anything else. Lord, it is difficult for me at times to rest my head upon Your shoulder because I believe the lie that my value comes from doing instead of being. Please teach me to calm and quiet my soul in Your loving presence. I want to know more deeply the rest and security of being in the presence of Your tender care. Oh how I look forward to being with You in heaven where sin and shame will no longer be present and I will be overcome with Your perfect love. Please help me to keep my eyes on You now so the darkness of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of Your glory and grace. In Your marvelous name I pray. Amen.

How can we find peace under pressure? Part 2

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” John 14:2-3a

With the rise in COVID-19 cases recently, it is no surprise that the primary complaint among people in the United States is stress. Add to this the social and political unrest along with the effects of COVID (ex. loss of jobs/income, more isolation, cancellations or postponements of vacations/travel, etc.), and you have a recipe for deep distress. We need to find relief from the constant pressure we are facing every day.

In John 14:1-6, we are learning to find peace under pressure. The first way is to focus on Christ’s promise of a peace of heart (John 14:1). Today we discover that we are to focus on CHRIST’S PROMISE OF A PREPARED PLACE IN HEAVEN (John 14:2-3a) for those who believe in Him.

Jesus said to His eleven disciples, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2). Jesus explains why His disciples can trust in Him even during His absence. The separation which would result from Jesus’ departure would not be permanent, it was only temporary: “A Jewish betrothal meant that a man and woman were legally bound in marriage. Before the actual presentation of the bride to the bridegroom, the bridegroom would busy himself preparing a place in his father’s house for the bride. Using this imagery Christ said to these men,” 1 “In My Father’s house are many mansions.”

Where is God the Father now? We know from Jesus’ model prayer that He is in heaven. Christ taught, “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Heaven is where God now resides and rules (2 Corinthians 12:1-4; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 4:1-5:14). The Bible teaches that believers in Jesus will experience heaven in three stages:

1. With Christ in the third heaven before or after the Rapture – the sudden removal of the church from the earth (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; 12:1-4; Philippians 1:21-23; I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4:1-5:14). At any moment the Lord Jesus could come for His church to snatch it off the earth to be with Him in the third heaven. Following the removal of the church, there will be seven years of terrible tribulation on the earth (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 6-19). At the end of the Tribulation period…

2. The Earthly Kingdom of Christ will be established when the church will return with Christ and be on the earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6).  At the end of that thousand years there will be a…

3. New Heaven and New Earth where all believers in Jesus will be with Christ for eternity (Revelation 21-22).

Jesus describes our future home as a large house in heaven where there are “many mansions” (John 14:2). The word translated “mansions” (monē) comes from the verb “to abide” (menō) which would mean an abiding place of permanent rest. This could refer to apartments or suites in God’s house. Cook shares, “The picture is of each child having a suite of rooms in the Father’s house. All will be with the Father, enjoying His hospitality and sharing His love.” 2

Jesus is referring to literal homes or dwellings that will be in the New Jerusalem which will descend from heaven to the new earth (Revelation 21-22) after the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 20:1-6). The New Jerusalem will be fifteen hundred miles high, long, and wide (Revelation 21:16). God promises that in our future home “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4). What a great source of comfort this provides for those who are deeply troubled by the death of believers today.

Christ does not have any doubts about the existence of our future home in heaven when He says, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” In the Greek language, the phrase “If it were not so” expresses that the condition is unfulfilled. In other words, if heaven were otherwise, and it is not, Jesus would have told them. Christ took for granted that there would be plenty of rooms for all the saved people in heaven.

In anticipation of their reunion with Him, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Yes, Jesus was leaving them, but He would not forget them. He would occupy Himself preparing a real place where He and they would dwell together forever. He was going to make ready the place where He would welcome them permanently. Certainly, Jesus would not go to prepare rooms in heaven for His disciples if He did not expect that they would finally arrive there. He was sure they would make it to heaven. He would see to it.

Then Jesus says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” (John 14:3a). Just as the first century bridegroom in Palestine would send for his bride when all was ready, 4  so Christ would do the same when He had completed His work of preparing a place in His Father’s house for His bride, the church (cf. Ephesians 5:22-24; Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-3).

When I went on a mission trip to a province in the southern Philippines (July 2016), I went to an evacuation center where refugees lived whose homes were destroyed in the recent Muslim war. As we walked around the center, we noticed that the people were not only homeless, but they were also hopeless. After obtaining permission from a village leader to share with these seventy-five people, my translator and I told them that God loves them so much that He wants to give them a permanent home in heaven which no one can destroy nor take away from them. The people listened intently but showed no emotion as we talked about our problem that separates us from God (Rom. 3:23; 6:23) and God’s only solution through the Lord Jesus (John 14:6; I Corinthians 15:3-6)!      

After explaining that Jesus now invites everyone to believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift of everlasting life (John 3:16b), we then told them they could tell God they were now trusting in Jesus (Isa – the Muslim name for Jesus) by repeating this prayer after us. As we began to pray, we noticed that the people would not repeat the prayer aloud. Instead, they raised their hands toward heaven – something Muslims normally do when they pray to God.

I got goose bumps later when I saw a photo of them raising their hands during the prayer because I had no idea they did this while we actually prayed because my eyes were closed. After praying with them, we asked the people to raise their hands if they just trusted in Jesus (Isa) for their eternal home in heaven. My heart was filled with joy as sixty-five of the seventy-five people lifted their hands! What a thrill to be able to assure them that because of their faith in Isa, they now have everlasting life which can never be lost or taken away from them (John 6:47; 10:28-29). No one is more powerful than God so that no one can destroy or take away His home for them in heaven (John 10:28-29; 14:1-3).

Think about this! God created the universe in six 24-hour days (Genesis 1), but Jesus has been preparing our place in heaven for almost two thousand years! Remember, Jesus was the Son of a carpenter (Mark 6:3) and no doubt He was a perfect learner growing up. He would know how to build some incredible mansions in heaven. So heaven is going to be a fantastic place – a real place! We will live in mansions made of gold and walk on streets of gold (Revelation 21:18, 21). It will be an incredible place of splendor. The glory of Jesus will shine and light everything, not even a shadow exists there (Revelation 21:22-23). Jesus is the center of heaven and all praises will ring to Him. The joy shall never end there. Heaven is a place of inhabitants. It is not empty. It is filled with people who have believed in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life (John 3:5, 15-16; Revelation 21:27).

Christ said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” Christ assures His disciples (and us), that His separation which had so distressed them, would not be permanent. They could look forward to a blessed reunion with Jesus. One day He would come as a Bridegroom for His bride, the church, and take them to the place He had been preparing for them in heaven during His absence. His return was as certain as His departure. He would take them with Him to His Father’s house.

The phrase, “I will come again and receive you to Myself,” is not a reference to the Resurrection or the death of a believer, but to the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). At any moment, Jesus Christ could come back for His church with believers who already died to meet living believers in the clouds. This truth is intended to comfort and encourage believers whose loved ones have died in the Lord.

The fact that Jesus has been gone almost two thousand years preparing our future home in heaven leads me to believe that we cannot begin to imagine how wonderful that place will be. In America at the turn of the twentieth century, people who were poor and homeless were moved into “poorhouses.” These institutions were considered to be just about the worst place a person could live.

A doctor was visiting an elderly woman who was dying in such a home. Because of her surroundings, he was greatly surprised to hear her whisper, “Praise the Lord.” So the doctor leaned over and said to her, “How can you possibly praise God here in a poorhouse?” She responded, “That’s easy. I just keep thinking about the move into my heavenly mansion.”

The assurance that a wonderful home, the “Father’s house,” awaited her – in contrast to the depressing poorhouse – gave her cause for praise in spite of her poverty. Heaven is so glorious that human language cannot adequately describe it. Even though the apostle John described the heavenly city in Revelation 21 and 22, our finite minds fail to comprehend the full splendor of what he saw. Jesus loves us so much He is preparing a magnificent place for each of us who have trusted in Christ alone for everlasting life. The more we focus on this prepared place, the more peace we will find while living under pressure.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am so thankful that this earth is not my final home. What a wonderful place you are preparing for believers to live in the future. I cannot begin to imagine just how magnificent that place will be! Thank You for Your promise to come back again and receive me to Yourself. What a glorious day that will be when I can be with You forever in the Father’s house. Knowing that You could come back at any moment to take me to be with You in heaven, motivates me to live for You right now. The splendor of that place overshadows the darkness that is on this planet right now. In the Father’s house sin and shame will not be present. The Father’s love will overflow into every room. Death will be gone and life will abound. Hallelujah, Lord Jesus! Hallelujah! In Your matchless name I praise and pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. P J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 436.

2. W. Robert Cook, The Theology of John (Chicago: Moody, 1979), pp. 229-230.

3. ei de mē is a second class condition which expresses that the condition is unfulfilled – see Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 248.

4. Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, pg. 436.

How can we find peace under pressure? Part 1

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” John 14:1 

Opinions about heaven vary in the United States and around the world, but the facts are made clear in the Bible. What the Bible says about heaven is very important for people who find themselves in deep distress. Perhaps someone close to you dies or is near death. Maybe someone dear to you has an injury, an accident, or disease and may not pull through. You may have stress at home, work, with money or the lack thereof, and you are deeply troubled by this. Life has pain and pressure in it and we cannot escape that fact. During these times of deep distress, only words spoken from the very heart of God can meet our deepest needs and comfort our aching hearts.

The disciples of Christ, like we today, found themselves deeply troubled. The disciples’ whole world seemed to be crumbling around them. They had just been told by the Lord Jesus that one of them would betray Christ (John 13:21-30) and that their leader, Peter, was going to deny three times that he ever knew the Lord (John 13:38). Imagine the reaction of some of the disciples when they were told this about Peter. “Not Peter. He is our leader! We look to him for leadership and yet You say he is going to fail You, Lord!?! If Peter stumbles, what about the rest of us?” (cf. Matthew 26:31). Jesus had also announced that He was leaving them and it would be impossible for them to go with Him (John 13:33, 36).

During their three and a half years together, the disciples had grown to depend upon the Lord Jesus to meet their every need. Jesus had assumed a role much like that of a father – providing, protecting, guiding, and instructing these men as children. Now the Lord tells them He is about to leave them? Everything seems to be happening at once. Everything seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Yet Jesus’ words to them remain to give everlasting comfort and revelation to those in distress. In John 14:1-6, we will find peace under pressure by focusing on…

CHRIST’S PROMISE OF A PEACE OF HEART (John 14:1). Jesus looks at the stunned look on His disciples’ faces and with a gentle and compassionate voice He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1). Jesus is saying, “Stop being troubled.” This word means “to shake together, stir up, disturb, distress.” A storm was raging in the hearts of these men. Their hearts were tossed like waves in the wind by the words of Jesus, and why not? He had said He was leaving them (John 13:33, 36), that He would die (John 13:31-32), that one of them was a traitor (John 13:21), that Peter would disown Him (John 13:38), and that all of them would fall away (Matthew 26:31). They sensed something major was going to happen and their hearts were afraid.

Jesus did not condemn them for this as He knew what it was like to have a “troubled” heart (cf. John 11:33; 13:31) where this same word was used of Him. Our Savior experienced every emotion that we experience (John 11:33). He wept with those who grieved. He experienced the sorrow that death brings. He felt angry when His Father’s temple was corrupted (John 2:13-16). He felt the pain of being rejected by one of His own disciples (John 13:21). He understands and wants us not to be troubled, but to trust Him, to lean upon Him. Christ does not condemn us for having troubled hearts. He offers relief by trusting in Him. How do you spell relief? T-R-U-S-T.

The solution to a troubled heart is faith in Jesus. Christ says, “You believe in God, believe also in Me.” Christ is making two statements here: “You believe in God, you also believe in Me.” These eleven believing disciples already believed “in God” by believing in the One whom God sent for everlasting life (John 5:24), 3  since Jesus has the same divine nature and purpose as God the Father. 4 But now they were to “keep on believing” in Jesus to find His peace in their hearts.

When we trust in Jesus, He promises peace of heart. As we take our minds off of what is troubling us and redirect them on to Christ, His peace fills our hearts. This is peace that surpasses all human understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).

In 1999, my wife and I learned that her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a very aggressive form of cancer. He was only given two weeks to live. In all the time my wife and I had been with her father, he never talked about his faith. His generation considered this to be a very private matter and did not usually speak openly of such things.

Being very concerned about his eternal destination, we drove four hours from central Iowa to St. Paul, Minnesota, to visit him on his deathbed in the hospital. When we arrived there, both his family and the hospital staff were amazed at the peace Pat’s father displayed even though he was in great pain and facing imminent death. When we were alone with him, Pat and I asked him if he would go to heaven when he died. He paused and began to shake in his hospital bed. At first, I thought he was crying. But as I watched him, it became obvious that he was laughing so hard no sound was coming out of his mouth. After his laughter calmed down, Pat’s father assured us he had trusted in Christ when he was a child and that he knew he was destined to be with Jesus in heaven when he died. My wife and I were overcome with joy as we learned of this wonderful news!

Many times in life, human understanding fails us because we cannot see as God sees. But as we trust in Jesus, He gives us perfect peace, peace in the midst of our deepest pain, peace in the midst of our greatest fears. Jesus brings us peace because we know that something much better than this life awaits us after death.

Pat’s father had this assurance. Do you? If not, you can find this assurance by transferring all your trust onto Jesus Christ for His free gift. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting.” (John 6:47). Jesus is not asking you to live a good life or pray every day, because He did NOT say, “He who lives a good life or prays every day has everlasting life.” He is asking you to BELIEVE IN HIM because He said, ““He who believes in Me has everlasting.” Everlasting life is a free gift because Jesus paid for it all when He died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). All you must do is believe or trust in Christ alone for His free gift of everlasting life. If you have never understood and believed this before, but now you do, you can tell God this through prayer.

“DearLord Jesus,I come to you as a sinner who is deeply distressed. My life seems so out of control. I believe You demonstrated Your love for me when You died on a cross in my place for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion) to give me everlasting life. Thank You for the peace I now have with You. Thank You for everlasting life. In Your name I pray. Amen.”

For those of us who believe in Jesus, please join me in this prayer to Christ.

“Lord Jesus, like Your disciples, there is much in our world that causes a storm to rage in our hearts right now. Many of us are distressed with an increase in COVID cases, social unrest, political divisions, and numerous other factors that are out of our control. Thank You for bringing us back to You so our fears can be replaced with faith in You – the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, the Creator of the Universe, the One Who calms the wind and the waves of turmoil in our lives. Thank You for Your peace which is independent of our circumstances and feelings. We love love You, Lord Jesus. In Your peace-giving name I pray. Amen.”

ENDNOTES:

1. The present imperative verb tarassesthō (ταρασσέσθω) with the negative particle mē (μὴ) means to “stop being troubled” – see  J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 253.

2. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures In the New Testament, Vol. V, (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 248.

3. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 443.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (pg. 1801). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

How can we overcome self-centeredness? Part 3

“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” John 12:27

When we encounter stressful situations, it may be easy for us to want to medicate our uncomfortable feelings with some kind of unhealthy coping behavior such as drinking alcohol, blaming others, gambling, playing violent video games, overeating, overspending, taking drugs, viewing pornography, or watching excessive amounts of TV. We may have practiced these coping behaviors for so long that we are not even aware of what we are doing. The common thread in all of these coping behaviors is self-protection. We are trying to protect ourselves from uncomfortable feelings, so we engage in these unhealthy coping behaviors.

But instead of avoiding these uncomfortable emotions, God wants us to bring them to Him. He already knows they exist, so there is no need to try to hide them from Him. This is similar to what Jesus did when He experienced intense emotions prior to His approaching crucifixion.

In our study of John 12:20-33 we are learning how to overcome self-centeredness. So far we have discovered that the way to overcome our self-centeredness is through…

– Seeking Jesus (John 12:20-22).

– Self-denying service to Christ (John 12:23-26).

The third way to overcome our self-centeredness is by SURRENDERING TO GOD’S CONTROL IN PRAYER (John 12:27-30). Jesus said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” (John 12:27). As Jesus contemplated all that was involved in His approaching death – He would die for the sins of the world and endure separation from His Father – He experienced a surge of emotion which drove Him to His Father in prayer. He was emotionally stressed and turned to His Father asking, “What shall I say (not do)? Father save Me from this hour?” In view of His upcoming sufferings on the cross, He was tempted to shrink back and ask for deliverance from this major trial. This was a normal human response, but Christ prevailed through prayer.

Likewise, if we are going to overcome our self-centeredness, we must surrender to the Lord’s control in prayer. If God’s Spirit is to be released from our inner man, we must surrender to the Lord when we face difficulties and trials instead of succumbing to them and our selfish desires. When we feel out of control, we may often try to control the situation or the people involved. But God wants us to look to Him in prayer during those stressful times. Prayer is dependence upon God. One way to determine how much we are depending upon the Lord is to look at our prayer life. The more we are praying, the more we are depending upon the Lord. The less we are praying, the less we are depending on Him. God will use difficulties in our lives to make us more dependent upon Him.

Jesus then prayed, “Father, glorify Your name.” (John 12:28a). Jesus came to “this hour” (12:27b) of suffering to “glorify” His Father through His death on the cross. Even though Jesus knew all the trials and troubles He was getting in to, He endured them so His Father would be glorified. When Jesus prayed, “Father glorify Your name,” He reminds us of a very important principle. We are to let God glorify what we do, not us. Jesus did not pray, “I will glorify Your name.” Jesus let His Father do the glorifying. He saw that His Father was in control. He submitted to His father and His Father glorified what His Son had done.

We are to focus on doing God’s will and let Him glorify what we do. Do not try to do God’s job. He is big enough to bring honor to Himself. How often we may try to get in God’s way by drawing attention to what we do. Let God draw the attention. God glorified and exalted His Son (Philippians 2:8-11) after His Son submitted to His will, and one day God will exalt and honor those who are surrendered to Him now. The Bible says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (I Peter 5:6). Our responsibility is to humble ourselves before God. It is His responsibility to exalt us in His time and way.

Also, when Jesus faced the cross, He denied Himself and sacrificed His life. His self-denying obedience to the Father’s will glorified the Father. Jesus wants His disciples to face trials in the same way. He struggled and went to God and sought to glorify Him. Can we say that our purpose in going through trials is to glorify God? By His grace we certainly can. When we endure trials through God’s strength, He receives all the glory.

As Jesus approached the time of His sufferings, He understood who was in control, but did the people? 28b Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’ 29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.’ ” (John 12:28b-29). A thunderous voice from heaven said, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again” through the death of Jesus. God the Father was in control and He would glorify Himself through the triumph of the cross. The crowd heard the sound of God’s voice, but some thought it had thundered, while others thought an angel had spoken to Christ. They did not understand God’s message, but they should have.

Christian author and speaker, J. Vernon McGee says, “That is the same reaction many people still have today. They say God’s Word is full of errors and the miracles recorded can’t be accurate. Because they don’t believe in them, they say it just ‘thundered.’ ” 1  

“Jesus answered and said, ‘This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.’ ” (John 12:30). God’s message was meant to benefit the crowd, not Jesus. They needed to recognize that God the Father was in control and would be victorious. God intended this to be an auditory approval of His Son so that the crowd might believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah-God.

Jesus understood His Father’s voice, do we? We have the Holy Spirit to help us understand God’s Word. First John 2:20, 26-27 say, “20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things… 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 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.” Ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding and teach you as you read and study the Bible. You can also ask His Spirit to give you the power to obey what the Lord is saying to your heart and mind.

One reason we may not hear God’s voice is because we have so much noise in our lives. We may be too busy to slow down enough to hear the still small voice of God’s Spirit. Take time today to slow down and listen to the voice of God. Find a quiet place to meet with the Lord. Then take a few moments to do some deep breathing. Inhale God’s peace and exhale your stress. Inhale God’s peace and exhale your stress. Then read a Bible passage aloud, slowly, and attentively. Then pause to let it sink in. Read the passage again, this time asking the question, “Where am I in this verse?” Finally, read the verse or passage again noticing what word or words jump out at you, grabbing your attention. Meditate on those words. Chew on them for a while.

Then write down what you observe the Holy Spirit saying to you. Writing down what you observe clarifies your thought processes and involves another whole section of your brain. Then request that the Holy Spirit help you see how all of this applies to your life. Instead of asking God to help you analyze His Word, ask Him to use His Word to analyze you. This is a supernatural process that produces a neurochemical flow of new understanding where your mind is being renewed (Romans 12:1-2). Once the Holy Spirit gets you headed in the direction God wants you to go, dedicating yourself to that direction in life will be used by the Lord to transform your life from the inside out.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for not surrendering to Your intense emotions when You contemplated the cross. Instead, You surrendered to the will of Your Father Who sent You to glorify His name by dying in our place on a cross as our Substitute. If Your love was a feeling, You never would have died for us. Thank You for showing me that You understand what it is like to feel troubled inwardly when faced with extremely difficult circumstances (Hebrews 4:15). You know how it feels to have a storm of emotions raging in one’s heart before yielding to the Father’s will. Thankfully, You are not overwhelmed by my intense emotions. You understand that the best thing I can do with them is to share them with You in prayer. And as I talk to You about those uncomfortable emotions, their power is diffused and Your peace that surpasses human understanding can guard my heart and mind as I yield to Your control. By Your grace, I want to give everyone and everything to You. Glorify Your name my Lord and my God however You deem best. In Jesus’ matchless name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. 5 vols. Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983, 4:448.