How Can I Overcome Loneliness (Video)

This is the fourth video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible several transforming principles for overcoming loneliness.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from FreeBibleimages.org, Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org or they are creative common licenses.

How can we face challenges with courage? Part 4

“Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” John 16:32

During the global pandemic, many people are feeling alone and abandoned. Due to COVID restrictions, we are not able to connect as easily with one another. Worse yet, some of us may feel abandoned by God during this difficult time.

We are learning from the Lord Jesus how we can face challenges with courage. We have discovered that we can face challenges with courage when we…

– Resolve to go directly to the Father in prayer (John 16:25-26).

– Receive the Father’s special love for us (John 16:27).

– Recognize that Jesus is in control (John 16:28-30).

Today Jesus teaches us that we can face challenges with courage when we REST IN THE FATHER WHO WILL NEVER ABANDON US (John 16:31-32). We see that the disciples’ understanding and belief were still immature. After they affirmed their belief that Jesus “came forth from God” (John 16:30), Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe?’ ” (John 16:31). Jesus’ question expects a negative response. Christ was questioning what they would do in the near future when they would face difficulties and danger? “Will you believe in Me then?” Jesus asks. Christ knew them better than they knew themselves.

Jesus then explains, “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” (John 16:32). Christ knew their faith would be tested before the night was over. When Jesus was arrested these men would “be scattered” and stricken with fear (cf. Matthew 26:56), going in every direction, much like the people in Madrid, Spain, when the bulls are released and scatter throngs of people. When Jesus needed His disciples the most, they abandoned Him after confirming their faith in Him.

What Jesus is saying to these men is, “ ‘You don’t believe as strongly as you think you do. Now, while all is quiet and safe, this is easy for you to say. But very soon you’re going to forget your fragile faith and run for your lives.’

“Have you ever made a vow to God during a church service only to back away from it later—perhaps as quickly as when you left the church parking lot? It’s easy to boast about our faith; it’s harder to live it, as Peter would soon discover (18:15-18, 25-27). This is one of the reasons why God causes us to experience challenges. Through them, we come to see how brittle our faith is and how mighty our Savior is, and thus our faith is made a little stronger.” 1

Although the disciples would abandon Him, Christ assures them, “yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” Jesus may have felt lonely at that time, but He knew He was not alone.

A young woman’s brief note spoke volumes. “I am a handicapped person in a wheelchair,” she wrote. “I am very lonely even though I know I’m never alone. God is always there. I don’t have a lot of people I can talk to.”

Loneliness has been termed the most desolate word in the English language. It is no respecter of age, race, economic status, or intelligence. Albert Einstein said, “It is strange to be known so universally, and yet to be so lonely.”

God made us for intimacy and companionship with others. Even before sin entered the world, God declared that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). That is why many people often feel so empty inside. 

Christ most likely felt lonely when the disciples abandoned Him at the time of His arrest, but His Father’s presence more than compensated for this, however. Christ said, “Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” We can lessen our feelings of loneliness by reaching out to others. But even more important, we must reach out to the Lord who will never abandon us.

Yes, people may stop loving us and even abandon us, but God will never stop loving us (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 8:38-39) and He will never forsake us (cf. Hebrews 13:5). Christ probably felt disappointed with His disciples for not supporting Him. But we are no different than the disciples. We also fail the Lord. But God never fails us. Psalm 118:8-9 say, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” Why is it better to trust in the Lord than to trust in people? Because He is always there for us. I cannot be with you twenty-four hours a day nor can you be with me every hour of every day. Only God can be there for us all the time. 

Evangelist D. L. Moody loved to tell the story of a preacher he knew in Scotland who would go once a week to a children’s hospital to try to comfort sick little ones. On one trip, he met a boy of six who was facing the amputation of his leg. The preacher asked if the boy had anyone to stay with him as he waited for the surgery. The boy explained that his father was dead, and his mother was too ill to leave their home. Feeling sorry for him, the preacher talked about how caring and loving the hospital staff were, trying to find some way to offer him comfort. Then the little boy said, “Jesus will be with me.”  2

We never have to face challenges alone because God is always with us. There may be days when we do not “feel” His presence as we would like, but there will never be days when He is not there. Rest in the arms of His presence and He will give you the courage to face whatever challenges come your way.

Prayer: Father God, during these challenging times I am realizing that my feelings often lie to me. They tell me I am all alone and unloved. But Your Word tells me that You are always with me and that You will always love me even when others abandon me or stop loving me. Your grace toward me is truly amazing. Even when I abandon You or fail to love You back, You do not leave me nor stop loving me. Your constant presence in my life gives me the courage to face difficult situations. Thank You for being such a gracious and loving Father. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTE:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1812.

2. https://www.dailyintheword.org/rooted/finding-courage-in-god’s-presence.

How can we become more fruitful for the Lord? Part 2

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away.” John 15:2a

We are learning the secrets of becoming fruitful for our Lord. The first way is to realize that Jesus is our only source of life (John 15:1). The second way for us to become more fruitful for the Lord is to RECEIVE JESUS’ ENCOURAGEMENT FROM HIS WORD (John 15:2a). Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away.” (John 15:2a). The phrase “every branch in Me”refers to Christians connected to Christ in fellowship. “Every branch” refers to Christians because they are in Jesus (“in Me”). “The Vine (the Son) feeds the branches, and the Gardener (the Father) tends the branches. God’s goal for every Christian is to increase in fruit bearing. We are to pro-gress from producing no fruit (15:2) to some fruit (15:2) to more fruit (15:2) to much fruit (15:5) to remaining fruit (15:16). Fruitfulness is a life of spiritual usefulness and productivity for the good of others and the glory of God. It’s the proof of true discipleship (15:8). 1

Dillow writes, “The phrase ‘in Me’ is used 16 times in John’s Gospel (6:56; 10:38; 14:10 [twice], 11, 20, 30; 15:2, 4 [twice], 5-7; 16:33; 17:21, 23). In each case it refers to fellowship with Christ. It is inconsistent then to say the phrase in 15:2 refers to a person who merely professes to be saved but is not. A person ‘in Me’ is always a true Christian.” 2  

This interpretation also finds support in the analogy of the vine and branches. “Branch(es)” (klēma, lit. tendrils) of a vine share the life of the vine. Jesus taught that some believers in Him do not bear fruit (cf. Luke 8:14). Fruit-bearing is the normal but not the inevitable consequence of having divine life. This is true of grapevines too. Grapevines have branches that bear fruit, but they must also have some branches that presently bear no fruit, but are growing stronger so they will bear fruit in the future. There can be genuine life without fruit in a vine, and there can be in a Christian as well.

“No plant produces fruit instantaneously; it takes time for a plant to grow strong enough to bear fruit. The New Testament teaches that God effects many changes in the life of every person who trusts in Jesus for salvation. Lewis Sperry Chafer noted 33 things that happen to a person the moment he or she trusts Jesus Christ as Savior. However, these are all invisible changes.” 3

How does God respond to believers who do not bear fruit? Jesus says that He “takes away” that branch. The word for “takes away” (airō) can also mean “to lift up.” 4 This was the common practice among ancient vineyard growers during this time of the year. 5 Vineyard growers would lift up fruitless vines which were on the ground in order for them to become fruit-bearing again. Lifting the branch off the ground prevents unhealthful secondary roots from growing into the ground and also allows air to dry the branch and keep it from becoming moldy and diseased. 

This understanding of airō fits the context very well. Jesus is speaking to His believing disciples and they may have been like branches on the ground (discouraged) when Jesus told them He would be leaving them, and that Peter would deny Him (John 13:33, 38). God the Father, the Vinedresser, “takes them away” from the ground by lifting them up or encouraging them through Jesus’ promises about heaven (John 14:1-6) and the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18, 25-27) so they can become fruitful for Him.

When we become discouraged, and all of us do, we need to receive Christ’s Word so God can lift us up through the promises of His Word or through another believer who shares those promises with us.

Do you feel that God is against you during the COVID pandemic? Refocus on Romans 8:31-32 [GNT]: “In view of all this, what can we say? If God is for us, who can be against us? Certainly not God, Who did not even keep back His own Son, but offered Him for us all! He gave us His Son—will He not also freely give us all things?”

Do you feel separated from God’s love during this difficult season? Embrace God’s promise in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Do you feel “less than” or lacking? Meditate on Colossians 2:10: “And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”

Do you feel all alone? Listen to Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Do you feel abandoned or rejected? Receive this encouragement from Hebrews 13:5: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ ”

Are you feeling defeated by shame? Listen to Romans 10:11 [NLV]: “The Holy Writings say, ‘No one who puts his trust in Christ will ever be put to shame.’ ”

Do you feel overwhelmed with anxiety? Open your heart to I Peter 5:6-7 [GNT]: “Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that He will lift you up in His own good time. Leave all your worries with Him, because He cares for you.”  

The more we receive Jesus’ encouragement, the more loving we can become toward others (and ourselves), and then reach the lost with the life-giving gospel of Christ!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, during these difficult times I can become like a fruitless grapevine on the ground that needs to be lifted up or encouraged by Your promises. Please use Your Word to breathe new life into my soul today. I need You, my Lord and my God, to help me see myself and my circumstances from Your perspective so I may love others, including myself, with Your love. Then I will be more motivated to share Your gospel message with those who are perishing without You in their lives. Thank You in advance for hearing my prayers. In Your life-giving 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. Joseph C. Dillow, “Abiding Is Remaining in Fellowship: Another Look at John 15:1-6,” Bibliotheca Sacra 147:585 (January-March 1990), pp. 44-53.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pp. 281-282; cf. L. S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol III (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947- 48), pp. 234-65.

4. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pg. 24; The Nelson Study Bible, edited by Earl D. Radmacher (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), pg. 1794; J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 441.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 282; see Gary W. Derickson, “Viticulture and John 15:1-6,” Bibliotheca Sacra 153:609 (January-March 1996):34-52; and John A Tucker, “The Inevitability of Fruitbearing: An Exegesis of John 15:6 — Part II,” Journal of Dispensational Theology 15:45 (August 2011), pg. 52.

Why does the Lord allow a situation to get worse after we pray about it? Part 2

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” John 11:5

We are learning from the seventh miraculous sign recorded in John’s gospel (John 11:1-44) why the Lord allows a situation to grow worse after we pray about it? The first reason is to display more of His glory (John 11:1-4). Raising Lazarus from the dead would bring more glory to Jesus than raising him from his sickbed. We see today that the second reason for Jesus’ delayed response to our prayers is to DECLARE HIS LOVE TOWARD US (John 11:5-6). This may sound strange to us at first, but let’s listen to what the Bible says in these verses. John reminds his readers that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5). The word “loved” (agapáō) means to choose to do what is best for another person. Christ wanted to do what was best for this family. This may seem hard to believe when we look at what Jesus does next.

“So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.” (John 11:6). If Jesus loved this family, why would He wait two more days before going to help them? We must keep verses five and six together. Christ delayed His going to them because He did love them and wanted to do what was best for them in God’s eyes. From Mary and Martha’s perspective, Jesus needed to move faster – “Hurry up, Lord, our brother may die!” But Jesus says, “Slow down and do this My way.”

From this we learn that God’s love may delay His answers to our prayers in ways that we cannot understand at that time. Mary and Martha had no idea what Jesus was going to do when He would come to them later. I’m sure it did not feel like Jesus loved them or Lazarus when He delayed His coming. Perhaps Mary and Martha’s distress over Lazarus’ suffering caused them to forget that death was no obstacle for Jesus. Christ could raise Lazarus from the dead with no more effort than it would take Him to raise Lazarus from his sickbed. Christ delayed His coming because He did love this family. Waiting until Lazarus was dead for a few days would enable Jesus to reveal His love in a deeper and more powerful way to them. While Jesus’ absence caused Lazarus’ death, his death caused his resurrection, and the glory of God was manifested and many people believed in Jesus (cf. John 11:43-45)!

When the Lord does not answer our prayers right away, remember that this does not mean He loves us less. It means He loves you more and knows what is best for you. The apostle Paul reminds us, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39). No one and nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, including our feelings. Just because I do not “feel” the Lord’s love during difficult times, does not change His love for me.

For example, when I am standing in our living room at night amidst our furniture which my wife has beautifully arranged, I then turn off the light so I cannot see the furniture. Does that mean the furniture is not there? Of course not. Just because my eyes and feelings tell me there is no furniture in front of me does not change the truth of the furniture’s existence. God’s inseparable love for us is the same way. Our senses do not always detect what is true. They can be fooled. This is why God calls us to “walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith enables us to experience God’s love when our senses tell us the opposite.

Sometimes we can misinterpret difficulties in our lives as God’s attempt to punish us. Some of us may be running from God right now because of this assumption. For example, “some time back, newspapers carried the story of a young fellow named William who was a fugitive from the police. The teenager had run away with his girlfriend because the parents had been trying to break them up. What William did not know was that an ailment he had been seeing the doctor about was diagnosed just after his disappearance. It was cancer.

“Here was William, doing his best to elude the police, lest he lose his love, while they were doing their best to find him, lest he lose his life. He thought they were after him to punish him; they were really after him to save him.” (Howard Hendricks, Don’t Fake It, Say It with Love).

God is not out to punish us when He permits a situation to get worse after we pray to Him. He loves us and He wants to show Himself to us in deeper and more powerful ways. Don’t run from the Person Who loves you and wants to rescue you. Let Him find you and hold you in His arms.

Prayer: Father God, it is easy for us to quickly assume that You do not love us when bad things happen to us or to those we care about. Thank You for reminding us today that You allow those You love to suffer. After all, You allowed Your only begotten Son Whom You have always loved, to suffer in our place on a cross. Jesus’ love for Lazarus and his family led Him to delay His coming to them so they could discover His love in deeper and more powerful ways. Christ’s absence caused Lazarus’ death, but his death caused his resurrection which would manifest God’s glory so many would believe in Him. Father, when You are absent, we can seek You by faith. Please help us to walk this life on earth by faith and not by sight so we can experience Your love even when it is contrary to our senses. Hold us in Your arms of everlasting mercy when this life does not make sense to us. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.