Do not let your hearts be troubled
Do not let your hearts be troubled!
Jesus says to his followers that the only way to the Father, to a right and holy life, to a relationship with God the Father, to intimacy with God, is through him.
Do not let your hearts be troubled!
Jesus speaks these words after he has told his followers that he is going away and that they can’t come with him;
He has also just told Peter, one of his first followers, that he – Peter – will deny him three times.
That is pretty devastating. These are people who have put their trust in Jesus and followed him for the last few years of their life.
Their faith in Jesus, and their faith in themselves, is going to be radically tested.
Perhaps for some of us this whole Covid-19 thing has made us question faith – particularly if difficult things have happened. Maybe we have questioned Jesus – maybe we have been forced to question the integrity of our own faith. When it gets tough, when my own well-being is threatened, will I still live for him? Will I still put him first or will I just want to save my own skin?
But Jesus gives his followers and us several reasons why our hearts should not be troubled
1. Jesus reassures us that if he goes away it is only for a short while, it is for our good, and he will come back to us
He says to his followers that he is going to prepare a place for them. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also”. John 14:3
He is speaking about his arrest, his execution and his death. He is going to go into death.
But what he is saying is that even though he is going away, and they will feel abandoned and lost, it is for their sake. He is preparing a place for them - and then he will come back to them.
Because Jesus died and rose, we know that he will never leave us.
He promises that.
However, there are times when we feel abandoned and lost, when Jesus is distant to us.
In Psalm 44, the Psalmist remembers the great festivals and victories of the people of God. He speaks of how God was with his people. And then he says, ‘Yet you have rejected us and abased us, and have not gone out with our armies’ – even though the people have remained faithful to you.
But when God stands a little off, he has not abandoned us. He always gives us the strength to persevere, and to hold on, and the necessary glimpses of him that we need. And it will not be for long.
And the reason he distances himself from us is for our benefit, for our greater joy: maybe it is to make us stronger, to teach us something new, or to make us aware of our dependence on him, or so that we have that greater longing for him and his Father’s house.
2. Jesus reassures us that the only way to the Father is through him.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. John 14:6
We are not going to get to the Father, to God through our own prayers, our own devotions or our own right living.
We are not going to get to the Father because of our knowledge of the bible or the number of times we have live streamed church.
We are not going to get to the Father because of our own wisdom, faithfulness, commitment, integrity or love.
Peter discovered that.
For three years he had followed Jesus
He swore that he would always be loyal to Jesus, that he would die for him.
And then, in a moment, it is all gone. He denies him.
When that happens, Peter is heartbroken. He has let Jesus down. He has let the other disciples down. He has let himself down.
Story of the three balloons
Peter felt awful when he denied Jesus. We’re told that he goes out and weeps. He must have thought it was the end.
If God existed, he was up there and Peter was down here, and God would want to have nothing more to do with him. All that effort had been futile
But Peter does not have to wait long. The risen Jesus comes to him.
And Peter runs to him. In fact, he swims to him!
And Jesus welcomes Peter and just as Peter denied Jesus three times, so Jesus commissions Peter three times.
Peter learns so much.
He learns about the love and forgiveness of Jesus for sinners.
He realises that if his faith depends on his own strength and will power, it will let him down.
He learns that Jesus is the one who is the way into the presence of the Father.
And that is our assurance
We don’t need to be strong, or wise, or good or make heartfelt commitments or belong to the right ‘tribe’. We do not get to the Father through that.
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
And all we can do is to come to him and trust him for everything.
People sometimes say: ‘I have a strong faith. I love Jesus’
That is great, but the subject of that sentence is wrong.
It would be far far better to say: ‘My faith is weak. I don’t know how much I love Jesus. But I know that he loves me, that he is the way and I have come to him’.
3. Jesus reassures us that He will answer our prayers
“I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son”. John 14:13
One of the reasons that we feel let down by God is that we read verses like this, we pray in Jesus name – and nothing happens.
When we pray, we think of it as a bit like this:
This is me – this is Jesus. 🙏
We come to Jesus and we pray for what we want. And sometimes our prayers are answered – someone we love who is sick gets better, we get a new job with a bigger salary, and good things happen for us and those we pray for. But sometimes the person we pray for dies, or bad things happen for us and for those we pray for.
But this is not praying in Jesus name. It is praying in our own name in front of Jesus
Asking for just what we want is not prayer.
We’re treating him like a servant: do what I want. Make them love me.
And when we don’t get what we want, then we think either that we are not praying right - maybe we need to pray longer or harder, or make some sort of sacrifice, or fast or do some great spiritual feat
Or – as is more usually the case – we think that God has let us down, if he even exists.
But coming to Jesus may begin with this: 🙏
But it is about becoming like this (intertwined hands)
We come to Jesus and the Holy Spirit unites us with Jesus, so that we become part of him, are united with him, just as he is united with the Father.
‘If you know me, you will know my Father also’ (v7)
‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father’ (v8)
‘Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me’ (v11)
The Holy Spirit wants to work in us and so unite us to Jesus, so that his way of thinking become our way of thinking, his works become our works. His desires become our desires. His joy becomes our joy. And so his requests become our requests, and our requests his requests. And when we ask, he asks.
I think our problem with this verse is that we do not understand the incredible richness or freedom of what it means to pray in Jesus’ name.
We want to be healthy, wealthy and wise. We want power and happiness – no, more than that, we want our deepest desires to be fulfilled. We want peace, and we want glory: to be respected and honoured. We want to live long.
What he wants for us is so much more.
He wants us to be people who live well not just for 70 or 80 years but for eternity.
He wants us to know his love for us and to be filled with love; to know that our health and wealth and wisdom, our power and happiness, our fulfilment, peace and glory is wrapped up with the health, wealth, wisdom, power, happiness, fulfilment, peace and glory of others. That our life is tied up with their life. And that when we pray for that life for others, we pray that for ourselves
And if we truly come to him, and allow him to come into us – just, for instance, as we eat the bread and wine and it comes into us, or just as when we read and meditate and learn his word and it comes into us - so he changes our thinking and our desires
Of course we pray ‘for daily bread’.
We pray for those who suffer.
I’m sure you have prayed for deliverance from your enemies, but have you, for instance, ever prayed that you would be filled with the love of God for your enemies?
I’m sure we have prayed for wealth and success in this world, but have you ever prayed that you would be set free from prioritising the things of this world so that you can live for the things that really matter – the things of that world?
I’m sure we’ve prayed that those we love will be healed from sickness, but have you ever prayed that they will never die?
Because those are the sort of prayers that he would pray in and through you. And those are the prayers – if prayed in his name - that he says he will answer.
It may well not be in your timing, or in your way.
It may even mean that he will move away from you for a short while.
It may mean that you or I crash in our faith for a short while.
But he will answer, and he will do it.
Most of us will have times when we feel deserted by God
All of us will have times when we have failed God – sometimes quite spectacularly.
Jesus reassures us, as he reassures his first followers
1. There will be times when he is distant – but it is only for a short while and it is for our own benefit.
2. We don’t need to do anything apart from throw ourselves on his mercy. It is not about us. It is about him. He is the way.
3. And he will work in us and change us, and he will unite us to himself, and he will answer our prayers – in ways that are far more wonderful than we could ask or imagine.
Do not let your hearts be troubled.