It was a deeply depressing moment, and it occurred on the worst possible occasion. The conversation was extremely distressing. The men gathered to remember God's great victory that brought their nation into existence. It was a sober time, but a joyful time. They should have talked about God's incredible power to deliver His people, they talked about their leader going away.

It was not fair! They left everything to follow this man! Recently he was more popular than ever! A month ago they feared his death, but the last few days he was untouchable. Their concept of victory was in their grasp!

Now the man who was the center of their daily companionship said he was going away, and for the first time he said none of them could go with him. Daily life without Jesus' physical companionship was unthinkable! All their expectations were centered in his physical presence, and now he said he was leaving.

John 14:1-4 "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going."

(The same conversation.)

John 14:16-21 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."

Please remember these statements were Jesus' statements to eleven of his apostles just hours before he was arrested.

  1. I call to your attention several statements Jesus made to eleven of his disciples/apostles in this reading.
    1. First statement: "You trust God; trust me in the same way you trust God."
      1. The eleven men are confused and disturbed.
      2. Their confusion is so deep that they are troubled in their inner being.
      3. It was much deeper than intellectual troubling, more than "this does not make sense."
      4. They struggled with troubled hearts; their emotions as well as their thinking were deeply distressed.
      5. Jesus said they had an option.
        1. They could be heart troubled by what he said.
        2. Or, they could trust him.
        3. The antidote to a troubled heart is faith in Jesus.
    2. Second statement: "In my Father's house are many dwelling places."
      1. There are several contrasts made by Jesus' use of dwelling places.
        1. In a poor country with primitive housing, a big issue confronting most people was, "Where are you going to live?"
        2. As they followed Jesus, they did not have a house--Jesus owned nothing.
        3. But Jesus said his Father's house had lots of rooms, and his Father's house would be their permanent residence.
      2. He would leave them now, but eventually they would live with him--permanently.
        1. Because he was leaving did not mean he would forget them.
        2. His promise: he would be back for them so they could live with him permanently.
    3. The third statement: "I will not leave you as orphans."
      1. When Jesus said this, orphans endured one of life's greatest disadvantages.
      2. Jesus was not abandoning them.
        1. God's Spirit was coming in his place.
        2. He had been with them temporarily.
        3. The Spirit would be with them permanently.
      3. Also, in a sense he was coming to them.
        1. In the same way that the Father was in him, he would be in them.
        2. When they understood, they would show love for him by keeping his commandments.
        3. The Father would also love that obedient person.
        4. Jesus would disclose himself to that obedient person.

  2. At the moment Jesus made those statements, these eleven men were deeply troubled, and the situation would get much worse before they understood.
    1. The situation became much worse when Jesus was arrested.
    2. The situation became much worse when they ran into the night.
    3. The situation became much worse when Jesus was tried and convicted.
    4. The situation became much worse when Jesus was executed.
    5. The situation was as bad as it could get when Jesus' dead body was buried and they hid in an upper room expecting to be killed next.

  3. And they did not understand.
    1. They did not understand when Jesus was arrested.
    2. They did not understand when Jesus was convicted.
    3. They did not understand when Jesus was killed.
    4. They did not understand when Jesus was resurrected.
    5. In fact, for the first 49 days after Jesus' resurrection, they did not understand--nothing made sense to them.
    6. Only after the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 did they understand, and everything made sense.
      1. Jesus still had been arrested, tried, convicted, and killed--but they understood.
      2. Jesus had been resurrected, but now they understood.
      3. They knew where he was, why he was gone, and the certainty of his return.
      4. Now they understood forgiveness as never before.
      5. Now they had hope as never before.

  4. Too many times the American Christian of today feels abandoned, feels like God's orphan.
    1. Many situations can cause us to feel abandoned.
      1. Someone dies that we loved and depended on every day, and we feel abandoned.
      2. Someone whose companionship has nourished us daily for years is horribly sick, and we feel abandoned.
      3. The lifestyle we enjoyed for many years--maybe for all our lives--becomes impossible, and we feel abandoned.
      4. The job we depended on to care for us as long as we lived disappears, and we feel abandoned.
    2. All too often we feel like God let us down.
      1. Too commonly we are convinced that we made a deal with God.
        1. We would worship Jesus Christ and call ourselves Christians and God would take care of us.
        2. That was the deal, and we expect God to keep His end of the bargain.
      2. So when life goes in completely unacceptable ways, it is God's fault--He is not keeping His part of the deal.
        1. If someone we love dies, God failed us.
        2. If someone we depend on gets sick, God failed us.
        3. If our lifestyle changes in unacceptable ways, God failed us.
        4. If the job we depended on ceases to exist, God failed us.

  5. Today's general conditions cause me enormous fears for me, for fellow Christians, for everyone in the Lord's church.
    1. Commonly, American Christians do a horrible job of separating the American dream from Christian hope.
      1. Far too often we combine the American dream with Christian hope.
      2. We expect Christian hope to produce the American dream.
      3. So if in any way we fail to realize the American dream, God has failed to keep his promises.
      4. I am afraid because the American dream is the most important thing in our lives.
      5. I am afraid because too many Christians decide the purpose of Christian hope is to produce the American dream.
    2. Consider a couple of illustrations.
      1. Illustration one: today more children under five years of age will be hungry all day and go to bed hungry than children under five years of age will have their hunger satisfied with plenty of nourishing food.
        1. If their parents develop faith and became Christians today, the vast majority of those children would still be hungry tomorrow.
        2. Missionaries dare not create the impression that obedience to Jesus Christ produces the American dream.
      2. Illustration two: Joyce and I once lived where 50% of all children born alive died before they reached the age of five.
        1. One of the forces that killed young children were measles epidemics.
        2. When measles epidemics struck rural villages, the young children of Christians died, too.
    3. "Then God abandoned them!"
      1. No! No! No!
      2. That powerfully illustrates my fear: too many Christians decide if God does or does not abandon them by using materialistic standards.
      3. If that is your conclusion, you have a basic misunderstanding of Christian existence.
        1. Jesus' cross was not about physical advantages!
        2. Christian suffering was not about physical advantages!
        3. Christian martyrdom was not about physical advantages!
      4. Christian existence is about forgiveness.
        1. It is about redemption.
        2. It is about the destruction of guilt.
        3. It is about a genuine hope that goes beyond death.
        4. It is about belonging to God in life and death.
        5. It is about the strength to live for Christ and die for God.

  6. Allow me to ask you some questions.
    1. Are you convinced that the best thing that could happen to America, the best thing that could happen to the world is for God's will to be done?
    2. Are you willing for anything necessary to happen in your life, in your family, in our country, and in our world for God's will to come into complete existence?
    3. If your suffering helped someone else find faith in Christ, would you suffer?
    4. If your loss helped someone else find hope in Christ, would you endure loss?
    5. If your sacrifice helped someone else turn life around and direct it toward God, would you endure sacrifice?
    6. If your endurance and perseverance helped someone else find God's strength, would you accept hardship?
    7. If your death helped someone else find salvation in Christ, would you die?

God's house has plenty of room. Jesus wants us to live there with him--permanently. We have an option. We can let the uncertainties of physical life distress and trouble us. Or we can trust Jesus to come get us and take us home with him.

1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 26 May 2002

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