October 26, 2003

Medicine for a Troubled Heart

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: John Scripture: John 14:1–4


Medicine for a Troubled Heart

John 14:1-4
Sunday, October 26, 2003
Pastor Randy Smith

As an undershepherd of the church, I am often confronted with difficult counseling situations. Frequently people come to me with much pain, anxiety and confusion, desperately looking for relief in a condition that appears overwhelming and hopeless:

That husband who lives with an unsaved wife

That mother who is under appreciated as a housewife

That child who is continually teased at school

That man who is persecuted at work

That senior who is dying of terminal cancer

That student who is struggling with adolescent pressure

That woman who is emotionally abused by her husband

What can I say to these individuals by way of encouragement? What hope can I provide for a circumstance that may never change? What meaningful remedy is available for these troubled hearts?

Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of the church was placed in a similar predicament. His disciples on the eve before the crucifixion were greatly distressed. They had left everything to follow Jesus, but now, according to His own words (12:23-24), Jesus was about to leave them. Separation from their friend and Savior was not part of the plan. Where was Jesus going (12:33, 26)? Why couldn't they accompany Him (12:37)? How would they survive alone in the midst of the hostility they created? Additionally, Judas' betrayal and Peter's denial were just publicly announced (13:21, 38). Did that mean a major trial was imminent? And if Peter, their strongest, would deny Christ, and the unnamed disciple betray Christ, how would the other disciples fare?

There's no doubt that anxiety filled their minds and fear gripped their hearts. The disciples were under substantial emotional pressure that unknowingly at the time was only about to worsen. They were teetering on the brink of failure, and Jesus knew it. The One who could read their hearts like an open book could feel their pain. He knew they needed just the right words of encouragement at the right time. Therefore in verse 1 He said to His disciples, "Do not let your heart be troubled." Literally, "Stop letting your hearts be troubled." Paraphrased, "It may look like your world is falling apart and all is hopeless and the darkness has been victorious, but don't let your heart be troubled."

How all of us with troubled hearts long to identify with those words. We yearn for relied but often feel our troubles are too insignificant for Jesus. We feel He is indifferent or unconcerned about our afflictions. We wonder if Jesus really cares enough to heal a wounded heart. If you believe these lies, don't miss this! During the most pressing moments of our Savior's life, when in just hours the world's sins would come crashing down upon His shoulders, Jesus was completely absorbed in the needs of His disciples. The agonizing Shepherd, "deeply troubled" Himself (12:27, 13:21), sought to comfort His sheep that were about to be scattered.

This morning we'll examine the comforting words that came off Christ's lips and the tenderness of His character as He intended to give the eleven hope when everything appeared hopeless. It is my prayer that this sermon will minister to your heart as you trod through a sin-tainted world often finding yourself on the precipice of anxiety.


The first remedy for a troubled heart is belief in Christ. In the second half of verse one Jesus said, "Believe in God, believe also in Me."

Much debate has surrounded the translation of this verse. Based on the grammar, both of these clauses can be taken in the indicative or imperative mood. In other words, "You believe in God, you believe also in Me" (Indicative Mood-an expression of reality) or "Believe in God, believe also in Me" (Imperative Mood-a command to be obeyed). I personally believe the correct translation is a combination of both moods; indicative for the first clause and imperative for the second, as it is found in the King James Version. In other words, I think Jesus is saying, "You believe in God (indicative-an accepted fact), believe also in Me (imperative-a necessary requirement)."

The disciples, weaned under Judaism, were instructed to believe in God (the Father) from their youth. They were well aware of God's miraculous power and His special favor to Israel. Jesus is simply affirming the fact that the eleven already had some degree of faith in God. Now, declaring His equality in the Godhead, Jesus commands His disciples to have similar faith in Him. Though the disciples had troubled hearts, the initial remedy given by our Savior is childlike trust in Him. Even though He was about to depart and before that be denied, betrayed, abandoned, arrested, flogged and crucified, they needed to believe everything was going according to His perfect and sovereign plan. Their faith would be tested, but their faith should be rock-solid, firmly rooted in Christ as if He were still physically in their presence. Again, Jesus was saying, "Just as you trust a God you cannot see, trust me, even though you will not understand what is happening!"

Early in my pastoral career, I sought to provide theological reasons for every affliction that a person encountered. Now I have learned to express my ignorance concerning the unrevealed purposes of God. More often my response to the "why" questions has become, "I don't know; we simply need to trust God." We need to accept the hand God deals us and respond with thanksgiving by faith.

Can you imagine if the disciples had their wishes granted that night? Can you imagine if Jesus altered His plans for them? Jesus never would have gone to the cross! And if that were the case, none of us would have received salvation! Aren't you glad that we serve a God who knows what's best for us and doesn't buckle to the whims of our finite and often carnal understanding? We simply need to trust Him.

So often when our situation seems hopeless, our common remedy is to walk by sight. "It's not going as I had planned!" "This is not what's best for me!" "God must be impotent, cruel or unconcerned!" On the contrary we must have faith in Jesus Christ who by character is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving, by adequacy dispenses sufficient grace, by presence will never leave us nor forsake us and by sovereignty is working all things together for our good.

Therefore, the opposite of belief is manifested in an attitude of anxiety, worry, ungodly fear or discontentment. This is an attitude of sin because such an individual is being controlled by his circumstances not by his faith in Christ. These traits are produced when we think too much about ourselves and not enough about our Savior. Similar to Jesus in John 14 was Paul's admonition regarding these sins in Philippians 4. The Apostle said, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). When we live by faith in Christ, the Spirit produces ongoing joy, peace and thanksgiving despite our circumstances.

Ian Maclaren once said, "What does your anxiety do? It does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but it does empty today of its strength. It does not make you escape the evil; it makes you unfit to cope with it when it comes. God gives us the power to bear all the sorrow of His making, but He does not guarantee to give us strength to bear the burdens of our own making such as worry induces." When we worry we are on our own, but when we exercise faith in Christ, He is our ever-present help in time of trouble (Psm. 37:39; Na. 1:7).

The great man of faith, George Muller, put it like this, "The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety." The unknown author revealed the heart that worries. "Worry is faith in the negative, trust in the unpleasant, assurance of disaster and belief in defeat...worry is wasting today's time to clutter up tomorrow's opportunities with yesterday's troubles." Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary to China, simplified the need to trust Christ regarding our troubled hearts. "Let us give up our work, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence, our all, right into (Christ's) hand; and then, when we have given all over to Him, there will be nothing left for us to be troubled about."

In summary, the first step for a troubled heart, one that brings honor to God and peace to us is unwavering faith in Jesus Christ.


Though Jesus could have easily completed His medicine for anxious hearts with a prescription for a healthy dosage of faith, He continues to provide more encouragement in the verses that follow. Jesus wants His followers to know that His departure is good for them. He wants them to know that agony and uncertainty in this troubled world is only for a short time. For one day in the near future, every tear will be wiped from their eyes as they enter a land where only righteousness, beauty and peace dwells. Jesus encouraged the disciples about their future home in heaven. In verse 2 He said, "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."

On occasion, I enjoy driving by places that I have formerly considered a home. Often the mere sight of the building congers up pleasant memories. Every time I pass by my grandparent's house in Toms River, I can distinctively remember the good times that we shared. Whether it be: Picking vegetables in their huge garden or playing tag in their yard until dark or going for hikes with my grandfather or eating my grandmother's German cooking. I was safe in that home. I felt content, loved and accepted. All of us as humans naturally have a strong affection for home.

The great poets from past ages have sought to capture this special bond we have with the home. Keats- "Through the sad heart of Ruth, when sick for home, She stood in tears amid the alien corn." Cowper- "I crown thee king of intimate delights. Fireside enjoyments, home-born happiness!" Goldsmith- "The sweetest sounds to mortals given are found in Mother, Home, and Heaven." Longfellow- "Stay, stay at home my heart and rest. Home-keeping hearts are happiest."

I believe God designed it this way because our earthly homes are just a foretaste, a whetting of the appetite, for our future home. As much as our hearts yearn for our earthly home, even the best earthly home never brings the ultimate satisfaction we crave. I think C.S. Lewis came to this conclusion when he said, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world" (Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 119). Deep down inside most would agree that even the best this world has to offer is not the best we can imagine. According to a 1991 Gallup Poll, 78 percent of Americans expect to be in a better home after death. Unfortunately, most do not know the address or have the directions to that home which satisfies their heart's intent.

This week I sadly read about two teenagers who wanted to prove their love for each other. They went to the top of a six-story building, kissed each other, and jumped off. They left a note saying, "We're looking for a better place." The girl was killed. The boy was seriously injured.

Jesus wanted His disciples to know that such a "better place" does exist. It's a place we commonly refer to as "heaven." In verse 2 He called it "My Father's house." He went on to say that His Father's house is composed of "many dwelling places" or many rooms (not "mansions"-AV/KJV/RV). In this verse Jesus does not elaborate on the beauty of heaven (Rev. 21) as much as He delineates the ample provision that has been provided for all those redeemed by His blood. Jesus knew this assurance of heaven would bring great encouragement to the troubled hearts of His disciples.

Biblically speaking, a Christian's "citizenship is in heaven" (Phil. 3:20). Ephesians says we are already "seated…with (Christ) in the heavenly places" (Eph. 2:6). Does this hope of heaven encourage your heart? Does your heart long for heaven or are you content with the second-rate pleasures of this world? As the saying goes, "Home is where the heart is." Is your heart in heaven? It will be if you are "stor(ing) up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Mt. 6:20). Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Lk. 12:34). For if your heart is in heaven you will long for heaven as your future home. And if you long for heaven as your future home the mere mention of heaven should bring you great delight and encouragement.

According to Leith Anderson, "Shepherds say that sheep that have spent the summer in the high country and are on their way back to the shepherd's fold anticipate their homecoming. Even though they have to go through difficult terrain and sudden storms that make them cold and wet, you can sense in the flock an excitement and enthusiasm as they come nearer and nearer to the shepherd's fold. The same goes for Christians (with troubled hearts) who know that we will (soon) dwell forever in the house of the Lord (even though we too must pass through many trails and tribulations prior to entering our future home-Ac. 14:22)" (Anderson, Next Life in the House of the Lord, Preaching Today, Tape No. 157).

English Puritan pastor and author Richard Baxter (1615-1691) wrote: "Why are not our hearts continually set on heaven? Why dwell we not there in constant contemplation?…Bend thy soul to study eternity, busy thyself about the life to come, habituate thyself to such contemplations, and let not those thoughts be seldom and cursory, but bathe thyself in heaven's delights….

Light after darkness, gain after loss;
Strength after weakness, crown after cross;
Sweet after bitter, hope after fears;
Home after wandering, praise after tears;

Sheaves after sowing, sun after rain;
Sight after mystery, peace after pain;
Joy after sorrow, calm after blast;
Rest after weariness, sweet rest at last;

Near after distant, gleam after gloom;
Love after loneliness, life after tomb;
After long agony, rapture of bliss;
Right was the pathway, leading to this.

And speaking of the pathway, Jesus not only wanted to encourage His disciples about heaven's reality, but He also wanted to encourage them that He was their ticket to the Father's house. At the end of verse 2 He said, "For I go to prepare a place for you."

Christian singer and songwriter Keith Green once gave an inspiring introduction to one of his songs about heaven that went something like this: "I look around and see all of the beauty that God created in the world. The Bible says He created it all in six days. The Bible also declares that Jesus has returned to heaven 2,000 years ago to prepare a place for me. If He created this beautiful world in six days and He's been working on my future home for 2,000 years, we are living in a garbage can compared to what's going on up there!"

I believe these words, though stimulating are erroneous on two accounts. First of all, God is not bound by time. He can create perfection in a split second. He is not the interior decorator who works on the basis of trial and error, supply availability and deliberation.

Second, I don't believe this is what the ending of verse 2 is teaching. The ending of verse 2 is not instructing us about a place that needs to be built. Christ is presupposing such a place exists. On the contrary He is instructing us of His upcoming work of redemption that will provide our way to this place. In other words, the reference to His "going" (based on the immediate context) is not going to heaven, but rather going to the cross. Due to His departure from this world, Jesus Christ has prepared a place for His followers in heaven thanks to His work on the cross.

Jesus' words here are tantamount to His dialogue with Thomas in verses 5 and 6. "Thomas said to Him, 'Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'" In other words, we have a place in heaven not because of what we've done, but rather because of what Christ alone has done for us.

Jesus Christ has made the way for His children to have a heavenly home waiting for them upon death. What a great encouragement in times of affliction to know that soon we will step through the door of the Father's house to be home at last.


Jesus adds to the encouragement with a great promise in verse 3. "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself." Not only has Jesus prepared a place for us, but He also promises to receive us to that place.

I believe ultimately this is a direct reference to our Lord's return. This speaks of that wonderful time when Christ will "gather together His elect" (Mt. 24:31) some time in the future; a comforting promise indeed (1 Thes. 4:18).

Yet I believe there is a secondary meaning in the fact that Jesus will also personally usher each believer to His Father's house the moment they die. We don't have to fret or be anxious about our transportation to heaven. The Good Shepherd will be our personal escort. When we close our eyes in this world we will wake up immediately in Paradise.


Christ saved His greatest words of encouragement for the remainder of verse 3. "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." This purpose clause actually teaches that the reason for Christ's coming is so we may be with Him. Think about that for a moment! Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, wants to spend eternity with you! Jesus expressed the same sentiments in His high priestly prayer: "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me" (Jn. 17:24a). Just as Jesus desires fellowship with us now, He desires an even more intimate fellowship with us for eternity!

Likewise, nothing should bring us greater joy than the thought of spending eternity in the presence of our Savior. Heaven is not heaven because of the streets of gold and the pearly gates; rather heaven is heaven because it is the dwelling place of Jesus. Jesus is what makes heaven, heaven! And heaven is exclusively reserved for those who long for Jesus more than anything else.

The Apostle Paul desired this close fellowship with Jesus more than anything else, but he knew he wouldn't experience it until he died. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 he admitted his preference "to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." In Philippians 1 he spelled out his dilemma because of his great love for Jesus. "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better" (Phil. 1:21-23). This is the heart of an individual whose treasure chest of holy joy is Jesus! No doubt that this prospect of soon meeting Jesus face-to-face and being with Him forever was the hope that kept Paul going despite fiery darts this cruel world tossed his way.

Jonathan Edwards once said, "God is the highest good of the reasonable creature; and the enjoyment of Him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most beautiful accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends are but shadows, but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops; but God is the ocean. Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives; to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for, or set our hearts on, anything else, but that which is our proper end and true happiness (source unknown)? Elsewhere Edwards remarked, "How blessed therefore are they that do see God, who are come to this exhaustless fountain!…After they have had the pleasure of beholding the face of God millions of ages, it will not grow a dull story; the relish of this delight will be as exquisite as ever" (Edwards, Works, v. 2, p. 909)

Studies have revealed that 40% of our anxiety is over things that will never happen. 30% is over things about the past that can't be changed. 12% is about criticism by others, most of which is untrue. 10% is about health, which only gets worse with stress. And 8% is about real problems that will be faced. In other words, experts will tell you that 92% of our anxiety is meaningless. That data is inaccurate. Today's sermon declared that 100% of our anxiety is meaningless.

Jesus is well aware of the trials we face in this difficult world. He has given us the greatest remedy to overcome all anxiety, Himself! Due to our union with Him, He carries our burdens and providentially allows only good to reach us. Due to His death and resurrection, He has provided us a future home of eternal bliss in His presence. What hope! May you hear the Good Shepherd say, "Do not let your heart be troubled!"

other sermons in this series

May 9


The Priority of A Disciple

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: John 21:18–25 Series: John

May 2


From Fishermen To Shepherds

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: John 21:15–17 Series: John

Apr 25


Fishing For Men

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: John 21:1–14 Series: John