So You Need Encouragement?
Scripture: John 14:7–14
So You Need Encouragement?John 14:7-14
Sunday, November 9, 2003
Pastor Randy Smith
Its been said, you know you are having a bad day when:
- You see a "60 Minutes" news team waiting in your office.
- Your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles.
- Your twin sister forgot your birthday.
- Your car horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a motorcycle gang on the freeway.
- Your boss tells you not to bother to take off your coat.
- The bird singing outside your window is a buzzard.
- You call your answering service and they tell you it's none of your business.
- Your income tax check bounces.
- You put both contact lenses in the same eye.
We may laugh at these one-liners, but for many of us, living in this fallen world is no joke. On a regular basis we are bombarded with disappointment and discouragement. Plans often do not go as expected. People can be especially hurtful. Physical and emotional pain abound. No doubt each of us has experienced all of these to some degree in the past week. And there is no doubt that many of you right now have something heavy upon your heart. I believe we are all desperately in need encouragement, but how do we give it and where do we get it?
Speaking from personal experience, I have detected four levels of encouragement. On the lowest end of the spectrum is the simple compliment. "You have a nice car." "I like the way that shirt looks on you." "You played a great game." These comments are kind, but often shallow and worldly.
On the next level are encouraging words derived from some spiritual action observed. "You are really growing in the Lord." "Thank you for serving in the nursery." "Your children are well versed in the Scriptures." These compliments are intended to edify and promote greater devotion to the Lord's work.
On the third level are actions we observe others doing in the Lord. Few things bring me greater encouragement than to witness fellow believers demonstrating great faith by their actions. I am always spurred on to greater obedience when I see others in this flock participating in various ministries, faithfully attending church activities, consistently witnessing to the lost, maturing in their walk with the Lord and rejoicing in the midst of affliction. We may not think about it, but our spiritual actions are either a positive or negative example for others in the church to follow. Your spiritual response to the gospel will in a passive way either encourage or discourage others. Do people praise God for your faithfulness? Would it be profitable for others to follow you as you follow Christ?
All of these forms of encouragement are welcomed, some more than others, but I believe the greatest source of encouragement is none other than the Word of God. When down or depressed, anxious or agitated, confused or crushed, the voice of the Good Shepherd is always the greatest remedy for a troubled heart.
Just before Jesus was about to depart from this world by way of the cross, He comforted His disciples with many encouraging truths. His words spoken to the 11 discouraged men He loved dearly are timely and relevant to likewise minister to our hearts today. Just as He spoke to His children face-to-face 2,000 years ago, He speaks clearly to us from the pages of Scripture today. This morning we'll cover six encouraging truths from our Lord; three will be a review from the past two weeks and three will be the new material found in verses 7-14. You will notice that all of these are words from our Savior that ultimately point us back to Himself, whereby all hope and encouragement may be found in Christ.
1. JESUS IS IN CONTROL! (v. 1)
By way of review, let's first begin with the all-encompassing truth that Jesus is in control. Even when the worst appeared inevitable to the disciples, Jesus encouraged His men in verse 1 to "Believe in Me."
Trouble initiates our hearts to respond. They are programmed to detect and resolve adverse situations. But unfortunately, most of our circumstances are beyond our control. Therefore the heart is paralyzed. Wanting relief but finding none, it manifests a spirit of anxiety, worry, ungodly fear or discontentment. This attitude is not only useless and physically debilitating, but also indicates personal pride because we are consumed with the god of self.
On the other hand, we honor Christ by turning from self and turning to Him in faith. When we trust Jesus for being in control of our situation, we acknowledge Him as One who is sovereign over all. That glorifies Him! When we cast all of our cares upon Him, we acknowledge Him as One who continually seeks our best interests. That glorifies Him! The result in our life is peace and contentment. How encouraging it is to know that we can glorify Jesus by trusting Him for anything that comes our way, knowing that He is working all things together for our good.
2. JESUS IS WITH US IN HEAVEN! (v. 2-3)
The second encouraging truth we covered two weeks ago is the understanding that Jesus went to the cross to prepare for us a place in heaven or as He called it, "My Father's house (with) many dwelling places" (verse 2). Even when we face the worst difficulties this world may deliver, we know in the back of our minds that we have an eternal home where only righteousness dwells. We know that soon we will no longer have to face the stings of sin.
Most encouraging are Christ's words in verse 3. "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, thereyou may be also." Our Savior promises to personally return to gather His children. Should we depart prior to His Second Coming, He ushers us immediately into His kingdom. How encouraging is it to know that we will spend eternity with Christ, enjoying each other's fellowship in heaven with unspeakable joy.
3. JESUS IS THE WAY! (v. 4-6)
The third encouraging truth was covered last week. In verse 6 Jesus declared, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
Due to His work on the cross and subsequent resurrection, only Jesus can claim to be the exclusive pathway to the Father. Thanks to our union with Christ, we are assured from the One who is "the truth" that: our sins are forgiven, our resurrection is guaranteed, our Savior is alive, our way is secure and our life is swallowed up in His. How encouraging it is to know that Jesus out of His great love accepted all of our sins and the wrath that we deserved. He gave to us His perfect righteousness whereby we might be forgiven and presented blameless before the throne of God. No wonder, "No one comes to the Father but through Him."
4. JESUS IS GOD! (v. 7-11)
Since only God can lead us to Himself, Jesus presents the fourth encouraging truth. Not only is Jesus the way to God, He Himself is God! Beginning in verse 7, "'If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.' Philip said to Him, 'Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.' Jesus said to him, 'Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father ?' Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves'" (Jn. 14:7-11).
The words from Philip express the longing of every human heart. "Show us the Father" exemplifies the cry of creatures created in the image of God unsatisfied until their eyes can behold their Creator. Our existence is not complete until we can see God.
Moses, a man of flesh like us, expressed this void in his heart. In Exodus 33 he said, "'I pray (God), show me Your glory!' And (God replied), 'I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.' But…'You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!…Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen'" (Ex. 33:18-23).
Until we are transported to heaven, we cannot see the brilliance of God's glory and survive (Jn. 1:18; 6:46). Just as an eye cannot gaze intently into the sun, we cannot even bear a glimpse of our awesome Creator without being reduced to ashes. Yet in God's sovereign compassion, He blessed Moses by giving Moses the best vision of Himself that his humanness could handle.
We want to see God! Jesus in John 14 boldly informs His disciples that seeing Him is seeing the Father. Verse 7, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." And again in verse 9, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (c.f. Jn. 12:45). If the greatest desire of our heart is to see God, Jesus encouraged His disciples that seeing Him is seeing the Father. In other words, when they were looking at Jesus, they were looking at God! Since the disciples survived in the sight of Christ, obviously the ultimate glory of God was veiled in His flesh. But the day will come, as we tie the 4th encouragement with the 2nd encouragement, that we will fully see the glory of God. Our longing for the Visio Dei, Beatific Vision, the vision of God will arrive when we enter heaven and behold His glory for an eternity. The visible presence of God is what makes heaven; heaven and the absence of God's visible presence (and benevolence) is what makes hell, hell.
Though we cannot see God or even the visible presence of Jesus that the disciples enjoyed, we are encouraged by the promise that one day we will behold God face-to-face (1 Cor. 13:12; 1 Jn. 3:2). In the meantime we reject the visible idols, the invented gods, the deities created in our own image as shallow substitutes and feast on seeing the greatness of the living God through the eyes of faith (2 Cor. 5:7).
John Piper once said, "If you don't see the greatness of God then all the things that money can buy become very exciting. If you can't see the sun you will be impressed with a streetlight. If you've never felt thunder and lightning you'll be impressed with fire works. And if you turn your back on the greatness and majesty of God you'll fall in love with a world of shadows and short-lived pleasures."
When we consider our inseparable union with Christ, isn't it encouraging to know that seeing Jesus is seeing God? Jesus, dwelling within us through the power of the Holy Spirit, is the ultimate, definitive, glorious and final revelation of the Father. Moreover, our Savior which promises to be with us "always, even to the end of the age" (Mt. 28:20) is none other that God Himself!
I refuse to be discouraged, to be sad, or to cry;
I refuse to be down-hearted, and here's the reason why:
I have a God who's mighty-who's sovereign and supreme;
I have a God who loves me, and I am on His team.
He is all-wise and powerful-Jehovah is His name;
Though everything is changeable, my God remains the same.
My God knows all that's happening-beginning to the end;
His presence is my comfort; He is my dearest Friend.
When sickness comes to weaken me-to bring my head down low;
I call upon my mighty God; into His arms I go.
When circumstances threaten to rob me of my peace,
He draws me close unto His breast where all my strivings cease.
When my heart melts within me, and weakness takes control,
He gathers me into His arms-He soothes my heart and soul.
The great "I AM" is with me-my life is in His hand;
The "God of Jacob" is my hope; it's in His strength I stand.
I refuse to be defeated-my eyes are on my God;
He has promised to be with me as through this life I trod.
I'm looking past all circumstance to Heaven's throne above;
My prayers have reached the heart of God-I'm resting in His love.
I give God thanks in everything-my eyes are on His face;
The battle's His, the vict'ry mine; He'll help me win the race
Lita Kurtzer, Zion's Fire, March-April, 1992
5. JESUS IS USING US! (v. 12)
We as Christians can be encouraged because: Jesus is in control, Jesus has prepared heaven for us, Jesus is the way, and Jesus is God. Let me move to the fifth encouragement, Jesus promises to use you to build His eternal kingdom.
My daughters are at an age where they are easily pleased. Often some of their greatest joys are helping me with various projects around the house. Often their assistance teaches me great patience, but I know of few other things that bring them more satisfaction. They want to know that they are assisting and helping their father achieve something really important.
As we grow, we do not experience the same joy hanging blinds with our dad, but we still have an internal longing to feel needed, to feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment. How do we meet that need? Is it working our tails off to build temporary kingdoms in the sand only to see them washed away with the incoming tide? No, we all know that has no meaningful satisfaction. We fulfill this need by realizing that God has equipped us with certain gifts and then promises to work though us as living stones to build His eternal kingdom. Is there anything more rewarding to know then that Jesus Christ is using you to accomplish the greatest good? Through the faithful use of your time, talents and treasures, you are serving the living God Himself and making a difference that will last forever! What could provide more meaning and purpose to your life? What can bring greater encouragement?
Jesus said in verse 12, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father."
A few observations to better understand this often misinterpreted text. First of all, notice that this promise of encouragement is offered only to those who "believe in Jesus." One who is not in Christ Jesus is at enmity with God, not in partnership with God.
Second, Jesus declares to His Apostles that they will mimic His works (NIV-"miracles"-verse 11). We see this demonstrated throughout the book of Acts. They cured the sick (5:15-16), healed the lame (3:2-11; 14:10) and even resurrected the dead (9:40; 20:9-12). The Apostles were empowered to do tremendous miracles to confirm their God-given authority. Yet those gifts ceased once the Word of God was completed. Nobody today is manifesting those sign gifts as they were distributed in the early church.
Third, Jesus goes on to say, "And greater works than these he will do." Obviously this is a reference to something more than miracles. None can exceed the sign miracles of Christ, but those who come after Him can exceed Him in one area. We can surpass Him, or do "greater works" in the area of evangelism. Jesus labored over three years only to produce a handful of converts, while Peter on the Day of Pentecost preached one sermon and 3,000 souls were added to the church (Ac. 2:41). What had brought forth such power? What had brought forth such clarity and understanding to the message? What enabled the disciples to do "greater works" than Jesus? Let's go to the fourth observation for the answer.
Fourthly, Jesus concluded verse 12 by saying, "Because I go to the Father." As humans we can't take any credit for these greater feats. The reason we accomplish these things is because Jesus went to the Father. And once Jesus went to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to perform an internal work of conviction, regeneration and illumination in the hearts of men to guarantee the greater work of salvation. Where do I get that? Right in the context! John 16:7-8, "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (c.f. Jn. 14:16, 26; 7:39).
Therefore the greatness of our works comes in the fact that God is empowering regular people to reach others with the gospel and granting them great success in the process. Christ is using us through the Holy Spirit to reconcile the world to Himself. He is using us to resuscitate spiritually dead hearts. This is the greatest miracle indeed, far greater than healing a leper with a withered arm.
According to Harry Ironsides, "When you realize that when Jesus left this scene, committing His gospel to a little group of eleven men in order that they might carry it to the ends of the earth, at that time the whole world, with the exception of a few in Israel, was lost in the darkness of heathenism. But in three hundred years Christianity closed nearly all the temples of the heathen Roman Empire, and numbered it converts by the millions. These are the greater works, and down throughout the centuries He still carries on this ministry" (Ironsides, Addresses on the Gospel). J.C. Ryle simply said, "'Greater works' means more conversions. There is no greater work possible than the conversion of a soul" (Cited in: Morris, John, p. 646).
What an encouragement it is to know that the Creator of galaxies and the lover of my soul is using me to perform the greatest and most rewarding miracle-salvation!
6. JESUS IS LISTENING AND ANSWERING! (v. 13-14)
Not only does Jesus promise to use us in the greatest work, the conversion of a soul, but He also provides us with a sixth encouragement. Jesus promises to listen to us when we have needs and then answer those needs according to His will, the Father's glory and our greatest good. In verses 13 and 14 He said, "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it."
You can understand the anxiety on the disciples' hearts. The One with whom they shared close companionship with for three years was about to leave them. What would they do for spiritual resources? How could they continue their intimate relationship with Jesus? I can imagine Jesus replying, "Even though I'm departing, I'll still be with You. I'll listen whenever you want to talk. As a matter of fact, I'll cherish every time you speak with Me. I even promise to meet every one of you needs according to My will."
You see, even though Jesus departed from earth at the Ascension, He still dwells within us though the Holy Spirit. His work on earth did not conclude with His going away, but His approach did. He is still working, but now He is working through His children who are filled with the Spirit. God still has an agenda, a predestined plan that He is unfolding. We are His instruments, His clay pots that joyfully present ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice whereby He might accomplish "greater things" through us according to His will. Therefore the more we walk in the Spirit; the greater our heart beats in tune with Him. And the greater our heart beats in tune with Him, the more we will desire to see His will accomplished. And the more we desire to see His will accomplished, the more we will see our prayers answered and Him glorified through us.
When we ask a prayer in Jesus' name, the ending is not some magical formula. Asking in Jesus' name (mentioned twice in these two verses) means both approaching God on the merit of Christ and then asking in thorough accord with all that His awesome name stands for. This is a good indicator as to how we should approach God in prayer. Let me ask you: Do come before Him as Santa Claus or as the sovereign Creator of the universe? Do you have a greater desire to see your needs met or a greater desire to see Him glorified? Do your greatest needs line up with what brings Him the greatest glory? Or put another way, is your greatest need His glory? Do you ask each prayer as if Christ was making the supplication Himself? Do the majority of your prayers go unanswered because they are not according to His will?
Christian athletes are trying to bring their faith publicly into the sporting world. I'm glad they are. But almost always, their "praise to God" has nothing to do with His revealed will. Instead of thanking God for the victory, as if God has a favorite team, wouldn't it be encouraging if they would publicly thank God for a victory off the field such as a teammate trusting Christ?
We hear the Good Shepherd speak to us through the Scriptures and the Good Shepherd permits us to speak to Him through prayer. 1 Jn. 5:14, "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." And not only does He hear us, but in verse 14 Jesus promises He will do it! How encouraging it is to know that Christ not only meets our deepest needs, but we actually have the opportunity to glorify the Father through prayer by acknowledging our dependence on Him and desiring to see His will accomplished.
If you are in Christ Jesus this morning, I trust that you are greatly encouraged. What can be more rewarding than to know you are inseparably linked to a Savior who: is in control of your life, has prepared for you a place with Him in heaven, is the way to the Father, is God Himself, accomplishes eternal works through you and both listens and answers prayer
We live in a difficult world with much to steal our peace and replace it with a spirit of anxiety. But we serve a God who enables us to live above our circumstances. If we can trust in these six promises from Scripture and bring them often to remembrance, nothing will be there to discourage or steal our joy.
Amy Carmichael once wrote, "Everywhere the perpetual endeavor of the enemy of souls is to discourage. If he can get the soul 'under the weather,' he wins. It is not really what we go through that matters, it is what we go under that breaks us. We can bear anything if only we are kept inwardly victorious…If God can make His birds to whistle in drenched and stormy darkness, if He can make His butterflies able to bear up under rain, what can He not do for the heart that trusts Him" (Amy Carmichael, Learning of God)?
May you troubled heart look to Christ for encouragement. Dig deeply into the treasures of His Word. Listen to the voice of your Good Shepherd and function as His mouthpiece to encourage others around you!