Peace in Troubled Times
The times we are living in are very troublesome times. Just in the last year, our whole circumstance has changed. Last year, we were relatively secure. And the economy was still going strong. Then after September 11, it all changed. We headed into a recession, and worse we no longer felt safe in our own homes. And still there is great trouble in the Middle East, and the U.S. is finding that more and more Europe is turning against us. We’re told that further terrorist attacks are inevitable. Nothing is certain anymore.
On top of all that, our own individual problems have not gone away. For some of us, right now may be a great time personally. But others may be going through a very uncertain and difficult time.
Jesus disciples also encountered just such a time in their lives. They had all come from various walks of life before they met Jesus. Maybe for some of them, life was good, and for others life was bad. But for the past three-and-a-half years that had been with Jesus and life had been good. They had seen countless miracles, healings, deliverances, walking on water, calming the storm, feeding the 5,000, and even raising the dead. They had spent the past years listening to the greatest teachings ever spoken. Further, because they expected that Jesus would literally overthrow the Roman government and set up his kingdom in Jerusalem, they were excited because Jesus had gained popularity and they were on the inside of the movement. I’m not saying that everything was perfect for the disciples, but by-and-large life was going good for them. They had no reason to expect that in the very near future all of their expectations and hopes would fall apart. They had no idea of the crisis they were about to be put through, that Jesus would be arrested, beaten, tried, and crucified.
However, Jesus knew what was about to take place, and he wanted to prepare them for what was ahead. So, he explained to them what was about to happen. Previously he had made references to his death, but in a way that they could not understand. Now, he wanted them to really understand what he was saying, so he spoke clearly with them. And this conversation that Jesus had with them prepared them better to accept the changes and the uncertainty that was about to come upon them.
Now, none of us likes change. None of us likes uncertainty. We’re always going to have a certain level of worry when we know that hard times are ahead of us. However, we can by examining Jesus’ discourse with the disciples, learn how to get through those times without worrying.
John 14:1-4, “1 "Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. 2 There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know where I am going and how to get there.”
Now, Jesus knowing the future which lay before his disciples, gave them encouragement to get them through. And the first thing he says to them is “You trust in God, now trust in me.” And this is really the foundation for finding peace to get through these tough times. All of the other things that he said to them were hinged upon this one secret. TRUST IN HIM. He goes on to explain some of the reasons and the ways that they can trust in him, but he never really moves beyond trust as the thing that will get them through.
Philippians 4:6,7 “6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
This verse tells us not to worry about anything, but to pray. And I find the focus here interesting. It doesn’t say that if you don’t worry but pray, God will instantly change all of your circumstances so there’s nothing left to worry about. That’s not trust. That’s faith. And faith is necessary. Sometimes God does want to miraculously change your circumstances. But if that’s how it was every time, then when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, then God would have said, “Okay, I’ll make another way. You don’t have to go to the cross.” But as we know, that isn’t what happened at all. There was no change in Jesus’ circumstances because of that prayer, and yet that prayer wasn’t wasted or a failure. Instead, I believe it was in that prayer that Jesus found the strength to do what was necessary – to go to the cross. It was his Trust in God that led him to pray, “your will be done.” And it was this trust that gave him peace.
Trust and faith are really similar words, almost treated as synonyms sometimes. But really they are miles apart. Faith is what moves a mountain or calms a raging storm. But do you know what is greater than faith? What I find more spectacular than Jesus calming the storm, was his trust in God that allowed him to be fast asleep in perfect peace while the storm raged all around him. Faith is knowing that God CAN change things. Trust is knowing that God WILL do what’s best. It’s trust that keeps you floating until the miracle comes.
Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!”
But Jesus didn’t just give them some abstract concept of trust and say “okay, trust me, bye.” He knew that even if his disciples could trust him, it would be a limited trust. So he gave them more to go on. He explained further to them, so they would see the reasons why they could trust him, why their trust wouldn’t be placed in vain. And from those specific answers to that specific troublesome time, we can glean some truths that will help us to put our trust in God in our uncertain and troublesome times.
I. He is in control. What happens, happens for a reason. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus it would have been easy to forget that God was in control. It may have looked very much like the Roman government or the Jewish leaders were the ones in control. And it may have even seemed that Satan was successfully thwarting the plan of God. Don’t forget that the disciples’ idea of the Messiah was that he would create a politic kingdom in Jerusalem, overthrowing the Roman government. The death of the Messiah didn’t fit into their idea.
But Jesus explained to them that it was all a part of God’s plan. Satan may have thought it was his idea to crucify Jesus, but he was really just playing right into God’s hands. Jesus explained that he had to leave them, but it was for good reason. It was only if he left that he could prepare heaven for them. In fact, it was only by his death and resurrection that they could even get to heaven in the first place. Another reason that he is going, as he explained later on, was so that he could send the Holy Spirit.
Many times in our lives, the situations may seem hopeless. We may even question, “Where is God in all this?” We may wonder how anything good could possibly come of our situation. But
Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together F35 for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
Maybe we use this verse so much in Christianity that it becomes a cliché, but the fact is that it’s a very real truth from God’s word. No matter what the enemy throws your way, God will turn it into good. You can trust God, because he assures you that there is a reason for it. He didn’t send the trials your way. But he didn’t stop them, because he plans to do something great through them. We may not always see right now what good is going to come of it, but that’s where trust comes in. God says it will turn into good. You may see it someday, and you may never recognize it. But good will come.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10, “7 even though I have received wonderful revelations from God. But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud. 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, "My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. 10 Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul had some sort of hardship that he called a thorn in his flesh. And he specifically said that it was a messenger of Satan. It wasn’t sent from God. It wasn’t from God. And yet when he prayed about it, he discovered that God had allowed this messenger of Satan because he was using it for his own purpose. And Paul’s trust was revealed when he said, “Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.” You may or may not see why, but you can be sure that God will use it for his good.
II. The second way that Jesus reassured his disciples was his promise that it wouldn’t last forever. He said, “I’m going away, but I’ll be back to get you.” The fact is that God promises that whatever trials you have to go through, they won’t last forever. We have a saying, “All good things must come to an end.” But the Christian perspective should be, “All bad things must come to an end.”
Jesus knew that his disciples couldn’t survive the turmoil that was ahead forever, but he was able to promise them that there may be storm clouds ahead, but there will be sunshine on the other side.
Psalm 30:5b, “Weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning.
And you may feel tonight like your circumstances will never change. You may feel like you’ve entered the never-ending-valley-of-the-shadow-of-death. In fact, I don’t know your situations, but someone here could very well feel like it’s the end of the world. But Jesus promises you that your trials will not last forever.
1 Corinthians 10:13, “But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.”
And I believe this doesn’t just mean temptation as in temptation to sin. I believe that this pertains to every kind of the trial the enemy can put you through. You may not yet see the light at the end of the tunnel. You may not see any hope. But you can trust God’s word when he says that he will show you a way out.
Even on the earth, he will provide a way out for you. But our ultimate release is going to come when he returns to get us like he promised. He’ll take us out of the grip of this world and its troubles forever. And at that time, every unfair trial and circumstance you were put through will be made right.
Job was put through a terrible trial. First, having been rich, he lost all of his possessions. He lost his cattle, his house, and his children. Then Satan cursed him with a terrible sickness. Even his wife advised him to curse God and die. But in that moment, we see the most intense trust of God’s deliverance.
Job 19:25, “"But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last. “
Job knew that no matter what he was going through now, he could endure it, because it wouldn’t last forever. As surely as his problem existed, one day his vindicator would stand triumphant.
III. We have what we need.
Jesus further comforted the disciples with his statement, “You know how to get there.” Now the disciples didn’t even think they knew how to get there. They didn’t think they knew the way out of their coming trials. But Christ explained that they knew him and he was the Way. He assured them that he would be sufficient for them. He would be all they needed.
So many times when we’re in a stormy time, it seems that something is missing. That there is something we need to get out. But Jesus said, “You have everything you need, as long as you know me.” And I would like to briefly mention that he’s not talking about knowing About him. He’s not talking about book knowledge. He’s talking about an intimate personal knowledge. He’s talking about the way you know your husband or wife, or your kids or brothers and sisters. This is a knowledge that comes with time and companionship.
And it’s this personal and intimate relationship with Christ that will get you through the hard times. If Christianity is just ritual for you, something you do out of a sense of requirement, then you’re going to give up in the hard times. But if Christianity is for you a very real friendship with the Living Savior of the World, then that relationship will help get you through.
If we return again to the example of Paul with the thorn in his flesh, we see that he said all he needed to get through his trial, to endure through his hardship was the grace of God.
2 Corinthians 12:9a, “Each time he said, "My gracious favor is all you need.”
IV. We’re not left alone. He will send us another Counselor.
This final assurance is, I think, the greatest and most powerful. Jesus was about to leave his disciples. They had known the presence of Christ for 3 ½ years and now there would be no more presence. Surely that thought would make anybody anxious. But Jesus promised that would not abandon them as orphans. He hadn’t spent those 3 ½ years ministering to them just to throw them to the wolves and hope they could survive. Instead, he promises that he will send another “paraclete.”
John 14:16,17a, “16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, F71 who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.”
Jesus promised them that even though he himself had to go, he would send Another. He would send the Holy Spirit to them. And the Holy Spirit wouldn’t be limited to time and space like Jesus was. Imagine if Jesus was still here, but not the Holy Spirit. We would have to wait to book him about 300 years down the road when his calendar was free. Until then, we could accomplish nothing. But now, we have the very Presence of God, everywhere at once, in the Person of the Holy Spirit. And this was made possible by Jesus leaving the earth.
One of the last things that Jesus said to his disciples before he left the earth was the Great Commission. And right at the end, Jesus said,
Matthew 28:20b, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Now shortly after Jesus said this he ascended into heaven. And there may have been some question at that time in the minds of the disciples: Didn’t he say he would never leave us? And now he’s leaving us. But the fact is that it was right after he left that the Holy Spirit came. And the Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Christ. And it is He who is the very Presence of Christ here on the earth. The Presence of Christ is no longer limited by space and time, but the Christ is still very Present on this earth and very present in your life.
There may be times when the going gets rough that we’re tempted to think that God has abandoned us. Just because sometimes we don’t see him, or feel him right there with us. But as Scripture says:
Hebrews 13:5 NKJV, “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."
This verse says you can be content with whatever you have, being content whatever your circumstances are because God has promised you that he will never abandon you. But he will walk right alongside you.
King David went through some terrible times being chased by Saul. And I’m sure there were times when he felt so all-alone. But we remember his response to that from the 23rd Psalm.
Psalm 23:4a, “Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.”
And it is the Presence of God with you that will help you to get through your tough times. Knowing that no matter what you go through, you won’t be alone. Because God will walk through right beside you, and see you safely through to the other side.
Conclusion: It is precisely because we can trust in God to get us through our hard times: trust that he is in control; trust that it won’t last forever; trust that we have what we need to get through; and trust that he will never leave us, that Jesus could say,
John 14:27, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”