Summary: This is a story about an individuals great trials and what God says to her, to us, to restore us and give us hope.
1 John 4: 1-11 (12-21)
Remember: Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
One day Sara Jones woke up and felt completely lost. For weeks she was heading down a path full of sorrow, loneliness and ultimate insecurity but, up until this day she was able to hold onto some sort of strength; some semblance of hope. That strength and hope was dashed when what she suspected came true. Her husband of twenty years found someone else and he wanted a divorce. This news coupled with a letter stating that her job is cutting back due to the economy and she was one of those that had to go.
Sara just lay their in her bed, that Sunday morning. She had no energy; no desires to even get up, she just felt numb. Time just ticked away until her doorbell rang. It was her friend Joan, doing as she has always done. She was here to drive her friend to church.
Sara mustered the strength to get out of bed, put on her robe, and go down stairs to the door. She tried to think of excuses for why she did not want to go to church but, she could find none; none that is, that would not reveal her true despair. Yet inwardly she also reflected on how she could not possibly worship God who has allowed for all this pain to fall on her at once. Sara was normally a very active member of the church! She attended Bible Study, served on the mission board and was as much involved with the church as anyone could be, and this is how God repays her? The door opened, a fake smile found its mark and Sara said, “I am running behind, give me a minute.”
If this were you, what could you expect to gain by going to church or by opening up the Word of God? Would attending church get your job back? Would your spouse suddenly have a change of heart and come back to you? So often in this world, we find ourselves owning a sense of being totally lost, especially when we are conscious of our weakness, our pain and our awareness of a potential long and difficult road ahead.
During such times it is quite difficult to look upon the Lord God in the same way that we do when all is well with our soul. We can feel as uncomfortable with God as we would with someone with which we owe a huge debt while asking for more money. Some might question, during times of great sorrow, if they really ever really knew and trusted in the Lord God Almighty. Oh sure they loved God when all was well but, as soon as trouble comes they can’t find the desire to worship or pray or study God’s Word. It’s like a numbness that takes over your spirit and this numbness can get the better of any Christian soul…for a time.
And so the question comes to mind, “How do we know the Spirit?” How can we be so certain that we are Christ’s, even when we don’t feel like we belong to anyone; much less the Holy Lamb of God? This is where the chapter title for today’s reading in 1 John 4 comes into play. The chapter title in most Bibles says, “Testing the Spirits”. It comes into play because today’s reading pretty- much guides us into knowing what we should do and reflect upon when troubled times come our way.
I would therefore like to read to you the first verse again, only this time, listen to it as if you were Sara and you were dealing with all those issues, that is…the loss of a job, a potential divorce and a lack of desire to worship. Verse one says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” Can you already see how this verse can be a great help to you? When you are hurting; when you are in a funk the way Sara was in our story, what sort of spirit do you believe you are entertaining? In Sara’s case, it certainly was not a spirit of joy or peace nor was it a spirit that praised Jesus. This then would be a proper time for Sara not to believe every spirit, which includes the ones that might whisper to her that she is a failure or that she owns no hope or even that Jesus is somehow against her. Instead it would be a good time to entertain the hope that she was able to cling to in the good times.
Of course this text first and foremost refers to men that are preaching falsely. John here refers to the anti-Christ mentioned in 1 John 2:19. These are they that pretend to have the Spirit of God or claim to be moved by Him bringing God’s true Word but they do nothing of the kind. However, the voice that whispers failure, hopelessness or even that Jesus is angry with them often comes from the ultimate false prophet, the Devil. Therefore it is well to test every spirit so that right away you can know which comes from God and which comes from the anti-Christ.