God has a purpose for you. He has a sovereign plan to redeem a world that is spinning out of control in rebellion against Him. Worry, bitterness, and despair can all be obstacles that keep us from living our lives for Him. God wants us to trust him, pray and align our will with His, and live in His joy. Joy comes in knowing God is God and good and doesn't get it wrong. And through that, we can live boldly with purpose.
How to Live with Joy in the "Little While"
The Spirit's Coming as the Son Heads Home: Where He is Going and Who He is Sending.
Brace Yourself Lambs: Final Words on Their Final Walk
Love: Our Sign and its Source
It's All About Abiding
Living Proof He is the King of Peace
The Lifeless Lunacy of Love Without Labor
The Holy Spirit is With Those Who Believe
The Greater Works of Those Who Believe
Take Heart: The Difference Between Jesus' Trouble and Ours
We are going to finish John 16 today. A lot of Scripture. We need this text. I'm telling you, gang. I hope you go back to this discourse. It is the one God has given us at the end. His Son is leaving. He's addressing his men one more time. He's telling his church what it is going to take for them to continue the good work he has begun. I'm going to tell you, you will grow weary in doing good if you are not an expert, if you don't get your PhD in John 14, 15, and 16. So let me pray.
Father, I thank you that you have given us this section of Scripture, that we may not grow weary, that we would not lose heart. We live in a world where men all around us are taking a path of retreat, where they are not standing firm, where we aren't saying, "Blessed be your name" because we can't understand all the trouble that is around us. We are not attending to the work you have given us, and as a result of that, many are suffering.
So Lord, I pray we would tune our hearts to hear your grace this morning, and I pray that we would take heart, stand firm, that we would take courage, that we would not shrink back, that we would be found faithful at our post because we have studied, meditated on, and applied this text to our lives. Would you teach us again the things we need to know, that we might be faithful to you who, in your incredible faithfulness to us, have drawn us near through the provision of your Son. I pray this in Christ's name, amen.
It's amazing to look at this little section of Scripture in this upper room, hours before he goes to the cross. He's not concerned about what he's losing. He's not concerned about what he's about to suffer. He is concerned about his people. Great leaders, shepherds, are always concerned for their sheep and not their own preservation. Let me remind you of a couple of things he says repeatedly throughout this address.
You really ought to read John 13-16 straight through continually and understand the context of the message. John 16 ends, and I believe they were already out of the upper room and were walking down. He's about to walk into Gethsemane when he says to them in verse 33, at the very end of this little conversation, "Listen. In this world there's going to be trouble." That's why he's not surprised at what's about to happen to him.
He knew what was going down, and he did not shrink back from it. He said earlier, "Should I run from this hour? I came for this hour." I would ask us, as the church, should you be concerned at what's going on in this hour? I would tell you, you were born and redeemed and equipped by the Word of God and the indwelling of his Spirit for this hour. The reason our world continues to get darker is because the church is not paying attention.
If I could take a cheap shot at you, they applaud when Jesus is done with the Upper Room Discourse, like, "Finally! Can't we get on to Proverbs or Psalms or something simple? Can't I take a spit bath in Philippians again?" What he's telling you right here is "This is your charge. This is God's plan. There is no plan B." There are a few things he wants you to know, and that's why he repeats them.
Back in John 13:19, he says, "From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.""You followed the right man." John 14:29: "Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe." John 16:1: "These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling." John 16:4: "But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you. [But I'm telling you now. It's going to get tough.] "
I don't know how many folks have told you that if you'll just trust Jesus, your wife will get better looking, you'll lose 10 pounds, and your kids will get better grades, but they were lying. This is not a health, wealth, and prosperity message. This is a message of "You are at war, and no soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, in order that he might please the one who enlisted him as a soldier."
He says, "Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." He says, "If anyone wants to follow me, let him take up his cross and deny himself." This is not going to be a skip through some Edenic moment in history. This is your time. At the end of your days, you're going to look back and go, "What have I done with my days?" and if all you've done is accumulated for yourself comfort and pleasure and ease, I think you're going to find yourself looking back and going, "I missed my opportunity."
We say this a lot. There is a reason when we baptize you we don't hold you down and just send you on to glory. God has a purpose for you here. We bring you back up. You died with Christ. You identify with him. There is a Father in heaven. He has a sovereign plan, and it is to ransom men. It is to redeem a world that is spinning out of control in rebellion against him, and he has left sprinkles of grace here. He has left citizens of his kingdom here to try to rescue others from the domain of darkness before judgment falls on this earth.
If we who are to be at war and who are part of the rescue plan are sitting at the bar, just AWOL from our duty, then there are many who are going to stay captive. God says, "Listen. These things I've done… Whoever believes in me, you're going to do what I did. I'm going to be the ultimate rescuer. You're going to tell people about the rescue when I rescue you. I'm going to train you for special ops, and I'm going to give you my presence to go with you and my Word to remind you."
He says all throughout this text, "I'm telling you before it goes down so that when it goes down you don't think this has spun outside of my sovereignty." Watch this. See if you catch a theme here. John 14:1: "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.""You followed the right one. I'm not a prophet; I am God in the flesh. I'm not speculating. That's why I don't quote other people. I say, 'Truly, truly I say to you…'" You have to decide this morning if you're going to follow him.
John 14:27: "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." We're going to end today: "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world…" This is the way he closed the whole thing up. "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage [take heart] ; I have overcome the world."
"You are overcomers with me, but it's time to get busy." What's going to be really interesting is when Jesus goes now to this prayer we're going to start to study soon. He hits his knees, and over 10 times, close to 20 times, he will pray for the disciples' effectiveness in the world. His whole prayer is that you would overcome the world, that you would be faithful in the world, that you would love in the world.
He says, "You're going to cave if you don't pay attention to what I'm saying here." Are you wondering why it's so hard, and are you wondering if God forgot you? Then you are in the right place this morning. Let me start by saying this to you. If you're here this morning and you're not even sure who God is and you're not even sure if God is good… We've been covering that extensively. I want to let you know something: God loves you. He wants to rescue you.
He sent his Son who's speaking to you in John 16 to die on a cross for you, that you might be, yourself, rescued from sin and death. There is nothing you can ever do to reconcile yourself to a holy, eternal God. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through his Son, who has come and who is laying his life down for you. If you trust in anything else but Jesus…if you try to beautify yourself, if you try to earn his favor with good works, if you try to earn his favor with anything you do…you will find yourself wanting before him who is holy and demands perfection.
The gospel, the good news, is that God rescues you through his own provision. We are not good and, therefore, God loves us; God loves us, so he has sought our good by coming and offering himself as the means through which we can be reconciled to God. When you understand that's who God is, you all of a sudden say, "I want to follow you."
Some people have a hard time following God because of this. They say something like this. Here's a syllogism that is often thrown out: "If God was good, he would defeat evil. If God was God, he could defeat evil. Evil is not defeated. It is still present. Therefore, there is no all-powerful, all-good God." Here's the problem: they assume because evil has not been completely eradicated that it won't one day be completely eradicated.
Jesus is giving you this message in John 13-16, and he says, "Why do you keep saying because I haven't gotten rid of it once and for all that I can't get rid of it? I've already judged evil. I have no tolerance for evil, and I will one day completely separate all that is evil from even any remembrance of me and of my people.
But for now, I am patient toward you. I don't wish for anybody to be separated from me eternally, so I have developed this rescue plan that was set in course from the beginning of time that I might be glorified, that the world might know me for who I really am, that I'm not just sovereign. When there's rebellion against me, I can't just cast it out of my presence, but I am good.
I will go and rescue those who have followed the evil that said I was not God and I was not good, and the Ruler of this world will be judged when he says, 'You don't need God, and God isn't good, and you can't trust him.' I'm going to let them experience the pain of trusting a deceiver, and I'm going to rescue them from that deception, and I'm going to make provision for their sin, that they might know me."
But you are living in a world, you're living in a moment in the world's history, in God's redemptive history where he's declaring his glory through his works and his rescue, that he tells you is still affected by sin. He knows it's not going to be easy, so he's telling you how to hang on. Now watch this. Let's read in John 16 together.
I said this last week, and I want to repeat it right now as I get started. I said last week that worry is thinking that God is not going to get it right, and I said bitterness and despair is thinking that God did not get it right. If you're filled with worry, it's because you don't think God is going to do the right thing. If you're filled with bitterness and anger and despair, it's because you've already decided that something happened, God messed up.
What I'm going to tell you this morning is the source of joy. Joy is knowing and comes from thinking that he is God and he is good all along. This is a text about joy. Do you want to know how you can have joy, which is a peace that passes understanding and is not contingent upon circumstances? He says, "I want your joy to be full," and by full he means there's no room for anything else.
I've had numerous times where I've sat with people and talked to them about the hope we have, and it's not that their son's illness won't end up being terminal. I've shared with you… I've hesitated to do it very much from this stage, because I know how much other folks are going through trouble on this earth, but God has decided to trust me with a little journey through a struggle with cancer in a much less dramatic way than most people do.
I have sarcoma. It's a soft tissue cancer. It's right now in my foot. Doctors are trying to figure out how they can keep the cancer in my foot and the foot on my leg. It's just a matter of time before we figure out if both those things happen. Sarcoma usually travels to the chest, and it becomes a much more complicated thing.
Typically, the way they deal with cancer in this one area is they take large resections. Well, that large resection would so handicap my foot that the thing they usually do is just say, "Listen, Todd. That's a chicken wing, and there's not a lot of meat on a chicken wing, so if we take the meat the cancer is in off your foot, then that wing is not going to have a lot to operate, so it's, frankly, in your way, and probably the thing to do is remove it."
Folks have asked me, "Todd, what do you think about that?" I just go, "It's not my problem." Cancer is not my problem. That's God's foot. He has loaned it to me for now five decades. I have no problem with my foot. I like it. It's not the first thing I think about parts of my body that cause me to stumble. If I was looking to sanctify myself by eliminating parts of my flesh, that's not the first place I'd go, but that's his foot.
If he wants to take me a piece at a time to heaven, that's his business. I wouldn't mind if we all go at once, but that's not my issue. What I want to say is, "Lord, I just want to be faithful. If I go to heaven with five toes, if I go to heaven with one leg, if I go to heaven when I'm 51, that's your problem. I am immortal until you're done with me." I'm just not worried about it. I don't think he has made a mistake.
I'm in a really awkward position when folks ask, "Todd, how shall we pray for you?" I go, "It's really funny, because I don't know if I should pray that I wouldn't have cancer, because if I shouldn't have cancer God wouldn't have allowed this to happen in the first place. He has given it to me as a stewardship. Just pray that I'm faithful in it."
Yeah, if he wants to glorify himself by it not eliminating certain parts of my body or spreading it throughout my body, I'm great with that, but I'm not going to lose any sleep. I don't think he got it wrong. And I'm not bitter if something happens. I'm not going to think he didn't get it right. I've told that same thing to other people, and they look at me like, "What is the source of your joy?" You're going to find it right here today. Watch this. John 16.
"'A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.' Some of His disciples then said to one another, 'What is this thing He is telling us, "A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me"; and, "because I go to the Father"?' So they were saying, 'What is this that He says, "A little while"? We do not know what He is talking about.'"
Have you ever felt like that? God says, "Trust in me," and you go, "Trust in you? I'm 37 and single. What are you talking about?" He says, "Trust in me." You go, "I'm 24 and I have breast cancer. What are you talking about?" He says, "Trust in me."
"My 9-year-old is smitten with a virus that leads to a complete loss of the motor skills in his body. What are you talking about?"
"Trust in me. In a little while…"
"What are you talking about? My mom and dad were drunks. They hated each other, and they hated me. I was sexually abused. I was abandoned. I don't even know who my biological father is. What are you talking about?"
Have you ever felt like that? We don't applaud when we're done with this text; we go back and reread it, because this is for us. Watch this. "Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, 'Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, "A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me"?'" I love this about our God. He is never bothered by your questions. Here is what God doesn't like, though. He doesn't like when our questions aren't really questions; they're accusations.
Go and read Psalm 13. Psalm 13 is David saying, "How long? How long is this madman going to throw spears at me? All I did was do what my Father asked me to do. I show up, and there's a giant there, and then I do what my Father asked me to do, which is defend his name and all of Israel's name against these godless people who taunt him. Now, as a result of that, I'm being chased all throughout the wilderness. The one who is sovereign and in control, your anointed hates me. How long?"
I love what David does in Psalm 13. At the very end of it, he stops and says, "But listen, Lord. All I know is that you're in the middle of this story. I don't know how long it's going to be, but I want to know more of you to help walk me through this 'How long-ness.'" God is never bothered by your questions, but when you walk in and ask questions like this… We've all done this, haven't we? We walk up to somebody and go, "Hey, what is going on? Why did you do that? What are you thinking? How was that possible?" Those are a series of questions. Right?
"I can't imagine that anybody would have made the decisions you made and done the things you did and made me feel the way I feel. I don't understand you." Then you walk away and shut the door. See, even though every one of those was phrased in the form of a question, they really were accusations, like, "You incompetent pig! You have no idea how to make this thing work." It's one thing to do that to another finite human being. It's still wrong. In fact, Proverbs says, "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind."
That's true of any conflict, but it's especially true when you're a finite creature and you're talking to an infinite God. If you go to God and just rail at him, he listens, he understands, and he wants to answer your question, but he says, "I'll speak to you if you'll just listen to me. Can I tell you what's going on? There are certain things you won't be able to get your arms around, but I'm going to give you a lot that if you'll just trust in these things, it'll help you, but you have to listen."
I love God. He never gets weary of questions. I have six kids, so I have a lot of questions. I have one kid right now… It's just one question after another after another after another after another after another after another. There are times that I've finally looked at him and went, "Can you do something other than ask questions?" I mean, we're driving down the highway. "Hey, Dad, would you rather have free nights of electricity or free weekends?" Next billboard. "Hey, Dad, how come…?" It's like, "Oh my gosh!" It's like all he does is read stuff so he can ask me.
"Hey, Dad, would you rather take LeBron or Kobe? Hey, Dad, what do you think would have happened last year if LeBron would have…?" I'm like, "Oh my gosh! You're just creating scenarios." He just wants to learn. He just wants to listen to his father. I basically go, "Would you stop asking questions?" A good father doesn't ever do that. A good father just says, "Hey, go ahead, ask, but sooner or later you have to take a breath. Okay? So go ahead and vent."
I tell my kids this a lot. I go, "When you're talking, you're not learning." This is one of the things you need to learn in prayer. "God, let me tell you today what you have to do. There! I feel a lot better. I prayed." That's not what prayer really is. Prayer is communication with God, it's meditation, it's listening. "Speak to me, Father." Prayer is not so much about me getting my agenda done in heaven as it is aligning my heart with what he is doing and living in understanding.
Jesus goes, "I understand you guys have some questions about what I was saying. That thrills me. Why don't you tune in? Let's listen up." "Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, 'A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me'? Truly, truly…" Here we go. Speaking from a place of great authority. "Amen. Amen. So be it. So be it. Listen up," he says.
"…I say to you, that you will weep and lament…" Here it is again. No surprises. "…but the world will rejoice…" It's going to look like evil is winning. "…you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy." He then goes on. He says, "It's like this." "Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world."
What he's doing is he's talking about a very familiar process that most women right here are very familiar with, less so than during Jesus' time. There wasn't something to block the nerve endings toward your vaginal area and the womb. Do you know what's really amazing? You know, the whole epidural. What a lot of folks do is they will not listen to God's Word, and they will take an epidural of alcohol and drugs and porn and fantasy and the illusion of wealth and prosperity, and they try to block the pain that is in this world and protect themselves from this world.
Believers will become this monastic community to block the reality of this world. We don't really want to go near the broken and the downtrodden and the orphan and just try to create our own little community here on earth. God says, "No, no, no. You're not going to block the pain here. This is a time for you to be in labor. When you're in labor, you are working."
Let me just say this about what goes on: Jesus doesn't substitute the pain of a woman in labor with something else. When they're in the middle of labor, God doesn't just give a woman something to get rid of the pain. What he does is he transforms what's already in her, this time of suffering, this time of pain… He transforms that thing into a time of great joy.
What I mean by that… She's doing everything she can do to hang on. All of a sudden, the pain is forgotten because she's holding this life that is the apple of her eye, the totality of her affection. She forgets the labor pains. She'll kiss her husband and lie with him again, and she'll go through nine more months of carrying that child and sickness. She'll let her body be forever changed, and she'll put her body through intense pain, because in the end, something transforms that brings her great joy.
Jesus says, "Let me tell you something. That's what's going to happen. That's exactly what it's like for you." He says this next: "Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you."
This is, again, one of the constant themes throughout this little deal. He keeps saying, "Listen. I know you don't understand it all now, but I'm going to tell you later, after I go through this thing you can't even get your arms around." If you don't know what I'm talking about, just let a little girl watch a woman give birth, and she is like, "Are you kidding me? There is no way."
Then a little bit later, more information will come, and something will change inside that person where they're open to the idea, and then a little bit later they'll be a mom themselves, and they're like, "Yes! Yes, I went through labor, but look at the joy of that time." There's a time that Jesus says, "You're going to understand."
That "in a little while" is after his death, after his burial, after his resurrection, when he reappears to them, and then even later when he gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit who continues to teach them and open their eyes to God's redemptive program throughout all of history that they are right in the middle of. It's a source of great delight to them.
In fact, in Luke 24:33-52… Let me read to you what happened a little bit later, because something so radical happened to these men it changed them forever. They were beaten, and they rejoiced that they were beaten for his name's sake. They were arrested, and they started singing songs about the greatness of their God, just like you this morning.
"I am perplexed, but not forsaken. God is with us, and he is at work, and we are not going to lose heart, but we're going to remain faithful. I'll stand. When all around me is shaking, I'll stand." Watch this. This is right after Jesus appeared to a couple of disciples on the road to Emmaus. Their eyes were opened. They ran back to where the rest of the disciples were, and in Luke 24:33 it says:
" [Those men who heard it from Jesus and met Jesus] got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, 'The Lord has really risen…' They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be to you.'"
What a moment that must have been. These guys were saying, "He really is risen! It happened! The girls weren't crazy. He's back! He told us all about the prophets and all about the Scriptures, and the Spirit of God illumined our eyes. He has risen! And when we broke the bread, we remembered when he said, 'This is my body which is broken.' That's why his body was broken. He's the Bread of Life. He's the means through which we can find satisfaction and be full."
Then all of a sudden, Jesus is like, "Hey, dude. Peace be with you, man. Here I am." I don't think that's how it went down. It wasn't like he just "hippified" himself, but he's saying, "This chaos, this worry, this bitterness and anger that you left everything to follow me, that pain you had these last three days? It's all okay now. Just what I told you would happen happened. Peace." Then it goes down like this. I love this.
"But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit." We live in a startling and frightening world, don't we? Sometimes we just have to go, "Jesus, are you sure? Is it really you?" "And He said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.' And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet."
He just said, "It's me. Don't be afraid. I'm at work, just like I said I would be. I'm back just like I said I would be." Verse 44: "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you…""Remember when I was going through that stuff with you just a few days ago in the upper room?"
"'…that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again [Remember when I told you that?] , and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.'"
"That Spirit who I told you was going to come? He's still coming, and when he comes, he will give you power, and then you will be able to do what I did. The great works I did, these you will continue." Look at what happens. Verse 50: "And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy…"
And off they went to be beaten, to be crucified upside down, to be exiled, to be mocked at, to be misunderstood, to be hated by all men, just like he said. Of course! We are not here to be comfortable; we are here to serve and be faithful. Knowing they were not yet home, knowing they would still suffer, they worshiped him. They lived in their land with great purpose and joy.
Can I tell you something? There's a reason some of you in this room don't have joy, and it's because you're not living with a purpose and are trying to find life some other place. I wish I had time to take you and read all through Ecclesiastes, chapter 2. Ecclesiastes 2 talks about a guy trying to find purpose and joy in wine, women, song, parks and recreation, building projects…you name it. He just goes, "It doesn't work. I can't find joy."
All of us are looking for joy. Nothing can fill you up. There are things that can distract you. Sex can distract you. Money can distract you. Relationships can distract you. Acclaim and fame can distract you, and you think, "This is really great," but it's so fleeting. It's never enough. You always need more. You're always wanting somebody else to say something about you that will make you feel like you're the center of the universe and important again.
Jesus says, "Hey, you're the center of my plan, and you're eternally important. I'm going to use you to rescue another eternal being. Live for that purpose today. Live for me. Love others. Give yourself away for others, whether you have ten toes or five; whether your muscles all work together or they don't; whether you were born with four limbs or none; whether you had four limbs and lost them in an IED explosion; whether you had two breasts and you lost them to breast cancer or not; whether your child lives to be 2 or your child outlives you to the time that you're long gone for years.
Just do what you're supposed to do while you're here, and I promise you it's going to be purposeful and joyful, and there's going to be a day that you look back and are not going to believe you were distracted by all of these things." That's either crazy talk or John 16 is true.
Here's the deal. The reason we're walking around and are not very much influencing the world is because we're not on task and because we're looking for joy in all of the places the world is looking for joy: that our college football team would have a successful season, that our son would play college sports, that people would remember we played college sports. Those things are so fleeting.
So we're looking for the next thing, and we're thirsty, thirsty, thirsty. He goes, "I can give you purpose. I can quench your thirst. You were created to be glorious, but you're finding glory in all of the wrong things, and you're finding joy in all of the wrong things." Jesus said this. Way back in John 15:11, at the very middle of this whole thing, when he was trying to tell them what this whole thing was about, he said to them, "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." There we have it.
At the very end he goes, "And they went back worshiping him, full of purpose and joy." I'm telling you, gang. If you're not in the game, if you are not rescuing people from darkness, if you're not sharing your story of grace, if you're not abiding with him, you're going to keep being thirsty and keep looking for joy, and you're going to be worried that God is not going to give you this next thing, which really isn't the thing you need. He has already given you the thing you need.
Or you're going to be bitter and angry about the thing you thought you needed that if God loved you he would give you so you can be joyful, but you're going to miss it, because joy comes in knowing that God is God and he is good and he doesn't ever get it wrong. That's it! That's why we sang those songs. It's one thing to come in here and sing those songs; it's another thing to be a person that the world goes, "Hey, you don't just sing songs; you act like you really know something I don't know."
When's the last time somebody said to you, "Your hope is not in this world, is it? You're doing everything you can to be excellent in this world, but your hope is really not in this world, because even when you get more than what the world wants, you give it away. If you get position, you don't use position to exalt yourself; you use position to exalt and serve others with your power and in your influence and your money and your beauty and your gifts and your study. I've never seen anything like that." You should say, "Well, you should know my Jesus, because I am just a shadow of him." He says this:
"Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf…"
"You won't need me, because you're going to be reconciled to the Father. Just as I have been the Father's ambassador, you're going to be the Father's ambassador. Ask him how he wants you to represent him." That doesn't mean Jesus doesn't intercede for us before the Father, but Jesus is saying, "Hey, you are my brother. I'm going to reconcile you into God's family.
You can ask him yourself. When I would go and sit with the Father, you guys would see me all the time getting encouraged and reminded by the Father that this was our plan. You get to do the same thing. You're reconciled to him. You can be one with him. His Spirit will reveal things to you like it revealed things to me."
He says, "…for the Father Himself loves you…" Did you hear that? Can I just tell you something? I don't care what you're in the middle of. The Father loves you. He loves you so much he goes, "Hey, come here. I'm going to involve you in the greatest story in the history of the world." Do you know what's going to happen? Some of us are going to opt out and are opting out of this amazing story.
How many of us would have loved to have been a part of SEAL Team 6? I mean the one that worked, that got the really bad guy. You're like, "Oh, wow! That would have been awesome!" God is going, "Hey, that is nothing. That is fleeting. Osama 'blip' Laden? Here and gone. America? Here and gone. Eternity? Here. You, but a vapor, whether you live 20 or 120. That is a blink."
Some of us are going to lie on our deathbeds, and we're going to go, "This has been a really, really fast life. And you know what? I had an epidural of distraction and comfort and ease and Xbox and sports and Fantasy Football and fleeting relationships and one-night stands, and I don't know what my life really counted for." You might even know Jesus, and you're kind of like, "Oh." I want to tell you something. On the other side, when you look back…
How many of us have been through long, serious times of suffering and discipline and service, and we look back and go, "Those were the greatest moments of my life"? Eternity is that exponentially. I'm already feeling it. I've used up three-and-a-half decades as an adult already. Have I squeezed all of the juice out of it that I could? Have I studied? Have I shepherded? Have I discipled? Have I loved? Have I given? Have I sacrificed?
This thing is gone. All that pleasure is gone. But you know what? All the sowing, all the nurturing, all the shepherding, all the giving into eternal beings is not gone. Those are the things that make a deathbed rich. Do you know what makes a deathbed terrible? When you are surrounded by millions of dollars in the bank.
Those are the things that make a deathbed terrible, because you're leaving them behind, but every moment you gave yourself away and every dime you deployed, you're just like, "Thank God! It's waiting for me. Story upon story of self-sacrifice and deprivation and service of others is waiting for me. It is going to be an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. What joy!"
How about this? Jesus says, " [You can ask the Father yourself. He loves you.] I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father." If you can put that on your tombstone, you're a happy man. This is Jesus summarizing his entire ministry. "I came forth from the Father. I've come into the world. I am leaving the world again and going to the Father, and I have done everything he has asked me to do."
"His disciples said, 'Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. Now we know that You know all things [you're omniscient] , and have no need for anyone to question You…'""You even knew they were going to kill you. You knew when they were going to kill you, on Passover, that you were going to be raised on the third day, and that you were going to come back just like you said. What don't you know? Even in death you're sovereign."
"'…we believe that You came from God. [You're divine, and you are good.] ' Jesus answered them, 'Do you now believe?[Your lessons aren't over.]Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come , for you to be scattered…'" Remember, we're not in Luke anymore. We're back here in John. It hadn't happened yet.
He says, "In a minute, I'm about to be done talking and go over there. That guy I sent away a little bit ago is going to kiss me. They're going to come with clubs. You're going to cut his ear off. I'm going to put it back on. I'm going to tell them what to do, and you're gone, just like Zechariah 13 said you would be.
They're going to strike the shepherd, and the sheep are going to scatter, but guess what: the shepherd loves the sheep, so he's going to die for them. He's going to come back, he's going to gather his sheep, and the sheep are going to turn into roaring lambs, and we're going to turn this world upside down."
He said, "I know you say you believe in me, but this is a long row to hoe. Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come…" He says this as he closes it all up: "These things I have spoken to you [as we go right now into Gethsemane] , so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation [it's about to get really shaky] , but take courage; I have overcome the world."
Gang, watch this. This is the difficult thing, and I want to give you a few things for you to understand. Because "in a little while" can mean a lifetime… I mean, you and I will just go, "Okay. That Friday to Sunday is a long time." Well, so is birth to death, redemption to the grave to glorification. Since "in a little while" can be a lifetime, there are a few things you have to get into your little brain.
I don't know that in my lifetime he's going to turn this thing all the way around. I don't know that I'm going to get caught up in the air. I might go to be with the Lord first, but you need to realize this. Jesus said, "In a little while…" For them it was three days, and then it was not just those three days. They got a hope. What was their hope? It was the resurrection. So they kept their eyes fixed on that, but then they lived the rest of their lives until they were beheaded, until they were crucified, until they were stoned to death, and then "in a little while" again. You're with the Father at that point.
Here we are some 2,000 years later. For you, you only get about 100 if you're really lucky, probably about 80…70 with teeth in and your mind working. That's just a little while, but I want to tell you a few things you need to remind yourself of so you can be faithful in this whole ordeal.
First, remember this: this is your hell. I was talking to a gal I was talking to about Christ at one point recently, and she goes, "How in the world do you have hope?" I said, "Why wouldn't I have hope? Jesus tells me this world is filled with trouble. I understand. I have an explanation for why there is betrayal and imprisonment and kidnapping and murder and earthquake and cancer. I understand all of it. It makes complete sense to me. I live in a fallen world that's not as it should be. This is my hell. Do you understand that? God says this is as bad for me as it's ever going to get."
But this person was resistant to God. I said, "But you need to know something." She said, "I don't think it's that bad. I have a lot of friends, and I'm nice to people, and people are largely nice to me." I go, "Well, drink deeply, sweetie. This is your heaven. Never mind the guys you've already told me about who have said they loved you and have used you and left you out to dry. Never mind the fact that you're still longing for something more. Never mind the fact that you lost your brother recently to cancer.
Never mind the fact that there's this haunting in you that the world is not as good as you're trying to convince yourself it is. This is your heaven. Right now, you live in the midst of God's redemptive program where his grace is still at work and his people still love you." I mentioned all of the believers who were in her life who were ministering to her and caring for her. I just said, "Hey, honey, enjoy it, because this is as good as it's ever going to get for you."
Can I just tell you this, believers? This is not your home. Quit acting like it's your home. Quit building a house on your little tour of duty. You're in Afghanistan. Don't build your dream home. Be at war to suppress evil and rescue those who are under its totalitarian oppression. So I'm not surprised.
How about this? "Remember, I told you that my hell was coming and that I chose it for you." In other words, "Remember that I'm good. I told you I was going to go do this. I suffered for you. I'm not asking you to do anything that I didn't do. I left the eternal comfort of heaven, and I rescued you." He said, "Just remember that I've done this before you. I chose it for you, so I am good. I know all things, and I am good, and I am divine."
Romans 8:28 says, "All things work together for good when God is in the midst of it for those who love him, who are called according to his purposes." Romans 8:32 says, "He who did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all. Isn't he going to also work out everything else for us?" Yes. He just says, "Remember that. Remember my words."
This is what Jesus kept saying: "You have to remember my words. If you try to make your circumstances give you joy, it's not going to work. My words will give you joy. Don't listen to scoffers. Don't listen to sinners. Don't listen to people who are wicked. You have to meditate on the law of the Lord, and on that law you have to meditate day and night. Don't just memorize my Word; meditate on it. Don't just read my Word; live according to it."
"Remember my words." That's why he told them to you. That's why he has given us access to his Bible. The Spirit has revealed things. If you are not regularly involved with Bible intake, you are going to lose heart. Can I tell you something else? You're not going to be a means through which others can gain heart if you don't do what godly men always do, which is to minister from his Word, which is basically this.
He says, "Remember, when I leave, I'm not going to leave you alone. Rely on me. Listen to my Spirit. Study the Word that my Spirit gave you. Don't go off on your own trying to serve me, and when you go out to serve me, make sure you minister the way I ministered, which is a vessel of the Spirit to work in me and through you. So when you speak, don't speak with persuasive words of wisdom."
Todd Wagner has not given you a single idea today. All I've done is tried to be faithful to what Jesus would tell you if he was here. He wants to remind you, "Hey, gang, we're at war. We love people. The world is going to hate us. It's okay. We're going to redeem some of those who were haters, and there's going to be a day we look back and go, 'It was fleeting to put up with that hate.'
We're going to be heartbroken that some of those who were haters remained haters and that now their heaven is gone and they are in hell but your hell is gone and you are in heaven. It's coming." That's either crazy talk or the gospel of John is true. You have to decide this day whom you're going to serve. As for me and my house, we'll serve the Lord, whether we're limping or running with all 10 toes. I don't have to be here long, but while I'm here, I have to be faithful.
Lastly, remember that you're not supposed to do this alone. God did not design you to do this alone. He wants you to walk in community and in counsel with other people. At 2:00 today, Dallas, 3:00 today, Fort Worth, Connecting Point. You find shepherds to shepherd you. You find community to encourage you day after day, as long as it's called "Today." You're not going to make it on your own.
In this world you will have trouble. Don't forsake your assembling together. Bear one another's burdens. If you're trying to make this thing on your own, you will grow weary in doing good. God says, "You gather with my people, and you sing songs, and you remind yourself of truth. You study my Word. You pay attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching, and don't you dare try to do this alone, because you will grow weary. Connect deeply."
Let me let you watch a story of one of my heroes here. When he was 9 years old, God decided for his little while, his life, to be one of great pain and suffering, but I've watched him go through this. I don't understand why God writes this kind of pain in certain people's stories, but I know he's up to good in some ways. Every week I get a chance to I hug Brandon, and I pray for him that God would let him run freely again, but I know he may not.
There's some part of God's redemptive program that even for Brandon, from 9 to 90, it's just a little while. I don't know why God has chosen to glorify himself in this young man this way. I just know that he is God, he is omniscient, and he is good, and just because he hasn't done away with evil doesn't mean he won't. There's going to be a day, if Brandon can hang on, that he's going to say, "That momentary light affliction and the story God wrote with it? Thank you." Watch this.
Melissa Landis: Brandon was a typical kid. He loved all sports, golf being his favorite. He played football, soccer for years, where his dad, Drew, coached him, just loving life and having a good time. The summer of '08, he was actually out at football camp at Lake Highlands High School where I picked him up, and he was not well. Come to find out he had a mysterious virus, and through many years of roller coaster rides, doctor's appointments, not knowing what diagnosis was what, they labeled him with having iron on the brain.
Drew Landis: They connected us to a family conference with children and adults who have this rare disorder. When we landed, we got to the hotel, walked in the lobby, and I lost it. This is not good. We're looking at children who are in trachs and feeding tubes, and we're looking at the reality of possibly burying our son by the age of 15. That was my lowest point.
Melissa: Asking God, "Why us? Why our son? What have we done?" During one quiet time I had, I broke down, and I fell to the floor, literally on my hands and knees, bawling and praying to God. "Okay. Take our son. I'm giving you Brandon." I called Drew immediately and told him how I felt, that "We can't do this anymore…the anger, the ups and downs. We need to all give it to God." So we actually had a family meeting that evening and all decided we were going to be on the same page.
Drew: Went from getting punched in the gut feeling to them basically telling us, "We've had a change with the last MRI. The iron is gone." I started saying, "This is crazy, guys. We've gone from 'I don't know what it is' to iron to it's gone now."
Melissa: Here we are. Our son obviously has something. What is it? A little while longer, a doctor, a neurologist, decided Brandon has dystonia, which is a muscle disorder. Everything we were seeing was controlled by muscles. If his speech was having an issue, that's a muscle…arms, legs, and those are pretty much his issues. We were back at the same place, and we were watching our son slowly deteriorate. His muscles are working 24/7. His body doesn't rest.
Drew: I remember many a time going in and saying, "Make your bed. You can make your bed. You made your bed yesterday," but he'd look at me in a frozen state with a tear in his eye, and I just realized that was the dystonia. We had a lot of those moments, actually, not so proud to say, but those were also great building blocks, for him to look at me going, "It's okay. I'm still here. I still love you. I just am stuck right now."
Cassidy Landis: It's hard for me, as his sister, to watch him go through this. You love me no matter what, and I will always love you, even though sometimes I don't show it. I know I can be kind of mean, but on the inside I really do love you.
Drew: We've had so many kids and so many parents come up and say, "Your son just lights me up with that smile."
Melissa: His arm may be 10 feet behind him, but he has a smile on his face.
Drew: He's always smiling.
Melissa: We knew this was the right path because of the good things that were coming from it from God. Not just a scared mom and dad putting their son through brain surgery but watching how this story could be a witness tool for God. People kind of look at you funny when you start telling them you've been blessed and your child has a disorder that realistically may not have a cure.
He wouldn't have that smile if he didn't know God had his back. There will be times he'll come up to me and say, "Mom, I'm ready for this to be over. I want God to take this away, but I know God is using me in some way." I tell you what. I think that's what keeps us going.
Drew: That's what we have. That's all we have.
Melissa: Quite honestly, I wish I was more like him. And if it took dystonia to get me to have that kind of faith and that kind of power then, God, bring it on.
[End of video]
It's not surprising that Brandon says, "I wish this was over," is it? I want to tell you one thing God is doing with Brandon right here in our body. When I watch that smile, when I watch that kid use every bit of strength he has to raise his arms to worship the God who we're singing about and to walk out of here and to love others, it makes me go, "Hey, big boy. Your little while is not as troublesome as his little while. Make your faithfulness match his."
I don't know what you're going through. There's a reason for a long time I didn't talk about my little temporary distraction. It's because I know so many of you who are going through so much more. That's why a number of weeks ago, in John 14, I had all of those folks up here onstage with me who are just heroes of mine who have peace that passes understanding. This is not about measuring each other's trials; this is about spurring each other on to greater surrender and response to truth.
We are on a journey here, and this is our little while to be faithful to our King. There is going to be a glorious day waiting, but it's not going to be if we make this about our comfort, our health, our wealth, and our prosperity. It is about the health of the gospel, the wealth of the riches of Christ being shared to others, and the prosperity of redemption that Jesus wants to deliver through us. Church, that is your charge.
I want to close with a reminder of where we're headed, but I want to remind you now we are in a little while of opportunity. May we be found faithful. Let's stand and celebrate that glorious day when our hell will be no more.
That glorious day is coming in a little while, but until that little while, you'd better remember his love for you, remember his Word, remember his Spirit and the Word it has brought you and the message he has given you, and remember he does not intend for you to do this on your own. Encourage one another day after day. Give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching. Focus on the end.
In this world there will be trouble. In this world there will be great joy. If joy is not there in the end, it is not yet the end, but hang on. There's a glorious day coming for all who faithfully serve him. If you don't know the one we serve, would you come? And if you know him, would you go? Take heart. Have courage. Serve the King. God bless you.