In this world we will have trials and adversity, but Jesus has shown the way to live with His peace and to overcome.
I’m so looking forward to this teaching. I want it to be a blessing to you. Even now, Lord, I ask that you would speak to us about what it means to go up and over, to have an overcoming faith that would allow us to prevail in these challenging perplexing times, these high-pressure times that we find ourselves in. We welcome your strength. We welcome your wisdom. We welcome your words for us. That’s my prayer, your blessing, at this moment for all of us in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The teaching itself is connected to one of the most wonderful moments in all of the scripture. It’s actually something that we refer to as the time around the Last Supper. It was on the night of Jesus’s betrayal, right before his arrest. What’s interesting is in the Gospel of John, the Book of John, which has 21 chapters, chapters 13-17 are devoted to just one night of teaching and prayer. So much happens in John 13-17. Let’s think about that. That’s five chapters, five of the 21 chapters, almost a quarter of the book, devoted to just this one evening of exchange that we’re given. It’s incredible when you think about it. What it’s telling us is that this has tremendous wealth in it. So much is devoted to this moment. It was meant to sustain us. It was meant to be life-giving.
For me personally, it’s the perfect way to kick off the series that we’re about to embark on. Which I think is meant for us at this time, as a people, making a journey together through a situation that none of us wanted. We’re going to talk about that in a moment. Let’s jump in though to the beginning, to the very first verse of John 13, that sets this in motion. It says, “Before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the father. ” I love this phrase. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Another version says, “Having loved them, he loved them to the end.” It’s one of my favorite verses in all the scriptures. I get so much life from it. It has meant so much to me, this verse.
You say, what do you mean? I think the reason it has meant so much to me is that I see in it the model I want to pursue in my own life. Because it speaks of devoted love and it also speaks of commitment under enormous pressure. It’s both poetic and majestic. It’s a reminder that love finishes and love completes. Love sustains. Love doesn’t quit. In an age of love that is so conditional, here we see committed love. It inspires me. Jesus help us to hear, help us to hear.
After an extensive time of sharing that begins in that first verse of John 13, it goes all the way to the end of chapter 17. Jesus in chapter 17 gives us this great prayer. All the disciples are with Jesus, except for Judas who at a certain point in the evening leaves. The Bible says, “He departed into the night.” I’ve always been sort of impressed by that description because that’s where he was going.
After that, at that moment, Jesus shares even more intimately. He speaks very direct words to them. By the time Jesus is done sharing before he prays, the disciples say to him how they felt about what he had just shared. This is captured in the passage that I really want to look at and build-out of. This is John 16:29, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech. Oh, we’re really happy with this Lord, this teaching of yours, because, honestly, we’ve had enough of these kinds of metaphors and parables and kind of unclear things. You were so direct and we loved that. This was really helpful for us.”
They say this, “Now we know that you know all things. Now we’ve come to the conclusion that you know everything. Actually, you’ve answered all our questions and we don’t need to question you any more. No, we don’t. This is why we believe that you came from God. Yes, we do.” It’s almost like they said, “You know, we got our last sharing time around this table, the beauty of this time together. You know, Lord, we got it now. You know it all makes sense to us. We’re all good. We’re all good. Well, we know who you are and our faith is fixed. We just want you to know that your teaching has really affected us at this moment.”
I just can’t help but see the humanity in this. Because as Jesus listening to them speak, and they’re speaking sincere but they’re alight. They’ve been fellowshipping. They’re having a great time. They’ve loved listening to Jesus. In the middle of all of that, they make their declaration of their loyalty and affection. “We believe in you now.” Jesus says, “Really?”
What they said with the kind of uncalculated loyalty and affection, Jesus took a very different approach to. I see him scanning the room and in silence, and they can feel his gaze. I see it in my mind’s eye. He looks at them and the lightheartedness of their statement shifts as Jesus says, “Do you really? Do you really? Do you not believe me? Is that what you’re telling me? You now believe. I’m telling you something. Let me tell you something. Behold, the hour is coming. In fact, it’s now upon us. Indeed it has come. You will be scattered each one of you to your own home. You’re going to leave me alone. You are, each one of you will. I’m telling you that.”
Perhaps a pause and a shift as Jesus looks in a different direction and gazes, and he says, “But I am not alone. You will leave me alone, but I am not alone because the Father is with me.” I couldn’t help but think about that word alone. It just hit me. Do we feel it? How powerful it is. “You will leave me alone. You will not be with me. You will not stand with me. No, don’t even say that. You can say it, but it’s not true.”
He’s looking into their eyes. As he’s looking into their eyes, he’s looking ahead. He sees into the night. He sees what’s coming and he knows. He truly knows that before the morning breaks, he knows they will all leave him, every one of them. Some of them who have professed their greatest love will break with him. He knows it. In a few hours Jesus says, “Your words will ring hollow because my hour is upon me and I will be alone. This path I will walk. I will walk it alone, but I am not alone because the Father is with me.” Yes, he is. That is enough.
Jesus understood, and this might be good for us. He really understood what it was like to have friends fail him. He loved these men. He had poured his life into them. He had given them his best. They had lived life closely for three years. He had trained them, mentored them, poured into them, taught them. They had witnessed things, seen miracles and wonders. They had heard words spoken that no one else had ever heard.
Even more than that, even more than that, he says, “I’m not just your master. I’m not just your teacher. I’m your friend.” He had lived life with them. He had walked dusty paths with them. They had traveled together, journeyed together, had meals together. They camped together for long stretches of time. I can tell you that when you camp together, you learn a lot about people. You laugh around the fire, you talk, you engage in life, you reflect, you open up. He had shared this with them. Maybe that’s what added to the pain. He knew. He knew that despite their affections for him, that they would not be able to stand though. No, they wouldn’t. That they would flee him, and they did.
I just want to put this up, and a lot of us are acting with this. We take our notes and we take this time very seriously. I say to you, well done for doing that. Well done. Because what we speak out, what we write down, what we reflect upon, it grows it inside of us. I want to just suggest, that the Lord, and this has been so encouraging for me to be aware of as well, knows our frame. He does. He knew them. The Lord knows our frame. He knows us better than we know ourselves. We should be encouraged and take heart because he loves us despite our shortcomings. How grateful I am for that. I really am.
None of us are impervious to failure. We’re all vulnerable. We all have weak zones. You hear me say it all the time. We’re all flawed. We all have blind spots. Let’s be humble. We all have areas of unique vulnerability when the pressure is applied. We can crack and we can crumble. We can. We’re not supermen. We’re not superwomen. We have deficiencies and we have areas of our past that have affected who we are in our present. That’s true. He loves us still.
He knew they would fail him. But what he was also telling them was, “I will not fail you.” He knew they would fail him, his love did not fail them. Having loved them, he loved them to the end. That he was under no illusions. He knew they would let him down. He knew they would break under the way. I thought, “So it is with us, I have failed him as well.”
This is a true reflection; I have failed Him in things said and in things done. I have failed Him and things unsaid and things undone. Yet He loves me still. And so it is with you. I have failed Him with attitudes awry, with anger unchecked, doubting His goodness despite deliverance of days gone by defeated by demons, both real and within, defeated by my frailty. Even my sin, the sins of my youth, of my presence that insight, indict and paralyze. Yet He loves me still. And so it is with you. God loves you very much. He gave his son as the living proof. The loyal love that breaks our heart and shows up, all the more beautifully in failure and shame, that meets us in the shadows. Listen, it whispers our name.
In Romans 8 we’re told, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. “For I am sure,” the apostle says, “I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height or depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” So let it linger. What can separate us from the love of God? What can separate us from his love? Ah, but there is more. I go back to that exchange that Jesus has on the backside of the declaration of the disciples. That they finally believed and understood. When Jesus said to them, “You won’t be able to do it.” When he told them these words, when he brought them to attention, when he told them that he would be alone, “But yet I am not alone for the Father is with me.”
He said this in verse 33, “I said these things to you. I said this to you. Not to make you feel bad, not to condemn you. I’m not trying to do that. Now I’ve said these things to you, listen, and listen for yourself as well. Let’s let all of this listen. I’ve said these things to you, that in me, you may have peace. Oh, in the world you will have tribulation. Yes. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” This reminds us of something. ‘We cannot avoid its adversity.’ In the world, we will have tribulation, we will have trials and we will have adversity. It’s not a question of if, it’s just a question of when. That’s just a fact. To be alive is to be vulnerable. There are going to be hard times. We live in one of the most blessed times in history, in human history, in one of the most blessed nations in the world. Yet, we cannot deny that these are troubled times, and there are going to be hard times. This is part of life.
I’m talking again about the problems of life. Yes, I am. The hurts of life, the stress of life, the pain of life, the suffering, the unfairness of life, are inescapable realities of living on this side of eternity. We live in a broken world, a sin-impacted world. That’s why Jesus came. He didn’t say we weren’t going to have tribulation. We will have it. My prayer is that our faith would not fail us in the day of adversity. My prayer for you is that your faith will not fail on the day of adversity. That our faith would not fail in the season of disappointment.
A saying that I heard years ago has been something that I still remember to this day. I’ve heard it said more than a few times. That is, “Our disappointments are His appointment. Our disappointments are His appointments.” You can say that with me or to one another, right? You can say it together if you want, right? Our disappointments are His appointments. Why? Because that’s where the wounded one meets us. In the place of our wound, in the place of our despair, in the place of our disappointment. Those times that we do not want, have not asked for, and want to come to a close, can become times of opportunity for the Lord to show us a better way. They can become times, though undesired, like now, they can become times of grace, growth, and true knowing. These can be deepening places. That is my prayer for all of us.
Another thing I want to suggest as well and it caught my attention is that it’s always easier to stand with Jesus in the upper room than in [inaudible 00:18:09]. What are you talking about? I’m talking about how easy it is to stay with the Lord when we feel blessed and everything makes sense. That’s easier to do. Now, yes, there is a unique peril in prosperity, and we can drift in the place of abundance. In fact, we’re warned about it at times in scripture by Jesus, about the dangers that come with wealth and riches, and the easy life. There’s a unique danger there, of drifting because we begin to forget that we really need God. So a lack of problems has its own potential peril.
When we’re under pressure and feeling that life is hard, when we’re in pain, there’s a different kind of temptation that can happen there. That temptation is the temptation to drift, right? The temptation of prosperity may be more connected to a forgetting of how much we really do need the Lord. The temptation of pain, difficulty, and hardship, of uncertainty and what seems to be unfair, that presents a different challenge. Because of that challenge, the challenge there is that we begin to doubt the goodness of God or His love and concern for us. I think we’re probably more likely to be in that place of vulnerability, the latter rather than the former.
I think that we need to remind ourselves that. For me, it is easier to stand with Him. If I can put it this way, when I’m in blessed and sweet fellowship reclining on the couch with the disciples, enjoying a meal and having laughter and a wonderful night. Hearing Jesus just talk about who he is, share, watch his lessons, and hear him as he talks about what humility looks like. I love that place. That’s the place of intimacy and that’s the place of blessing. That place I go, yeah, we love you. We believe in you. I do, I’ve done that.
Later on when there is persecution, when there are soldiers, torches, swords were drawn, and people ready to strip away our freedom, well, that’s another story, isn’t it? A lot easier to be with Jesus reclining on the couch in the upper room when we’re surrounded by soldiers in the terror of the night. I’m reminded that whatever we have is going to be tested. When it is, I ask that the Lord would help us to have a loyal love. That our love would be loyal come what may. That we would not fail him when it is hard. That we would try to give Him back, at least some of what He has given us, which is a loyal love.
One more thing he said, “I want you to have peace.” Think about that, go back to that, check it out. Let that sit with us right now in these unpeaceful times of ours. Just let us be aware of this, that he wants us to have his peace so that we may be at peace. I’ll say that one more time. He wants us to have His peace so that we may be at peace. Even when things are hard and melting down, He can show us the way. He says, “Be at peace. Be at peace. I want you to have my peace.”
What is that peace? What does it speak of but a settled place, a place of steady equilibrium, that He modeled? Even in the midst of a meltdown all around him, Jesus is unperturbed. Though everything around him is agitated and disturbed, he knows, he can feel it. Later on, he will say in the garden, “Father, take this cup from me.” As he is praying, it’s hard. He feels it all around him. But his inside, he is aligned with the Father and he realized himself there. He shows us the way of once. As he was on the stormy sea, so he is in the hour of the cross.
That’s my hero. That’s Jesus, greater than any man and any woman that ever was and ever will be. That’s Jesus. That’s who I’m talking about. Well, you know while Jesus is talking, Judas is in the process of betraying him, and Jesus knows what is coming. He can see it. He can feel it. He senses the hounds of hell, like birds circling in the air ready to fall upon him.
“All he has worked for,” the great writer George Buttrick said, “is giving or going down, is giving or going down.” His best friend’s about to fail him. All the training and work appearing to be meaningless. He will be abandoned, seized upon by men, heartless men, callous men, indifferent men, cruel Roman soldiers. Even more than that, by demons. He’ll be ravaged, stripped, and humiliated for all to see, fully displayed between two common thieves, in pain and sorrow, in a broken body. Yet in peace. Wow. This, if you can hear me say, is the peace I’ve tried to remind myself of it. It’s the peace he wants for us too. A peace that prevails. A peace, Jesus said, “Not as the world gives, give I unto you.” Is there an area in our life right now where we need his peace to come?
It’s not denying things. It’s just saying, Lord, into this place I welcome your peace. Lord. if there’s a space right now we need to welcome your peace into our minds, into our hearts, we welcome you into this place. We welcome your peace. Lord, give us your peace.
The last thing and I’ll leave it with this, he wants us to take heart. Don’t miss it, to be of good cheer, to be encouraged and uplifted. Why? Because he says he has overcome. He says, “I have overcome the world.” If he has overcome, he said, “Lift up your countenance. Let your joy be filled. Let your heart be filled with joy.” Why? “I have overcome. In the world, you will have tribulation, but I have overcome.”
Is there anything that we’re facing that is hard? Let His love sustain us. Is there anything that we are facing where we need tremendous courage? Let His love fill us. Let Him fill us. Let Him meet us there. Let Him teach us how to prevail. Is there a temptation for our hearts to become bitter instead of better? Welcome the one who overcomes into it. Is there a part of us that wants to yield to fear? Let faith prevail. Let Him help us to overcome. Is there a place where things are hard? Let Him heal. Is there a place where we are not at peace, where we feel the pressure? Let Him bring us peace.
Do you see what I’m saying? Think about this. “I have overcome a world.” That is a reminder for us. When he says, “Take heart,” he’s saying, “Look, I want you to be filled with hope and confidence.” I love this. He’s saying be filled with the prevailing optimism. Let us not be negative, Lord. Don’t let us get bitter. Don’t let us get cynical. Don’t let us get angry and don’t let us be offended. Don’t let that take over and take root in us. Let’s see to let the love of Christ prevail. Steady. Steady, son. Steady, daughter. Steady. We ask in Jesus’ name now.
I’ll close us out. It’s the time when we often now on my service iteration, we say this is a time to remind you about giving. I know some of you don’t even need to be reminded. You’ve been so faithful, so committed to the Lord in your tithes and your offerings. Remember, you can do that online directly on the app. I really encourage you to get the app, enable those notifications. I’m sending out that Rise and Shine every morning.
We’ve all kinds of things going on throughout the week that are just designed to encourage you, to keep you connected. I think a lot of you noticed that. You know what we’re doing. We’re trying to stay together as a people. We’re going to get through this and we’re going to come out better. But remember, you can do that. You can give in a number of ways. You can even send it in, as some of you do to our offices. Whatever works best. I want you blessed. I want to come back around like a setting and just close this out. Let’s share this time and let it minister our hearts.
How thankful I am for the one who helps us to overcome. I know the Lord wants us to be overcomers. He wants us to learn how to grow up and over. To be better. To not be defined by the things that are hard, but to learn how to prevail even under pressure. How to be at peace even when we’re in pain. Now His love is the rider by my side. Yes, my defender in the night, and of whom shall I be afraid?
Lord, we talk a lot about how good you are. We talk about how you’re so good and so God, and how we want to so good and so God. But I would ask that you would help us as we move into a week that we cannot even adequately prepare for and for we do not know what a day will bring, but we ask that your presence would walk with us and your peace would fill us.
Help us I pray to keep growing, to stay in love with you, to keep our hearts humble and soft, teachable. Strengthen our faith, Lord, for whatever it is that we have to walk through. Don’t let us get stuck. When we do wander off, please Lord, come and find us. That’s my prayer for all of us in Jesus’ name. I love you all very much. Let’s keep praying for one another. Can we do that as we make this charity together?