ENCOURAGEMENT

 

            Have you ever been so discouraged or depressed that you felt like you were in complete despair, no where to turn, everything is going wrong, nothing is going right.  All your dreams and hopes and plans just seem to be falling apart, all the goods things you had expected to be available to you have fled, gone away?

            There was a young man in Columbia, South Carolina that I had the privilege of meeting one time who had every right by man’s judgment to feel this way.  Lucas Richards was the son of the preacher at the West Columbia church of Christ.  At the time, he was about 25 years of age, just reaching a point where he should be starting his adult life.  But Lucas had brain cancer and had just once again heard the doctor’s say, “you’ve only got about two months to live.”  But he had heard this before, even as long as six years before and he was still here.  His parents and his doctors were searching the medical centers of expertise in this country for something that could help him.  But in the mean time, Lucas was living his life to the fullest, not in the eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die mindset of the world.  But with the idea that he was going to live every day that God gave him to the fullest, in God’s service, as a Christian.  Not as someone who was planning to leave this earthly life tomorrow because, you see, Lucas got married that week and plans to be around as long as God will permit.  But at the same time if God did not permit his time here to continue he was ready to accept this as well.  As he told those that gathered in a special prayer meeting for him it is because he had a hope and a faith that was anchored in the solid Rock of faith, Jesus Christ, as his savior and Lord.  This young man represents the mind and attitude that I want to encourage all of us in this lesson.

            There was a time in the lives of Jesus disciples that this kind of situation was about to overtake them.  They were looking forward to the day that Jesus would sit on David’s throne.  Of course, they didn’t understand that His kingdom would be spiritual rather than physical; they were looking for someone to overthrow the Roman government and re-establish the glory of the kingdom of Solomon. The Jewish rulers looked for the same.  They didn’t accept Him and wanted him out of the way thinking he was going to steal away their power, their authority.

 

John 11:47  THEN GATHERED THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND THE PHARISEES A COUNCIL, AND SAID, WHAT DO WE?  FOR THIS MAN DOETH MANY MIRACLES.”

 

John 11:53-54  THEN FROM THAT DAY FORTH THEY TOOK COUNSEL TOGETHER FOR TO PUT HIM TO DEATH.  JESUS THEREFORE WALKED NO MORE OPENLY AMONG THE JEWS; BUT WENT THENCE UNTO A COUNTRY NEAR TO THE WILDERNESS, INTO A CITY CALL EPHRAIM, AND THERE CONTINUED WITH HIS DISCIPLES.”

 

            When the time comes for the Passover Jesus returns to Jerusalem, enters the city triumphant as a king with the people that have gathered from all over the world leading his way and cheering him on.  But they would turn on him all so quickly, this same people, would become a mob screaming for his crucifixion.  And what of his disciples; Zechariah’s prophecy tells us:

 

Zechariah 13:7  “AWAKE, O SWORD, AGAINST MY SHEPHERD, AND AGAINST THE MAN that is MY FELLOW, SAITH THE LORD OF HOSTS: SMITE THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP SHALL BE SCATTERED: AND I WILL TURN MINE HAND UPON THE LITTLE ONES.”

 

            And Jesus refers to this in Mark 14:21.

 

            Judas will betray the Son of God to his murderers, Peter will deny his Lord and curse and swear to show that he was not a part of their company. The Shepherd will be smitten down, killed and his followers will be scattered.  All the hopes, the plans, the dreams of the disciples of Christ will appear to have been crushed.  Can we imagine a blacker day? Can we envision a more bitter time? Are any of our troubles any more harder to bear than this? 

But Jesus has prepared his disciples for this situation.  Listen to the words of Jesus to his disciples, soak in them, understand what our real purpose is; wring encouragement from every one of them.  Because our real purpose here is not to build kingdoms on this earth, its not to accumulate wealth, its not to serve our own wants and desires.  The Holy Spirit recorded through the words of the wise man Solomon:

 

Ecclesiastes 12:13  LET US HEAR THE CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE MATTER: FEAR GOD, AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS: FOR THIS IS THE WHOLE duty OF MAN,”

 

            Turn to John 14, because that’s were we will find the rest of our lesson.

 

v1.  LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED: BE BELIEVE IN GOD, BELIEVE ALSO IN ME.”

 

            Believe in God, don’t let your faith fail just because of earthly troubles, overpowering as they may seem.  And if you believe in God believe also in me.

 

v2.  IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE ARE MANY MANSIONS: IF it were NOT so, I WOULD HAVE TOLD YOU.  I GO TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU.”

           

He was going where they could not come, yet.  But he was going to prepare a place for them, for us, a home more beautiful and more rewarding than any we can imagine here on earth.  There is a reward waiting for those who are willing to believe and to sacrifice.

 

v3.  AND IF I GO AND PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU, I WILL COME AGAIN, AND RECEIVE YOU UNTO MYSELF; THAT WHERE I AM there YE MAY BE ALSO.”

 

            And in spite of the fact that they could not go with him at this time, the time would come when we all go with him to that place more wonderful than our imaginations can dream up.  A place especially prepared for us, not just the mansions of the abode of God but mansions especially prepared for those who are his children:  Remember:

 

John 12:26  IF ANY MAN SERVE ME, LET HIM FOLLOW ME; AND WHERE I AM, THERE SHALL ALSO MY SERVANT BE: IF ANY MAN SERVE ME, HIM WILL my FATHER HONOUR.”

 

            Just as the men in white apparel told His disciples when Jesus ascended:

 

Acts 1:11  WHICH ALSO SAID, YE MEN OF GALILEE, WHY STAND YE GAZING UP INTO HEAVEN?  THIS SAME JESUS, WHICH IS TAKEN UP FROM YOU INTO HEAVEN, SHALL SO COME IN LIKE MANNER AS YE HAVE SEEN HIM GO INTO HEAVEN.”

 

            And just as Paul describes to the believers at Thessalonica, when he comes again:

 

I Thessalonians 4:16-17  FOR THE LORD HIMSELF SHALL DESCEND FROM HEAVEN WITH A SHOUT, WITH THE VOICE OF THE ARCHANGEL, ANDIWTH THE TRUMP OF GOD: AND THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST: THEN WE WHICH ARE ALIVE and REMAIN SHALL BE CAUGHT UP TOGETHER WITH THEM IN THE CLOUDS, TO MEET THE LORD IN THE AIR: AND SO SHALL WE EVER BE WITH THE LORD.”

 

v4.  AND WHITHER I GO YE KNOW, AND THE WAY YE KNOW.”

 

            Oh, yes, we know the way to that heavenly home - the same way that his disciples knew the way.  Because:

 

John 1:4  IN HIM WAS LIFE; AND THE LIFE WAS THE LIGHT OF MEN.”

 

John 1:17  AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH, AND DWELT AMONG US, (AND WE BEHELD HIS GLORY, THE GLORY AS THE ONLY BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER,) FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH.”

 

            Jesus is Truth:

 

John 8:32  AND YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH, AND THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.”

 

            And remember the illustration Jesus gave concerning the sheepfold?

 

John 10:9  I AM THE DOOR: BY ME IF ANY MAN ENTER IN, HE SHALL BE SAVED, AND SHALL TO IN AND OUT, AND FIND PASTURE.”

 

            But a lot of folks just don’t believe; a lot of others believe but their faith is weak, perhaps even some of us are a little like Thomas; we have our doubts, we need reassurance:

 

v5.  “THOMAS SAITH UNTO HIM, LORD, WE KNOW NOT WHITHER THOU GOEST; AND HOW CAN WE KNOW THE WAY?”

 

            Are there any like Thomas among us?  One writer describes Thomas as a plain, honest and plain-spoken man but with a doubting and somewhat despondent disposition.  Are there any of us that have those doubts sometimes, are there any of us that get despondent from time to time?  But we know the way to that wonderful abode of God, that place that is our ultimate destination in this life.

 

v6.  “JESUS SAITH UNTO HIM, I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE: NO MAN COMETH UNTO THE FATHER, BUT BY ME.”

 

            And again we go back to the illustration that Jesus gave and the Holy Spirit through John recorded in John 10:

 

John 10:7-9  THEN SAID JESUS UNTO THEM AGAIN, VERILY, VERILY, I SAY UNTO YOU, I AM THE DOOR OF THE SHEEP.  ALL THAT EVER CAME BEFORE ME ARE THIEVES AND ROBBERS: BUT THE SHEEP DID NOT HEAR THEM.  I AM THE DOOR: BY ME IF ANY MAN ENTER IN, HE SHALL BE SAVED, AND SHALL GO IN AND OUT, AND FIND PASTURE.”

 

            And Jesus goes further to reassure them and us:

 

v7.  IF YE HAD KNOWN ME, HE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN MY FATHER ALSO: AND FROM HENCEFORTH YE KNOW HIM, AND HAVE SEEN HIM.”

 

            Jesus was the most complete and perfect representation of God that could have been presented to mankind.  He was God “manifested in the flesh.”  They had seen him already because God clothed the one who was in perfect harmony with him in spirit and mind with humanity that man might know him.  Jesus was the manifestation of God in the flesh.  But not only does Thomas doubt but Philip as well.

 

v8.  “PHILIP SAITH UNTO HIM, LORD, SHOW US THE FATHER, AND IT SUFFICETH US.”

 

            Philips doesn’t understand either.  Show us the Father, he says, and that will be sufficient.  I expect it would.

 

v9.  “JESUS SAITH UNTO HIM, HAVE I BEEN SO LONG TIME WITH YOU, AND YET HAST THOU NOT KNOWN ME, PHILIP?  HE THAT HATH SEEN ME HATH SEEN THE FATHER; AND HOW SAYEST THOU THEN, SHOW US THE FATHER?”

 

            Jesus had just told them a few days before:

 

John 12:44-45  HE THAT BELIEVETH ON ME, BELIEVETH NOT ON ME, BUT ON HIM THAT SENT ME.  AND HE THAT SEETH ME SEETH HIM THAT SENT ME.”

 

            Paul tells us that Jesus is:

 

Colossians 1:15  ….THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD, THE FIRSTBORN OF EVERY CREATURE.”

 

            And the writer of the Hebrew letter, as well, confirms through his words:

 

Hebrews 1:1-3  “GOD, WHO AT SUNDRY TIMES AND IN DIVERS MANNERS SPAKE IN TIME PAST UNTO THE FATHERS BY THE PROPHETS, HATH IN THESE LAST DAYS SPOKEN UNTO US BY his SON, WHOM HE HATH APPOINTED HEIR OF ALL THINGS, BY WHOM ALSO HE MADE THE WORLDS; WHO BEING THE BRIGHTNESS OF his GLORY, AND THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF HIS PERSON, AND UPHOLDING ALL THINGS BY THE WORD OF HIS POWER, WHEN HE HAD BY HIMSELF PURGED OUR SINS, SAT DOWN ON THE RIGHT HAND OF THE MAJESTY ON HIGH.”

 

v10.  BELIEVEST THOU NOT THAT I AM IN THE FATHER, AND THE FATHER IN ME?  THE WORDS THAT I SPEAK UNTO YOU I SPEAK NOT OF MYSELF: BUT THE FATHER THAT DWELLETH IN ME, HE DOETH THE WORKS.”

 

            Jesus goes into a more detailed dissertation or explanation of his relationship to God the Father.  He and his Father are so close that the very words that he speaks are those of the Father; God dwelling in him performed the works that Jesus performed.  The minds and personalities of Jesus and God are so completely and perfectly united that our finite minds are unable to comprehend their closeness; even though Jesus has told us:

 

John 7:16  JESUS ANSWERED THEM, AND SAID, MY DOCTRINE IS NOT MINE, BUT HIS THAT SENT ME.”

 

John 8:28  “THEN SAID JESUS UNTO THEM, WHEN YE HAVE LIFTED UP THE SON OF MAN, THEN SHALL YE KNOW THAT I AM he, AND that I DO NOTHING OF MYSELF; BUT AS MY FATHER HATH TAUGHT ME, I SPEAK THESE THINGS.”

 

John 10:37-38  IF I DO NOT THE WORKS OF MY FATHER, BELIEVE ME NOT, BUT IF I DO, THOUGH HE BELIEVE NOT ME, BELIEVE THE WORKS: THAT YE MAY KNOW, AND BELIEVE, THAT THE FATHER is IN ME, AND IN HIM.”

 

v11.  BELIEVE ME THAT I am IN THE FATHER, AND THE FATHER IN ME: OR ELSE BELIEVE ME FOR THE VERY WORKS’ SAKE.”

 

            Jesus also said:

 

John 5:36  BUT I HAVE GREATER WITHNESS THAN that OF JOHN: FOR THE WORKS WHICH THE FATHER HATH GIVEN ME TO FINISH, THE SAME WORKS THAT I DO, BEAR WITNESS OF ME, THAT THE FATHER HATH SENT ME.

 

            If Philip, or us, or anyone could not believe on Jesus based upon what he said, his teachings, then the works that he did ought to be able to convince him and anyone else that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.  But as a further encouragement to his apostles Jesus tells that they will do even greater works.

 

v12.  VERILY, VERILY, I SAY UNTO YOU, HE THAT BELIEVETH ON ME, THE WORKS THAT I DO SHALL HE DO ALSO; AND GREATER works THAN THESE SHALL HE DO; BECAUSE I GO UNTO MY FATHER.”

            Jesus tells them that those who believe on Him will in fact do even greater works than he had done.  Because he was going to return to the Father he would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to work through them that they might be able to convince mankind of the origin of their teaching, that the source of the commandments and instructions that they have given us might be verified.

 

Matthew 21:21  “….VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU, IF YE HAVE FAITH, AND DOUBT NOT, YE SHALL NOT ONLY DO THIS which is done TO THE FIG TREE, BUT ALSO IF YE SHALL SAY UNTO THIS MOUNTAIN, BE THOU REMOVED,AND BE THOU CAST INTO THE SEA; IT SHALL BE DONE.”

 

            They had experienced an example this kind of triumph already as disciples:

 

Luke 10:17  AND THE SEVENTY RETURNED AGAIN WITH JOY, SAYING, LORD, EVEN THE DEVILS ARE SUBJECT UNTO US THROUGH THY NAME.”

 

            And they would experience even greater triumphs:

 

Mark 16:17-18  AND THESE SIGNS SHALL FOLLOW THEM THAT BELIEVE; IN MY NAME SHALL THEY CAST OUT DEVILS; THEY SHALL SPEAK WITH NEW TONGUES; THEY SHALL TAKE UP SERPENTS; AND IF THEY DRINK ANY DEADLY THING, IT SHALL NOT HURT THEM; THEY SHALL LAY HANDS ON THE SICK, AND THEY SHALL RECOVER.”

 

v13.  AND WHATSOEVER YE SHALL ASK IN MY NAME, THAT WILL I DO, THAT THEY FATHER MAY BE GLORIFIED IN  THE SON.”

 

            Jesus also said:

 

Luke 11:9  AND I SAY UNTO YOU, ASK, AND IT SHALL BE GIVEN YOU; SEEK, AND YE SHALL FIND; KNOCK, AND IT SHALL BE OPENED UNTO YOU.”

 

            Yes, it easy for us to wallow in our doubts, and fears, borrow tomorrow’s troubles, imagine all manner of things that could go wrong; look about the world around us and see the terrible things that men do to each other; even more so today because of the electronic media that we use to bring the knowledge of all this into our homes and lives.

            But our existence in this world is temporary.  Many of us can look back and declare that it seems like so short a time since we were so much younger.  The day is coming when we will abandon this physical house of clay in which we live.  The day is rapidly approaching when we will leave this miserable ball of mud called earth.  We have a permanent home to look forward to; we have a place with God waiting for us, a “PLACE NOT MADE WITH HANDS”, a place more wonderful than we could ever imagine, a place where we can rest from our labors of life.

            But perhaps there is one among us tonight that doesn’t have that promise.  For, you see, in order to enjoy all of these things that Jesus was describing to his disciples; to enjoy the blessings and privileges of being an heir of God, we must be a child of God; and not just a child of God in name but a child of God in our living, our conduct, the way we spend the time that God has given us here.  And in order to become a child of God we must first of all hear God’s word, know about God and his son.

 

            Paul in Romans 10:14 tells us that we must hear before we can believe

in Romans 10:17 that that hearing will bring faith, or belief, in God and his Son Jesus. 

Jesus tells us in Mark 16:15 that we must believe or have faith before we can be saved,

in Luke 13:3 that we must repent of our past sins

in Matthew 10:32, Luke 12:8 that in order for him to confess us, we must confess him.

and back is Mark 15:16 again that we must be baptized to be saved.

If we’ve done all that we can still fall away, we can still become unfaithful but as Jesus told the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:5, we can repent, return to that from which we’ve fallen, pray God for his forgiveness and return to the works we did before.  If you need to come to God this evening please do so as we stand and sing.

 

William L. Schwegler; Sunset  church of Christ, Shreveport, Louisiana; June 9, 2002