As I mentioned on Sunday, my hope was to provide devotionals throughout the week. I’ve spent the last couple of days preparing a few things and I want to start sharing them with you in the hopes that God will use them to encourage you and to help you in your walk with Jesus. I’ll be posting some videos and uploading a few things to my blog and to Facebook. In fact, you can find a video associated with this blog here:
Before we go any further though I want to tell you that what I am sharing with you in these devotionals comes from all sorts of places. Because what I am actually sharing with you is part of my life in Christ. In other words, I will be sharing things from my own devotional life. Some of what I share, I will have written. Some of what I share will come from other sources that I use in my devotional life.
I just wanted you to know that before I get started today.
- This prayer is from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers & Other Servants
Lord God, you who are the sources of all truth, wisdom, justice, and love, lead me through this time of worship and throughout this day of service to you. Help me constantly to rest my life upon the eternal foundations of your love and presence. Save \me from haste and confusion, from wrongful desire, and the net of evil. Through the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, enlighten, instruct, and guide me all day long. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Text for Reflection:
 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?  Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (ESV)
Hymn: It Is Well by H. G. Spafford. I encourage you to listen to this hymn and spend some time just thinking about the words. Also, you may be interested in knowing more about the hymn: https://www.staugustine.com/article/20141016/LIFESTYLE/310169936)
Reflection: Earlier today, I came across the words of Jesus in John 16:33. Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” You know as a pastor I am often asked what is my favorite book of the Bible – or favorite text. That is really a tough question because for me it is impossible to reduce 66 books down to one – or even down to one text. But I do have texts that largely speak to my soul: Psalms is a book I turn to often because it often gives me the words I need when I can’t find my own in terms of prayer or worship. But I also love to read the Gospels – because to be blunt – there is only one reason why I am the way I am – Jesus.
I’m not saying that to be trite or flippant. I am a minister of the Gospel – I am Christian – and I do what I do as a minister and Christian not because I am anything special or think of myself as a particularly good guy. Those of you who know me well – know I am a mess and I most identify with Jesus’ disciple – Simon Peter. That guy kept messing up and kept going back to Jesus. And Jesus knew that about Peter and loved him. I mess up all the time and find a great example in Simon Peter; I keep going back to Jesus. Friends, that’s what I do. I am drawn to Jesus; he is the only reason I do what I do and my hope is rooted in Jesus – alone.
And so, I turn to the Gospels – a lot – so I can read about Jesus. So I can be reminded that He takes messy people like me and does some good things with them. And so, this morning I came across this passage in John’s Gospel. John 16 is part of a section called the Upper Room Discourse – which is from John 13-17. It is called that because that is where it takes place. Jesus and his disciples are in a room together celebrating the Passover – and it is the same evening that Jesus is betrayed by Judas and handed over and ultimately crucified; none of which was a surprise to Jesus. If you read the gospels, you’ll get the sense quick that Jesus was fully aware of what was in store for Him.
And so, listening in on Jesus’ final conversation with His disciples before the cross is powerful. And, there is a lot in there for us as well. But it is important to remember that as Jesus speaks to his disciples, they really don’t know what lays in store for them. Their lives are about to irrevocably change. They are about to see the man they thought of as their teacher and master, the man they presumed to be coming in to be like David – a great warrior – or like Moses – a great leader. But Jesus was coming like the Savior of the world. He wasn’t interested simply in overthrowing the Roman army and liberating God’s people from tyranny. Jesus was coming in like the Messiah who came to liberate humanity from the tyranny of sin and death.
But to get to liberation from sin and death, Christ would endure unimaginable suffering at the hands of sinful people and then rise from the dead three days later. Everything was about to change but the disciples didn’t realize it. And they didn’t realize that afterward – after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension – that those who have their faith in Jesus – those who belong to Christ – would participate in his suffering as well. They didn’t fully realize – like some Christian even today – they didn’t realize that participating in advancing God’s kingdom requires God’s people to step into the messy places of the world and often face – well – what Jesus said we would face. Remember, Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.”
We don’t use that word often and so the meaning kind of gets lost. The word means affliction, difficulties, troubles. In other words, Jesus is trying to tell his disciples – then and now – you aren’t immune from troubles. You are going to have them and anyone – including a preacher – that tells you otherwise – is blowing smoke.
The late pastor, Eugene Peterson – did a marvelous job of providing a translation of the Bible called The Message. He translated John 16:33 like this: Jesus said, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”
Friends, today, for lots of reasons, that text bears more weight and assurance than it usually does. We are going to face difficulties, afflictions, troubles. But, in the midst of all those, Jesus reminds us to take heart – not in ourselves – but in Him. In Jesus we are unshakable, assured, deeply at peace because our trust is in the one who has conquered the world.
I can’t think of a better song to capture what all of this means than the hymn “It is Well With My Soul.” You may know the story behind the hymn – but it bears repeating even if you do. That hymn was written by Horatio G. Spafford. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman. He lived in Chicago. But Spafford and his wife dealt with a great deal loss due to illness and to a tragic accident. The Spaffords suffered financially when the great Chicago fire destroyed a huge portion of their business. Two of the children died due to pneumonia. But the song itself was born out of Horatio’s grief after four of his daughters died when the ship they were on sunk mid-way across the Atlantic. Spafford penned that song as he sailed from the US to England in order to be with his wife.
In his grief, he penned this amazing hymn that I think goes so well with what Jesus is saying in John 16. Friends, we are going to have troubles but praise the Lord – it is well with my soul – because of Jesus. May that be our prayer today and every day – that we as Christ’s people can say without hesitation – no matter what comes our way – it is well Lord – with my soul.
Prayers for the People and the Lord’s Prayer
Lord, we don’t want to face troubles of any kind. We spend a lot of time trying to make sure that we don’t. And so, when things do come our way, we can lose sight of you. We can start to question and wonder what we will do. We can start to worry and fret and get anxious. We can get consumed by all the troubles that we see. We can be like the young man who worked for Elisha. All he could see were the troubles.
But Lord, you aren’t surprised by troubles and you’ve told us you’d never leave us nor forsake us – even in the midst of our troubles. So Lord, like Elisha prayed, help us not be overwhelmed by the troubles we see, help us not to be afraid. Help us to know that “those who are with us are more than those who are against us.” And Lord, “please open our eyes that we may see you” at work in us. Lord be with those who are struggling because of this virus. There are lots of people who are ill and lots of people who are losing jobs and they are fearful. God, hear our prayer for them and for your people. Help us, Lord, to be the church that you’ve called us to be for such a time as this.
All this we ask Lord – in the matchless, marvelous name of Jesus Our Lord – who taught us to pray saying, ““Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Friends, God loves you. He’s made his love known to you through His Son, through His Spirit, through His Word, and through the fellowship we have with one another. Now He sends us out into the world to bear witness to His deep and abiding love. He does so with this blessing, “Now may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you His shalom.” Go now in the Shalom of Christ.