We started our sermon series called ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING last week and talked about how anxiety thrives on UNCERTAINTY. This means that rather than cling to uncertain truths like “things should get better” or “I think COVID will be done soon”, we cling to the CERTAIN truths of God to battle anxiety.
Today, we’re diving into a situation where the disciples had all kinds of reasons to feel anxious, but Jesus gave them even more reason not to be. Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. All Kinds of Reasons for Anxiety
The lesson comes from John 14. In this account, Jesus and his disciples were gathered around a table celebrating the Jewish Festival called the Passover. It was a celebration of when God delivered the Israelite people from their slavery in Egypt.
The mood was festive.
Jokes were made.
Kosher finger foods were passed around.
Wine was available to consume in moderation.
Suddenly, Jesus broke the festive mood:
“Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” (John 13:21)
Things got real quiet, real quick.
Who is it?
Can’t be me.
Probably James the Less, he’s been quieter than normal tonight.
I do hope, Jesus, that it isn’t me.
Jesus responded: “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas.” (v.26)
Judas looked down at the piece of gravied bread.
He looked up at Jesus.
And got up and left them room.
As the rest of the disciples watch Judas leave in shock, Jesus gave them more sad news:
“My children, I will be with you only a little longer.” (v.33)
As I’ve told you before:
I will be betrayed.
Nailed to a cross.
And by the way…
“This very night you will all fall away on account of me.” (Matthew 26:31)
You’ll abandon me.
To which Peter replied:
James the Less, most likely.
But never me!
Jesus sadly looked at him and said:
Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” (Mt. 26:34)
I think it’s safe to say that at this point, the festive mood was dead.
All that was left was anxiety.
Is Judas really going to betray you?
Is Peter really going to deny you?
Are we really going to abandon you?
And if you die, what’s going to happen to us?
What about our safety?
Won’t we be next in line for the cross? I’m not ready to die!
And what about our ministry?
What about your followers?
What about our mission?
If you leave us in charge, this kingdom of God thing is going to die.
The mood in the room had changed.
Festivity has been replaced with anxiety.
But Jesus didn’t let the anxiety linger. As big as their anxiety was, his promises were even bigger:
“Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (14:1)
Did you catch that?
Jesus speaks firmly.
Jesus speaks calmly.
Jesus speaks peacefully.
Stop being anxious.
Stop letting anxiety take over.
Listen to me.
I have some promises for you that will work against your anxiety.
Promises of peace.
Friends, these promises were written down.
They were written down because they are for you as well.
If you feel like 2020 is about as anxious as a party with Jesus where he predicts his betrayal:
Listen to your Savior.
He has promises for you.
II. Anti-Anxiety Promises of Jesus
(1) You have a ROOM in Heaven
I don’t know if you’ve been out and about trying to get into any of local establishments since they’ve reopened, but it isn’t as easy as it used to be.
Restaurant seating has been cut in half.
Stores have limits on how many people can enter.
The other day we tried to get into Top Golf. Have you heard of this? You swing a golf club with some friends and try to get the balls to land in particular targets. I was looking forward to it.
They serve chicken wings.
They serve beverages.
It’s out in the open air.
You’re walled off from everyone outside your group.
It seemed like the perfect COVID-19 activity.
Apparently, so did everyone else.
There was a four-hour wait to get into play. But we couldn’t make a reservation over the phone. We had to get there in order to physically put our name on the list. We did; only to discover the waitlist had grown to 4 ½ hours. We decided to wait to see if it was going to drop, only to discover that the entire first floor was empty! They had room, but because of COVID – they didn’t have room for us.
Heaven is not like that. Jesus said about heaven:
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that you may also be where I am. (v.2-3)
Heaven isn’t filled to capacity.
There aren’t rooms off-limits because you are too full of sin.
It isn’t a priority club for all the “most holy of people” who wear nothing but religious jewelry and win Bible trivia every time.
One particular room.
(2) You know the WAY to Heaven
This is another thing that’s a stress off your back.
Because a lot of people have ZERO idea how to get to heaven. It’s one of the reasons that people avoid the question. They don’t know the answer and that uncertainty leads to all kinds of anxiety:
How do I get to heaven?
Learn the right set of Buddhist rules?
Sacrifice to the right Hindu idol?
Follow the correct Islamic principles?
Or just generally do “good” things…
What are good things?
Is it this set of “good” things over here?
Is it this set of “good” things over there?
And what if I mess up?
Can I start over?
Do I need to give my money to a charity?
What if I don’t have enough?
But you don’t have to worry about any of that. Because Jesus has revealed the way to you:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (v.6)
It’s as if you enter “eternal life” into Google Maps and it simply brings up a photo of a cross.
He is THE Way.
Not “a” way.
Not “one of the” ways.
Not even “an optional” way.
And you know him.
You don’t have to try and recall it from that time you drove with your dad.
You don’t have to try and listen to Siri while a rainstorm is causing the 5G to slow to 1G.
You don’t have to try and follow a treasure map that your 4-year-old son drew with a blue Crayola. (Is heaven over by this green squiggle over here?)
Jesus is the way.
And you know Jesus.
So, you know the Way.
Consequently, that segues into our third key truth:
(3) You Know the REAL GOD
Sometimes Social media can be frustrated. If you’re trying to follow Beyonce on Instagram, there’s a lot of options.
Thankfully, Instagram helps people out. It places a little BLUE checkmark next to the Real Beyonce.
Jesus is like that blue check mark.
If you’re looking for the real God, you’ll find him in Jesus.
If you know me, you would also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him... Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me. Or else believe because of the works themselves. (v.7, 10-11)
And Jesus’ works?
They were things that only God could do!
He walked on water.
He stopped storms.
He pulled bread out of thin air.
He pulled fish out of thin air.
He made the blind to see.
He made the deaf to hear.
He made the lame to walk.
He raised the dead.
But three times.
And then when he died.
A time when most people do nothing.
He did the one thing that no one can do while living.
He conquered death.
He brought himself back to life.
That’s a God thing.
This means you don’t have to keep looking for the Real God.
You have found him, in Jesus.
(4) God WILL WORK through You
This one is important.
Because right here during COVID, you might not feel as productive.
You might not be able to have face to face meeting with clients.
You might not be making the same amount of money that your business did beforehand.
You might not be working at all, because you lost your job.
Or you might be working, but the whole job feels extra stressful with all these rules and regulations that you aren’t able to put smiles on people’s faces like you could before.
But look at Jesus’ promise:
“Truly, Truly, I tell you: The one who believes in me will do the works that I am doing. And he will do even greater works than these…” (v.12-14)
Did you see that?
Jesus works through those who do work through him.
And that work?
It’s always greater than anticipated.
When you sit down your kids amid an argument over whose turn it is to hold the Elsa action figure and you tell them about sharing with each other just like Jesus shared salvation with us. Jesus is working through you. It’s greater than settling an argument. It’s about training your kids in Jesus.
When you scroll through your social media feed and you see an angry political post, but instead of clicking ANGRY face and resharing that, you find a photo of your friend’s new baby and type out: “What a blessing! Praying that Jesus keeps her safe always.” Jesus is working through you. It’s greater than a simple compliment, it’s introducing your friends to their Savior.
When you lovingly, kindly make a meal for your spouse, clean the dishes, throw the garbage out, pick up the kids’ toys, and put the child to bed all so that they can relax on the couch with their favorite Netflix show and a glass of wine, Jesus is working through you. It’s greater than making them happy. It’s showing them the sacrificial love that Jesus showed for you.
Here’s the point.
You may be at home.
Life may be different.
But Jesus has work for you.
And he will work through you.
(5) The HOLY SPIRIT Is in You
Ever heard of the Holy Spirit before?
He is the unsung hero of our Triune God.
The Holy Spirit is God.
The Holy Spirit is invisible.
The Holy Spirit is in this worship place right now.
Because the Holy Spirit is always at work when God’s Word is spoken.
The Holy Spirit creates faith.
The Holy Spirit blazes with fire.
The Holy Spirit can turn someone’s life around from sin to eternal salvation.
It’d be nice to have the Holy Spirit with you as you went about work for Jesus.
Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. (v.16-17)
During the pandemic, mental health is down. Many are turning to mental health professionals for help. There are even some excellent Christian mental health counselors that I know, have worked with, and highly recommend.
But even those professionals have office hours.
Some of them you can only get to through Zoom.
Sometimes, they get distracted by their own mental health.
You have the Holy Spirit as a Counselor.
He lives in you through faith.
And as you are undergoing anxiety.
As you are feeling stressed.
He is the one who recalls promises from God:
God has a home for you.
You know the way to heaven.
God is working through you.
You are loved, God is working through you!
I am with you.
But it isn’t just the Counselor, Holy Spirit who is with you….
(6) You are not ABANDONED by Jesus
And you’re probably thinking. What are you talking about?
Jesus isn’t here.
I don’t see him.
He had the good sense to stay home away from the virus.
I’ll give you this point: Jesus is not visible.
But that doesn’t mean he isn’t here.
Look at what Jesus himself had to say:
“I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.”
Orphan has taken new meaning to me.
Since working on the adoption, we have been exposed to a variety of children that live in an orphanage.
These kids don’t have a family unit.
They don’t have a “parental guardian”.
They seemingly abandoned.
But then again, that’s a very earthly version of the story.
Because Jesus loves them.
He died for them.
He rose for them.
He works through their biological parents to get them to the orphanage.
He works through the orphanage to get her profile to an agency.
He works through the agency to connect them to parents.
And through those parents he might introduce them to their Savior.
It might look like Jesus has left you.
You are not an orphan.
You are HIS.
III. What Now?
This is more proactive than anything. But if you want to head off anxiety, you need a healthy dose of God’s promises.
In fact, you need to regularly ingest his promises.
It’s like taking an apple a day to keep the doctor away.
Or taking a zinc supplement to stave off the common cold.
Or rubbing Lavender on your hair to prevent male pattern baldness. (I obviously have not done that).
The point is that sometimes we supplement our health to keep up our physical health.
The same is true with our spiritual health.
To stave off anxiety, it is valuable to take a healthy dose of Jesus’ promises on a regular basis.
Where do we get that?
Is CVS even open on a Sunday?
Look at the last couple of verses after Jesus gives these promises. He says:
“I have told you these things while staying with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I told you. (v.25-26)
Jesus said that to his disciples.
One was named John
Months later, the Holy Spirit came to these disciples and reminded them of everything that Jesus promised them.
Coming to John.
Reminding him of these promises.
Having John write them down.
So that you might know them too.
Remind yourself of these promises.
Jesus didn’t give you these promises so that you would have ANXIETY.
He gave these promises so that…
I let him tell you:
“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, and do not let it be afraid. (v.27)
Not as the world gives.
From God himself.
No matter what it looks like in your life.
You have PEACE.
Dwell in that peace.