Three Dependable Promises

IMG_024325-27 “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. 28 “You’ve heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away, and I’m coming back.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I’m on my way to the Father because the Father is the goal and purpose of my life. 29-31 “I’ve told you this ahead of time, before it happens, so that when it does happen, the confirmation will deepen your belief in me. I’ll not be talking with you much more like this because the chief of this godless world is about to attack. But don’t worry—he has nothing on me, no claim on me. But so the world might know how thoroughly I love the Father, I am carrying out my Father’s instructions right down to the last detail. “Get up. Let’s go. It’s time to leave here.” (John 14:25-31)

 

Introduction

Charlie Brown is one of my favorite cartoon shows, especially at Christmas.  In one scene, Linus is building castles in the sand. He tells Charlie Brown: “Working with your hands is good therapy . . . It takes your mind off your troubles . . . Whenever I feel depressed, I build sand castles . . . I’ve been feeling pretty depressed lately!” Behind him we see a dozen or so sandcastles. In baseball they tell the story about the rookie who faced the great pitcher Walter Johnson for the first time. Johnson was in his prime. The batter took two quick strikes and headed for the dugout. He told the umpire to keep the third strike–he had seen enough.

Have you ever felt like that? Jesus promised his disciples, “I will not leave you comfortless.” Have you ever felt comfortless? The RSV translation uses the term desolate. Have you ever experienced desolation? For some people this is no joking matter. Depression is the most prevalent and the least treated serious illness in America today. Because it is so prevalent and so potentially dangerous, I am going to list several possible signs:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Shifts in sleeping patterns
  • Lack of energy
  • Agitation or increased activity
  • Loss of interest in daily activities and decreased sex drive
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt or self-reproach
  • Thoughts of suicide

If you or someone you know has at least four of these symptoms and they have lasted for at least two weeks, professional help probably should be sought. Prayerfully, most of us are not troubled enough to need professional help.  There are times, however when all of us need to be comforted.[1]

It is precisely at the point of facing the frightening prospects of the future that we can find a common ground with the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord had spoken more frequently and clearly of His death in Jerusalem.141 During the last supper Jesus had revealed that He was to be betrayed by one of His most intimate associates (John 13:18,21). Finally, He had told Peter that before the night was over he would deny knowing his Lord (John 13:38).

All of this was a most perplexing situation to those who had given up everything to become the followers of the Savior (Matthew 19:27). They saw the future now as something to be feared, rather than that which was eagerly anticipated. They, like many of us, viewed the future as something to be dreaded rather than desired.[2]

Move 1

But Jesus did something miraculous.  He made three dependable promises that would guide his followers through such turmoil.  Beloved, we have those same promises because we follow that same Jesus. He promised the disciples and us, His Presence, His Power, and His Peace.  Let us explore these for a few moments today.

First, Jesus promised his presence. In John 14:18-19, Jesus said of his impending death: ”1-4 “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. He went on to say in John 14:18-19, 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.”

He dealt with their lack of faith because they felt their situation would be too overwhelming to live with and to live through.

So, this morning as we face this pandemic with a prognosis of getting worse rather better, we too must examine our faith.  We must answer the question whether we believe in the promises of Jesus and if so, we have to confess and live by our faith.

The writer of Hebrews admonishes us that in difficult times, “35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. 36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. 37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”

We are the church that holds to God’s unchanging hand.  Our ancestors lived through World War II, the Great Depression, Spanish Flu, The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, the Middle Passage, Jim Crow, and all types of atrocities but they kept on praising God through it all.  And they did that largely because they kept the faith. We can do no less. Jesus promises his presence through it all.  Jesus said, “Lo, I’ll be with you even to the end of the age.

Second, Jesus promised his power.  “All power is given unto me, in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28) He said that power would be available and present with them.  According to Luke’s gospel account, Jesus said to them, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  All you need do is wait for it and when that power comes, you will be able to make it in even the toughest of times.  Hallelujah!

Power to get results, to be in control of your circumstances and situations despite the enormous odds against you.  Power to live through pandemics, wars, and natural catastrophes.  Power to endure hatred, oppression, famine and pestilence.  Power to stand to declare that our God is an awesome God.  Power to be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ to a world that is teetering toward hell without a path of victory.  We are benefactors of that same power!   Acts 2:38-39 reads, 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” And isn’t that good news.  Hallelujah!

Third, Jesus promised his Peace.  Listen to his words in John 14:27,” 27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” What is this peace?  Well, it is peace that comes when you have unquenchable faith in the word of God.  It is peace that orders your life when chaos is rampant in your world.  It is peace that is as serene as the picture of a great storm, waters raging, floods destroying, winds ravishing the land,  lightning flashing, and the thunder roaring, and there perched upon a branch in a teetering tree is a little bird, sitting, singing, and unmoved.  That is the peace that passes all understanding that in the face of such odds against his survival that little bird, helpless to the human eye is unmoved.  Why, perhaps because he knows the one that controls the elements, he knows the one that calms the storms and she believes that One will never leave her nor forsake.  That is the peace that Jesus left his disciples and that he has left with those who believe and have faith in His word.

Move 2 (Conclusion)

And how is all this possible.  Because all of it is contained in the promise of the Holy Spirit.  All three promises are contained in the gift of the Holy Spirit which we have received.  Here what Jesus said about the Spirit in John 14:15-18, “16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”

A story was written some years ago about a man who had discovered an amazing inner spiritual peace. He had lost his entire fortune in the stock market crash in the 1930s. He was drinking himself to death. He decided to take his life by walking out into the ocean and swimming past the point of no return. As he came to the edge of the water, he noticed something sparkling in the sand. It was a pale, delicate shell. He stood there, completely captivated by it. Finally, he picked it up. It was so delicate that the least pressure of his fingers would crush it. Yet it was undamaged and perfect. He was puzzled by this fact as the waves roared in upon him. How could a shell remain intact and unbroken in the midst of the tons of seething water?

Suddenly it dawned upon him that the shell did not panic, fight the forces of the water, and seek to forge its own path in the ocean. The shell simply yielded itself to the waters. It has accepted the storms with calmness, just as it had accepted the stillness of the depths of the water where it had its beginning. By yielding itself to the water, it survived. Suddenly the man saw himself. He had been fighting God, disobeying him, and trying to defy the spiritual forces at the heart of the universe. He realized now why his life was troubled, and his days were not worth living. He dropped to his knees and placed his life in God’s hands. He walked away into a new life of faith.[3]

Jesus said the Holy Spirit will comfort, guide, and inform us of how to live in a chaotic world.  Because of the Holy Spirit, we can depend on the presence, power, and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ to endure this current pandemic when hearts are filled with anxiety and frustration.  We can have peace, the peace of God if we continue to trust his word.    I look forward to Pentecost, don’t you?  On May 31, Pentecost season will arrive.  I look forward to another season of being infilled yet again with the presence, power, and peace of Christ through the Holy Spirit.  Let me conclude with this:  Is your life safely in the hands of Jesus? Have you come to know Jesus through repentance and baptism?  If not, I offer Christ to you today!  Only through accepting Christ, can you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Only then can you depend on the promises of Christ’s presence, power, and peace.  Let us pray.

[1] https://sermons.com/sermon/i-will-not-leave-you-comfortless/1348276

[2] https://bible.org/seriespage/32-facing-future-prescription-peace-john-14

[3] O. Garfield Beckstrand II, The Word From The Upper Room, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.

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