A Promise of Better Things

It’s hard to see through painful things.

When we realize that someone dear to us is about to be taken away from us, it’s like our tears distort our vision of the circumstances. We only see the hurt that’s right in front of us and not the comfort, peace, or joy on the other side.

In this extended account of Jesus’ teaching in John 14-16, Jesus is trying to prepare his followers for His pending departure. And the biggest preparation He made was to promise them something better.

Jesus begins this lesson by explaining some things:

I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. (John 16.4b-6)

They really didn’t need to know these things while He was sticking around, but, now that He is about to return to the Father, they seem more upset that He is leaving than curious as to where He is going. He knows their hearts are heavy.

But look at the important words He speaks next:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16.7)

Do you see it? Jesus is trying to get them to see beyond their feelings of loss. He points to the better things to come. So… what is that?

It’s the Holy Spirit that will come and live within each of their hearts in a very powerful way. But the promise cannot be fulfilled until Jesus has gone away.

But still… He assures them it will be better than what they know.

Jesus loves these people that have walked with Him so very many miles. He Has seen them struggle for understanding and wrestle with some very hard truths. He has seen their eyes filled with wonder as they reached back into the basket again and again until all of these thousands of people were completely satisfied with their meal. They had helped pull the grave clothes from Lazarus and tasted the wine at the wedding.

But he assures them of more.

He is leaving, but He will leave with them a promise of better things.

I don’t know what the pain in your life may be today. Maybe it’s the painful reality of a loved one soon departing. Maybe it’s the inevitable end of something you’ve fought so very hard to retain. Maybe it’s just the crashing in upon you by the reality that those sweet moments you have shared simply cannot last forever in this life.

But for you—if indeed you are a follower of Jesus—there is always this great promise of better things yet to come.

It doesn’t make the hurt go away. But it does remind us that the hurt is, even at its very worst… temporary.

The Haters Will Hate, But You’re Not Alone

Have you ever been hated simply because you were connected to someone important? I’ve seen it happen to teachers’ kids or the families of police officers or other public personalities.

We can only imagine what it must have been like to be one of Jesus’ inner circle of followers, a leader in HIs ministry, when Jesus left them. The same people that made it their mission to send Jesus to the cross were no less determined to silence His followers.

In John 15, we find Jesus’ teaching on this predictable behavior.

[Read John 15.18-27]

This is one of those places where Jesus used the word, “if,” but probably meant “when.” It’s almost inevitable that, if we are genuinely loving and serving people in Jesus’ name, someone is going to hate us for it. The really sad part is that this will most come from other religious people.

He assures them that the world’s hatred for them would come because of their hatred for Him.(18) He reminds them that it’s our nature to have animosity toward those who are starkly different from us.(19a) The fact that Jesus chose them to be His would just fuel that animosity.(19b)

He imparts an important principle:

Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.(20-21)

Jesus was trying to prepare His followers for the reality that there would be people who were just angry with them because they were angry with Him. Today we would simply say, “Haters gonna hate.” It’s true. The haters will hate.

He went on to explain that His coming and His teaching were bringing a great accountability to those who heard Him—they were now without any excuse because of the works they had seen Him do and the things they had heard Him teach.(22-24) They hated Jesus because His holiness brought them face to face with their unholiness. And when they hated Jesus, they were hating the Father that sent Him.

But notice verse 25:

But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: “They hated me without a cause.”

They hated Jesus. They had no reason to do so, but they did.

And because they hated Jesus, they would hate Jesus’ followers simply because they followed Jesus.

But Jesus brings back the promise He had introduced in chapter 14.

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.(15.26-27)

The Holy Spirit, Jesus promised, would come and help them by stirring them to remember, to understand, and to proclaim Jesus and His greatness.

Yes, the haters will hate. It’s inevitable.

But He has not left us alone. By His Spirit, He lives in the heart of every believer. That means we are never alone.

The haters will hate, but you’re not alone.

Today, if you encounter people who are hostile to the faith we hold so dear, remember that it’s not you that they hate but the One whom you represent. Pray for them. Love them in Jesus’ name. And take courage for you are not alone.

Surely the haters will hate, but you’re not alone.

Onboard Navigation

Sometimes it’s disturbing to see how dependent young people are upon their GPS guidance devices. Kids don’t seem to learn how to read maps anymore. They don’t learn to find their bearings or get around their surroundings without their phones chirping out their turn by turn directions.

Of course… I confess that I am pretty dependent upon such things in unfamiliar places, but I try to have a pretty good idea where I am headed before I start. I want to know at least the big picture of my route before I turn over the guidance to the GPS.

But the fact remains that in real life each moment that we face is new, often unfamiliar territory. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had some sort of onboard navigation system to guide us through the hours and days ahead of us and show us how to live?

In John 14, we find the beginning of three chapters of teaching from Jesus that John relays to us. Jesus begins by underscoring His ultimate intention—that we might be with Him—and how we may truly experience that togetherness with Him by simply following Him and believing Him and finding our entire life in Him. (14.1-11)

But then Jesus begins to unfold one of the most powerful revelations of His teaching ministry.

[Take a moment and read John 14.12-27.]

Jesus whets our appetites with the indication that, by trusting in and pursuing Him, we “will do the works that I do’ and greater works than these.”(12) He even indicates that asking the Father’s help in Jesus name would bring sure response that would work to our good and His own glory.(13-14)

He begins to describe the live centered upon Him, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”(15)

But notice this powerful provision Jesus promises:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.(16-17)

Jesus assures His followers that the Father will send the Holy Spirit to help them. This is in contrast to the world around us that does not know God. Notice that Jesus said, “You know him, for he dwells with you.” The Spirit was already dwelling with them in that Jesus, God in the flesh, was there and fully in communion with the Holy Spirit as testified back in John 1.32 that the Spirit descended upon Jesus and remained.

But Jesus said that the Spirit “will be in you.” He points to this idea of the Holy Spirit that would take up residence in the life of all who believe in Jesus. The Spirit somehow lives truly in every believer, though the Spirit had not been sent in that way just yet (which Jesus will explain later).

He goes on to express more of His design—that He was not going to leave them like orphaned children with no one to care for them or provide for them.(18) He would be gone for a little while, but return by the Spirit to live in and with us and that, as surely as He lives, they would truly live.(19)

Jesus describes the intimate relationship intended for us by promising His presence in our lives by the love of the Father and the indwelling Spirit.(20) That love will show in our lives through faithful obedience to all that He reveals of Himself.(21)

When Judas questioned how they would see it but the world around them would not, Jesus explains that our response to the Father’s love is to embrace the Son and to thrive in this beautiful, intimate love that flows from the very nature of God. He goes so far as to directly correlate our willingness to hold to Jesus or lack thereof as the litmus test of a genuine follower of God.(22-24)

Jesus gives more description of this promise:

These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.(25-26)

The Spirit will stir up what is in our minds and give us guidance in how to live out the truths we have received. He will remind us what we know when we need to remember it. He will show us how to walk in the Way. He will show us what is the Truth. He will empower us to live through His own Life.

And what is the result of this precious and powerful promise that Jesus expressed?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.(27)

This assurance that the Spirit would come was intended by Jesus to be a source of peace to these men that followed Him.

I guess peace is the reason I turn on my GPS guidance when I am going to an unfamiliar place. I want to alleviate any anxiety about making a wrong turn without knowing it. Once I turn it on, I know that, even if I turn the wrong way or miss an exit, it will continue to reroute me until it successfully directs me to my desired destination.

The Holy Spirit is, in the life of a follower of Jesus, a lot like an onboard navigation system. He guides us through the turns and detours and challenges of life by helping us see where we are and directing our steps. The greatest skill for a mature follower of Jesus is to be… well, I guess it’s a lot like these kids that can’t find their way to the mall and back without their GPS. We are to just listen for His prompting and follow His guidance and turn when and where He tells us to turn.

Why is that so hard?

I think it’s hard because ultimately it means I’m not in control.

But then… there’s no pressure but to simply listen and follow.

Maybe that’s the point.