Think about a critical conversation that you’ve had. Maybe it’s one of the most important conversations you’ve ever experienced. Like a coach sharing a strategy and imploring his team to give their all during a game. Or it could simply be two world leaders trying to negotiate peace.
I’d like to cast my vote for what I think has to be one of the most critical conversations of all time. It was the evening Jesus was arrested and the night before he was crucified. In John 14-16, Jesus talks to his disciples, warning them of what’s to come and how to get through it without giving up.
You Will Have Trouble in This World
Some believe if you give your life to God, he will protect you from experiencing anything bad. God never promised any such thing. In fact, Jesus gave a warning to the disciples that still applies to us today. “In this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Not quite the promise we want to hear from Jesus, but it’s one we need because:
- We live in a fallen world.
- People hurt us.
- Temptations feel overwhelming.
- Horrible things happen with no rhyme or reason.
- Disappointments can be crushing.
- We can be our own worst enemies.
- In this world we will have trouble.
Life is hard, so how do we keep going during those hard times? How do you find the strength to keep moving forward when all you want is to give up?
A Different Kind of Peace
In that critical conversation, Jesus warned his followers of the trouble that is always coming, and he equipped them to face that trouble.
One thing he told them is: When trouble comes, you don’t have to be afraid because you are not alone. In John 14:18 he promises, “I will not leave you as orphans.”
Then, in verse 26, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit, who he would send to be with and empower his followers. Jesus says the Holy Spirit will remind us of his teachings and will give us peace in difficult times.“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
The world’s peace is based on circumstances and what we see around us. In other words, if trouble is present, peace is gone. This, however, isn’t accurate. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, gives us a different kind of peace, a peace that transcends what’s happening around us.
Our Only Hope is in Jesus
This critical conversation took place as Jesus and his disciples walked towards the Garden of Gethsemane. As they passed through vineyards, Jesus continued to teach them, He said,
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Here, Jesus uses a metaphor to help his followers understand that they need to stay connected to him. Most of us don’t have a lot of experience with vineyards. We’re more familiar with fruit trees. If you pick up a branch that broke off an apple tree and put it in your living room, it’s not going to start growing apples. It has to be connected to its’ source.
Jesus is saying the same about us. Our only hope lies in staying connected to him because the breadth of life flows into us through Jesus.
The word “remain” shows up eleven times in eleven verses. Over and over Jesus implores his followers, “Remain in me. Remain in me.” Remain can also be translated “abide.” The idea is to live inside of. Think of it like this:
- Fish abide in water. If they’re not in the water, they die.
- Ice cream abides in a freezer. If it’s not in a freezer, it melts.
- We abide in Jesus. If we’re not in Jesus, we will not find strength and will be tempted to give up.
We discover, in the difficult times, what kind of connection we really have with Jesus.
A Strong Connection Produces Fruit
I’m a huge fan of duct tape. If something goes wrong around the house, you quickly hear, “Kids, get the duct tape!” They know the drill. You can do a lot with duct tape.
Some years ago, the mirror on the driver’s side of my car came off. I took it to the dealer and they wanted $120 to put the mirror back on the car. Umm, no. I duct taped the mirror back on. Not to brag, but I thought it looked pretty good. And it was fine – until we drove through a storm on a road trip. I was the one driving. And, I watched the mirror slowly fall off. Why? Because the connection wasn’t very strong.
When storms come into our lives they have a way of revealing how strong our connection with Jesus truly is.
Jesus says if we abide in him we will produce fruit. In Galatians 5, we read about the kind of fruit that should be growing in our lives through our connection with Jesus. This is known as the fruit of the spirit and consists of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
When storms hit, those words should describe our character and how we respond to trouble.
Having Strength When Life is Hard
The challenge is that we don’t produce that kind of fruit without a connection. You can fake it for a while, but when troubles arrive, the truth comes out.
If you want to have strength when life gets hard, it’s imperative that you have a genuine connection with Jesus. I challenge you to stay focused on that connection above anything else in your life. It’s that important.
What’s ironic is that we live in a world that is obsessed with staying connected. We have our cell phones which, research tells us, we check on average about eighty times a day. We are constantly checking the news, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. We are obsessed with staying connected.
So, what would happen if we took as much time connecting to the vine as we spend connecting to the world and other people through our phones and social media? What would happen? We’d find we have strength instead of wanting to give up.
Our Hope is Not in This World
There’s one more thing that Jesus taught his followers in that critical conversation I mentioned earlier. When times are troubled, remember that your hope is in heaven. He said,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).
In this world, we will have trouble, but our hope is not in this world. Our hope is in heaven, and that is a hope that will not disappoint. That’s why Jesus said what he did in John 16:33. He said, “In this world, you will have trouble” but then he said, “but take heart! I have overcome the world.” That’s the promise I want to hear. It helps me to know that though the battle can be intense and discouraging, victory has already been won.
That victory gives us hope. That means our response to trouble isn’t fear. We don’t give in to discouragement and we don’t give up. We have peace from the Holy Spirit, strength from our connection with Jesus, and hope because of the promise that there is eternal life. And, that life, in heaven, there will be no trouble.
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