Hearts are troubled by many things. Hearts are troubled by grief. How often we see a tear in someone's eye! Seeing it, we know that it has come to the surface like the mist that rises from a pond. We know that the tear in the eye bespeaks a deeper reservoir of sorrow in the heart. When one finds a mountain spring he knows that that little stream of water bespeaks a pool of water unseen beneath the ground. A tear is the token of a great pool of grief that troubles hearts, not only at the moment, but sometimes across the years. Much pain may come to us from a fresh wound. There is also the deeper pain of old sorrows.
One man was past the age of eighty. We talked about the death of his son, who had succumbed to disease in childhood. "I accept the fact that he had to die," he said, "but I have always wondered why he had to suffer so." And as he spoke, a mist came over his eyes. I was seeing a sorrow that was fifty years old. The pain, the grief, was still there.
Hearts are troubled by loneliness. It is not just seen in people who must live alone. There are people still living with their families, living on a busy street, and working every day among other people who feel a loneliness indescribable and painful.
Hearts are troubled by an uncertain future. What lies ahead? What lies ahead for the world? For civilization? For humanity? What lies ahead for my country? What lies ahead for my family? What lies ahead for me?
We don't know what one day may bring forth. We cannot chart a single moment of the future. We are not absolutely sure what we are going to do this afternoon. We may think that we know. We may have our plans. But the future is always uncertain. Sometimes it is bright with promise, sometimes it is dark with dread, but always it is uncertain. That troubles men's hearts.
Hearts are troubled by the sudden changes that are thrust upon us. There are unexpected changes, undesired changes, changes over which we have no control. Such changes threaten us. Yet life has the habit of suddenly veering off in a new direction we'd never even thought about. That troubles men's hearts.
Hearts are troubled by death. We know that that is something we are going to do, and we don't want to do it. We don't know what it feels like to die. That which lies beyond death is so mysterious. We cherish every reassurance we can find, but daily we are under the threat of death. We hear of the death of someone who is just our age. A close friend or a relative dies. At every turn in life we are reminded that death is a part of living and it troubles us.
Hearts are troubled by guilt. There is sometimes an uncertainty as to whether or not we are really right with God. Is the old account really settled? That troubles some hearts. Their sins seem larger than others' sins! They expected more of themselves. Regret, remorse, and guilt trouble hearts.
And almost all of these emotions are in the hearts of those to whom Jesus spoke. They were feeling that very night almost every one of these troubling anxieties. Grief! Jesus is going away. Where He is going they cannot go. He has made it plain enough that He is going to die, but their minds reject it. They cannot accept it.
A deep grief has filled their hearts. They know that they are facing now a loneliness that they are not at all prepared to face. For more than three years they have been with Jesus constantly. They have gone where He wished to go. They have listened to what He wanted to say. Then they have gone out to represent Him when He asked them to. He has been directing their lives daily for more than three years. Now they must be parted . . . from Him and from one another. How lonely they are going to be without the presence of the Master.
They are thinking of how uncertain the future is. They thought they had it all mapped out. They thought they had figured out exactly what Jesus was going to do. They thought He'd set up an earthly kingdom. They'd sit at His right hand and at His left. They'd have positions of honor and responsibility in a new kingdom more glorious than David's. They had it all mapped out and now they begin to see that they had it all wrong. The map they made must now be crumpled up and thrown away.
What will the future hold for them? Will they go back to their old occupations - fishing and tax collecting? How can they go back? How can they admit that they have wasted three and one-half years of life on a foolish and fruitless adventure? They must face all the people who laughed at them and said, "You're a fool to follow that carpenter while there are fish to be caught and taxes to be collected." They must now go back (so they think) and admit what fools they are. How uncertain is their future!
How shattering is the change now thrust upon them. They thought they were going to give their lives to high spiritual endeavors and it looks now as if those spiritual challenges were unreal.
Death itself threatens them now. Jesus is in danger. They know it well. They refuse to accept that He is going to die, yet they know that the moment He sets foot in Judea, He walks into the very nest of His enemies. They know there is a plot already laid to kill Jesus. They know that the plot includes Lazarus. If the enemies of Jesus want to kill the man He raised from the dead, how safe are they?
Will not the enemies of Jesus want to make a clean sweep of it? Will they not want to clear out the whole nest at once? Will they be satisfied to destroy Jesus and let His disciples go? That can hardly have seemed likely to them. We have the evidence of it when they started on this very journey toward Jerusalem. Thomas said, "Let us also go and die with Him." Whatever they do not know, this they know with certainty - Jesus has walked into the very face of His enemies. Surely they know that they are as vulnerable as He. The threat of death is hot upon them.
Would it be going too far to say that some pangs of guilt stirred in their hearts, too? Can we not suppose that these good and noble men thought they ought to have been better? Did not they realize already that truth that would later be written down, "To know to do good and do it not is sin?" Are they not thinking that they should have persuaded Jesus not to come to Jerusalem? Do they not regret having quarreled so much among themselves? Didn't they think that they ought to have been wiser and better and more loyal? Is it not fair to say that that troubling thought of guilt was in their minds this dark night? And isn't there a comfort in that?
If the eleven best men on earth had troubled hearts, should I be surprised if mine is troubled, too? Should you? Isn't it the most natural thing in the world to have a troubled heart? Wouldn't it be strange if we did not? Do we need to punish ourselves because our hearts are troubled? I think not. If men like Andrew and Peter and James and John had troubled hearts, who am Ito think that I should escape it? It is a perfectly natural thing to feel.
But beyond that there is this encouraging note. We do not have to continue to feel it. Jesus implies that we are in control. "Let not your heart be troubled." Our emotions are not beyond our control. They are not subject to every wind of circumstance that may blow. We are in the driver's seat. So while we need feel no guilt when our hearts are troubled, we have a remedy and do not have to go on through life with troubled hearts.
There is another alternative. "Let not your heart be troubled!" Don't let it happen to you. Don't let the circumstances of life shrivel your soul and warp your life. But you cannot accomplish this alone. So we must come to the second kind of heart - trusting hearts. "Ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions." There you have it: faith in God, faith in Christ, faith in the future.
There is a difference between faith and trust. Faith is the root and trust is the tree and peace is both the flower and the fruit. As the root differs from the tree, so faith differs from trust. Faith has one long taproot. It reaches down to God, the basic fact, the indisputable fact. Everybody knows this fact; even the man who will not admit that he knows it. There is a God! That touches the deep taproot of faith. But reaching out to sustain that tree of trust are the feeder roots.
"Believe also in me," said Jesus. "If it were not so, I would have told you." Both the love and the character of Jesus come into play. Christ is too honest to let His followers go on believing a lie. He is too honest to let them give their lives to an illusion.
If some friend of yours set out one morning with a shovel over his shoulder intent on digging up the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you'd try to stop him. You'd tell him there is no end of the rainbow, and no pot of gold to be found. You'd tell him quickly that it's only a dream or an illusion. You'd never let a friend go out on such a foolish errand as that.
That's the point here. "If it were not so, I would have told you." The honest, kind, loving Jesus will not let them go on believing a lie, cherishing an illusion. And faith in Him is the feeder root of our faith.
Then He calls us to look to the future. "In my Father's house are many mansions! Notice that God is still "Father." Even when the cross is looming up ahead in all its ugliness, God is still "Father." Think of that! "My Father's house!" Think of that! Remember the prodigal son? He was far from home feeding swine when he remembered his father's house.
Jesus is talking about Heaven, but he calls it the Father's house.
"I go to prepare a place for you." Jesus knew where He was going. When I come down to die, I want to know where I am going. Don't you?
A man and his wife were driving down the highway. She said, "I think we're on the wrong road." He said, "I know we are. I'm not sure where this road is going." She said, "Then why don't you stop and turn around?" He said, "I would, but we're making such good time." That's the world. People don't know where they are going, but they certainly are making good time.
The disciples knew where they were going. The immediate future may have been hazy and indistinct, but the ultimate future was certain. They were going home home to the Father's house. Their ultimate future was certain and sure. Don't we stand in the same place with them? We don't know the future and yet we do. Of the immediate future we know nothing. The ultimate future we know with certainty.
Faith leads to knowledge. "Whither I go ye know and the way ye know." Faith leads to obedience. "I am the way, the truth, and the life."
A man preached a sermon once on the interesting subject, "Believing Something When You Can't Believe Everything." At times the circumstances of life conspire to rob us of some of our faith. If we cherish what faith we have, it will endure . . . and spread. It will be like the strawberry plant. It sends runners out in every direction. They make new strawberry plants all around. So faith sends out its runners to make new faith, in some springtime of the soul. If you can't believe everything, believe something! Cherish it. Let it grow and reproduce and develop and spread.
Now let me go back for a moment to this little company of eleven men who heard this most magnificent of all promises. Let us see if it blessed them as it blesses us. One of them, John, wrote a letter that has been preserved for us. We call it the first epistle of John. In the first chapter and the seventh verse he wrote, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. Doesn't that remove the troubling thoughts of guilt that plague us? In the second chapter he wrote, "And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever" (1 John 2:17). Does not that speak to the uncertainties of life? And in 1 John 4:15 it says, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him." Does that ease the troubling loneliness of life? God dwelleth in him!
Again in 1 John 4:8, "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him." Live through him! Does not that remove our fear of death? And in chapter five, verse eleven, "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." How can we grieve overmuch in the face of that? And in the fifth chapter and the fourth verse, "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
Life may be filled with change, but this remains
constant the victory of faith. Perhaps you have written lines like
these. Perhaps you have moved from the people of the troubled heart
to the congregation of the trusting heart. If you have not, you can
- and should - now!