Have you heard any good news recently? You’re probably getting the same daily dose of human nature on steroids with the steady traffic of troublesome headlines concerning the horrific slaughter of people in the Middle East at the hands of religious fanatics, the conflict in Ukraine between Slavic neighbors, crime waves suffocating our urban centers, friction in race relations in America, and the anguish of a stalled economy.
The list is even longer, but the human psyche can only handle so much—so I’ll stop here.
Then throw into the mix our personal and family challenges and the combination can paralyze even the faith of the faithful. Sometimes we may beat ourselves up, feeling less than Christian, if we’re troubled about what’s going on around us or by what’s gnawing at our hearts.
Rest assured, though, that Jesus Christ understands the human plight of His followers. He is fully aware that fear, anxiety and even hopeless anger are synonymous with the human condition. So we shouldn’t become distraught. But we can’t ignore the problem either. It’s not spiritually responsible to let fear stew and simmer without addressing it.
Allow me to be clear: It’s a choice— your choice and mine! It’s a matter of where to keep our focus. We can remain paralyzed in despair, or we can choose to heed the ongoing invitation of Jesus of “Follow Me” and His calming assurance, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1 John 14:1Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.
American King James Version×).
Peace I leave with you
About 2,000 years ago, the Teacher from Galilee gave us a framework to guide us through our troubled world. It wasn’t meant to be trite philosophy or prose, but a personal anchor to securely moor us in times of great insecurity.
The very night He spoke it, multiple prophecies were coming to a collective bursting point. His world and that of His followers was about to be turned upside down. In less than a day He would be dead—crucified!
Nonetheless, He squarely laid out a blueprint of hope for us to build on in John 14:27-28 John 14:27-28 27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
28 You have heard how I said to you, I go away, and come again to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice, because I said, I go to the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
American King James Version×: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. You have heard Me say to you, I am going away and coming back to you” (emphasis added throughout).
Embedded within Christ’s statement is a progression of three specific steps to bear in mind and an incredible responsibility to uphold for Him. Let’s work our way through these together. Jesus said:
1) He was going to be taken away.
2) He would leave a gift He called “My peace.”
3) He is coming back!
And in between all of these scriptural dynamics, He offered a specific reassurance: “Let not your heart be troubled.”
The peace that Christ mentions is something He owns by experience and shares with those who respond to His call of “Follow Me.” Such peace is a direct gift from God to those who focus on and truly believe in His promises and reach for them even in their very real moments of despair.
It’s been said that “courage is fear holding on a minute longer.” As we take that brief time longer with focus on God’s promises rather than our human premises, our knees may still be knocking together, but the shaky walls of our heart can begin to firm up. Let’s consider a few of those promises to enable you to “let not let your heart be troubled.”
The big headlines made in heaven
First of all, we need to continually remember that the really big headlines are being made above, not down here below. We don’t have to let the latest news leave us even more depressed, but can rather be fortified with the promising reality of God’s assuring words in Isaiah 46:9-10 Isaiah 46:9-10 9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
American King James Version×: “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’ ” (English Standard Version).
Yes, God is our ultimate inside Source of information and not some unnamed advisor quoted anonymously in an article that evokes further personal misgivings in us. Beyond that, God gives context and purpose not shaded by political bias—just godliness.
Imagine a big, bold, front-page headline in your local newspaper blaring, “Archangel Michael’s Forces Poised for Action!” This is huge news that you won’t really see in the headlines. But it’s happening around us every day in every way.
God offers an incredible promise to His faithful ones in these troubling times that He is not a distant, absentee cosmic landlord. And it’s a promise you can hold on to in times of trouble!
Consider these words in Daniel 12:1 Daniel 12:1And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
American King James Version×: “At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book” (emphasis added).
Yes, God has appointed a great angelic being and his supporting forces to protect His people down here below!
“What shall we do?”
Perhaps we can gain insight to what is presently possible for us with hindsight from an event found in 2 Kings 6:15-17 2 Kings 6:15-17 15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray you, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
American King James Version×regarding the prophet Elisha’s servant, who felt himself overwhelmed by events swirling around him.
The passage reads: “And when the servant of [Elisha] the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than are those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
Just like the shocked servant, we too can so naturally stay focused on modern-day enemy armies rather than the reassuring promises of God. And yes, our modern-day enemies are just as numerous and real as in Elisha’s day. Only the names have changed, and we can fill in the blanks. But remember, Christ gave a gift He called “My peace.”
This peace, His peace, can only abide in us when our eyes stay opened to the promises of God. Those of us who write for The Good News magazine take seriously the biblical injunction to not just point out the modern-day enemies that threaten you and the rest of our reading audience, but more importantly to expand and enhance your spiritual perspective that you might realize the incredible forces engaged in God’s great abiding plan of rescue.
More than ever, it’s time to pray the prayer of Elisha that God might not only open all our eyes, but also give us insight beyond the moment to strengthen our unsteady hearts!
One such promise is found in Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×. Here Jesus Christ assures us that help is on the way: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved [alive]; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”
Here Jesus Christ states three specific promises:
1) Time will not come to an end!
2) Humanity will not annihilate itself!
3) God specifically looks after those who have been chosen or selected by Him—”the elect”—and who in turn have committed their lives to Him!
You might be saying, “Well, that’s great news for humanity as a whole in the future, but my world is crashing all around me right now!” Such a state of mind is certainly understandable.
In a world of 7 billion people, we can seem increasingly isolated and lost in a crowd—crowded with bad news, crowded with rumors of wars, so crowded we can’t put one thought together with another. We can crawl into a cave with the prophet Elijah, who became terribly discouraged, and say as he effectively did, “Nobody loves me; nobody cares; look what’s become of me” (compare 1 Kings 19).
As Christians, we need to embrace the spiritual reality that Christ never said our lives would be trouble-free, but did say that He would provide His followers with the means to rise above whatever comes our way.
His peace is constructed not on the premise of a conflict-free zone but of maintained proper focus. As our mind remains fixed on Him, our Heavenly Father “shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 Philippians 4:19But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×).
God is in the storm
I remember many years ago when a storm rumbled through the mountains surrounding Los Angeles where I lived. I went to the back door to watch and hear the lightening and thunder display. I called out to our granddaughters, Meghan and Kailyn, to come to the door with grandpa to watch.
I could hear their little feet scurrying my way. Suddenly thunder shook the entire house. Saucer-eyed Kailyn, all of 3, said in her own inimitable style, “I’m scared!” and turned around in her tracks to run into grandma’s arms.
Her grandma, my wife Susan, gently told her that God’s voice could sound like thunder when He wanted it to, and that He gave us this element of nature to remind us of His loving power. I watched Kailyn’s body language immediately return to normal.
She relaxed knowing that there wasn’t only a lot of flashing light and scary noise outside, but that God was here inside the storm with her. Her precious little heart quickly grew untroubled. We all then stood there as a family watching and hearing God at work not only in the wonders of nature, but in the heart of a child.
As the storms of life approach and swirl around us, let’s focus on and seize on the promises of God. When we utter, “It’s impossible!” let’s remember Jesus’ words, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27 Luke 18:27And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
American King James Version×).
When we moan “I’m too tired,” let’s stand on the promise given by Christ—”Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 Matthew 11:28Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
American King James Version×).
When we say, “I’m not smart enough,” let’s recall the apostle Paul’s message that Christ is wisdom personified (1 Corinthians 1:30 1 Corinthians 1:30But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
American King James Version×) and that this is there for us to receive.
When we’re feeling utterly alone, let’s have that courage that holds on through fear a minute longer and remember the Master’s last words heard by His disciples before He ascended to heaven—”I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 Matthew 28:20Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
American King James Version×).
It’s time to return to Jesus’ loving admonition, “Let not your heart be troubled.” And when your heart has been stilled, then pray that God will guide you to someone else’s heartbeat that’s racing even faster—so that you can let him or her know that it’s all right, that God is in the storm with us!