Jesus says, Do not let your hearts be troubled.
And we ask of Jesus, “What do you mean?”
“Can we control this?”
“Are we responsible for the welfare of our heart?”
“Can we stop being troubled?”
There’s plenty in this world to trouble us.
The basic things of work, income and family.
And social change … when the world takes a turn we didn’t expect, and didn’t want.
We’re troubled by our mortality – that’s always the shadow in the background of our mind … dust-to dust-and earth to earth, may be the truth, but we don’t like it, and it makes us uneasy.
We’re troubled by our own personal failings … how many times have we tried to correct something in our lives – a habit, an attitude, a memory that grinds away in our soul – only to find that we can’t do much about it.
We’re troubled by the faults of others, over which we have no control at all.
We’re troubled about our past – the dumb things we’ve all done, the sorrows we’ve created.
And we lay awake at night uncertain about tomorrow.
Of a stranger note – many folks were troubled by the billboards announcing yesterday as Judgment Day – some sold their homes, quit their jobs, or maxed-out their credit cards.
I suspect Mr. Harold Camping and his followers are troubled today – wondering why the end of the world didn’t come, as they so firmly predicted.
Jesus knows what it means to be troubled.
Now my soul is troubled. Says Jesus, when he’s telling the disciples about his impending death.
A bit later, John describes Jesus as troubled.
So, if Jesus is troubled, why does he say to us, Don’t let your hearts be troubled?
We have to be clear:
Jesus does NOT say to us: “Don’t be troubled.”
No, we’re going to be troubled.
That’s life … and Jesus knows it.
Jesus IS saying: Don’t let it go on. Do something about it. Take control of your thoughts before your thoughts take control of you.
There are things we can do about a troubled heart … we may not be able to do anything about the trouble itself, but it’s the heart that makes the difference.
Attitude is everything!
All of this begs the question:
How do we manage our heart?
What can we do?
Jesus says: believe in God … or as some translations have it, trust in God.
But what is God?
Who is God?
Jesus spends much of his time helping people learn about God … because there’s a lot of junk out there … and even a lot of junk in the church itself … as I noted last week, poorly trained pastors without oversight – they mislead people with emotional messages that have no merit; they , take their money, live lavishly, and bring shame and ridicule to the church of Jesus Christ.
Our best defense against the junk is to pay careful attention to the whole message of God.
This morning, I want to share with you three things about God, three things that anchor our faith … three things that God’s Word gives us to us – so that we might say, “This is God, the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ.”
Three things to help us deal with troubled hearts:
And God’s faithfulness.
First of all, God’s promises:
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
When God spoke these words, Israel was in Exile; Babylon … strangers in a strange land … strange people telling them what to do.
How they could worship in such a strange land? Without their temple in Jerusalem? Without the Promised Land beneath their feet?
Confused and distraught.
They wept and they trembled.
Their hearts were troubled:
By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
… our captors asked us for songs … saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How could we sing the LORD’S song
in a foreign land?
A crisis of faith:
Maybe a child said to Mom or Dad, “What is God like? Is God good? Is God good all the time? And why are here if God is good all the time? How could God let this happen to us? It doesn’t seem fair. It’s not right.”
Mom and Dad were thinking the same thing.
“Did God let us down?”
“Did God change God’s mind?”
“Babylon’s soldiers destroyed our temple, and what did God do?”
“They tied us up and took us off to exile, and what did God do?”
“Maybe the Babylonian gods are bigger and better than the God of Israel!”
God says to Israel, Look to me, and look to my promises.
I will never leave you or forsake you … wherever you go, I am there with you … I’m the Good Shepherd, and I never abandon my sheep … even when you walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death, I walk beside you.
A rose garden I cannot promise.
But I give you my love.
The same love that created the heavens and the earth.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
We have the promises of God!
But there’re more.
We have the character of God …
God’s character is the guarantee of the Promise.
The One who MAKES the promise is just as important as the Promise itself!
The character of God is goodness.
God is good ALL the time.
No matter what!
No matter where!
When everything goes wrong and life is upside down.
When others turn against us.
When we’ve made poor decisions.
When we’re tired and sad and ready to give up.
The creator of the heavens and the earth is good.
Good to the core.
The promise of God is anchored in the character of God.
Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God …
He does not faint or grow weary.
He gives power to the faint.
Strengthens the powerless.
Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
We have the promises of God.
We have God’s character.
But there’s still more:
Paul writes to the Philippians and says:
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
Whatever God starts, God will finish, and God will finish it well!
In Second Timothy, the writer expresses personal confidence:
For I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.
Jesus says: If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
“Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not; As thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.”
The Apostle Paul writes to his friends in Rome:
If God is for us, who is against us? ….
Believe in God, says Jesus.
The promises of God.
The character of God.
The faithfulness of God.
But wait a minute, there’s still more.
More than the promises.
More than God’s character.
More than God’s faithfulness.
Yes … a thousands times yes, there’s more!
Jesus says: Believe also in me.
Israel’s Messiah … the embodiment, the enfleshment, of the original promise to Abraham and Sarah – that all the nations of the world would be blessed.
No one left behind.
No one left out.
The whole world.
All of creation.
From top to bottom.
God … up-close and personal.
“Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Crucified, dead, and buried:
Descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
Ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.”
Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.
When we see Jesus, we see the Father.
When we look at Christ, we see God!
If there’s ever a question about God’s promise, look to Jesus.
If there’s ever a doubt about God’s character, look to Jesus.
If there’s uncertainty about God’s faithfulness to us, look to Jesus.
Jesus healed the blind man by the side of the road, and didn’t scold him!
Jesus spoke kindly to the woman caught in adultery, and humbled the crowd when he said to them, Let the one without sin throw the first stone.
Jesus invited Zacchaeus down out of the tree and went to his home for dinner, and folks were shocked when Jesus suggested that Zacchaeus the Tax Collector was as much a member of God’s Household as anyone else.
This Jesus calls you and me.
And Jesus is none other than God … God-with-us, up-close and personal.
Dear friends, life is hard.
We all know that.
So does Jesus.
Thus, with great compassion and force, Jesus says to us: Let not your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God … believe also in me.
And when the long night is over, we will sing:
“Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, LORD, unto me.”
Amen and Amen.