By Mike Willis
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you onto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (Jn. 14:1-3).
This beautiful text as comforted many a troubled heart, driving away the dark clouds of gloom and bringing in the sunshine hope of eternal life. We would do well to learn its lessons in the peaceful hour so that its lessons will sustain us through the storms of life.
Hearts Are Troubled
The Lord recognized that circumstances arise which do trouble the heart, for his own heart was sometimes troubled. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus wept as he witnessed the weeping and groaning of his friends. The text says, “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled” (Jn. 11:33). In John 12:27, as he spoke of his death, he confessed, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” When he spoke of Judas’ betraying him, “he was troubled in spirit” (Jn. 13:21). Consequently, Jesus was well aware that man’s spirit can be troubled.
Particularly on that occasion were the disciples tempted to anxiety. Jesus had told them of his departure saying, “Yet a little while I am with you” (Jn. 13:33). He had foretold the crucifixion on several previous occasions but only now was his leaving them understood. He foretold that one of the very twelve would betray him (Jn. 13:18-30). He also revealed that Peter, a leader among the twelve, would deny Jesus three times before the break of day (Jn. 13:38). In addition, he previously had announced the persecution which would come to them because they were his disciples and had foretold the complete overthrow of the Jewish state. Indeed, their hearts were tempted to anxiety, to be troubled.
Troubles come to every heart. There are the troubles which come to us because we are men: death, sickness, war, and famine. Job testified that “man that is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (14:1). There are troubles which come uniquely to Christians: persecution, rejection, the apostasy of loved ones, etc. Each of these troubles assaults the heart – the seat of man’s emotions, reason, and will.
Nothing is gained by minimizing the troubles which confront us as men and Christians. James Montgomery Boice wrote,
Sometimes when a person comes to us with a problem, as people do to me constantly, we want to minimize their problem. We want to say, “But that is not so bad. Think how things could be worse.” We may even want to tell stories of those we know who were in even worse circumstances. But we must not do this. Nothing is gained by minimizing the problems. Instead, we must hear the troubled soul out, and we must acknowledge that in many, if not all, cases there is that which rightly troubles him (The Gospel of John, Vol. IV, p. 92).
George Arthur Buttrick spoke of the philosophy which tries to see something positive in every adversity; he said, “The multifarious and multitudinous facts of pain must be faced. . . . Pollyanna, who looked for ‘the silver lining’ until she convinced herself that we can have the lining without the black cloud, is a nasty little girl. She is a liar, and she peddles a mirage” (George Arthur Buttrick, God, Pain and Evil, p. 16).
The Pollyana approach to life has been “sanctified” by being parroted by those who claim to be Christians. “It would not be necessary to make so much of this point if it were not that there is a kind of Pollyanna Christianity in our day which seeks to deny it (i.e., that there is cause to be troubled for any truly surrendered child of God). . . . This view is unrealistic and uninformed, for evil does exist” (Boice, The Gospel of John, Vol. IV, p. 91).
Christian Science tries to deny that troubles exist by affirming that they are merely illusions. One poet quipped this reply to the delusion of illusion parroted by the Christian Scientists:
There was a faith-healer of Deal
Who said, “Although pain isn’t real,
When I sit on a pin, And it punctures my skin,
I dislike what I fancy I feel.”
The Bible is a book which faces life realistically. The Lord recognizes that troubles exist in life and that those troubles assault the heart. The Scripture before us calls on Christians who are in the face of trouble to, by a deliberate exercise of the mind in which he brings Bible truths to his remembrance, calm his troubled heart through faith. By thinking of the Father and Jesus, remembering his promises and his power to perform what he has promised, the Christian strengthens his faith in order to survive the storm.
How To Calm The Troubled Heart
1. Faith in God. The AV reads “ye believe in God.” The verb can be either indicative or imperative. The AV follows the indicative translation; the reading “believe in God” of the RSV makes the sentence imperative, commanding one to believe in God to clam his troubled soul. Remembrance of God does calm the troubled soul.
As I face the troubles of my life, I should remember them in the context of my relationship and service to God. Regardless of what happens to me, God is the Almighty God in total control of his universe. He loves me, as demonstrated by the sacrifice of his Son’s life for my redemption (Jn. 3:16). He watches over me, even numbering the very hairs of my head and keeping me from being tempted above my ability to bear. Reminding myself of these truths does not remove the trouble from me but it does reassure my troubled heart. I can face the troubles with the knowledge that God has not forsaken me.
I remember that I am created by God in his image for eternal habitation with him. “Temporary sorrows and difficulties all but disappear when they take their place in an immortal existence” Q.R. Thomson, The Pulpit Commentary on John, p. 237). Problems which appear so big today pale into insignificance when one sees them in view of eternity. What difference will going bankrupt make two hundred years from now? What difference will the manner in which I die, whether suddenly as in a car wreck or heart attack or slowly as through cancer or old age, make two hundred years from now? The records of human history will simply record that I died and the pain, grief, and suffering attending that death will have passed and been forgotten. By these words, I do not intend to minimize the pain, grief, or suffering, for they are real and grievous.
2. Believe in Jesus. The second means of calming the troubled soul is to remind ourselves of Jesus’ work in our redemption. He came to this earth and experienced all the temptations facing mankind that he might relieve us from the bondage of sin, give us the hope of the resurrection, and the assurance of eternal life in heaven.
The circumstances in which these words were uttered to the disciples highlights the meaning of the verse. Jesus had told the disciples that he was going away. “If Jesus were leaving them, would they not be helpless and friendless in the midst of a hostile city? Terror must have gripped them, and have appeared on their pale faces and in their frightened eyes” (Merrill Tenney, The Gospel of John, p. 212). Nevertheless, he told them not to be troubled. Even as they believed in God and trusted in him, they should trust that Jesus could be able to meet their needs in spite of the fact that he must be taken from their presence.
Jesus can meet our needs just as certainly as he met the needs of Peter, James, John, and the rest of the Twelve. We look back through the pages of the New Testament and see that he met their every need, sustaining them until they departed from this life and received the crown of life. He will meet my needs in the same manner as he met theirs.
3. Believe in heaven. The third means of calming the troubled soul is to believe in heaven. The assurance of heaven is as certain as the veracity of Jesus’ word. He promised, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Here are some things to believe about heaven:
a. There is a place called heaven. I am assured that Jesus has prepared a place for the righteous. Heaven is not a pipe dream, a belief in a “pie-in-the-sky” in the sweet by and by. Jesus has gone away to prepare this place for us. If his word can be trusted (and God cannot lie – Tit. 1:2), there is a place of reward for the righteous.
b. Heaven is our eternal home. It is the “Father’s house.” This is the city for which Abraham looked – “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). My citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20,21). Boice expressed man’s need for a home in these words:
This means that although earthly homes are necessary and valuable, they are nevertheless and at the best not permanent and that, consequently, the basic need for a home (going back to Eden) is fully met only when the Lord Jesus Christ Himself prepares a home for us in heaven. Now we ‘Are in a strange land, even in an enemy’s country. But in that day we shall be in the Father’s house and shall be home. This is our destiny (The Gospel of John, Vol. IV, p. 103).
c. Heaven is our permanent home. By the word “mansion” our thoughts are turned to spacious houses filled with expensive furniture. Such thoughts are not the emphasis of the word mone. A derivative of the verb meno (to abide) I the word mone means “a staying, abiding, dwelling-, abode” (Thayer, p. 417). The permanence of the dwelling is emphasized by the word. Heaven will not be a temporary dwelling place; it is the place where Paul said, “so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:17).
d. Heaven is being with God. Again, the emphasis. of heaven is not a “mansion”; rather, it is on being with God. “I will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (Jn. 14:3). The emphasis of heaven is the being in the presence of God and with Jesus.
When I return to East Texas, I drive my children by the house in which I was reared on the north loop off U.S. 287 in Woodlake, Texas. The house is still there but there is no attraction to me. Mother, Dad, and all of us children no longer are there. The attraction of the place in my memory is not the surroundings, it is the remembrance of the association with family members. A spacious mansion was not the attraction of heaven to the Twelve to whom Jesus spoke; the attraction for the Twelve was the reunion with Jesus and being in his presence forever. The same is true for those of us who, though not having seen him personally, love Jesus. We yearn to be with him forever. Fanny J. Crosby captured the idea in the song “Saved By Grace.”
Someday the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing;
But, O the joy when I shall wake
Within the palace of the King!
Someday my earthly house will fall,
I cannot tell how soon t’will be,
But this I know – my All in All
Has now a place in heav’n for me.
Someday when fades the golden sun
Beneath the rosy-tinted west,
My blessed Lord shall say, “well done!”
And I shall enter into rest.
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story – Saved by grace;
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story – Saved by grace.
The belief in heaven, the reward of the righteous given when Jesus comes again, is the hope of the Christian. The hope which is laid before us enables us to endure the darkness of the night, the pain of our sufferings, the emptiness of loneliness, the isolation of our ostracism, the uncertainty of tomorrow, and every other thing which troubles our hearts. Heaven is the light at the end of the tunnel, the sunshine after the rain, and the silver lining of the cloud which enables us to persevere in service to Christ.
Do you have the hope of heaven to calm your troubled heart? D.L. Moody related this incident:
There was a man who had great wealth. He was dying. When the doctor told him he could not live the lawyer was sent for to make out his will. The dying man had a little girl who was about four years old. She did not understand what death meant. But when her mother told her that her father was going away, the little child went to the bedside and looked into her father’s eyes and asked, “Papa, have you got a home-in that land you are going to?” Thequestion sunk deep into the man’s soul, for he had spent his time and energy accumulating great wealth. In this life he enjoyed a grand home, but now he had to leave it (Boice, The Gospel ofJohn, Vol. IV, p. 104).
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (Jn. 14:1-3).
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 15, pp. 450, 468-469
August 4, 1988