"These things hove I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me." "Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now came, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father Is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:1-3, 82-83)
You will note, if you observe carefully, that the first verse in our text reads this way, "These things have I spoken unto you." The last verse also reads, "These things I have spoken unto you." Our Lord was always instructing His little flock. He was instructing them about things they knew not of, though often times they thought they did. In the first verse, He said He spoke these things unto them that they would not be offended. In connection with that, compare a verse of scripture in the gospel of Matthew. There is no contradiction there, but things seem to be quite opposite. Shortly before the Lord went to His cruel death, He says this to His disciple., "Then saith Jesus unto them, all ye shall be offended, because of me this night. For it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad." (Matthew 26:31) Now He plainly told them that they would be offended, and yet our text above says, "These things have I spoken unto you that you should not be offended."
The Lord's instruction is beneficial to us only when it is applied by the Spirit of God. So many times we may read the instructions of our Lord as it is contained in the Bible, and we are not blessed with the feeling sense of it, and as a result we do not see its beauty, nor feel its power. The Lord not only instructed His disciples who were with Him then, but these instructions are just as suitable to His little flock today. In the first instance He was speaking about these disciples who followed Him in His ministry, that He desired not that they would be offended, yet they would soon be offended, and they would soon be scattered. And then the time would shortly come that the people who considered themselves very religious, would put the disciples out of their synagogues. And for what reason? Nothing other than that they followed Jesus. That is the only reason.
Jesus told the disciples in the 15th chapter of John to not marvel that the world hated them, because the world had first hated Him. He said the world hated Him without a cause. It's not a thing that we should marvel at, as some unusual circumstances had befallen us, whatever form it might take. Now in His introductory remarks here to them in this 16th chapter, He warns them about religious persecution. They would not only put them out of the synagogue, but the day would come that they would think they did God service by taking their life! Riding the other day to a meeting with Elder Spangler, he made a remark that startled me so that I didn't know what he meant until he explained himself. He said, "I had to flee from the church for my life two times." Why, that took me back. I didn't know that anyone had ever threatened his life. And I asked him when in the world did anything like that occur. He said, "I didn't mean my natural life. I mean my church life." He said, "Twice in my travels there were those who would have excluded me and put me out of my home church, but for warnings which were given to me, and I was blessed to escape the snare." So he was talking in figurative language. He had to flee for his life. And there is the time in the lives of the disciples, that those who would kill you (in a spiritual way) think they do God a service. Even at this very hour, multitudes of well-meaning people in high political places really feel that they would be doing a service to humanity to exterminate the bulk of religion, except for those who would conform to State standards. And they think it would be beneficial to all concerned. (The little flock of Jesus Christ knows better.)
There has always, and there always will be until the end of time, religious and political tyranny, in which the church of Jesus Christ will be caught up. Our Lord said on another occasion (in this same book) to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world." Have you been blessed to receive the lovely words of that expression? If we are partakers of the grace of God, we have been brought into His kingdom, then though we live in the world, though we are involved in its commerce, it's activities, there are many obligations that we owe to Caesar, but we are not of the world. There are two separate worlds - the world and the kingdom of Christ. The kingdom of Christ is in the world, and the world would do its best to get into the kingdom of Christ, but our Lord has a way of purging that. The kingdom of Christ will stand when the world is on fire. But just so long as the subjects of His kingdom live in this world, they are going to be subjected to tribulations, persecutions, afflictions, trials, darkness of mind, fears, etc. This is the general lot of the children of God to some extent or another. One thing not mentioned, above all others which is not pertinent to this, but is equally important, is that aspect of our life called coldness. However, in fairness to the subject, we might say the chief way to eliminate the coldness of our life is when the Lord is pleased for us to suffer persecution, tribulation, afflictions, and distresses. The Lord will not long leave us in the barren lands where we may grow cold. He will, rather, lead us like He did Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego to the furnace. And in the furnace there we will see the fourth Man - Jesus, the Son of God, who is in our midst.
While things are smooth sailing, we don't look up, but we look out. While things are going well, we might be self-satisfied, but when the storms of life begin to rage, we, like the disciples on the little bark on the Sea of Galilee, will attempt to arouse the Master, and say, "Master, careth thou not that we perish?" It needs not be said, though we shall say it - everyone who calls upon the Name of God needs, and must have tribulations and afflictions, in whatever form they take. Whether they come from the highest levels of government, or the deepest recesses of their own inward being, they all work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)
How many of you over the last year or so have, at some moment in your spiritual experience, been brought to grief? The bitter tears of sorrow flowed down your cheeks; the piercing of your heart because of some trial seemed almost more than you could bear, and yet what is always the inevitable results of such circumstances as these? They drive us to God's throne. Our Lord has said, "Come boldly to the throne." And those who are in pain get bold, don't they? Now let us use, if we may, a worldly illustration. There is not a person reading this piece that, under normal circumstances, would pick up your phone and call your dentist Everybody dislikes dentists. Hut if you were in enough pain with a wisdom tooth throbbing out of your head, you would boldly call him, if you had to get him off the golf course, out of bed, or wherever; necessity being upon you. A desire for relief would impel you to do what was necessary to gain it Is that not so? How much more then when the aching heart, the groaning spirit, and all the inward being combined is heaving under duress, trial, and tribulation, do we come boldly to the Throne of Grace, pleading our cause?
How often are we going to have these troubles, you might ask? We don't have to tell you. Did your troubles just begin today? Or did they begin back sometime ago? We sing the song
"How strange is the course that a Christian must steer!
How perplexed is the path he must tread."
Oh, what truth is in those words. And then the last verse says
"When his pardon is signed. and his peace is procured,
From that moment his conflict begins."
When one is brought into the light and blessed with a lively hope; when one first feels that blessed hope that Jesus is theirs, it is then that the real trials begin! All before that were really just the ordinary things of the flesh. But when one is brought into a knowledge of saving life, and then the temper (Satan) sets in upon him, the old man begins to rise up against him, and enemies are found in quarters they knew not even existed. Then they begin to see that this business is not some minor thing. It is a real part of our life. Tribulations take many forms. Many of them are the results of our worldly troubles. The greatest anxieties that we observe in most believers is worry and distress about things going on politically, or economically. And isn't it an irony that that is the area where we have the least control? We worry about most everything going on. We listen to news casts and get ourselves all upset in a fever pitch wondering, how can these things be? Isn't it a comfort if the Lord draws your mind back again to spiritual things; to realize and believe that God yet sets upon the throne and reigns supreme, and that the powers that be are ordained of God? And this all is but falling out to His glory, and to our good. In the closing words of our Lord in our text, He told them that they were all going to leave Him alone. All of His disciples would abandon Him, and still He said, "And yet I am not alone." Why was that? He was not alone because the Father was with Him. Now ask yourself this question. Do you believe that Jesus felt as comfortable with His Father as He could have been if 10,000 legions of men and angels had gathered to rally to His support? Our Saviour was as fully satisfied with the solitary presence of His Father in His hour of grief as He could have been if all the world had come to His aid. His Father was sufficient for Him. He said, "I and the Father are one," and the next chapter says in the prayer of our Lord, "...That they (His disciples) may be one." That we might be in Him, as He was in the Father, and that we might commune together. One cannot fully appreciate what our Lord said in the 16th chapter of John unless he reads the 17th in associaton with it. But confining ourself to the verses of the 16th chapter, He said He was not alone because His Father was with Him. That was enough. Even so today. Listen. Did not our Lord say before He ascended back to glory that, "I am with you alway, even to the end of the world?" Did he not say previous to that, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee?" Many times we may question that. In ourselves we cannot feel His presence, but He is here. We may be like the one in the Song of Songs, which was Solomons', "Tell me O, thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest thy flock." We might say, like her, "By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth, and I found him not" And yet He's not gone. He may be withdrawn from our presence, but He is there. Why? If we are His, and He is ours; if we are one with Him, He is one with us. We have a duel relationship with Christ, and one is as true as the other. Christin us, the hope of glory; but we are equally in Him, and it is this expression that should be so vital to us at this time.
"These things have I spoken unto you that in me ye might have peace." Will you find it anywhere else? Is it available in the marketplace? Can peace be obtained through political process, or will fighting wars bring about peace? Can we buy peace, or do we even want that kind of peace, or should it rather be we want the peace that is in Him?
Now let us then address ourselves to this subject of peace. 'These things have I spoken unto you." Who is the you? Why, the you is His disciples! Our Lord shall not bring peace to all the world. Though he is the Prince of Peace, He said, 'Think not that I am come to send peace, but a sword." And He will set family against family, friend against friend, and nation against nation, and all this is within His sovereign prerogative. But He does come as the Prince of peace for His children, His disciples. "These things I have spoken unto you that in me ye might have peace." But He goes on, "In the world ye shall have tribulation." There are two ins' there. In me. And in the world. And He governs both of them. We are in both of them. We are in the world, aren't we? Whether we like it or not, we are here until our Lord calls us out And by His marvelous grace, we are in Him. We are in Him because of His free choice. In the chapter previous to the 16th, He says, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain." And then further in that chapter He said, "I have chosen you out of the world." Now mark you well. He says, "I have chosen you out of the world," and yet He prayed the Father that He would not take us out of the world, but that we might remain here, and that He would protect us. Listen. "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." "In me ye shall have peace." "In the world ye shall have tribulation." "I have chosen you out of the world." And then He says that He prays to the Father that He would not take them out of the world. They have been called out of the world, and yet they remain in the world. And yet they remain in Him as well.
Is this a mystery? It is not a mystery to any of you that love the Lord, the Saviour. You understand His language in your inward being, though the world might think it is strange doctrine. Now, which is it? Are we in Him, or are we in the world? Why, we are in both of them. Well then, what will our lot be? Will it be peace or will it be tribulation? Some, many in fact, may want to teach us that we can rise above the things of the world. There is no need to suffer, they say. There is no need to be sick. There is no need to have fears; and many go so far as to say that God doesn't want you to be broke. On more than one occasion many of us have heard so called radio and TV evangelists widely proclaim the idea that if you will but contribute to God's cause, (and what they mean by that is their particular little ministry) then God is obliged to repay you a hundred fold, and that you can just get rich by contributing. And a lot of folks have found out that "that just ain't so." Aside from that, though, we know that those things are not so. We know there is no escaping tribulations, trials, or infirmities of the flesh, or the warfare within.
We are in Christ, and we are in the world, and the Lord wills to have it that way, and we shall experience the being in both of them. When we have fully experienced the both of them and the Lord begins to ripen us for glory, there is no question in the mind of the. true believer which he would prefer to stay in. Many of you reading this have been in the world a long time. Some above 80 years. Most of you can safely say that you are getting a little weary with this present evil world. The sooner the Lord calls us to our happy home, the better, when we shall there stand before Him to have all our tears wiped away. No more groaning with the old man; no more wrestling with evil thoughts; no more coldness and deadness, lifelessness in prayer and study; no more hard thoughts toward our brethren. All of the things of this world will then be gone, and we will enter into the full glory of the kingdom, world without end, ages forevermore, if our hope be not vain.
What a blissful anticipation to leave this world that we are in. Why? Because in the world ye shall have tribulation! Our Lord said it is so. It will be so! The tribulations take varied forms, but they are all real, none the less. In the 5th chapter of the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul said, 'Tribulation worketh patience." Most every one would like to be patient. You would like to heed the admonition of the Psalmist as he uttered (by the Spirit) "Be still and know that I am God." How can you be still unless God stills you? It is tribulation that worketh patience. Would you be patient? Then prepare for tribulation! But, you say, I am a coward. You are no bigger coward than anyone else. Some have dared to bargain with the Lord, saying, "Lord, if I do this again, send a certain tribulation upon me." Brethren, be fearful when you do things like that, for you know that you can't keep bargains. It is better that we don't make vows and promises to God that we know we can't keep. May we rather spiritually acquiesce, and bow submissive to the determinant will of God that His people endure tribulation. Though the tribulation might at times seem to be severe, it worketh patience.
It is needful that the saint of God be tempered with tribulation because if he is a genuine child, true born, home born heir, the tribulations will only further stimulate him to disavow this world that he is in and direct his allegiance towards the Christ he is in. "In me ye shall have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation." We will have them both at the same time. Did you know that? Have you even been calmed in a storm? Have you ever been placid in the tempest? Have you ever felt comforted in the furnace? The three Hebrew children are a good example of tribulations the saints can expect. They were in a furnace heated seven times over, and yet their clothing was not singed. Not even the smell of smoke was upon them. In tribulation they were blessed to experience ultimate peace, walking with Jesus, because in the tribulation He was with them. He was their God and their Master in the flame, and over the king who had thrown them in the furnace, and all of this only served to show them that their allegiance to Him whom they were in was far superior to the trials and tribulations of the furnace they were in at the same time. They were in peace because they were in Him, and they were in the furnace because they were in the world. At once they experienced the both because they were two men, and not one. They were a new man and an old.
"These things have I spoken unto you that in me ye might have peace." Shall you find it anywhere else? Need you look for it in any other quarter? It was as if the Lord was warning His disciples. "You will not find peace in the world; look where you may, cry as you will. It is not there." Even in His departing discourse to the disciples He said, "There shall be wars and rumors of wars. These are the beginning of sorrows." Why, if wars and rumors of wars be the beginning of sorrows, what must be the climax? "In the world ye shall have tribulation."
Turning now to I Thessalonians, Chapter 3, "Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; and sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of Gad, and our fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know." Why, the minister was sent for their comfort and their strength because they knew that they were appointed to tribulation and afflictions. It says, "As ye know." The children of God know that just as surely as the sun rises in the east that there will be sorrows before the sun sets in the west that day. There is not a day going by in the lives of any of us, however good we might feel in the morning, but what before the day is over we have our share of bitterness and anguish, trial, and affliction. We find that without are fightings, and within are fears. We find that we are cast down. We find that there are many adversaries, many woes. The Apostle Paul even said on one occasion that he had to fight the wild beasts of Ephesus. One of the most grievous trials, the sorest trial of all is the frowns of our own brethren. When we feel we have lost the fellowship, or the comfort, or the union of brothers and sisters in Christ, what a lonely, lonely world it is to believers: to find that they cannot associate themselves with those of like precious faith. What a horrible loss it is when we become so wrapped up in the world and suffer tribulation at the expense of the joy in the kingdom. My deer readers, this world holds nothing for 5; none of us. The only joy, naturally, that you shall know in this world (apart from being in Christ) is the peace that is ours in the kingdom of God, wherein He has called you, which kingdom we call the church of God. You may forsake it for a season; you may grow cold and might find brethren distant there. You may think, "Well, I'll just drift away." But be assured of this - God has set the church as a city upon a hill, and this is our refuge. Christ is here. He is the King in Zion. And yet, He says that we through much tribulation enter this kingdom. No, it is no easy road into or traveling with the church of the living God.
"These things have I spoken unto you that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation." (Are you not glad that verse didn't end there?) "But be of good cheer." Oh, it is enough to make you want to shout Why, He just told us how bad things were going to be. He forewarned us "In the world ye shall have tribulation," but He knows His disciples better than they know themselves, and He said, "Be of good cheer." Did He say we ought to be of good cheer? No. He said, "Be of good cheer." And it does cheer the hearts of every little disciple to hear these words. These are the words from the lips of our Lord. "But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." "I have overcome the world." And the Lord overcame the world all by Himself, and He did not ask us to overcome it with Him. He bore the cross alone. He endured the anguish, the suffering, and even the frowns of His Father from heaven. He endured to the going down into the regions of woe. He agonized on the cross alone; suffered the horrors of death. All of these things He did that He might say to His disciples, "But be of good cheer, fur I have overcome the world." Why then, the world is not the master, but He is the Master of the world. Whatever tribulations come our way come by His direct appointment.
Look at one illustration in closing. We consider the servant of God, a man called Job, as Satan pitched in upon him with all the fierceness of tribulation that any man ever endured. But all of that was under the direct dispensation of God's eternal purpose; to the point that even in all the suffering, death in his family, loss of his prosperity, sudden departure of his health, wife abandoning him, friends ridiculing him, misunderstanding him, he said, 'The Lord gave and the Lord took away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Is not that true faith? James says, "Consider the patience of Job." Where did Job get his patience? 'Tribulation worketh patience." "In me ye shall have peace." You will have peace in the Lord, but you shall not fully appreciate that peace in the Lord until in the world you have tribulation. "But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." The victory is His and the joy is ours. The warfare was His and the spoils are ours. What He has done was not for Himself, because He needed nothing. He did it because He loved His children. "I have overcome the world." And immediately after He said that to His disciples, He offered the most solemn, God-honoring, wonderful prayer ever uttered in eternity or time - the 17th chapter of John. May God bless you to think on these things.
James F. Poole
Signs of the Times
Volume 151, No. 5 - May 1983