Week of August 15

The Way Through Troubles

Read: Jeremiah 10-12; John 14
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”
John 14:15, ESV


Louis Armstrong (1901-1971), the famous black jazz musician and trumpet and cornet player, would croon, “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen,” and I somehow felt encouraged. I’ll explain why in a bit, but this lyric could form a banner that hangs over John 14:1-4. Jesus did not sing about troubles, but He sure showed His followers how to overcome them.

He provides comfort to His disciples, following the shocking words that He had just stated in 13:21-30, 36-38 (14:1-3). Jesus did not want them (or us) to think that He was leaving them estranged in this life. He was going to prepare a place, and He would be returning to gather His Church unto Himself. Nevertheless, Thomas asks a question that I am sure has been on more minds than just his. Have you ever wondered where Jesus has gone, and if He is returning? Let’s ask Him.

Let's See What the Bible Says

Thomas expresses verbally what surely must have been in the minds of the other disciples: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” He was simply being honest even though we might conclude that he was a bit of a pessimist. We must keep in mind, however, that Thomas was devoted sincerely to Jesus and willing to die for Him. He simply was confused by the insolvable riddles that Jesus seemed to give (14:5; cf. John 11:16). Have you ever felt the same way when you read the words of Jesus?

We may be confident because Jesus reassures him with a personal answer to his question: “I am the way!” (14:6). Goodness, He is God, so I would think that He knows the way to access eternity. Nothing to doubt there because Jesus told the man that He, the Son of God, was the solution. Jesus is the Master of life itself, so anyone that knows Him will know that He is the way and will provide for His own to be with Him. There is more.

Secondly, the directions to the Father are quite clear because Jesus did not have to see through the fog that sin creates. He, as a result, makes clear sense of life because He lives in unbroken communion with the Heavenly Father (cf. “truth”). Jesus, by conquering death, has become the absolute sure path to the Father. We need not worry about which path leads where because He is the truth. He makes life coherent when we abide in relationship with Him. There is still more.

He is the life precisely because death and the grave did not prevail. He has made death subject to Him (EBC). We all know the reality that we begin life, but there will be a point in time when our physical lives will come to an end too. Jesus makes it clear that there was no period at the end of the sentence for Him because He lives eternally. He also has assured us that we will live if we are His children (cf. John 11:25). Jesus’ words were not a boastful claim that He could not back up. He burst forth from the grave and gave us a clear understanding of the path to follow (cf. John 1:18). His words simply tell us that He is the only “authorized” revelation of the Father in human form, so we are beckoned to follow Him.

Let's Deepen Our Walk

Louis Armstrong was mentioned in the introduction to the devotional. I wrote that anytime I listened to the words of “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” I am encouraged. Why? This man was born into poverty. His dad left his mom when Louis was a few months old. He was raised the first five years by his grandmother, and then by a Lithuanian Jewish family beginning at age seven. He endured social and racial rejection throughout most of his life and did so with a trademark smile. He was famous for providing shows 300 days a year and traveled the world encouraging people. One of his nicknames was “Satchmo” which is Yiddish for “big cheeks” (or “satchel mouth”).

Mr. Armstrong had a very large mouth, and his grin was infectious. He sings the old spiritual that I name above and at the key moment his eyes bulge and his mouth widens into a huge grin, when he sings, “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen. Nobody but Jesus.” Louis Armstrong had endured a life of hardship but gave love in return. Here is my spiritual point of application. If I may, Jesus never excuses us from troubles. He simply introduces us to the way to overcome them—follow His example of giving love.

Here is a thought for our spiritual growth. Aside from “love one another,” many of us have little clarity on how that is lived out daily. Jesus provides us with clarity. First, Jesus calls His followers to keep His ethical commands, and John has used terms like “my word” and “my words” to convey the Lord’s meaning (14:21, 23-24; cf. NIV “teaching). In other words, Jesus calls His true disciples to observe the entire scope of His revelation and teaching (8:31; 12:47, 50, NAC). Work with me here. You and I must study and internalize the words of Christ.

Secondly, we are to follow this path daily. Jesus leaves open the definition of how one obeys the love command because He trusts His followers (including us) to model His way of love and obedience to the Father. Broadly we know that this will mean rejecting sin and Satan (cf. 1 John 3:4-10) and loving and caring for other believers in word and action. Specifically, this means to copy the example of Jesus. Christ commanded His disciples to love God and love their neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40).

Thirdly, the goal is to hold a loving disposition toward God and one’s fellowman and to express it in one’s judgments (e.g., looking to express love in one’s immediate judgments about other people; say goodbye to “trash talking”), actions (e.g., looking for ways to act lovingly toward others; engage in serving others first), and rules of actions (e.g., as a rule, I show the love of Christ when I help, not hurt, my neighbor; live by Christ’s word and not Pinterest memes!). Overall, the Bible and the life of Jesus are perfect guides to aiding us in the loving fulfillment of the commands of Christ which will encourage us and others.

Let's Think and Discuss

1. Imagine a moment what Jesus’ eyes and face looked like when He replied to Thomas with “I am the way . . .” Now, write down the top troubles in your life today, then imagine Jesus looking directly into your eyes and saying, “I am the way.” He has lived through every trouble known to humankind and emerged victorious. Follow Him.

2. For families: A wonderful truth from today's devotional is that Jesus can show us the way to live here, even in trouble, and also how to join Him in Heaven someday. His directions are perfectly clear because Jesus did not have to see through the fog that sin creates. To help your children to see how sin distorts our ability to find God’s way on our own, hide a half dozen objects around your house.Then tie a blindfold over your child’s eyes. Give him or her a chance to find the hidden objects without any directions and very limited sight.

As your children take turns with this game, they will observe how each of them gropes and struggles to accomplish the task. When they all have taken their turn, take the blindfold from the last child and gather your children close. Explain that sin makes it harder to see and hear God, but it does not keep God from finding us. Encourage them to look to Jesus and walk with Him each day. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. We can be with Him now, and we can be with Him always.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock