Live Small and Dream Big: Do not let Your Heart be Troubled by the Pandemic
Live Small and Dream Big: Do not let Your Heart be Troubled by the Pandemic Sam Stone, 2020-05-10, Trinity Online John 14:1-14 Hello again, from the empty tomb. The weather is getting warmer, and the streets are getting busier. Life is slowly and timidly returning to normal, but I am sure we all have a totally different appreciation of normalcy again. One thing this pandemic does to us is making us humble. That is a good thing because humility keeps us grounded in truth, raises our consciousness, and enables us to do greater works. It is in humility that we become useable by God. The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:5, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Being humble does not mean you don’t have any big ambition. In fact, Jesus wants us to be humble and dream big. That’s why I name today’s message Live Small and Dream Big. Today’s scripture lesson might make you wonder how big you should dream. Jesus expected us to do greater works than he did. That is an incredible challenge. Dare you ever dream of doing greater works than Jesus did? I am totally humbled and amazed by this passage every time I read it. It’s from John 14:1-14. Let us take a look at it. John 14:1-14. Listen to the Word of the Lord: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And 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. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. Jesus started out by saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This dialog was at the Last Supper as he broke the news to the disciples that he would be arrested and crucified soon. So, the hearts of the disciples were troubled by this shocking news. Jesus taught them how to handle a troubled heart. Since our hearts are also troubled due to the pandemic, I think we can also use Jesus’ words of comfort and solution for the troubled hearts. Just a few verses above, John recorded that Jesus’ own heart was also troubled. John 13:21 says, “After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’” Jesus’ heart was troubled because he knew Judas was about to betray him. It must be heartbreaking to realize one of his own inner circle disciples is about to sell him off to the authority with a kiss of betrayal. So, in a sense, Jesus is revealing the method he himself used to calm his troubled heart. Is your heart troubled today? I am sure it is. We all have a troubled heart these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, let us look at Jesus’ strategy to overcome a troubled heart. I have drawn three key principles from this passage and put it together in an acrostic BIG. (Now, by this time, I am sure you know that I am an addict to acrostics—or an “acrosticholic?”) Anyway, if you have a BIG dream, you can overcome your troubled heart much easier. Someone told me that if you want to grow your business twice or double your achievement, you might not be so excited. However, if you want to have the creative juice flowing in your brain, decide to grow your business ten times. When you make a BIG decision like that, you will be on your toes and forget about whatever is troubling your heart. Biologically, excitement can induce dopamine, which is a happy hormone that can also relieve the pain. A BIG dream can make you minimize suffering and maximize significance. Now, let’s get started. B is for 1. Believe The first step to overcome your troubled heart according to Jesus is realigning your belief. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” (v. 1) Why was he asking us to believe in God? Because God is the only stability in the universe, everything else is like shifting sands. Even the earth we stand on is moving and spinning in the space. I am sure we all have experienced the instability big-time during this pandemic. We were enjoying the best economy in history one day, and suddenly everything crumbled overnight. Nothing is stable in this world, and our soul is hunger for stability all the time. Isaiah 26:4 says, “Trust in the LORD forever, for in the LORD GOD you have an everlasting rock.” It says God is the everlasting stability. When our life is shaken, and our heart is troubled, we must anchor our belief on the only stability in the universe, that is our Creator. Jesus said, “believe also in me.” Why do we have to believe also in him? It’s because he is God in flesh. Jurgen Moltmann, one of the greatest theologians in the 20th century who is still living today, says, “Thank God for Jesus Christ because without him I would not have been able to know God.” It’s because God is too nebulous for us to understand and Jesus put flesh and bone to the image of God. When Philip asked, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Because of Jesus, there is no need to try to figure out what God is like. Just look at Jesus, and you know what God is like because he is the living revelation of God. That was quite a claim. How can you be sure that he is God in flesh? Jesus explained, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” (v. 11). If his oneness with God is hard for you to conceive, he said just look at his works. He is not talking about the miracles he had performed but about God’s amazing grace revealed in those miracles. Every miracle of Jesus is a sign of God’s grace. When we see God’s fingerprints in Jesus’ works, we have to believe Jesus is in oneness with God. When we find God, we find the anchor of life. One of my favorite songs has a chorus like this: “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand But I know who holds tomorrow And I know who holds my hand.” To calm your troubled heart, you need to know who holds tomorrow. When you believe in God, you also know God is holding your hand. So, first, let us believe in God and Christ. Secondly, I for imagine. 2. Imagine Imagination is one of the greatest gifts from God. In fact, our ability to imagine makes us godlike. Imagination allows us to create a better future, develop amazing inventions, and fly through space. The incredible smartphones we have today that allows us to hold the world in our hands started with imagination. God is the author of imagination. He imagined this earth and made it happen. He imagined human beings in his own image and made it happened. Image and imagination obviously came from the same root word. When God created us in God’s image, we inherited the godlike imagination. Once your belief is reoriented in the right place, meaning in God and Christ, imagine the beauty of the eternity they have prepared for you. The God who created this beautiful green earth can definitely create even a better one for us when we leave this place. Imagination allows us to escape the pain of this suffering world. I am not talking about an escapist mentality. I am talking about the creative imagination rooted in our belief in God and Christ. Imagination gives us hope knowing that if everything fails, there is an even better place waiting for us. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (v. 2). The word “dwelling place” is translated from Greek “μονή” (monay) meaning permanent home. Some versions of the Bible translated this word into “mansions.” There are many mansions in heaven, and one of them is prepared for you. In any case, it means your permanent and eternal home, as opposed to the transitory and provisional nature of this world. Since none of us have been there to see it by ourselves, we have to rely on the words of someone who came from there—that is Jesus. He wants us to believe his revelation, saying, “If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” In other words, “Will I be lying to you?” Believe him, and use your imagination to take a tour of your eternal home. Then your mind will become oriented to an eternal perspective. From the eternal perspective, the suffering of this world becomes temporal and transitory. Everything on this earth will come to pass. It will come, and it will pass. The pandemic will not come to stay, but it will come to pass. Only the mansion Jesus prepared for you will stay there forever waiting for you to enjoy it for eternity. Once you have this paradigm shift, all the problems in this world become too small to worry about. Then it allows you to focus on bigger things. God has bigger fish for you to fry, and he does not want you to sweat the small stuff. He does want you to live small, meaning be humble like children, but he wants you to dream BIG, also like children. Jesus gives you an image or imagination of what your permanent home is like so that you will not cling to this transitory temporal tent on earth. Then Jesus said, “And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (vs. 4-6). This summarizes the entire Gospel of John. John wrote his gospel to tell the world that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life,” meaning he is the “reconciliation, revelation, and redemption.” Nothing more and nothing less. In him, you have the complete direction, demonstration, and destination of life. Now you can imagine your permanent palace, and you know the way to get there is through Christ. Your heart is no longer troubled. Now you need the third element to dream BIG. G is for Graft. 3. Graft Grafting is binding two plants together, particularly a weaker plant on the root of a stronger plant so that the weaker plan can survive and thrive using the strength from the stronger root. When I was young, I had a friend who grew pear trees, but the specie he had was too fragile to survive. He also had many strong and healthy apple trees in his yard, so he decided to graft the pear trees to the root of the apple trees. It was a success. The pear grew much stronger and fruitful. To our surprise, the grafted pears come with a little bit of the apple flavor since they grew on the apple roots. It makes his pears tastier than normal and more popular in the fruit market. Romans 11:17 uses a similar analogy, “You, a wild olive shoot, were grafted … to share the rich root of the olive tree.” Using this imagery, we can say human beings are like wild olives because we are weakened by sin, but when we are grafted to the root of Jesus Christ, we become strong and flavorful. Jesus is an example of a grafted life. When Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father, Jesus said that “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father… Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (vs. 9a, 10). “I am in the father and the father is in me” is a good example of a grafted life. In other words, Jesus was saying that the fruit from his vine has the Father’s flavor. His words are the wisest words that ever spoken by a human being, but he said he did not speak them, but God spoke through him, and his amazing works were also done by God through him. Now, it’s your turn to do the works of God’s amazing grace, love, and power. Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” (v. 12). When Jesus begins a sentence with “Very truly, I tell you,” it means he is making an important statement, and we must take it seriously. He did not say you might do some greater works. He said in a definitive tone, “you will do greater works.” Why, because he was going to the Father and leaving us to do is works, provided that we are grafted to God and to him. Then he spent the rest of chapters 14 and 15 to talk about the concept of a grafted life and how to stay grafted. He spent two entire chapters talking about the grafted life because it is so crucial for us to get it. He wants to turn your troubled heart into an instrument for God’s works. In these two thousand years after he went to the Father, the followers of Jesus have done amazing works that have revealed the amazing grace, love, and power of God. We have built hospitals and orphanages, we have established universities and colleges, we have advanced science and technology, and we have fought injustice and tyranny. We continue to transform this world into a better place to live. Now, it’s your turn. Don’t let your hearts be troubled. At times like this, the world needs you to be a force for a fruitful future. So we must stay humble but dream the God-sized dream—BIG. This is how you turn your troubled heart into a brave heart. BIG • Believe in God and Christ • Imagine your Eternal Home • Graft to the Root of God There you have it! This is the Word of God from the Scripture addressing the signs of the time. May God bless you all and help you dream BIG and do greater works. Amen!