What to watch for below: Today let us worship God for His greatness! This is the apostle John’s encouragement to the church and it is exactly what we need to focus on during this pandemic. Enjoy two worship choruses praising God for His greatness followed by my video message from 1 John 3:19-24. I conclude with a closing prayer and for further study you can read my sermon manuscript. May God give you the confidence in following Him realizing, “How Great Thou Art!”
Click the arrow below to hear the closing prayer
Sermon Manuscript: Focusing on God Brings Encouragement
Scripture passages below are from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
A man saw a span of horses drawing a very heavy load of logs, and as they came to a hard place they struggled and tried with all their force, strained every muscle to the highest tension, but they could not start the load. Then the driver took some of the logs off and tried to get them to start the load, but they would not. He rolled off some more, but those horses would not start. He rolled off still more, and at last took off every log, and then they started up the road. Those horses had been utterly discouraged; they had pulled with all their strength and failed, and anyone doing that, be it man or beast, is not able to accomplish half as much as a man who has not lost heart. (Source Unknown).
There may be times in our lives, as believers in God, when we come across life challenges that may be quite deflating to our faith and confidence in the LORD. Our hearts may become downcast, depressed or uneasy and we hear that inner voice starting to question things like, “Why am I so sad? Why am I feeling so down? Where is Jesus in all of this? Did I do something wrong? Is there a sin I need to repent of?” Have you experienced any of these thoughts during our pandemic lockdown and isolation?
At the same time, you might come across people who have this incredible confidence during these same challenges. And you might be wondering, “Why don’t I have that same confidence? My faith in God really needs a boost!”
As we look at today’s passage of Scripture, the apostle John wants to encourage the believer’s hearts to have the assurance that they are saved, belonging in God’s truth which results in resting in His presence. How do we get our hearts and consciences focused on the truth and finding this rest? Look with me for the answers as your read 1 John 3:19-24.
1John 3:19-24, “This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”
Here are four ways the apostle John encourages the hearts of believers by bringing them to the right focus.
Focus Brings Encouragement
1. Focus on God’s greatness
To the heart that is battling condemnation or anxious thoughts John says in verse 20, “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts.”
The quickest way to immobilize faith is to have people believe that they are powerless. John’s antidote for this is for believers to focus in on the greatness of God. He is greater than our condemning hearts and fears.
A young boy traveling by airplane to visit his grandparents sat beside a man who happened to be a seminary professor. The boy was reading a Sunday school take-home paper when the professor thought he would have some fun with the lad. “Young man,” said the professor, “If you can tell me something God can do, I’ll give you a big, shiny apple.” The boy thought for a moment and then replied, “Mister, if you can tell me something God can’t do, I’ll give you a whole barrel of apples!” Today in the Word, April 1989, p. 43.
What we have to realize when our hearts are downcast is, we are believing that God is too small to handle what we are facing. As we focus on how great God’s power is, our problems will be put in the right perspective. I challenge you to focus on God’s greatness today and leave your trials and problems with Him. What a relief you will experience!
The second thing John wants believers to focus on is…
2. Focus on God’s omniscience
Not only is God’s greatness sufficient to handle what troubles our heart, John says in verse 20, “he knows everything.” God knows what is troubling you and he knows why it is troubling you because He knows you better than you know yourself. When we focus on the truth that God is all knowing or omniscient there is nothing that surprises God so it should not surprise you. Therefore, God must have a reason for allowing certain trials and troubles to come our way like this pandemic. We do not see the end of the story, but God know the end from the beginning.
Dwight Moody was traveling by boat on one of the Great Lakes when a really bad storm developed. The other passengers on the boat cowered in fear. They even started an impromptu prayer meeting asking God to deliver them from the storm. Moody didn’t join in this prayer meeting. When asked why not, he answered with these words, “I have a sister in Chicago and one in heaven and I don’t care which I see tonight.” (Source Unknown, Lou Nicholes – Missionary/Author)
When we know that God knows everything, we can put our trust into his plan just like Moody did. When was the last time you had that confidence? Can you pray, “God I am not going to worry about this because you know best.” Do you need to ask God to forgive you for succumbing to fear or faith-deflating-worry?
John wants us to focus on God’s greatness and that He knows everything. The third thing he wants us to focus on is…
3. Focus on pleasing God
John makes a transition from the condemning, deflated heart of a believer to a believer who has confidence. This transition is based on the fact of the believer pleasing God. Here again is what he wrote in verses 21-23, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”
A child of God who pleases God and has confidence to come before Him and ask Him for anything according to God’s will. How is this possible? Because pleasing God involves two things: a child of God believes in God’s Son Jesus Christ and acts out that faith in love toward others.
This sums up the whole gospel and if we anchor our faith and our lives here, we will have confidence in coming to God and asking Him in prayer for that which pleases Him.
The story is told about two wives who were doing their laundry in a laundry mat. They were both mending their husband’s pants.
One wife said, “My husband is so miserable. Nothing goes right at work, and he can’t find anything good on television. Our home is a place of despair. When we go to church, the song leader is terrible, and the pastor is an idiot.
The other wife said, “My husband is so excited.” He can’t wait to go to church. He loves the sermons. We laugh all the time and enjoy our family.
It got very quiet in the laundry room as the women continued sewing the pants. One was patching the seat of the pants, and the other was patching the knees. (Source: Unknown)
Which of these two men pleased God with the right focus and with the right heart? The man with the worn out knees knew how to please God by confidently coming to God in prayer as a faithful and obedient child. Are you pleasing God? Does it show in confidence, obedience and in your prayer life? Focus on pleasing God this week by just talking to him.
Finally, John helps the discouraged, downhearted child of God by reminding him or her to…
4. Focus on the Spirit He Gave us
Look at verse 24, “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” One of the most important things to remember about being a child of God is that we are “born again.” This means the Holy Spirit has given us new life (eternal life that is pardoned from sin with a new nature) by coming into our lives and regenerating us at the same moment of faith. The apostle Paul explains it this way to the believers in the church of Corinth in 2 Corinthians 5:5, “Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” A few verses later he writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin [Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Who we are in Christ and realizing that the Holy Spirit lives in us is paramount in giving us the courage to face whatever comes our way because God does not abandon Himself. There is perfect unity between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Paul writes this to the believers in Rome in Romans 8:14-16, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
“Without the Spirit of God, we can do nothing. We are as ships without the wind, branches without sap, and like coals without fire, we are useless.”—Charles Spurgeon
Now take Charles Spurgeon’s quote and turn it to the positive to help you fight discouragement. “With the Spirit of God, I can do all things. I am a sailboat moved by His wind, a branch full of sap, a fire burning brightly fueled by Him and I am valuable in Him for His service.” Do you believe this? Focus on what The Holy Spirit has for your life and the work He has in bringing praise to Jesus.
During the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century, German pastor Paul Gerhardt and his family were forced to flee from their home. One night as they stayed in a small village inn, homeless and afraid, his wife broke down and cried openly in despair. To comfort her, Gerhardt reminded her of Scripture promises about God’s provision and keeping. Then, going out to the garden to be alone, he too broke down and wept. He felt he had come to his darkest hour. Soon afterward, Gerhardt felt the burden lifted and sensed anew the Lord’s presence. Taking his pen, he wrote a hymn that has brought comfort to many. “Give to the winds thy fears; hope and be undismayed; God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears; God shall lift up thy head. Through waves and clouds and storms He gently clears the way. Wait thou His time, so shall the night soon end in joyous day.”
It is often in our darkest times that God makes His presence known most clearly. He uses our sufferings and troubles to show us that He is our only source of strength. And when we see this truth, like Pastor Gerhardt, we receive new hope. (Our Daily Bread, May 7, 1992.)
How are you managing through this pandemic? Take heart. Be encouraged as you focus on the truths the apostle John has given us as children of God…God is greater than all our fears, He knows everything, confidence comes in pleasing Him and He has put His Spirit in us guaranteeing His presence now and forever more. Be at rest! Amen!