The Peace of God in the Face of Death

There are many ways to encourage calm and quietness in the midst of chaos. In the book of Philippians, Paul encourages us to pray rather than be anxious. In the Psalms, David reminds us to go to the rock that is higher than we are for stability and comfort. In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” (vv. 1, 27). I want to encourage you that there can be peace even in the midst of a very frightening set of circumstances.

Facing reality

In John 14, Jesus is about to die. He knows it, and he has already explained to his disciples that persecution will come. The disciples are in a situation where their master and leader is about to be betrayed and killed, and it will not be long before they are the next targets. It would be very easy to be overcome by fear and worry.

Our situation today is also a bit scary. In a recent broadcast, one of our leading physicians on infectious diseases said that 100,000 Americans could die before this pandemic is over. Although many people die of cancer, heart disease, and other causes, this pandemic is different. We do not get cancer by talking to a cancer patient. We do not develop heart disease because we were standing next to a person with heart disease at Meijer. What makes this pandemic different is also that it has shut down much of our lives. It has impacted our schools, work, church activities, and recreation. Not only is the threat real, it is in our face constantly.

Pastor Viars recently reminded us that we should be spending as much time in our Bible as we spend watching the latest coronavirus update. The latter leads to fear and worry. The former to peace.

No one is asking that we minimize the dangers of the virus. We are living in a time when everyone’s safety is compromised. Everyone is at risk. Everyone knows that they are powerless to stop this killer.

Living with peace does not mean we have to minimize or ignore difficulties, challenges, or concerns. It means that we keep the difficulties, challenges, and concerns in perspective.

John 14 and Peace

Jesus did not try to minimize the potential challenges of his disciples nor the reality of his own death, but he gave them three very good reasons why their hearts did not need to be troubled during tumultuous times.

He will receive his followers, because he has prepared a place for them (vv. 1-11).

The disciples would not fully understand until after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, however he explains that one reason for peace or for a calm heart is that they would one day enjoy a home in heaven.

Last week my grandmother died. She was remarkably healthy until one month ago. At 93, there were no reasonable treatments for a rapidly growing brain cancer. But one thing that brought peace to her mind and our minds is that she had trusted Christ. This was the end of the union of her soul and body. But it most certainly was not the end.

In a recent sermon on Romans 8:18-30, Pastor Viars reminded us of Paul’s words where he says that the glories of heaven are so wonderful that they are worth the current struggles.

Friends, I do not know whether the predictions will be right. I do know that there are over 2,000 families grieving lost loved ones already. Even if there are many more and even if they touch your inner circle, genuine followers of Christ have a home that Jesus has prepared.

If you are reading this short article and you do not know whether you know Christ, then v. 6 is a very helpful verse. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Maybe the current circumstances are reminding you of the brevity of your life. Today is the day to repent of your sins and trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

He provides a meaningful purpose now.

When we get scared, doing nothing is rarely helpful. It becomes time for our minds to consider all the “what if” possibilities. Will I get the virus at Meijer? What if a person accidently touched a bag of chips that I bought, and they are sick without symptoms? What happens if social distancing does not work? What happens when everything is back open again? Will there be cutbacks?

Since these questions are unknowable at this time, they only spark fear and worry. Jesus gave his disciples something better to do. Let’s keep busy keeping the commandments (v. 15), let’s pray (v. 14), and let’s ask the Lord to do great things (vv. 12-13). I think we can admit that, while the pace of life might be different, we still have plenty of godly and helpful things to do. Both our minds and our hands can be very active being about the work of the Lord.

The more focused on ourselves we become, the more likely that worry and fear will grip our lives. The more we concentrate on keeping the commandments, seeking to accomplish what we can for the cause of Christ, and praying the more our hearts will experience calm.

He provides the resources we need.

The disciples were going to receive the Spirit of God, something that every believer on this side of the cross receives. He would guide the disciples (v. 26) to remember all that Jesus taught them, and he will guide us through the written word that he inspired. Jesus was not abandoning his disciples when the going got rough. He provides all the resources his disciples need.

In v. 27 we find the same thing we saw in v. 1. “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Today the Lord offers peace in the midst of the chaos around us. Even if some of the predictions are true, believers can still experience calm hearts and peace of mind knowing that (1) Jesus will receive us into the home he prepared, (2) Jesus has given us meaningful work, and (3) Jesus provides the ongoing resources we need.

Friends, let not your heart be troubled.

Rob Green
Pastor Rob Green oversees Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries. A seasoned counselor, Rob also teaches others how to counsel--through FBCM's training conferences and Faith Bible Seminary's MABC program.