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Faithlife

John 16_32

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Living with Loneliness

John 16:32

 

Introduction

We all know what it is like to feel lonely. Loneliness is Friday night with nowhere to go, eating lunch by yourself, saying “no” when everyone else is saying “yes,” having no one to talk to, having the sole responsibility for making an important decision, losing a loved one.

The Bible even portrays Hell as a form of loneliness, as eternal separation from God.

Jesus can help us meet and manage the threat and pain that loneliness can bring to our lives.

I.    Jesus understands our loneliness—“You will leave me alone

A.    Jesus witnessed the loneliness of others. During His earthly ministry He saw it in the eyes of lepers, heard it in the voices of the blind, and felt it in the touch of the pressing masses.

B.    But even further, as our texts reminds us, Jesus Himself was left alone.

1.    We do not usually think of Jesus as being alone. We see Him in crowed streets, teaching with multitudes before Him.

2.    But we also need to see Him in Gethsemane in prayer, on trial before Pilate, climbing the hill of Calvary. The loneliness of leadership, of not being understood, of being abandoned and rejected—He knew them all.

 

II.    Jesus teaches us the true meaning of loneliness—“You will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone

A.    We commonly associate loneliness with isolation. Yet, in this text Jesus distinguishes between the two.

1.    We often surround ourselves with crowds to keep from being lonely. But, in reality, crowds can be very lonely places.

2.    By the same token, isolation does not necessarily result in loneliness.

B.    For the spiritually healthy, solitude provides an occasion to cultivate our relationship with God.

1.    Jesus sought the solitude of the desert and the garden to meditate upon the will of God for his life.

2.    Paul received revelations in the desert of Arabia.

3.    Many saints through the ages have cherished their solitary moments for the opportunities they present to reflect on spiritual things.

C.    Why then is the pain of being alone so great for so many people?

1.    Is it because of the emotional pain we associate with rejection?

2.    Or is it because of the company it leaves us with?

 

III.    Jesus shows us the way to live with loneliness—“ for the Father is with me.

A.    We, like Jesus, can live with loneliness by abiding in the presence of the Father.

1.    By faith, Jesus knew God was with Him even though all others might abandon Him.

2.    He promises His own continued presence for those who go forth to serve Him (Matthew 28:20).

B.    We can also live with loneliness by sharing in the fellowship of the believing community (Matthew 18:20).

1.    The abiding presence of Christ is actualized in the corporate worship of the church. He is there in His word, at His table.

2.    The abiding presence of Christ is enjoyed in our personal interaction with those in whose lives the Spirit of Christ dwells.

 

The Gospels tell us all we need to know. So, why is it then that some people believe the gospel and others do not? Maybe we are bit like Thomas. Thomas had to overcome some barriers in order to believe in the resurrected Lord.

I.    Ignorance

A.    One of the reasons Thomas was slow to believe was that he did not have all the evidence.

1.    Christ had appeared to the disciples and gladdened their hearts with his presence (John 20:19-23).

2.    Thomas had not been among them. He had spent a whole week in doubt and despair because he was absent from the place where he was most likely to meet Christ. He did not expose himself to all of the evidence.

3.    Why is it that people who doubt God the most are often the very ones who know the least about Him?

 

II.    Cynicism

A.    Thomas was from Missouri. “Show me,” was the motto of his life. Doubt was woven deep into the fabric of his life. He seems to have been cynical by nature.

1.    In the two other glimpses John gives us of Thomas he is consistently in the role of the skeptic, fearing the worst and slow to believe (John 11:16; 14:5).

B.   Like Thomas, it is harder for some people to believe today because they are cynical and skeptical in their basic approach to all of life. Sometimes the cruel and “unfair” blows of life make it difficult for people to profess any kind of faith in God. There are many people reeling from life’s blows who have hardened their hearts to God and everybody else.

III.    Empiricism

A.    “Unless I see… touch… I will not believe.” (v. 25) Thomas was an empiricist. He was one of those people for whom “seeing is believing.”

1.    As such he is a fitting model for our times. Since God cannot be “seen” or “heard” or “touched,” some people are slow to acknowledge his existence. They have a tendency to trust only what their senses can confirm.

2.    But so much of life is beyond that which can be perceived by our senses. We have never “smelled” an idea, “felt” a truth, put our “finger” on a thought. Has anyone ever seen the wind? These realities are perceived in other ways.

3.    And that’s how it is with the nature of “spiritual” realities. Our senses can take us to the edges of life, but they cannot take us beyond this life. Faith and faith alone can take us beyond this life.

Conclusion

For us, like Thomas, the key to overcoming doubt is a personal encounter with the risen Lord. For Thomas this happened when he “saw” the Savior. For us it happens as we chose to accept the testimony of the Scriptures concerning him and trust in him to save us. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29).  When the church is what it should be, loving as it should love, ministering as it should minister, there should never be a lonely person in it.

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