The Heart of a Disciple

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Text: John 14:1-14


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To help you understand the context of this scripture, I’d like to take a moment and ask you to remember when you were on your own for the first time. What feelings did you have?  Worries?  Think of the difference in perspective when you realized YOU were the one responsible for making the big decisions – for carrying on into the future.

That’s what it was like for the 12 Apostles the day when Jesus announced His ‘final’ departure and stated His plan for the disciples and the faithful who would come after them. They had questions: Where are you going? How can we be sure of the future without you here? How can we be sure we can follow you, in life OR death?

In Jesus’ words, we learn about the heart of a disciple: living in ways that keep your soul in touch with God, and in shape for doing the work of the Kingdom in your daily living.

The Heart of a Disciple is Connected to Jesus by the Word of God

In verse 14, Jesus says,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (14:14 ESV)

Two promises made to the community of faith were fulfilled when Jesus ascended to the Father: 1) Great works will accompany those who believe (14:12) and 2) Prayers will be answered (14:13).

Jesus’s works were based in deeds of humility, service, and love; In His statement that His disciples will do things “even greater than these,” He is saying that the prayers of the faithful will be heard by God and acted upon. This doesn’t mean that disciples will get to do cooler things than Jesus. What Jesus meant is that, unlike the past, regular people who faithfully serve God will be able to do things that bring honor and glory to the LORD.  The relationship between God, Christ, and humanity is the bond that makes this possible: Verse 10, Jesus says that the Father is working in Him; the disciples and those who will follow them will do great things because Christ lives in them.  John 7:37-39 helps explain this connection:

“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (John 7:37-39 NIV84)

When Jesus says that “streams of living water” will flow from those who believe in Him, He is saying that the faithful will be filled with the passions and power of God, and this will impart spiritual strength to them. But, this could not occur until Jesus had taken His leave and the Holy Spirit had arrived. At that point, the disciples would become living carriers of the presence of Jesus in the world.  Jesus said, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20).  This is what He meant.

A Disciple’s Heart is Not Troubled

“Let not your hearts be troubled.” (14:1 ESV)

Jesus encourages his disciples by instructing them to believe and trust in him even as they believe in God – to not let their earthly worries get to them. I’m sure you have had the experience of feeling like you’ve lost hope, not having enough faith, or panicking at the uncertainty of life.

Are you kept up nights thinking about money, biting your nails when you’re worried about your child or on the phone with a friend craving advice for a crumbling marriage?  Maybe today you’re worrying about a family problem.  We’ve all experienced these things that can and do trouble a heart and make for a life that is anything but peaceful.

Is it possible to be a follower of Jesus in such a messed-up world, to heed His command and have an untroubled heart? YES.  Jesus not only went ahead to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house, he promised that we are part of the family of God.  The connection we have with Him will not be broken because He is not physically present.  In our era, we have this connection with Christ through the Church.  If you’re in trouble, reach out to us! If you find yourself contemplating something spiritually unhealthy, reach out to us!  Jesus is alive and He is here!

A Disciple’s Heart is Fed with Christ

“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (14:15-16 ESV)

Feed your soul with Christ by trusting Him and living within the Holy Spirit.

The Mayo Clinic has been teaching for years that simple things like eating breakfast and a balanced diet can stave off many serious health problems.  The same holds true for a soul.  Just like healthy nutrition makes a big difference for your physical heart, caring for your soul makes a big difference in whether or not you’re an active disciple of Jesus Christ.

It sounds simple, but it’s something that too many believers aren’t doing.  They don’t include Christ in daily life and they don’t exercise their faith in Christ.  When life throws them a curve, they end up a mess because they’re spiritually malnourished.  They skip spiritual meals in favor of earthly solutions and look for nourishment in all the wrong places; they end up starved for the sense of direction that comes from Christ and the Word and the peace that comes only from standing on His promises.

Don’t put your faith in the news channels, thinking your preferred political tribe will give you lasting wisdom in a crumbling world. Don’t obsess about your physical appearance and believe that regaining control over your body will give you control over a weakened soul.  Don’t let the allure of earthly glamour make you think that your worth is lessened in God’s eyes because you don’t fit a pattern here.

Stay connected to the Body!  God’s Word and his people are essential for a strong heart of faith.  Quite often, when our hearts are troubled and we feel furthest from Christ, it’s simply because we are far from his Word and his people. These are the places where he’s promised He will always be.

Stay in touch with Jesus through scripture. We’re in a world in which access to God’s Word has never been easier. You can read the Bible in hundreds of languages and translations online or offline, and there are many resources that can help you.

Exercise your faith and put to the test by pursuing Christ. If your faith is feeling weak, maybe it’s because it needs to get off the couch!  If you feel like you’re not up to facing life’s obstacles, maybe it’s because you avoid them instead of engaging them.  Strengthen your faith with opportunities that will test it!

  • Perhaps there’s a difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding that really needs to happen. What if you prayed for courage; sought God’s people for advice and approached the situation with an open heart?
  • What if you searched God’s Word to find out what Jesus thinks of people who are different from yourself and stretched your horizons by being among them?
  • What if you stopped thinking of ways to stay where you are in life and asked God where He wants you to go?

You are not alone!  Each day, millions of disciples feel a few pains as their work-stress rises, relationships get rough, money gets tight, or health grows weak.

“Let not your hearts be troubled!”

Sources Consulted:

“Hacking Into Heaven,” Homiletics, May 1999.

“Feed the Heart,” Homiletics, May 2011

NIV KeyWord Study Bible (AMG, 1996) (Note: NIV84)

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol. NT-4b (John 11-21) (IVP, 2007)

Burge, Gary M. John. (Zondervan, 2000)