We've been looking at a series on the heart within the word of God, how we understand the Biblical term 'the heart'. We've looked at many understandings of the heart, last week we looked at the disorientated heart in the character of David, and today we're going to look, in John chapter 14, at the lonely heart. The heart that feels lonely.
The gospel of John and chapter 14 is the passage of the word of God that we will read together today. John's gospel and chapter 14 - very well known words, but words that continue to thrill our soul and our heart, in the comfort that the Lord brings. Verse 1: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me", verse 16, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also", verse 25, "These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid".
Let's bow in a moment's prayer: Our Father, we thank Thee for the words of God. We thank Thee that we can be assured that these are Thine own breathed words. Every word upon this page, we know is straight from Thy heart. And Lord, as such, we pray that we would be in a fit state to receive it. We pray that those who really need, at this time, to hear the message from God, that their heart would be prepared and good ground for the seed that goes forth. Help me by Thy Holy Spirit, that advocate divine, and give us a portion of Him to satisfy our need. For we ask in Jesus name, Amen.
'The Lonely Heart' of the child of God. Loneliness is a great problem within many of our lives. Chuck Swindoll, in one of his books, tells that when he was in the Marine Corps, he one time went to sea for 17 days. On about the 10th day of their voyage, they had removed from the body of any land in the whole of the Pacific Ocean - and the sea, the great ocean, began to swell, sometimes to 30 or 40 feet at a time. And he accounts that the ship that looked enormous in that little dock, as they boarded it to go to sea, now looked like a little tooth pick floating in the middle of the circle of that great horizon. As he stood there in the middle of that ocean, looking at great tidal waves all around him, feeling like a drop in the ocean, he says that he remembered Samuel Taylor Coleridge's words in his poem: 'The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner' - and this verse came to his mind:
'Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide, wide sea.
Not a saint took pity on my soul
Someone has said that loneliness is one of the most universal sources of human suffering that there is. For millions in our world today it is almost a permanent condition. It is no respecter of persons. No matter what class you're from, what colour or creed, how much money you have, or your age - it doesn't matter, we all can experience the suffering of loneliness. It hits everyone at some time within their life, and for a sad few people it hits them all of their life. It is a painful awareness, to realise that you're alone, to realise that in your life there is a lack of meaningful contact with other human beings. Neill Straight (sp?) said that loneliness is spending your days alone with your thoughts, your discouragements, and having no one to share them with. Many feel empty, they feel the sadness of their loneliness, they feel discouragement, isolation - and perhaps the greatest anxiety of all is the desire to be wanted and to feel needed, but that no longer seems to be there. For many, they feel left out, they feel rejected - and even when surrounded by many folk within family, or friends, or even within the assembly of the church of Jesus Christ, they can feel unwanted at times - and there comes, within their very soul and being, this feeling of hopelessness that drives them to find companionship of any kind.
It is terrible to experience the feeling of worthlessness. And often loneliness leads to worthlessness - there often is, within the mind and the heart of a lonely person, the conviction that since no one wants to be with me, perhaps I'm not the kind of person anyone would want. In the world around we see many lonely people going to pubs and to clubs - and it's the same scenario, believe it or not, within the church of Jesus Christ, for among us are many lonely people, some of them just seeking companionship and friendship - coming among where there are people. The Christian psychologist, Craig Ellison (sp?), says that there are three kinds of loneliness: first of all there is emotional loneliness. That is a lack, or a loss, of psychological, intimate relationship with another human being on an intimate level. Secondly there is social loneliness: a feeling of aimlessness, anxiety, of being 'out of it', of being on the margins of social life - and the need for a person like that, is to be found within a group that loves them for who they are and meets their needs deep in their soul. Thirdly, he says that there is spiritual loneliness: that is to be separate from God. No meaning in life, no purpose - and what a person like that needs is Christ. They need an intimate, personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and they need to be baptised into His body, into the Christian community.
Now I'm not talking about solitude. For solitude is something that is voluntarily - where we withdraw from the crowd at times, and it can be very refreshing, it can be very helpful. But I'm talking about loneliness, something that is involuntary, something that comes upon people - they do not choose it - and it brings great pain, great frustration and great distress. We can look around the world that we live in and ask: 'What is the cause for such loneliness in the age in which we live?'. Some would say it is technology - how you no longer visit a person, you lift the phone and talk to them. Some say it's mobility - the fact that we can drive, one person in one car to our work, and not have to interact with anyone else until we come home. Some say it's a lack of neighbourliness - and some of you can remember days gone by [when] you used to fall in and out of other neighbours homes like your own home, and there was that camaraderie, that neighbourliness, that seemed to protect against loneliness. Whether it be low self-esteem, an inability to connect - the effects of loneliness are isolation, poor self-esteem, discouragement, self-centredness, the 'poor little me' syndrome, and at times - at its very worst - a hopelessness and a despair that leads many, even in the church of Jesus Christ, to alcoholism, to suicide and to domestic violence.
In John chapter 14, believe it or not, the disciples are in quite a similar situation. And I want you to put yourself in their situation for a moment, and think of the words that they had been hearing, very distressing words from the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ. What did He said to them? 'One of you shall betray Me...what thou doest, do quickly...whither I go, you cannot follow me...I go to prepare a place for you...yet a little while and you will see Me no more', and for them the light that was the Messiah of God, the hope that was their Redeemer, their Saviour and their Deliverer - as far as they could see, that light was about to go out. The supporting presence of who He was, of what had drawn them away from their business, their occupation, some of them their families and their friends - that supporting presence was going to go from under them and they would be left all alone.
The surprising thing about it is this: that He said to them, 'It is expedient for Me to go...I tell you the truth, it is necessary for Me to go from you'. And I'm sure the disciples were thinking in their mind, 'It's not necessary! It is necessary that You stay with us! If You go, we could be slain as sheep. If You go, we will be persecuted by the Romans and the Jews. If You go, we will be like a huddle of frightened children in an upper room, behind shut doors and windows, fearing for our lives! It is not necessary! It is not expedient that You go!'. But of course, the Lord Jesus always knows best - but it doesn't always make sense to us, does it? As far as they were concerned it was not expedient that He go, in their mind it was like the mother seeing her death as being beneficial to her own children's interest - it just does not make sense. And my friend, I am conscious that there are many in this place today and you have experienced loneliness in a similar way to the disciples. Someone, or something, that you held so dear in your heart has been taken from you and it doesn't seem right! It does not seem expedient - and you have been left with a void, left with a loneliness and an emptiness that, it seems, nothing can fill - not even God!
And as they thought of their Lord's departure, the icy hand of despair gripped their lonely hearts. They wondered, 'What will fill our emptiness? What will come and take the place and the space that this man, the Lord Jesus Christ, has left? Is there anything?' - and they faced, as a group of twelve, the orphans prospect of loneliness and emptiness. The first question I want to ask you is: do you feel like an orphan? Do you feel like an orphan? The Bible, you know, is full of emptiness, full of loneliness - it describes Adam in a perfect creation, and God saw everything and said it was good. Yet in Genesis chapter 2 and verse 18 He said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone', because God knew - and I want to say this within the context of church, and of service within church - that the companionship of God for we, as human beings as we are, is not enough! God recognised that it was not enough, that is why He made a help-meet for the man in the person of woman. But the problem was the fall, as the problem always is the fall, and sin broke the relationship and loneliness was possible now within the relationship between a man and a woman, and man with his fellow-man in friendship.
Go to all the characters that you like within the Bible, you have Jacob, you have Moses, Job, Nehemiah, Elijah, Jeremiah, David - so many Old Testament characters who experienced this awful void and aching pain of loneliness within their heart! I want to be careful in treading on this ground...but within the New Testament, in the garden of Gethsemane, it strikes me that there was an insight of the Lord Jesus Christ into the future loneliness that He would experience in God forsaking Him at the cross. And even there, our Lord Jesus Christ had those aching pains of loneliness! John the apostle, we read of him - as far as we can understand - that at the very end of his life, he finished his whole life in a prison on the Isle of Patmos all alone. Paul, in prison also, he said to Timothy, 'They have all left me, many have forsaken me. Please come to me and don't tarry! Make every effort to come and come soon!'.
Have you experienced the orphanhood of loneliness? Look at verse 18 with me of this wonderful chapter of Scripture - and these are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: 'I will not leave you orphaned', and that is the word, 'orphaned'. But we can feel like orphans, can't we? What is an orphan? An orphan is a person, possibly, that at some time in their life has known a father and a mother, a sweet home of love and friendship together - but they have lost that love, they have experienced having it and now it is gone, and they are experiencing the feeling of abandonment and desolation that orphanhood brings. The poet, Natalie Ray (sp?), put it very succinctly from her heart - it doesn't matter whether it be the death of a husband or a wife, it doesn't matter whether it be the orphanhood of divorce, separation, a prodigal child that has run from home in distress - she put it in her poem:
'No lover makes my kiss his daily quest.
No hand across the table reaches mine.
No precious baby nestles at my breast.
No one to need my love.
Where is the sign that God my Father loves me?
Surely He created this wealth of love to overflow.
How can it be that none who wanted me
Has become mine? Why did I tell them 'No'?
But do they really matter, all the 'whys'?
Could all the answers take away my pain?
Or all the reasons dry my eyes,
Though from heaven's court? No! I would weep again!
My God, You have saved me from hell's black abyss,
Oh, save me from the tyranny of bitterness!'
I wonder how many in our gathering feel like Mary, as she stood in the garden tomb and cried: 'They have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid Him!'. If you feel like an orphan you need help - and, my friend, what one of us here today does not need the help of God in our lives? We were not made to walk alone, we were not made to plough a lonely path - we saw it last Lord's Day in the gospel message: that the yoke is always there for his human beings, we were made to live, enjoy God, glorify Him in a relationship with God and we are not to walk alone! Therefore, the word of God to your heart today my friend is: 'I will not leave you an orphan'. We are Christ's brethren, we are the children of God - in John 13 and 33 He describes His disciples, and addresses them as 'little children'. We are not sheep without a shepherd, we are not scattered and left to the mercy of strangers - listen: we are God's people! Do you feel an orphan?
The second question I want to ask you is: do you know the Comforter? Do you know the Comforter? Look at verse 17: 'Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you', verse 16, 'And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter'. [That] Spirit that will be with you, that Comforter that will come to be beside you - isn't it wonderful and amazing to think that Christ has prayed for Him for us! The word of God says that in His lifetime, He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears - and what were they all about? Some of them were for us! Some of them were that we would know the comforting influence of the third Person of the blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit. It's a joy to stand at Lazarus' tomb and to think of one, dead four days, and to see the Saviour's head lifted high, looking to glory and saying: 'Father I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me, and I know that Thou hearest Me always!'.
If you feel like an orphan today, the Friend of friends has prayed for you - and never you forget that nothing can interfere with your communion with heaven. Yes, you may be shut off from others because of your predicament - but nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus! And because of that He prayed that we would have another Comforter, verse 16: 'I pray the Father...he shall give you another Comforter'. Their comforter had gone! The one they had invested all their hopes in had gone! But He had promised them, 'I am going but I will not leave you comfortless, I will not leave you as an orphan. I will send to you another comforter'. The Greek word for 'comforter' that you find within the New Testament is the Greek word 'parakletos' - do you know what it literally means? Listen: 'called alongside to help'. Called alongside to help!
Now the English word, that the AV translators have translated that word by, is the word 'comforter' in its old English meaning. And in its old English meaning it's a good equivalent, because it's made up of two Latin words; the word 'com' and the word 'fortis' (sp?) - the word 'com' meaning 'to be in company with', and the word 'fortis' meaning 'to strengthen'. Exactly the same meaning! But that meaning, 'comfort', has changed from the fourteenth century meaning of it right to now, and we think of comfort as being consoled in sorrow, and being consoled in our distress. But in this day and age, when the authorised version was translated, it meant 'to strengthen through comfort', to encourage, to come alongside, and to lift up and to strengthen with the strength of God. We can see that because Wycliffe translated Philippians 4 and verse 13 like this: 'I can do all things through Christ who comforts me' - do you see the meaning? Comfort and strength. Christ says, 'I am going away and, as far as you're concerned, My strength will be deprived of you - but I will send another Comforter' - and that word 'another' simply means this: 'another of the same kind'.
The word 'comforter' is the same word translated in 1 John 2 and verse 1 as 'advocate': 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous'. And an advocate is a barrister, and those who are in legal difficulty, in crisis, need a man of legal aptitude and ability to pull them out of their morass of a hole - and we have one! We have Jesus Christ the righteous, but He said to His disciples: 'I'm going away, I as your advocate will go - but if I go I will send another advocate unto you'. Do you know that there is one Person of the Trinity that has been given for your distress? There's one who has been given by God for all the needs that you have in life, He is the advocate, the one who makes intercession for us with strong groanings, which cannot be uttered within our very selves!
Look at verse 16: 'I pray the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you'. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit dwelt with them, He came upon Samson, with Samson, He preached through Noah before the flood, and He was with them all. We see it primarily in David, where he cries in his sin, in Psalm 51: 'Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me' - the Spirit was with them, but do you see what He's saying? The blessed Lord Jesus Christ is saying: 'The Spirit was with you, but when I go He will be in you'.
Are you aware of the Friend in the Holy Spirit that you have within you at this moment? Are you living in the conscious reality that there is a Helper, there is an Advocate, there is an Encourager, a Strengthener, and a Comforter that is with you every moment of the day in the Person of the Holy Ghost of God? Are you recognising that source of power that is within you?
'What, though His footsteps linger no longer?
Still through His Spirit's presence Jesus is ever near!
What, though your heart be lonely? What, though your friends be few?
He will not leave you oprhans, Jesus will come to you!'
Though He is gone - and there's many a time I think 'Oh! I wish I'd been there in the gospel scenes! I wish I'd witnessed His miracles and heard His golden words falling from His ruby lips. I wish I could have been there! I wish now, in my problems, in my trials, I could know to be near the physical Christ and what it is for Him to reach out and touch me and make me whole!' - I've finished with that! Do you know why? Because we have something greater - do you believe that? He said, 'When I go you will do greater things, and you will experience greater things' - for, if you imagine it, if you were in the wrong town one day when the Lord Jesus was visiting Capernaum, and you were in Jerusalem, you would be deprived of His glorious presence! If He was with John and James, Peter could not enjoy the comfort of His words or His touch - and all He could do at that moment of time, in the will of God, was to affect those disciples from an external way. But He says, 'When I go to be with My Father, that Spirit that was with you will be in you!' - and that means when I'm in distress and you're in distress at the same time, we have a Saviour that is able for both. Isn't that marvellous? Isn't that wonderful to know the Advocate that we have? We have one like He! And they realised it - remember, they were in their distress, but on the night that He came to them and He breathed on them and said: 'Receive ye the Holy Spirit' - they knew that they were better off!
Do you know that you have another Comforter? Do you know that you have another Comforter, who says: 'I will come to you'? 'I will come to you', look at verse 18: 'I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you'. In another verse, further up the chapter He said: 'I will abide with you forever!'. 'I will come to you' - yes, He came to the disciples, after the resurrection He appeared to them; yes, He came in the Person of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost; yes, He will come again and receive us unto Himself at the second coming of the Lord - but what is being said here is this: 'I will come to you now'!
Some of you need Him to come to you. In the dark and the lonely hours you need Him. When you're in most need of Him, He will come to you. In the storm, when the boat is getting full of the water and almost ready to sink, and you have no hope - He will come to you. When the home is empty that was once filled with that love, and that character, and that voice that you knew so well and filled that home with the love that it [had] - He will come to you! When Jericho has to be attacked on the morrow, when the Jordan must be crossed - He will come to you! When family and friends stand aloof, and when the last coal of life turns to grey, ashen colour - listen: 'I will come to you'.
At times He comes in the quiet of night, He comes and we hear Him not - and He speaks to our souls 'Arise! Arise My love and come away'. Do you know what it is to stand at the tomb of Lazarus and to realise that one is rotting in the grave four days now? And all of a sudden, into the ears of a loved one of Lazarus is whispered this wonderful phrase: 'The Master has come'. My friend, He wants to come to you today, He wants to come to you in comfort - but you're going to have to put yourself on His way. There are certain beaten tracks that you must walk along, that are well worn by the Saviour, you've got to draw near to God and He will draw nigh to you - and you must come across His path! You must meditate and visit Olivet, where He prayed, and you must pray to Him. You must visit Calvary, where He bled. You must visit Joseph's tomb, where He rose from the dead. Gethsemane, where He wept - all these places that were dear to Him, get to them, think upon them and immediately the Spirit of God will unite your heart with His! And the Spirit will whisper into your heart, 'To them that look for Him shall He appear'.
'For warm, sweet, tender even yet,
A present help is He.
And faith has still its Olivet,
And love its Galilee.
The healing of His seamless dress
Is by our beds of pain.
We touch him in life's throng and press,
And we are whole again'.
Behold the Bridegroom cometh, will you go out to meet Him? Will you take the path that He is sure to take and touch you? Will you be in the upper room with the rest of the disciples, not like Thomas and miss the Saviour when He comes? My friend, He wants to touch your heart, He has said: 'I will come to you'. Will you recognise that He wants to come to you today in all your distress, in all of your lonely heart, for He is the one who has said: 'Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world'. He is the one who said: 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'!
It is a very hard thing to understand how this man said what I am about to quote, but he did. F.B. Meyer said this concerning this passage: 'Oh, blessed orphanhood, it were well to bereaved to have such comforting'. Let us realise today, that Christ was forsaken that we might never be. One missionary translator of the Bible was labouring in a tribe in Mexico, and he found it hard to get the specific word for this word 'comforter' within this passage of Scripture. One day his helper came to him asking for a week's leave, and he explained that his uncle had died and he wanted some days off to visit his bereaved aunt - and he said this: 'I want to help her heart around the corner'. That was the word he needed. My friend, is that the word you need? Do you need the Holy Spirit to help your heart around the corner? Well, let your spirit hear Him say today, 'I will not leave you an orphan. I will come to you. Don't be troubled and don't be afraid'.
Let us bow our heads, and I am very conscious that there may be those who are lonely because of that spiritual loneliness that comes in not knowing Christ. The only solution to your problem is being saved by the grace of God - and you must do that if you want the friendship of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are saints in this place whose hearts are breaking more than tongue can tell, cry out to the Saviour now from your heart, that that Comforter may spring up within your soul and carry you, and strengthen you through life's trial. Our Father, we thank Thee that we are not left alone. We thank Thee that Thy Son did not leave us orphans, but sent a Comforter - and through that Comforter, greater things could be done, and a greater experience could be known. And at Pentecost, we remember how He came, and how He took up residence within His church. Lord, let us know and recognise His presence in our lives, the Lord God the Holy Spirit. May He come to us, in Jesus name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth tape in his 'The Heart Of The Matter' series, titled "The Lonely Heart" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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