Jesus answered them, “Now do you believe? 32Listen, a time is coming, in fact it is here, when you will be scattered, everyone to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not going to be alone, because the Father is with me. 33I have told you these things, so that you may have peace in me. In this world you are going to have trouble. But be courageous! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:31-33 - EHV)
It’s one of those passages that people cherish. They quote it on social media, Its printed on Christian artwork. Confirmation students like to pick it for their confirmation verse, Seniors like to pick it as their class verse. But it’s also one of the most misused verses in all of Scripture.
I’m talking about Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. I know the reasoning behind it; I completely understand why so many people love this passage. It’s comforting to think that the Lord has a plan for you and that plan is for you to prosper. What hope for the future that gives you! And it makes a perfect passage for those who are moving on to a different chapter in their lives!
But have you ever looked at the context of this verse? In the previous verse, verse 10, Jeremiah warns the people that they would be forced to live in exile for 70 years. Because of their wickedness and rebellion Jerusalem would be destroyed, many would be killed, and the rest would be ripped from their homes, taken away in chains to a foreign country, Babylon. Finally, after 70 years the Lord would come to them, lead them back to the Promised Land, and they would prosper once again as a people.
That is a specific promise given to a specific people. I strongly warn you not to apply this verse to your own life as if God promises you earthly prosperity! Not that God doesn’t have a plan for you or that you have no hope for the future. And God may so choose to grant you earthly prosperity. But what if he doesn’t? What if you struggle to hold on to a job and to make ends meet the rest of your life, what if you get cancer, or you get in a car accident and are forced into a wheelchair for decades? The truth is you are a sinner, surrounded by sinners, living in a world corrupted by sin. You will have troubles and hardships in your life in one way or another. At times you may prosper, but at other times you won’t. Plus, you’re Christian. And the Lord warns us that we will have special kind of troubles and hardships simply because of our faith!
It was the night Jesus was betrayed, mere hours before he would be put to death on the cross when Jesus warned and comforted his disciples with the words of our text. When you suffer, when you don’t prosper, you can still take heart because Jesus has overcome the world! On Good Friday, when Jesus was arrested, beaten, mocked, flogged, and crucified, it didn’t seem as if he was in control at all. But the exact opposite is true! The miracles he performed in that Garden—healing Malchus’ ear and when he said, “I am he” and the mob who came to arrest him was knocked to the ground—proved that he was in complete control. Jesus knew exactly how much he was going to suffer; and yet, he willingly went through it all so that he could win for us the ultimate victory. Through it all, even before it all, Jesus had overcome the world. His victory was never in doubt because he is true God from eternity. And so, he willingly went through it all so that he could win the ultimate victory.
By his work on the cross Jesus overcame this sin-filled world—not just for himself; but for you and for me! By his work on the cross, your sins have been paid for, his perfect life was credited to you, and by his resurrection from the dead he defeated death and promises us eternal life through faith in him. An eternal life free from sin and the effects of sin—free from sickness, sorrow, diseases, or gnashing of teeth. It’s a perfect life as we share in his glory forever!
As Christians we don’t measure God’s love for us based on earthly things, we don’t determine whether or not we should praise and thank the Lord based by how much he has led us to prosper in this life. No, we know that God loves us because of the life, death, and resurrection of his Son. And so we focus our attention not on what we can see, but on what we can’t see—the glorious life that awaits us through Christ and his gracious work of salvation.
If God chooses to grant you prosperity—great! That is grace upon grace—the cherry on the top the sundae of his gracious salvation! Each and every time God blesses you, thank and praise him for that gift. But when you don’t prosper—and times of trials and troubles will come, you still have reasons to praise him! He suffered in this world, but he overcame this world so that when you suffer, you too will overcome and gain the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ. And when you suffer you can look forward to the Promised Land of Heaven, where you will certainly prosper for eternity as you share in the riches of our Lord’s eternal glory.
Pastor Andrew Frey
Do you find yourself waiting on Sundays for the video of our worship service to upload after it is live-streamed? It does take a long time—sometimes half a day for our video to upload in HD, after which you’ll be able to find it on our Youtube page. However, you can always find the link on our Facebook page, which is public. Otherwise, we can email you the link to the service Sunday morning and you’ll be able to watch the video before it is able to be found on our Youtube page. If this interests you, please contact us and we can put you on the email list.
Tuesday January 19 at 7:00 pm, we had our Annual Congregational Voter's Meeting where we saw again God's many blessings from this past year and as we made some ministry plans to do his work in the coming year. If you want the minutes and notes, they are on the back counter at Church. If you would like to watch the meeting you may access the meeting at this Youtube link.
Bible Information Class (BIC):
Pastor Frey is beginning a new BIC class on both Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings. If you are interested in joining St. John or if you are already members of St. John but would like to grow in your knowledge of God's Word, please contact Pastor Frey to join in this class.
New Bible Classes:
Pastor Gartner started a new Bible Study on Sunday November 29 at 9:15 am entitled: “Catholicism Today — A Study of What the Catholic Church Teaches and How It Measures Up to God’s Word.” Join us as we look at some of the key teachings of the Catholic Church in light of God’s Word, and we will also look at ways on how we can share the truths of God’s Word with those in the Catholic Church who may struggling in their faith.
Pastor Frey is leading a Bible Study on Mondays and Tuesdays called, "Counterfeit Christianity." The devil is called the Father of Lies (John 8:44); he uses his web of lies to lead Christians away from God Word and thus away from the one true faith. This study, based on the book, Broken: 7 “Christian” Rules that Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible by Jonathan Fisk, will examine these lies of the devil and their antidotes from Holy Scripture.
If you would like to receive a recording of these Bible Classes, please contact one of the Pastors and we will send you the link for these recordings.
If you are not comfortable sending your child to in person Sunday School, we have weekly recorded videos of each weeks Bible Lesson and the Lesson sheets that we can send to you so that your child can still learn the valuable truths of God's Word. Please contact us if you would be interested in these materials.
Worship During Covid-19:
Worship Sign-up and Cleaning After Each Service
In order to encourage and practice social distancing, we are trying to limit each Worship service to around 75 people and becasue of the Governor's mandate we are strongly encouraging everyone to wear a mask (but we are not making it a requirement to attend). We are offering 8:00 and 10:30 services on Sunday as well as 6:30 pm on Monday. We are also asking everyone to sign up each week for whatever Worship Service you plan on attending. Please note, that we are in need of volunteers to help sanitize the sanctuary between services. When you sign-up you’ll have an opportunity to mark whether or not you are willing to help out—it only takes about 10 minutes, so we pray that you will!
You can find the link to sign-up on the front page of our website at: www.stjohn-appleton.org.
To find a more detailed look at our Worship procedures during this Covid virus, you may click on this link which takes you to the information that is found on our Website's front page.
We rejoice that we have been able to return to the Lord’s house to worship together, but at the same time we want to do so in a safe manner. The 8:00 am service is the most attended service, which perhaps will make some of you feel uncomfortable. First off, if you feel uncomfortable in this more attended service. we encourage you to attend either the 10:30 am or the Monday evening service which offer plenty of room in order for you to socially distance.
In addition, our Council has decided to remove the ropes for the first few pews of the lectern side of the sanctuary. If you have already had Covid or you are not wanting to wear a mask, we would ask that you consider sitting in these front pews in order to free up space for others. People deciding to sit in these “unrestricted” pews should use their own good judgment on social distancing. We hope that, with enough worshipers sitting in this section, it will leave enough space in the rest of the sanctuary for everyone else to socially distance. If you have any questions, please speak to one of the Pastors or a Council members.
As we go forward, we will continue to live-stream our services and posting our worship folders online. We will be recording our Sunday 8:00 am service which means you can watch anytime after 8:00 am on Sunday morning. If you need any help accessing these resources, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
You can find our worship services at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCsQs-LDzlHE1NTjOaVaQ2A.
You can find a bulletin for each Worship Service so you can follow along here: https://stjohncenter-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/g/personal/pastor_frey_stjohn-appleton_org/EqetvOMWflhLsfsLRcDkxSgBL2cnYkpiuk8Klh7d-r_XQg?e=07dSma.