It doesn’t matter how often you stumble when you’re following the way home.

Pastor Jeff Struecker

I’m on this trail riding my mountain bike, and I fall over in the middle of nowhere. It’s a good thing that there are lots of trails, and there’s nobody around because I’m lying on the ground, and I feel like I’m a four-year-old trying to figure out how to ride a bicycle again. 

The last time I was there, I was cruising along and doing great. I thought to myself. This will be the first time I made it across the trail without falling over. Sure enough, right before I get to the parking lot where my truck is parked. No kidding, right, before I get to the trees and the gravel parking lot, I fall over, and I’m clipped into my bicycle pedals, which means I’m lying on my back with the bicycle’s tires in the air like a tortoise on his back. I’m trying to make sure that there are no little children around, looking at the grown man who doesn’t know how to ride his bicycle, and I’m not exactly sure why it embarrasses me so much to fall over on this bicycle because we’re all human. We all fall from time to time and what I try to remind myself when I’m dusting myself off is that we’re all going to stumble from time to time.

It’s not stumbling; that really matters. It’s getting back up after you stumble and what’s even more important than that is to make sure that you’re on the right path. 

Here’s what I want you to hear in a passage from John chapter 14, Jesus is going to predict that some people are going to stumble and he’s going to remind them that it doesn’t matter how often you stumble and how often that happens, what matters really is that you’re on the right path and that you’re following the way home.

The way that we’re referring to was so significant that after Jesus went back to heaven, his followers called themselves followers of the way. This is how big of a deal it is that we are on the right path, and we’re on our way home, the real home that we belong to, the first and the most important city, we call the heavenly city. 

The second city is the earthly city that we’re in. It’s not nearly as significant as the heavenly city that we’re heading towards and today is the anniversary of Pentecost. 

It doesn’t matter how often you stumble when you’re following the way home.

It’s the moment that Jesus poured out his spirit, and his disciples were radically changed now between Jesus’s resurrection and Pentecost. His disciples stumbled a little bit actually from the moment that Jesus had his last supper. Some of those disciples didn’t just stumble. They faltered, some of them fell flat on their faces, and Jesus is going to prepare us today for the moments where you’re going to fall and skin your knees up a little bit, and he’s going to help us get up and get back on the path when you do stumble. So I want you to hear a couple of things directly from Jesus about preparing yourself for troubled times and hardship.

Don’t let fear cause you to lose the way

Don’t let fear cause you to lose the way because fear affects all of us. All of us share different fears from time to time, and I think fear is a really powerful weapon that the enemy uses to cause us to get off track and perhaps get on the wrong path. 

I want you to hear the tender heart of the King as he prepares his servants to leave them and lets them know some of you are really, really going to struggle, all of you are going to stumble, and I want to prepare you right now for what’s coming in the future.

John 14:1 “Don’t let your heart be troubled. You can already see from this very first sentence that the disciples are struggling with what they’ve just heard. In chapter 13, Jesus just had the last supper, and at the last supper, he said some of you in this room are going to deny me, some of you in this room are going to betray me, and all of you in this room are going to bolt on me when it gets hard. 

His disciples are struggling with what they just heard from Jesus because he just predicted every one of you is about to stumble. Some of you will stumble in spectacular ways, and I need to prepare you before it happens. So don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God, and here’s the antidote to a troubled heart. It’s one word, and it’s the word ‘believe.’

Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also. Thomas overcomes his fear and asks this bold question,  You know the way to where I am going.” “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?”  Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. 

Jesus is making definitive statements and is using God’s first name. When Moses said, God, I have to go back and tell the people of Israel that you sent me. But I don’t even know who you are so tell me your name. God says, Moses. My name is I am, I was, and I always will be, you go tell him that I sent you. Jesus says I am the way, and the truth, Thomas. The definitive article there makes it absolutely clear that there is no competition. 

I am the way.

I am the truth. 

I am the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 

That word know is intimate relationship knowledge. You have an intimate relationship with him because you’ve seen me and you have an intimate relationship with me. 

For all of those morons out there who say that there are lots of ways to God, there isn’t. There’s no way around what Jesus is saying in this passage. There is only one way to the Father, and in that way, the disciples are struggling hard with what they’ve just heard from Jesus because what they’ve heard is some of you in this room who think you’re pretty awesome, you’re about to stumble on your face, and you’re going to betray me. Some of you in this room, who you thought was one of your brothers, will sell me out for a little bit of pocket change. Some of you will deny me, and all of you will stumble, and I need to prepare you ahead of time for it. And I hope you could hear the compassion in Jesus’s voice when he’s telling them, I know you’re going to stumble, but I’m not turning my back on you, and I don’t want you to turn your back on me. 

John 14: 1-7

“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going.” “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

I have counseled many people in really traumatic and terrifying situations. Oftentimes, I’ve had warriors come up to me and ask me for some advice while they’re in the combat and facing life or death circumstances. And my advice has always been the same, don’t ever make a life-altering career deciding choice while you’re in this combat zone; wait until after you get back from combat. It always comes from countless conversations with people after they get back from combat, and they made this tremendous decision while they’re getting shot at. Then months later, when the dust settles and the bullets are not flying anymore, they regret the decisions that they’ve made. 

They let fear drive their decisions and people almost always make irrational or really bad decisions when it’s motivated entirely by fear. So I tell them, listen, it might be scary right now and you want to escape these circumstances but don’t make life-altering decisions in those moments. Because chances are, months later when it’s not scary anymore, you’re gonna regret it but you’re gonna have to live with the consequences of those decisions.

Jesus says, I know you’re scared, I need you to hang on to your faith because faith is the opposite of fear. It’s not courage. 

Faith is the antidote. 

Believing is what’s going to get you through the most challenging moments of your life, and then Jesus gives them some promises. Here are some promises that I want you to believe in, I came from heaven to earth, and I’m going back to heaven. If you follow the logic, the one who is going back to heaven will come back again and when I come back again, I’m coming back for you. And by the way between now and the time that I come back again, I’m working on your behalf, I’m preparing a place for you, 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard pastors talk about this sermon, and they’ve talked about this passage when Jesus says, I’m preparing a place for you, a room for you, and the room can be translated into some English translations, I’m preparing a mansion for you. So I hear all of these pastors talk about what that mansion will be like. 

Do you know that the room word that Jesus uses is actually a synonym for the word rest? He’s saying, I know you’re weary, I know you’re tired, I know you’re skinned up a little bit because life is hard here on earth. I’m preparing rest for you and these pastors that focus on the mansion in heaven, I think they missed the essence of what Jesus is saying. 

He’s saying where I am, that’s where you’re going to be and you get a chance to spend eternity with me. You see, heaven is not so much about the mansion you’re going to live in. As much as the man you’re going to have a chance to follow every day for eternity, in his presence face to face, wherever that is, I don’t care what I’m living in. If Jesus is close by, that’s heaven for me. And Jesus says, I know you’ve fallen down a little bit, I know you’ve been skinned up a little bit, I know you’ve stumbled, I need you to know I’m not turning my back on you and I’m coming back for you. 

And if you’re not a Christian, you ought to be terrified a lot by the fact that Jesus is coming back one day to judge the living and the dead. But if you are a follower of Jesus, you ought to be thanking God tonight that no matter how bad it gets, he’s coming back, and he’s going to give me his rest, and I’m going to be with him wherever that is, and whatever it looks like, I’m going to be with him for eternity. 

Don’t let doubt cause you to miss the truth

Fear impacts all of us from time to time. But doubt, when it creeps in, doubt will undermine everything, and I need you to remember not to let doubt cause you to miss out on what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is saying, I am the way you get on this path, and you stay on this path and don’t get off of that path, but I’m also the truth, and I’m also the life, and when you have me, you don’t need to go anywhere else, you don’t need to look anywhere else. 

Don’t let doubt or difficulties cause you to miss the truth now, thank God that Thomas had the courage to get over his fear and ask Jesus a question about where he’s going. But Philip is struggling with what he’s hearing. 

And so Philip has got some questions now to let’s pick up in Chapter 14:8 “Lord,” said Philip, I think I understand what you’re saying and I think you’re saying that by following me, you’re actually following the Father. So, Lord, I’m going to ask something bold from you. “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.”

The word enough says, that I’m struggling that there’s something missing. And if you would just give this one thing to us, Jesus, all of those things that are missing and I’m struggling with, those things would be satisfied if you’ll just do this one thing for us. Would you show us the Father? 

Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time and you do not know me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on my own. Jesus is saying. Listen, Philip, I need you to hear what I’m saying; these words don’t come from me. They come directly from the Father. So when you hear my words, you’re hearing from the Father. The Father who lives in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves. Philip, if you don’t believe the words that I’m saying, would you at least go back and think about the works that I’ve done that should be proved to you. 

Do you know what Philip is really asking for here? And we shouldn’t throw shade at Phillip because, frankly, this is all of us from time to time. He’s struggling, saying God, I need you to prove something to me. I need you to prove that you’re real. I need you to prove that you love me, Jesus. I need you to do a personal miracle for me. I need you to show me the Father. And Jesus’s response is patient, and it’s gracious, but it’s also clearing things up. Philip, I think you missed what I’ve been saying all along. I came from the Father, and when you heard my words, you weren’t just hearing from me; you were hearing words directly from the Father Philip. 

John 14: 8-11

“Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time and you do not know me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who lives in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.

When you saw me feed the multitudes, that miracle came from the Father. When you saw me quiet the storm, raised the dead, and healed the sick or the blind, all of those things came from the Father. 

James says, believe without doubting because a two-minded person doesn’t really believe in the first place. All of them are struggling because they think that this is the coming King. He’s going to kick out Rome, and he’s going to take over the throne and be in charge. I will be next to one, which makes me pretty important. And now what I’m hearing from him is that he’s going to be betrayed, he’s going to be convicted, he’s going to be sent to a cross, and he’s going to die, and I didn’t know that that was part of the equation.

Jesus is challenging them, “Don’t give in to fear” I know it’s tempting but don’t give in to fear.

Jesus is challenging them, “Don’t let doubt, undermine your faith. Don’t give in to doubt.” 

Now some of you are not struggling with fear or doubt right now. If that’s you, you should probably give a high five to the person next to you, but for everybody else who stumbles and struggles a little bit, Jesus’s whole reason for this discussion today is to prepare you for those challenging moments.