Are you always faithful to the Lord? Do you always have faith in God’s promises and never doubt? Do ever make it through a day without sin? Are you always completely obedient to the Lord in every way?
And you say, “Well, thanks for the encouragement, thanks for reminding me that I’m not the follower of Christ that I wish I was.”
The Lord knows you are not the follower of Christ you’d like to be. He knows you don’t always have the faith you wish you had. He knows you don’t make it through a day without sin.
Title: They Have Kept Your Word
Scripture: John 17:6-9
Speaker: Kevin A. Pierpont, Higgins Lake Baptist Church
Knowing what He does would it surprise you to hear that God takes great joy over the faith you do have? Would it surprise you to learn that the Lord finds great joy in even small steps of obedience, in even just a little faith?
Looking at verses 6-9 in John 17 we gain an encouraging perspective as we find Jesus switch from praying for Himself in the first five verses to praying for His disciples. And there’s an encouraging perspective to be gained as we look at God’s Word this morning that though we don’t always find ourselves where we know we ought to be in our walk with Christ, where there is faith, even in small measure, you have a Savior who finds joy in the faith and obedience you do have. Jesus prays,
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.
Our last time together here in John 17 we opened the chapter by noting the beginning of this joyful prayer of Jesus.
I called this a joyful prayer and not a mournful one because Jesus is looking ahead to the cross as He prays this prayer to the Father and as He looks ahead He knows that He will accomplish the purpose for which the Father sent Him.
Jesus would go to the cross and would bear the punishment for our sins and would die there, and He would be buried — but then God would raise Him from the dead on the third day.
And His resurrection would mean He was victorious over the world, victorious over sin and death and hell. Just as we heard Jesus when he encouraged His disciples not to lose heart at the end of chapter 16 telling them “I have overcome the world” (33).
And then here in verse 1 of chapter 17 Jesus prays, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…” Meaning the hour of His death was very near and in His death He would be glorified as He glorified the Father by His obedience. Then in verse 4 Jesus prays saying, I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
And though it’s not yet finished — Jesus has not yet been crucified and then raised from the dead — to Him it’s as good as finished. Jesus Christ remains faithful to the purpose for which God the Father had sent Him, faithful to the very end. And that’s where we and all Christ’s followers find it difficult to be like Him. He was obedient in every way. He was faithful to the very end. But, we are not always faithful to the very end. We often have times when we fall terribly short of faithfulness to Christ.
And we are not alone. But you might not think that Jesus’ disciples could be like us when you read verses 6-9 of John 17.
If you didn’t know anything about the disciples you might think from reading these verses that these guys had it all together. You might think they never faltered in their faith.
But you would only think that if you only read these verses and never read the rest of the Gospel of John and never read the other three Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. Because a reading of the Gospels will make it clear to you that these men whom Christ chose to be his disciples struggled to keep it together in their faith — even like we do. They didn’t always have faith. They were not perfectly faithful to God at all times.
But look at how gracious Christ is in His prayer for the disciples here.
Look at verse 6. Jesus prays,
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world…
Note that Jesus says here that He had manifested God’s name to them and His name signifies everything that God is — in other words — Christ had made God known to them. And we know that Christ makes Himself known because just as we hear in Colossians 1:15 that Christ is the image of the invisible God.
By His very being with them, and by His instruction, by His teaching of doctrinal truth to them, and by His working of miracles, Christ had made the name, or the whole being of God, known to them. Then He goes on in verse 6, praying,
6 …Yours they were, and you gave them to me…
So these disciples, and in fact, all followers of Christ, are a gift from God to the Son, and that’s amazing, but then Jesus and then Jesus prays something else that’s amazing.
6 …and they have kept your word.
How does Jesus mean they have kept your word? Does He mean they had been and always would be completely obedient? It can’t mean that because we know that in just a short time Jesus will be taken and cruelly treated and crucified and killed and where will the disciples be? Will they be at His side all the way?
No, they won’t, in fact they will flea at the first sign of trouble and they will deny that they even know Him.
So how does Jesus mean, “they have kept your word”?
Jesus means they have heard, and seen what Jesus had manifested to them, and revealed to them about God and they had believed. But how do we know this? Look at verse 7 — first we see here that they knew that everything Christ had made known to them was from God.
7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.
Now they know, says Jesus. They haven’t always known, they’ve had their doubts at times, but now they know that everything you have given me comes from you, now they know that I’m on a mission from God the Father.
Now, this is not to suggest that they’ve got it all figured out — but there’s measure of faith on their part. They believe. So Jesus graciously and joyfully says in verse 6, they have kept your word.
But how did they come to know? How did they come to have a measure of faith — maybe not a powerful faith that would keep them from running and hiding when Jesus was taken from them, but some faith. How did they come to know?
First, Jesus gave them truth, He had to reveal the truth them, the Words that God had given Him. Verse 8 says Jesus:
8 For I have given them the words that you gave me,…
But that’s not all that had to happen. In verse 8 Jesus goes on to pray, and note the progression here:
8 …and they have received them
Jesus says, I have given them the words you gave me, …and they have received them.
So they heard, and they received the teaching that Jesus had given them — in other words, they listened, they did not reject His Words but accepted them.
And then Jesus prays:
8 …and have come to know in truth that I came from you;
So they received the words, they accepted them, but then they also came to know, or understand, and were confident, that the words which Christ taught them were from God. And even though they didn’t fully understand them, Jesus goes on to say:
8 …and they have believed that you sent me.
They believed. Christ gave them the words of God. And the disciples had received them, and they had come to know and understand that these were God’s words, and then they believed that Jesus was from God.
And because of this Jesus begins this part of His prayer for the disciples, taking great joy in this, saying in verse 6 that they have kept your word.
Were these men without fault? No, not by any means. Were they completely faith filled and strong and completely faithful to Christ to the very end of His life? No, not at all.
In fact it was back in John 13 that Peter was warned by Christ that He would deny Him. Listen to the exchange in John 13:36-38
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
And we know that Peter did deny Christ three times. And we know that the other disciples fled when Jesus was taken to be crucified. And Jesus knows they are still weak in their faith, even now as he prays the prayer we see in chapter 17.
And this is why He’s praying for them. They need strength. They need to grow in their faith to become courageously obedient.
And even though we heard Jesus tell the disciples that He would leave them and send them the Helper, and in fact with the Holy Spirit, He said, they would be better off even than having Him with them, even so, He prays for them. Look at verse 9.
9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.
And we’ll see it when we get to verse 11, that Jesus will pray for the Father to keep them in His name and that is wonderful truth we’ll look at when come to it.
But what an encouragement here to see that though the disciples are not yet where they’ll need to be, not yet even where they should be for having been with Christ, none the less Christ is pleased with their faith.
Though their faith is small and yet untested, and when it is tested it will fail at first, Christ is still pleased with the faith they do have.
And how encouraged I am when I learn that the Lord finds great joy in and blesses even mustard seed sized faith.
We get a glimpse of how the Lord blesses our faith in just a few examples from the Gospel of Luke. For example, in Luke 8:48, in response to the woman who touched the hem of His garment, Jesus says, “your faith has made you well“.
And in Luke 17:19, to the one of ten whom He had healed of their leprosy returned to praise God, Jesus says, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
And then in Luke 18 in the account of the blind beggar we find this exchange when Jesus says,
41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.”42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.”
How do you feel about your faith? It’s likely you feel like it’s not always as strong as it should be. You aren’t alone.
How thankful I am that though my faith is not as strong as it should be, that the Lord takes joy in and blesses the little faith I have — and yours as well.
May we who are followers of Christ seek to be like the disciples. They had received the words of Christ, came to know and understand that these were God’s words, and then they believed that Jesus was from God.
May we too receive and accept God’s words and know them as God’s words to us and believe them and grow in our obedience to God by these words of truth.
The Lord is pleased at your faith today. He blesses your faith, and even as He prayed for the Disciples that day, He now intercedes for you in prayer at the Father’s right hand.
Photo by: tipiro (Creative Commons)