“JESUS PRAYS FOR HIS DISCIPLES” John 17:6-19
INTRO – Before major decisions are made, we need to pray. When big changes are happening in our lives, we need to pray. Whenever times of possible danger are coming, we need to pray. Before significant life events happen, we need to pray.
This is what we see Jesus doing in these verses as we continue looking at the High Priestly Prayer in John 17. Let me remind you that this prayer was prayed right before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. There were definitely some major changes coming to Jesus’ life & the lives of His disciples who had been w/ Him for the last 3-3 ½ years. This was certainly a dangerous, tumultuous time for Him & these men. This was absolutely the most significant life event that He or any of them had ever experienced, or would ever experience. If there was ever time to pray, this was it!
Ever been in that place? Maybe you’ve got a big decision to make that is going to possibly change the course of your life, your family’s life, maybe your business’ life. Maybe you’re about to head out in a direction in your life that you’ve never gone before. You sense that God is leading you to take another road than the one you’ve been traveling on, & you’re coming to the crossroads. Maybe you sense that you or a loved one is about to experience a dangerous time in their life. All of these are times when we need to follow the example of our Lord Jesus & call out to God in prayer.
Let me give you an example from just a few days ago. Mary Golden came to REFRESH Wed night. Shared w/ us that her brother’s 2 teenage granddaughters were missing, & had been missing since Monday. Scary scenario. All sorts of thoughts about what happened to them, or what could be happening to them. We stopped immediately & prayed for them. Less than 15 mins after we got out of REFRESH, I got this text from Mary:
“Tell me God does not answer prayer! Tonite at refresh we prayed for my great-nieces who have been missing for 3 days. As I sat in church parking lot & called my brother before leaving to see if they had heard anything, he said they were walking through the door as we spoke. I don’t know any of the details right now, but I can tell you w/out a doubt that it was a GOD thing!”
How awesome is that! God DOES answer the prayers of His children, just as He answered the prayer of His Son as He prayed for His disciples in this time of growing disturbance & danger. This was the prayer, as Warren Wiersbe put it, “The Prayer of the Overcomer.” It wasn’t a prayer of a defeated man, or a man who was desperate for direction, or a man who was losing his faith. This is the prayer of the perfect God-Man who was & is the Overcome & the Victor! He had already told them to “Take heart! I have overcome the world!” (Matt. 16:33). Wiersbe: “If you & I will understand & apply the truths revealed in this profound prayer, it will enable us to be overcomers, too.” Do you want to be an overcomer? Do you want to be on the victor’s side? Then let’s examine His prayer for them to discover what He prayed for His disciples & what that means for us today:
GUARD THEM – v. 11-12, 15-16 – Jesus emphasized the safety & security of His disciples as He prayed to the Father. This is not to say that they would not have troubles & difficult times in this life. In fact, He clearly said in 16:33 that they would have trouble in this life. And history tells us about these disciples’ lives after Jesus had gone back to heaven, that nearly every one of them suffered persecution b/c of their faith & died the death of a martyr.
So, while physical protection is not necessarily guaranteed in the life of a Christ-follower, eternal protection & security absolutely is. Our eternal safety is dependent upon the character of God, not on our character or conduct or merits. God is the one who saved us by His grace, “not by works, so that no one could boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). And not only does He save us by His grace, He guards us by His grace, keeping us in the palm of His hand where no one can snatch us out. And by His grace, He guarantees us a place in heaven.
What great comfort for us in this world in which we live! There is so much turmoil, so much turbulence, so much tumult. Malaysian airliner shot out of the sky – Israelis & Palestinians – Persecution abounds today in our world, even here in Jackson, MS. Just this past wk, Jxn police officers refused to stop people from stealing the signs of abortion protesters who were legally demonstrating at the abortion mill in Fondren. Officers just stood by & watched the people walk off w/ the signs & didn’t do anything about it.
Sickness/suffering will come to the life of the Christ-follower, sometimes in nearly overwhelming ways. Here in our own church FAMILY, cancer, other diseases & serious health conditions have stricken many of our members; tragedy has struck in numerous ways. So we know from the Word & from experience that God does not always guard us against those things intruding into our lives. But from HIS perspective, which is ALWAYS the right perspective, He allows those things into our lives for His glory, for His purposes, & for His work to be accomplished in our lives & in the world today.
When you know Jesus as your Savior & Lord, you can be assured that He will guard you & keep you for all eternity. Theologian Harry Ironside stated that salvation was like Noah inviting a pagan in his day to place his trust in God’s Word and come into the ark. Some view salvation like Noah offering to put a peg on the outside of the ark. “If you just hang on through the storm, you’ll be saved.” Salvation is not dependent on our holding on to God, but on our being securely held by and guarded in Christ.
GIVE THEM – We can know this about the Lord & His relationship to His disciples & to us: Whatever He gives to His followers, He knows that they need it to live the life He wants them to live for His glory in this world. He knows that His followers have to relate to one another in a God-honoring way in the Body of Christ. He knows that His followers have to relate to the world in a God-honoring way. And He knows that His followers have to be equipped to carry on His mission in this world in a God-honoring way.
So while asking His Father to guard His disciples, He also asked Him to give them some things they needed.
Unity – v. 11 – I truly believe that this is THE most important facet of the strength of a church’s overall ministry. More important than having lots of money, having great programs & staff, having great facilities & resources. This one factor can either catapult a church forward in doing God’s work, or it can cripple a church & bring the work of God to a screeching halt. This is why Paul was so adamant in his letter to the Ephesians – 4:1-3 – “I urge you, then…live a life that measures up to the standard God set when he called you. Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together.” Brothers & sisters, we have to fight hard to keep the enemy from dividing us & bringing a spirit of disunity among us! That is so detrimental to the work of God!
Joy – v. 13 – The joy of the Lord is the fuel for the Christian life. It provides us w/ strength to carry on even when circumstances around us are less than desirable. It provides us w/ motivation to worship when we are feeling downtrodden & discouraged. It provides us w/ the direction we need when we are feeling confused. Ray Stedman: “What does “the joy of the LORD” mean? It is the fact that God has found a solution to [the] problems of sin. He has provided a way back to sensible, sober, wise, helpful, wholesome living. How? By learning to think like He thinks. Begin to see the world from His point of view. Listen no longer to the clamoring voices of the media. Do not take your philosophy of life from what people are saying or the advice others are giving. Listen to the Word of God.”
The Word – v.14 – This word for “word” has the idea of a statement or a speech. It’s the idea of a messenger bringing a critical statement from the commander to his soldiers in a time of war. Jesus not only brought that message from the Father – He WAS that message from the Father! God made His statement about His love for all mankind through His Son Jesus who came & lived out that statement of the love of God in this world. And we need that Word in our lives in order to know how to live for His glory in this world. And we have that Word in us through the Lord Jesus living in us; & we have that Word given to us through the Bible.
GROW THEM – v. 17-18 – Jesus’ disciples were not fully mature yet. They still had a lot of growing to do, which was going to happen in a big way after He left. So Jesus prayed that the Father would “sanctify them,” or make them holy & dedicated to Him, which is a process of growing & maturing.
When you & I come to know Jesus as our Savior & Lord, we are immediately, completely, & positionally sanctified. This means that God declares us holy forever, set apart for Him for all eternity.
But, like the disciples, we still have a lot of growing to do. So there is another aspect of being sanctified that is just as important. That is the process of growing in holiness, developing & maturing in our walk w/ Christ. 1 Pet. 1:15 – “…just as He who called you is holy, so BE holy in all you DO.” Practical, walking it out.
And there is one final aspect of our spiritual growth that I want to emphasize. Jesus sent His disciples into the world to proclaim the Gospel, & He has sent us into the world to do the same. It’s one thing to say that you believe that the Bible says you are to do this – it’s another thing to actually get up & go do it. It’s one thing to say that you believe that exercise is good for building up your muscles – it’s another thing to actually get up & go do it. We will not truly grow & get stronger in our walk w/ Christ until we get up & go do it. He’s called us to do this – He’s equipped us to do this – He’s sent us out to do this.
Don Warren yesterday at Mission Byram – led an 84 yr.-old man to Christ. Came to me so excited about what had happened. Said, “Jon, THIS is what the Church is supposed to be doing! I could have stayed at home today, but I’m so glad I didn’t!”