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Season 1 - Week 1

“Take courage? In these circumstances?”

One of our best living theologians, Professor David Ford, wrote a wonderful book a few years back called The Shape of Living. In it he argues that life is about being overwhelmed – for good and for bad. As followers of Jesus Christ we don’t get to bypass being overwhelmed, rather God helps us shape our life in the middle of it all. Much of my experience of ministry is about dealing with “multiple overwhelmings”. Nearly every youth worker I have ever met experiences this.

Think about what is overwhelming for you at the moment.

Some overwhelmings are crowding in on you immediately: the young people that are going through it, a difficult meeting this afternoon, budgets, colleagues, engaging the church.....

Others are on the horizon: securing funding, seeing those dreams become reality, concerns for your own family.

Then in the midst of it all there will be things about your own life and circumstances which feel overwhelming.

David Ford says the first thing we must do before God is acknowledge and name our overwhelmings. So can I ask you to do just that: grab a pen and paper and take a moment to name those situations, people, difficulties that you find overwhelming. Keep that paper in front of you.

Now open up John chapter 16.

Here we find Jesus Christ experiencing multiple overwhelmings. Just around the corner, on this night, he has good reason to think he will be arrested, tried and mistreated. He senses he will be let down by everybody close to him. And the outlook on the horizon is also bleak: pain, torture, execution. He is so overwhelmed he will sweat blood.

In facing these things, he sets about teaching his disciples about his return to the Father, teaching them about the need to wait on the Holy Spirit and the need to remain in him.

He ends, in verse 32, by summing up the challenge ahead: “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

“Take heart” can also be translated (perhaps more accurately) as “Take courage”.

Really Jesus – take courage? In these circumstances?

How are we supposed to obey this one?

How about this… every command is based on a promise, every imperative is rooted in an indicative. Everything Jesus charges his followers with is only possible to obey in the light of what he promises. When God tells us not to fear, it is based on the promise that he is trustworthy, not that bad things won’t happen to us.

On this night, of all nights, Jesus instructs his friends “take courage”. It is entirely based upon the reality that follows: “I have overcome the world!”

Similarly, when we are told to “take courage” it is not because, if we dig deeper within ourselves, we will find the ability to be more courageous. Nor is it a command to stiffen our lips, put our heads in the sand and pretend everything is going to be ok when it patently isn’t.

Rather, we find courage when we grasp, in a spirit of repentance and humility, that it is Jesus – not us – who has overcome the world.

Please pick up that piece of paper again and have a good look at your overwhelmings. Bring them before the face of the God who has come to be with you, who understands from the inside about being overwhelmed.

In each case God is asking you to take courage. If you are going to obey this command of Jesus to “take courage”, see what God has done for you that shows he can be trusted. Lean yourself on the promises of God, on the action of God, on the faithfulness of God. And take heart.

Grasping the truth that Jesus has overcome the world is a daily task. Prayer is utterly essential. When I take the time to sit in silence, bringing nothing to God, but just being in Christ, I find things are put back in their proper place and given a proper perspective.

For it is Jesus who has overcome the world, not me. There’s no better news.

John 16:25-33

“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

“Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

This week's author

Justin Welby

Archbishop of Canterbury

Questions & Challenges

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Take time...

++Justin tells us that when he takes the time to sit in silence, bringing nothing to God, but just being in Christ, he finds things are given a proper perspective.

Turn your piece of paper over so you can't see your overwhelming list. Take time now, in silence, to just be in Christ's presence.

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Take note...

... of God's promises.

Read your list of overwhelming things again. For each one, ask yourself the question, "What do I know about God that I can lean on in this situation?"

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Take Courage?

Pick one of the situations you wrote down on that piece of paper earlier. Take a few moments now to imagine yourself in that situation. What do you do? Who do you meet? What do you say?

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Take it deeper

Want to discuss this some more? We've created a Facebook group for Open Me users so if you'd like to chew this over and hear other people's perspectives, there'll be more conversation there. Alternatively, use the #OpenMe hashtag on twitter to share your thoughts.

Other Weeks

Week 2

MARTIN SAUNDERS

PUBLISHED: 25 JUN, 2017

Week 3

CARRIE LLOYD

PUBLISHED: 2 JUL, 2015

Week 4

PETE WYNTER

PUBLISHED: 9 JUL, 2015

Week 5

FIONA GREEN

PUBLISHED: 16 JUL, 2015

Week 6

MIKE ROYAL

PUBLISHED: 23 JUL, 2015

Week 7

KENDA CREASY DEAN

PUBLISHED: 30 JUL, 2015

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