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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, September 28, 2014

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

If you know Christ, He promises to give you inner peace no matter how bad things are in the world. Christ said those words one day after He told the Disciples how much tribulation there would be before His Second Coming. It’s the words Mr. Prudhomme read earlier in the service. Christ said,

“They shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake...And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake” (Luke 21:12, 16, 17).

Think of our text in that light.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

I. First, Jesus said, “in the world ye shall have tribulation.”

Very few new-evangelical preachers will tell you that! Joel Osteen will not tell you that. In fact, better preachers than him won’t tell you that. I know, and I understand, why they don’t preach about the trials and tribulations of the Christian life. They are afraid people won’t come back to their churches if they do. That went through my mind before I prepared this very sermon. But I know it came from the Devil. The Devil said to me, “These are young people. Many of them have never been to church. This is their first time. If you tell them they will go through hardships and trials they won’t come back. Give them a soft message, and they will return.” That was the Devil talking to me. And the Devil has told that to thousands of pastors, all over America. That’s why they are afraid to talk about Hell. One important book is titled, “Whatever Happened to Hell?” (Dr. John Blanchard, Evangelical Press, 2005 edition; foreword by J. I. Packer). The answer, of course, is that many American evangelical preachers are afraid to talk about Hell – for fear of people leaving their churches. Another subject they seldom preach about is abortion. I finally figured out why they are afraid to preach against it. Some elderly woman may think they are too harsh, and leave the church. Some of these ladies will know a girl who had an abortion, and will say, “Don’t judge!” God help us! If we can’t judge the murder of babies, what can we judge? Another subject preachers are afraid to talk about is sin. Why, there might be a sinner in their congregation who would leave – and not give any more money! So, many preachers are scared of losing money. The Apostle Paul said,

“The love of money is the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6:10).

The love of money is certainly behind preachers who are afraid to speak on “negative” subjects!

Preacher, when was the last time you told the people in your church they would go to Hell if they were not converted? When was the last time you called abortion “baby murder”? When was the last time you told your people they might have to suffer for Christ? When was the last time you told your congregation, “In the world ye shall have tribulation”? You say, “It was all right for Christ to say it.” But would you say it? Have you told your people they are going to suffer? Did you preach like Jesus and say, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33)? If you don’t tell them that, when trials and problems and heartaches come to them, as they do to every Christian, they will not be prepared! You must preach like Jesus or your people will not be prepared when their child, raised in the church, goes bad! They will not be prepared when a doctor looks them cold in the face and says, “You have cancer. I can’t do anything to help you.” God help us! No wonder so many people are leaving the churches! They are given “candy cane” sermons on Sunday – so they are not prepared for the problems and tragedies of life that every real Christian must face!

“In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33).

In his book on the persecution of Christians, Dr. Paul Marshall gave the titles of several evangelical books which reveal the sugar-coated message of many American preachers. Here are some of them,

“Take Time to Laugh”
“Accept Yourself As You Are”
“How to Beat Burnout”
“Give Yourself a Break.”

These are real titles of American evangelical books! And this one made me laugh out loud,

“Tea Time with God.”

(Paul Marshall, Ph.D., Their Blood Cries Out, Word Publishing, 1997, pp. 154-155).

I noticed with interest some of those who gave endorsements of Dr. Marshall’s book, printed on the cover and flyleaf. Dr. Richard J. Mouw, who was then the president of Fuller Theological Seminary, said, “This book deserves a very wide readership.” That sounds good, Dr. Mouw, but do you preach on these subjects when you speak at churches which support Fuller Seminary? Do you preach on Hell? Do you preach hard against abortion? Do you tell the evangelicals, sitting in comfortable pews, in air conditioned buildings, that they “shall have tribulation” – as Jesus told the Disciples? It is one thing to endorse a book. It is another thing to preach what is in the book!

Can you imagine giving someone in a rat-infested prison in Vietnam that book, “Take Time to Laugh”? Can you imagine giving someone in jail in Syria, waiting to have their head cut off in the morning, that book titled, “Tea Time with God”?

Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” The Greek word translated “tribulation” is a form of “thlipsis,” which means “pressure, affliction, persecution, trouble” (Strong, number 2347). It’s the same Greek word given in Mark 4:17, which speaks of stony ground people, who make a “decision” to become Christians, but later are “offended” or “fall away” (NASV) when “affliction” (thlipsis – pressure or trouble) comes to them. Could this be one of the reasons so many people leave the church after a time? In Luke 8:13 Jesus said they would “fall away.” The reason they fall away from the church is that they were not prepared for any pressure or trouble, and certainly not prepared to go through persecution! Jesus gave the Parable of the Sower very near the beginning of His ministry. He prepared the Disciples from the very beginning. He told them they would have to go through pressures and trouble. I think Jesus was right.

Yes, we have a good time at church. Yes, we have fun. But every one of you will have to go through some pressures and some hardships to live the Christian life. Will you stop coming to the Sunday evening service because it is a hardship? Will you stop coming to the prayer meeting and evangelism on Saturday evening because it causes you pressure and trouble (thlipsis)? At last, will you leave the church entirely? Will you “fall away” when afflictions come, as Jesus predicted in Luke 8:13? Dr. Rienecker said that “fall away” means “go away, withdraw” (Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, 1980, p. 163; note on Luke 8:13). Yes, people like that will fall away from the church when they feel some trouble and sorrow.

Christ told His Disciples right from the beginning that they would have to go through pressures and hardships to be real Christians. Before He gave His Disciples the Parable of the Sower, He had already told them,

“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37-38).

Dr. John R. Rice said of those verses,

The opposition and persecution New Testament Christians faced are normal still. Nominal [in name only] Christians will not suffer persecution but [real] Christians who openly oppose sin and urgently plead with sinners to be saved will always be called fanatics, troublemakers, radicals. The world is not changed; human nature is not changed. The Lord Jesus still requires that we put Him before father, mother, son or daughter, or life itself (John R. Rice, D.D., Litt.D., A Verse-by-Verse Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1980 edition, p. 161; note on Matthew 10:34-37).

Those who become true Christians in the Third World, in Communist lands, in Hindu and Muslim lands, will have no trouble with Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:37-38. They will have no trouble with Dr. Rice’s comments on the words of Christ. They know very well what it costs to become a real Christian. They are not surprised when they read that Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33).

But even in some Third World countries the false American teaching called “prosperity theology” has confused many people. This false teaching says that you will prosper and have no problems if you are a good Christian. I think this false American teaching may be behind what a fine Nigerian Christian wrote to me in an e-mail. I think he probably heard about “prosperity theology” and it confused him. He said,

Dear Dr. Hymers,

      Good morning to you. I am reaching you from Nigeria, and I very much admire some of your sermons online. It is a good job well done, sir.
      I am a Christian, but sir, my question is why there is so much wickedness and suffering around, when many are now turning to Christianity? Particularly in the black world. Thank you once again. Regards,

      (Name withheld).

I am sending this sermon to him by e-mail. I want him to read Matthew 10:34-37, and then to read the comments of Dr. John R. Rice on that passage. I pray that he will not be confused by the false American teachings of “prosperity theology.” Jesus was right when He said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). Christians know that is true in China, in North Korea, in Iran, in Nigeria, and in many other parts of the world.

I also know that a great many American evangelicals have never been converted. These lost people run after prosperity theology and other false teachings so they don’t have to listen to Jesus. But if the extreme Muslims should come to America and begin to terrorize, these American “Christians” will leave the churches by the millions. “Easy” Christianity will not stand up when trials and hardships come.

II. Second, Jesus said, “but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

I have taken a great deal of time on the first point, because so few American new-evangelicals have heard it. But the words of Christ are clear. Why, then, should anyone become a Christian? If you have to go through trials to be a Christian, why do it?

Well, first of all, everybody has pressure and trouble in this world, whether they are Christians or not! And those who reject Christ not only have many troubles, on top of that they have no hope! The Psalmist said,

“Many sorrows shall be to the wicked” (Psalm 32:10).

The wicked go through as many sorrows as the Christians. But the wicked have no hope! They have no hope in this life – and no hope whatever in the eternal flames of Hell! But even in the worst suffering, real Christians have hope, and even joy, because they know Jesus.

I have personally met many famous Christians. Several years ago I sat and talked with Billy Graham, and had my photograph taken with him. He is undoubtedly the most famous Baptist preacher in the world, having preached to untold millions of people. I have met George Beverly Shea, Mr. Graham’s soloist, twice, and have a photograph with him as well. I spent several hours with the famed theologian, Dr. Francis Schaeffer, at his home in Rochester, Minnesota, the morning that President Reagan was sworn in for his first term, and I spent an hour with President Reagan himself shortly after he left office. I have known Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. I spent part of an afternoon with Dr. W. A. Criswell, one of the greatest Gospel preachers of the twentieth century. I knew Dr. Jerry Falwell, and my wife and I had lunch with him one day. I knew Dr. Harold Lindsell, the courageous author of The Battle for the Bible. He gave a sermon at our wedding. I knew Dr. Bill Powell, one of the greatest Southern Baptists of all time. Dr. Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, was a personal friend who conducted our wedding ceremony. I knew Dr. John R. Rice, a man of great courage with a flaming heart for evangelism. Dr. Bob Jones, Jr. was my friend, and was a good friend of our church. I spent many hours with Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley, the world famous Presbyterian preacher from Northern Ireland. I knew many fundamental Baptist preachers like Dr. Lee Roberson, Dr. John Rawlings, and Dr. James O. Combs. I have met and corresponded with Iain H. Murray, one of the most gifted and spiritual authors of our time. These were all Christian men, and they were important men.

But the greatest Christian I have ever known was Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. Why do I call Pastor Wurmbrand the greatest Christian I have known? Because he was what the early church called a “confessor,” a man who went through horrible persecution as a living martyr. He spoke in our church several times. My wife and I spent an evening in his home, and were served dinner by Mrs. Wurmbrand. I knew him quite well, and I admired him greatly.

Pastor Wurmbrand had spent fourteen years in a Communist prison in Romania. Two of those years he spent in solitary confinement. In prison, Pastor Wurmbrand went through great physical torture, with red hot pokers gouging holes in his back and in his neck. He went through hours of brainwashing and unspeakable mental cruelty. He had salt poured down his throat, and was tormented for hours without water. All of this was done to him by the Communists simply because he preached the Gospel of Christ. It is a miracle that he survived. In a few minutes we are going to go upstairs and watch a film in which he tells about being tortured for Christ. That was the title of his most famous book, Tortured for Christ (Living Sacrifice Books, 1998 edition, by Richard Wurmbrand, Th.D.).

When he was in solitary confinement, Pastor Wurmbrand was alone in a padded cell. Rats and spiders were his only companions. He went for months without hearing a human voice. Yet he spent hours preaching, with only God and the saints in Heaven as his audience. He sang hymns by the hour, and even danced with the angels that came down in his cell. Pastor Wurmbrand said,

When I look back on my fourteen years in prison, it was occasionally a very happy time. Other prisoners and even the guards very often wondered at how happy Christians could be under the most terrible circumstances. We could not be prevented from singing, although we were beaten for this... Christians in prison danced for joy. How could they be so happy under such tragic conditions? (Wurmbrand, ibid., p.57).

He was released from that Communist prison by a miracle. He was a happy man. In my mind I can see his smiling face, as he told stories to our young people, though he always had to sit down when he spoke because his feet were badly deformed from being beaten by the Communist guards. But I will let him tell you his story in a few minutes, when you watch a film of him giving his testimony about being tortured for Christ. How could he be so happy under such horrible torture? Jesus gave the answer in our text,

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

I pray that you, too, will trust Jesus. He will give you peace that passes all human understanding. Jesus will wash away your sins with His eternal Blood. Jesus will give you eternal life. I pray that you will come to know Jesus like Pastor Wurmbrand did. Then you will begin to understand the hymn Mr. Griffith sang at the beginning of this sermon.

The author of that beautiful hymn was Horatio Spafford. He was a friend of D. L. Moody, the famous evangelist. Mr. Spafford was a very rich attorney and real estate investor. But he lost all his money in the Chicago fire of 1871. Then, two years later, he sent his wife and four daughters on a trip to England. The ship sank and all four daughters drowned. Only his wife lived. In the midst of all that pain and sorrow, he wrote this lovely hymn.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
   When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
   It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
   It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
   Let this blest assurance control;
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
   And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
It is well with my soul,
   It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin – oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
   My sin – not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
   Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
It is well with my soul,
   It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
   The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
   Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
   It is well, it is well, with my soul.
(“It is Well with My Soul” by Horatio G. Spafford, 1828-1888).

Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer. Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Luke 21:11-17.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“It Is Well With My Soul” (by Horatio G. Spafford, 1828-1888).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

(Luke 21:12, 16, 17)

I.   First, Jesus said, “in the world ye shall have tribulation,” I Timothy 6:10;
Mark 4:17; Luke 8:13; Matthew 10:37-38.

II.  Second, Jesus said, “but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,”
Psalm 32:10.