Sunday Night Live Sermons
HOW TO ACHIEVE ULTIMATE VICTORY
Who He Really Is
We live together but die alone. Loneliness is a health hazard brought about by people in the twentieth century losing the sense of community and family intimacy that has marked every other age. It is not marriage that makes the difference for unhappy marriages have their own tensions. The difference lies in not living in a social network. One of our best known psychologists, Dr Lyn Barrow, with Peter Martin, examined 3000 Sydney people. They found lonely people actually moved round many people but they felt disconnected, isolated, alienated, empty, lacking commitment, brooding over the situation with feelings of despair, self pity and hopelessness. They described them as “God lonely”. Dr Barrow says: “We should realise that loneliness is not a physical state. It is an emotion, a feeling. We should remember that the condition is not fixed or permanent, but a state that is temporary, a situation that can be and will be changed.” In a land of mates we want to be alone.
The number of people who live alone will increase at a “phenomenal” rate over the next 20 years, according to new projections from The Bureau of Statistics. 3.1 million people will live alone by 2026, up from 1.8 million in the 2001 census. Lone-person households are increasing faster than any other. At the Australian Population Association conference in Canberra this week, the bureau showed the proportion of people living alone is expected to jump to 13 per cent in 2026, up from 7 per cent in 1986. As well, the traditional family of a couple with children is no longer the most common family type. Childless couples and empty nesters are beginning to predominate. This is a major social change.
The Bureau of Statistics says the number of those living in couple families without children is projected to rise to 6.2 million in 2026 or 44 per cent of all family types, while couple families with children will comprise 37 per cent. One-parent families will also increase to 17 per cent of total families over the next 20 years. These dramatic changes in the population are a product of several trends, including declining fertility, increasing longevity, decreases in marriage, and higher education. Women account for 57 per cent of those living alone. But the big growth in numbers was among younger people. Since 1971 the numbers aged 25–45 living alone had increased by 250 per cent. This is a middle-class urban phenomenon as they can now afford the extra expense of living alone. Among the elderly it could indicate better health and community support that enabled them to live alone instead of in a hostel or nursing home, as in the past.
But many people, including many men, and many overseas students, find living alone sad and difficult. Significant numbers of people living on their own are also lonely. What can help the lonely change their situation? Can a lonely person ever overcome circumstances to be confident and strong, living victoriously? Is there any insight in the teaching or experience of Jesus that demonstrates victory over loneliness? Jesus was alone at the most crucial time of his life, yet He was able to use His solitude to generate great spiritual strength to give Him victory over opposition. Can he help us in our loneliness? One recently widowed man told me, “I can face anything, but I can’t stand trying to do it on my own. I have no defence against loneliness.”
“Jesus said: “The time is come and is already here, when all of you will be scattered, each one to your own home and I will be left all alone. But I am not really alone, because the Father is with Me. I have told you this so that you will have peace by being united with Me. The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world.”” John 16:32-33
1. LONELINESS MAY LEAD TO GREATER FAITH.
Jesus knew loneliness. “Jesus said: “The time is coming and is already here, when all of you will be scattered, each one to your own home and I will be left all alone.” 6:32 He states three reasons for loneliness:
- Alone because you are deserted. Many people here have known the pain of being deserted by one who once loved them. You were left with children, debts and great responsibilities. I honour you for staying true to what you know is right. Jesus also was betrayed and deserted. “Jesus said: “The time is coming and is already here, when all of you will be scattered.” The disciples would always remember how they failed Jesus at the crucial moment and fled in fear. Jesus knew that would happen. Jesus knew the loneliness of desertion.
- Alone because you are homeless. Some of you know the loneliness of being homeless. “Jesus said: “…all of you will be scattered, each one to your own home and I will be left.” In Jerusalem the disciples had somewhere to stay. At the end of John 7, we read: “everyone went home but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” They had homes but Jesus had “no place to lie down and rest.” Luke 9:58 They were heading to that olive garden as He spoke, so Judas knew precisely where to lead the soldiers. “Many times Jesus had met there with His disciples.” 18:2 Jesus stayed in the “Starlight Hotel” as some here who sleep in Sydney’s parks, call it. The disciples scattered to their own homes. Other followers had comfortable homes, like the Pharisees who believed in Him, like Simon in Bethany in whose home Jesus had eaten; like Zacchaeus in whose home he had found a lost son of Abraham; like Joseph who had a splendid home in Arimathea, or Nicodemus who was a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin. They each could go to their own home, but Jesus was left alone homeless. I am conscious that many here now have no real place you call home.
- Alone because you are a significant person. There is a special kind of loneliness. Your status means rarely are you free to develop ordinary friendships. Jesus said: “I will be left all alone.” Note His emphasis upon “I”. Significant people have a special loneliness. Often they are crowded by people but unable to sustain a close personal friendship. Queen Victoria knew the loneliness of being significant. Lord Tennyson said to her: “You are so alone on that terrible height; it is terrible.” At least she had her husband Albert. When he died, she missed his companionship, grieved in self pity and always wore black thereafter. She sighed to one: “There is no one left to call me Victoria.” Jesus had promised: “When I go, you will not be left all alone; I will come back to you.” 14:18 He used the word: orphanous our word “orphans”. He would not leave them as orphans. But Jesus did not use this word of Himself. He used the word monos meaning solitary. He never allowed Himself to feel orphaned though He knew solitude. He used his solitude to strengthen His faith.
2. FAITH CAN LEAD TO THE FATHER.
The lonely are full of self pity. Those who find God in solitude are full of His presence. Whether we are alone because we have been deserted by friends, because we are without family and homeless, or because we have a position of significance that isolates us from others, we need to find in our loneliness, not the loneliness of self-pity, but the solitude that leads to God. Jesus put it magnificently: “But I am not really alone, because the Father is with Me.” John 16:32 Jesus used His solitude to come closer to the Father. If we could use our faith to come closer to the Father, we too could overcome loneliness. How did Jesus use His faith to come closer the Father? Alone, Jesus prayed. “Jesus went a little further into the garden, threw Himself face downward on the ground, and prayed. “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want.” Matt 26:39 Prayer brought companionship and comfort. “Do your friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer. In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there.”
Alone, Jesus shared his deepest feelings. “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me!”. Jesus shared with the Father His deepest feelings. But even as He considered them, He realised that the way of salvation would lie through being the suffering servant. To share at the deepest level of feeling is to have the deepest form of communication. Jesus found prayer to be the deepest communication, and communication is one positive way of overcoming loneliness. Loneliness shared is loneliness halved.
Alone, Jesus recommitted Himself to fulfilling God’s will. “Yet not what I want, but what you want.” There is power in recommitment of your will to a higher purpose and the highest power when there is a solid commitment of will to align you with the purposes of God! Your life takes on new meaning and power.
3. KNOWING THE FATHER LEADS TO PEACE.
Jesus said: “I have told you this so that you will have peace by being united with Me.” John 16:33 The cancerous aspect of loneliness is caused by self pity. Anxiety about why people do not like them and love them, destroys all serenity within. Yet Jesus promises his followers inner peace. Inner peace drives out self pity. Jesus offers a friendship with Himself and with each other and so we possess inner peace. When we are united with Jesus Christ, we have peace both in our relationship with God for we have been reconciled with God, which results in peace of mind and serenity of soul which then makes right relationships with other people. That is what Paul meant when he said: “Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1 Right with God leads to peace within.
4. POSSESSING PEACE LEADS TO VICTORY.
Here is the result: when a person, right with God, possesses an inner peace which nothing can disturb, he can face anything. “The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world.” John 16:33 He expects us to face bravely whatever might come, confident that in our union with Him we would have the victory!
Here is the greatest optimism! Just a few hours before His crucifixion, Jesus declares: “I have defeated the world.” He was right, and those who have united with Him share His victory. Many single people, alone because of circumstances, have allowed their loneliness to lead them to faith, to a significant prayer life, recommitting themselves to God. That assurance of faith has given them the resources to cope with being alone in the most constructive manner. Their commitment has driven out self pity and in its place has given inner peace and power that has enabled the believer to build right relationships with other people because of a right relationship with God. In Christ they are victorious.
Little wonder such a believer in Jesus lives a full, satisfying and healthy life even though they are living alone! We started by asking what can help the lonely change their situation. We asked if a lonely person could ever overcome circumstances to be confident and strong, living victoriously. We asked if there was any insight in the teaching or experience of Jesus which demonstrate victory over loneliness. And was there? We have found that Jesus was alone at the most crucial time of his life, yet He was able to use His solitude to generate great spiritual strength to give Him victory over crushing opposition and He promises us the same victory. Do you see the logic of it? Are you willing to give yourself to the force of it? All that is required is your willingness to allow your loneliness to lead you to faith and your faith can lead you to the Father. Being with the Father must lead you to peace, and that peace will lead you to victory. From loneliness to victory! What a journey!
- Sydney Morning Herald. “In a land of mates we want to be alone” Adele Horin September 13, 2004