This week in our Personal Liturgy series, we continued to explore our fourth enemy to our spiritual health: cynicism. Our working definition of cynicism is a posture of skepticism that leads you to doubt God’s presence and activity in your life.
Beginning in chapter 13 of John, we see Jesus’ dialogue with the disciples as they eat the Last Supper together. Jesus knows that He is going to die soon, and takes the time to prepare and encourage the disciples, who don’t yet understand why Jesus has to die and what that means in the grand scheme of things.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
- John 14:18-20
In verse 18, Jesus speaks to the core of their struggle. He says, “I will not leave you as orphans.” Ultimately, the disciples are wondering if they are going to be left alone. This same idea forms the foundation for all of our cynicism. The nagging question of, “Is God going to be there for me? Is He reliable? Is He going to leave me?”
But Jesus offers hope that He will not leave them as orphans. He promises the disciples that He will come to them. And He offers this for us as well.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
- John 14:16-17
Here, Jesus introduces a new idea to the disciples. He says He will ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit to them, to dwell with them, and be in them. This is the context in which He says “I will not leave you as orphans.” The supernatural Spirit of God is going to come and miraculously dwell in them. The Spirit will be their ongoing connection to Jesus.
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a “Helper”, but this translation doesn’t concisely capture what Jesus is describing. The Greek word here is "paraklētos." It literally means "called in aid." It comes from para- ‘alongside’ + klētos (from kalein ‘to call’).
It’s a contrast word to the English word parasite. The word parasite is the combination of the words “alongside” and “eat”. It’s something that is stuck to us to take from us and steal our life and energy. Parakletos is the exact opposite. It’s something that is called permanently to our side to help us, and to give to us energy, resources, life, and power that we don’t have.
Despite Jesus wonderful promise, the disciples are still confused and upset. So Jesus continues to press:.
But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.
- John 16:6-8
These verses are actually very corrective for us.
We think everything in life would be better if Jesus was just here beside us. We could fight sin better and love God better and our faith would be so much stronger if Jesus was here in the flesh with us.
What Jesus says though is that the Spirit inside of us is even better than Jesus beside us.
To understand this better, look no further than the very disciples Jesus was talking to. Peter, who said he would lay down his life for Jesus — within 12 hours would deny Jesus three times (even curse Him!), acting out of complete fear. However, after being filled with the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, Peter is a completely different person. He gets dragged in front of the king and boldly says, "Kill me if you want, but I will never stop preaching the gospel."
The Spirit inside Peter was more fruitful and powerful in Peter's life than Jesus beside him.
The difference is amazing, but it doesn’t stop there. Looking at the other disciples, we also see a night and day difference after Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes. There is a supernatural boldness and power that was not there before. Doubt, fear, and timidity turn into confident hope and joy.
Our cynicism does not all look the same, but at the root of it all is this: “Is God really present? Does He care?...About me? Can He really do anything to help me? Is He trustworthy? Is He doing anything?”
The cross and resurrection answer those questions with a resounding “Yes!” But another word answers those questions with a resounding “Yes,” and that word is parakletos. Our Helper. The Spirit of the living God, sent to live in us.
Here is what this means for us, if we are Christians filled by the same Holy Spirit:
- When we doubt, we are not alone.
- When we feel distant from God, we are not alone.
- We don’t repent of sin alone.
- We don’t obey God alone.
- We don’t read the Bible alone.
- We don’t pray alone.
- We don’t rejoice alone.
- We don’t live on mission alone.
- We don’t battle Satan’s accusations alone.
- We don’t sleep alone. We don’t drive alone. We don’t eat alone. We don’t work alone. We don’t battle nightmares alone. We don’t daydream alone.
We are never alone.
This is the God we need. This is the God who puts cynicism to death. He is the supernatural, constant help we all need. God’s Spirit is always with us, and that’s even better than if Jesus were sitting beside us.