Sunday, May 31, 2020

"Certainties" - 2020 West Branch Baccalaureate [Matt's Messages]

“Certainties” :: Pastor Matt Mitchell
Online Baccalaureate Broadcast
West Branch Ministerium 
John 16:33 :: May 31, 2020

Congratulations to the West Branch Warriors Class of 2020!

You have done it! You have made it! Way to go and congratulations!

You are a special class because you have achieved what no other West Branch Senior Class has ever achieved before.

You not only completed your entire West Branch Warrior Education, you did it during a global health crisis! And that is no mean feat. Way to go and congratulations, West Branch Warriors Class of 2020.

More than two years ago, I asked to be the baccalaureate speaker for this year’s class because I know a good number of you personally. We have several of this year’s graduates who are a part of our church family at Lanse Free including Dalton and Thomas who helped lead this broadcast event this evening.

I’ve been a pastor in this community for 22 years, so I remember when you were all born, and I’ve enjoyed watching this class grow up in our West Branch Area community.

I have been looking forward to this baccalaureate service for a number of years. And I wish we could all be together for it. Everybody wishes we could all be together for it!

But because of COVID-19, we are apart. We are at safe distances from one another.

And it’s no fun. We’re all tired of it. We’re all “over it.” And yet, here we still are...“another online event.”

We are all missing various thing from our pre-virus days.

I know that one thing people are missing is haircuts.

I made the mistake of cutting my own bangs, and look what happened!

Actually, my “corona-cut” looks like my all-the-time cut.

But we are missing various things from our pre-virus days.

And I think one of the biggest things we’re all missing is more certainty.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the phrase, “In these uncertain times.”

“In these uncertain times.”

Every time I read those words now, I imagine the voice-over guy from movie trailers saying it: “In these uncertain times.”

We know these are uncertain times!

If there is anything certain right now, it’s that we are living in uncertain times.

It seems like the one thing we can count on is that there is nothing we can count on.

“Everything is canceled.”

I’m sure you feel that way as the Class of 2020.

So that’s why I chose John 16:33 in the Bible to be the passage of Scripture I wanted to give to you tonight as a graduation gift. It’s full of certainties.

Thomas read it for us already once. John 16:33. Words the Lord Jesus said to His disciples on the night before He went to the Cross.

If you knew that you were going to die the very next day, what would you want to say to your best friends? This is what Jesus said to them.

For the last 4 and half years, I have had John 16:33 printed on a piece of paper and posted at eye level on my desk in my office to remind me of these certainties all of the time.

John 16:33 again. Jesus said, “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 has become for me one of the most precious passages of holy scripture, and it’s a joy to give it and its certainties to the Class of 2020.

The first certainty is peace.

The Lord Jesus said that He has told them all of “these things” [which includes everything he’s been teaching in what we call the Upper Room Teaching in the Gospel of John chapters 14-16. He’s been teaching his followers all these things...] “so that in me [in Jesus] you may have peace.”


Doesn’t that sound good?

What do we need more than peace right now? Peace in our hearts during “these uncertain times.” Peace with other people. And most important, peace with God.

Peace in the Bible is more than just the absence of hostility.

It is the presence of wholeness.

Of everything being right and healthy and in its proper proportion and relationship.

The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom.” And the Greek one here is “eiraynay

And it’s found in only one place.
Peace is found in only one person.
Jesus says, “In me you may have peace.”

Jesus’ peace is not like any other peace in the world.

That peace comes and goes depending on feelings and circumstances and changing situations.

Jesus’ peace is unchanging and forever and always available in Him.

Do you know the peace of Christ?

I know it sounds like a bumper sticker, but this totally true.

And check out my cool video effects!

No Jesus, No Peace.

But if you know Jesus, then you will know peace.

If you have never trusted Jesus as your own Savior and your own Lord, I invite you to do so right now. Jesus knew that He was going to the Cross the very next day to save His people from their sins. And all who put their faith in Him will be forgiven and given eternal life, eternal peace with God.

A certain peace that starts now and goes on forever!
A certain peace that takes up residence in the heart.
A certain peace that gives you an unshakable center no matter what trouble comes.

Because trouble will come.

That’s actually the second certainty in John 16:33.


The Lord Jesus told His followers, “In this world you will have trouble.”

You will!
You can take that to the bank.
It is certain.

Followers of Jesus will have trouble.

The Lord Jesus Himself said so.

I don’t know about you, but that’s encouraging to me.

Because when trouble comes my way, I often think I must be doing it wrong.

“I must be doing this wrong” if it gets hard.

But Jesus knew that our world is fundamentally broken because of sin and that bad things will inevitably come.

We should not be surprised when we encounter trials, tribulations, and troubles.

On one level, that’s bad news because who wants suffering?

Let me level with you, Class of 2020. Far worse things than all of these cancellations are going to happen to you in life. 

We live in a broken world. And if you haven’t encountered much of that brokenness yet, I’m glad for you, but you will. We live in a world of disease and pain and conflict and war and terrorism and disasters...and death. In time, everybody you love will die and so will you.

Our world was damaged by sin, and even if you are a follower of Jesus, you will experience that brokenness. In fact, Jesus says that His followers will have it rough with opposition and persecution on top of all of that.

“In this world you will have trouble.”

It is certain.

So it’s okay to cry.
It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay to hurt over this.

The Bible has a certain kind of language to express that pain, and it’s called, “Lament.”

The Bible is full of lament, but most of us haven’t been taught how to pour our sorrows to the Lord.

We think we have to keep an “Instagram selfie smile” on our faces all of the time.

But Jesus didn’t.

“Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35 and it just says, “Jesus wept.”

Jesus cried. He experienced the brokenness of this world. His friend had died, maybe of a wicked virus, we don’t know. And at his grave, Jesus wept.

It’s okay and right and good to weep and lament over these troubles. You don’t have to stuff it and pretend that everything is okay. Everything is not okay.

“In this world, you will have trouble.”


Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t end with that certainty. He ends with an even greater certainty! Listen again to the last part of John 16:33.

“In this world you will have trouble. BUT TAKE HEART! I have overcome the world.”


Jesus says that He has overcome the world. Jesus is certain of His victory before He even goes to the Cross. He hasn’t even died yet, but he’s predicting the outcome.

Jesus says knows for certain that He is going to triumph on the Cross over sin and Satan and He knows for certain that He is going to triumph over Death in His resurrection. And He knows for certain that He is going to bring a whole new world at His second coming.

Jesus has certainly overcome the world!

The Greek word for “overcome” in this verse is “nenikayka” and the root word is “Nike.” Where they got the name for the shoes. It means victory.

Jesus is proclaiming certain victory over the world of trouble. And that makes all of the difference, doesn’t it?

When you know how something is going to turn out, it changes how you experience it.

Like when you watch a scary movie a second time? You don’t jump as much. You aren’t so worried.

Back in January when we still had sports, I got to go to a Warriors boys’ basketball game and watch Dalton and Ayden and Chance and Eddie and those guys play one of their nail-biters.

I lost my voice yelling so much! It went into overtime, and it see-sawed back and forth. And then they won! We were all jumping up and down. It was nerve-wracking because we didn’t know what was going to happen.

But now, if I watched that game again on video, I would totally enjoy it, but I wouldn’t worry one bit. Because I already know the outcome. I know who “Niked.” I know who overcame. I know who had the victory.

So as I watch, I can take heart. Even when the other team is winning!

“It’s okay. I know who gets more points in the end.”

That’s what Jesus is doing with EVERYTHING in this verse.

He’s telling us how EVERYTHING ends up.

And for Jesus it is certain victory.

“I have overcome the world.”

And so Jesus says to His followers then and is saying them to us today.

“Take heart!”

That means to take stock of what is truly certain and then live like it.

If Jesus has certainly overcome the world, then you and I can live lives of peace. If Jesus has certainly overcome the world, then you and I can follow Him into hard times. We don’t have to worry.  We can do hard things.

Some Bible versions translate “Take heart” as “Take courage.” Don’t be afraid. If you know the end of the story already, you can take bigger risks in the middle of the story. I like that. Some of you need to choose to take some big risks in the days ahead foro the good the world as followers of Jesus. Don’t be afraid.

Other Bible versions translate it, “Be of good cheer!” To take heart means to rejoice. If you know the end of the story already, there is no reason to wait to celebrate. That doesn’t mean we don’t weep and cry. We do that, too.

But if I’m watching that video of the boys playing basketball, I can be saying, “I love this game!” even at the parts when they are down on the scoreboard.

Be of good cheer.

In these uncertain times, we know that Jesus has certainly won, Jesus is certainly winning, and Jesus will certainly win the victory.

Jesus has overcome the world.

Class of 2020, “Take heart!”


Previous West Branch Baccalaureate Messages

June 2, 2005 "Don't Waste Your Life"

June 7, 2012 "Three Things I Pray"