Let’s pretend together.
You are married—happily married (which may be difficult for some of you even to imagine). Our country becomes entangled in a full-scale war. You and your husband agree that he should enlist, and so he does. Basic training lasts several weeks, and then he returns home for a brief time before being sent into active duty. How precious those few days are . . . and then he’s gone. You hear from him regularly for a while, but then the letters stop coming. One finally does come, but it’s not from him. It’s from the government:
We regret to inform you that your husband has been taken as a prisoner of war. . .
Your husband’s captors are lenient in one way: They are going to allow him to communicate with you. Once. They will permit him to write a single letter, restricting the number of pages he can use. Now, do you suppose he would write that one letter out in a flurry of scribbles? I don’t. I imagine him making notes, jotting down everything he wants to say to you, remembering how you had depended on him, how you had valued his opinions and advice. He makes certain, as best he can, to anticipate your questions and the unexpected pressures that will undoubtedly arise in his absence. Then he requests permission to write his letter.
Imagine receiving that envelope . . . his writing. He’s talking to you. He’s alive. He loves you. Oh, it hurts terribly because he isn’t here, but at least you have his words, his encouragement, his loyalty, his love. What are you going to do with that letter? Put it in a safe-deposit box at the bank . . . after you’ve made ten copies of it, that is.
His one message begins with I love you and I miss you. Then he writes, Now, about the children . . . this is how you should work with them, and here are some suggestions for discipline. . . . Be careful with your finances, and don’t co-sign any notes. By the way, I love you. . . . In dealing with the mortgage people, there are certain things you should be aware of. . . . Check through your important papers to evaluate our insurance coverage. . . . And by the way, I love you. . . .
You read those pages over and over and over again. You know right where to find that advice about finances or the children, and you read the end of the letter every night before you go to sleep: I’ll be coming back one of these days. Wait for me. Watch for me. Be faithful to me. I love you so much.
* * *
God’s Word, the Bible, is His one love letter—His one message—to you. There are paragraphs where He gives you His thoughts on discipline; He talks about financial matters; there are pages concerning interpersonal relationships; and He gives advice on how to meet the myriad unexpected pressures that will undoubtedly arise in His absence.
He’s alive! He has written to you! He loves you! He tells you He’s coming back one of these days: "Watch for Me. Wait for Me. Be faithful to Me." Can you imagine that? Incredible!
Years ago I saw a movie with Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton. I believe it was called Love Letters. The plot of the story wasn’t that unusual: A soldier came to town and swept the heroine off her feet with tender words, gifts of love, and rash promises . . . then he left. She wrote to him, but he wasn’t interested in writing to her. It had been nothing more than a weekend fling for him. So he asked his roommate, Joseph Cotton, if he would take on her letters as a project and answer them for him. Joseph agreed. Well, Jennifer fell in love with Joseph, the man who wrote her the love letters. The theme song is still around:
Love letters straight from your heart
keep us so near while apart
I’m not alone in the night
when I can have all the love you write
I memorize every line
I kiss the name that you sign
And then darling I read again
right from the start
Love letters straight from your heart.
As you’ve read God’s "love letter" to you, there are probably certain paragraphs so special that you’ve underlined them, highlighted them, or put an asterisk beside them; they linger like an old song. John chapter 14 is hopelessly dotted with highlights and ink marks in my Bible: verses 1, 2, 6, 13, 21, 26, 27, 31 . . . among the others.
I wonder if you have highlighted or underlined John 14:20, perhaps my most cherished promise in this chapter: "In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." The Living Bible translates the same verse this way: "When I come back to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you."
In that day . . .when I come back to life again. . . .That is after the fact, the fact of His resurrection. Our faith stands on that fact. Romans 10:9: "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved." First Corinthians 15:14: "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. . . ."
Jesus said, "You shall know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you." Webster gives this definition for know: to recognize as valid or as a fact; to perceive with understanding and conviction. To know means to be convinced, certain, without a doubt, to understand fully.
One of the primary ways we come to know something is through experience, and how well I remember this one vivid learning experience: I was probably ten or eleven years old at the time, and I was cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast. We had used the toaster, and I (probably because I didn’t especially want to be cleaning up the kitchen) used a little too much "jerk" when I unplugged the toaster. One of the little gold prongs broke off in the outlet. I was in for trouble unless I could right the wrong before Mother returned to the scene of the crime. I didn’t know what to do (much less what not to do), so I took a fork. . . . Need I say more? I knew something after that experience, and I decided then and there I would never stick a fork into an outlet again.
"When I come back to life again, you will know" something, Jesus said. All right, Lord, what do I know now that You have come back to life? "You will know that I am in the Father, that you are in Me, and that I am in you." Just words, unless you’ll do something with Me, unless you’ll come to know with Me.
Go get three envelopes of graduated sizes and a small slip of paper. On the largest of the envelopes print GOD. On the next size down print JESUS. On the smallest of the three print your name, and then on your slip of paper print JESUS. Take your large GOD envelope and place your JESUS envelope inside it. Take the envelope with your name on it and place it inside the JESUS envelope. Now take the slip of paper with JESUS printed on it and drop it into that envelope with your name on it. "When I come back to life again, you will know that I am in the Father, that you are in Me, and that I am in you." What an amazing concept of God and His relationship with us! Look where you are!
Secure. Safe. Sheltered. Hidden. Surrounded by love. Do you see that anything that comes into your life must first come through God and through Jesus before it gets to you? And when it gets there, it finds you filled with Jesus . . . so what is there for you to fear? I’m not talking about "feeling afraid." Your emotions may be skyrocketing and you’re one more "straw" away from becoming an emotional basket case. No. I’m talking about knowing something. I know I am secure. I know I have nothing to fear. You set your mind on this truth, and your emotions will eventually respond.
How great is your God? Is anything too difficult for Him? Can anything come into your life that He cannot handle? No. What about the performance of others and its impact on you? Can Jesus handle that? Of course. What about your performance? Can loneliness, unhappiness, or abuse destroy you? No. Because you know where you are, can you rest in His love, in His wisdom, in His strength? Yes. We are in the world, and He has forewarned us that we will have "tribulation and trials and distress and frustration" (John 16:33 amp); but if you will only remember where you are, you will be more than a conqueror: "But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37).
I have no idea where you are right now, but wherever that might be, do you realize that you aren’t alone? Do you realize how much He loves you? That He’s coming back for you? Close your eyes and pretend, play-like, imagine the reality. You are nestled inside pockets of love with Jesus indwelling you as your very life—He said so in His love letter to you.
Such boundless wonders are not limited to six- and seven-year olds.