Somebody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen

Title: Somebody Knows The Trouble I've Seen

Bible Book: John 16 : 33

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Christ, Presence of; Troubles; Peace of God



John 16:33

Before the abolition of slavery in this country in 1865, many of the Africans who had been deported and enslaved were affected by the moving of God during the Second Great Awakening of the early 1800’s. And through the Holy Spirit’s moving they came to faith in Christ. And as believers, many of them began to sing the psalms and hymns, hymns by Isaac Watts and others. But in addition to the psalms and hymns, they also sang the “spiritual songs.” These spiritual songs flowed out of the oppression that they experienced as slaves and the liberation that they found in Christ. One of the more mournful songs that was birthed in those days was the song, “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen.”

This past week, I read the blog of a medical student in Nairobi, Kenya who referred to this old song, and he said, “It’s true for all of us. During the course of our lives we both see and experience a good deal of trouble, much of it deeply personal. It is unrealistic to expect anyone else to understand the impact these troubles have on us. Every human … suffers. In our baser moments, we tend to assume that the other fellow hasn’t suffered as much as we have, or perhaps hasn’t even suffered at all; or (in our very basest moments) hasn’t suffered as much as he deserves. But this is a fallacy arising from the simple fact that we can’t really feel another’s pain. We can feel only our own.” (From

Job said, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). The psalmist David said, “The troubles of my heart are enlarged…” (Psalms 25:17).

The prophet Jeremiah recorded these words in Jeremiah 8:15: “We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble!”

The apostle Paul said, “We are troubled on every side…” (2 Corinthians 4:8).

And in our text, even the Lord Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33); you shall have trouble.

Trouble seems like an inevitable part of life, and some are more affected by it than others. I heard about a flyer that was posted all over one town, and it said, “Lost Dog: Mongrel male with matted  coat, missing part of left ear and half of tail, lame, neutered, blind in one eye. Answers to the name of ‘Lucky’.” Talk about trouble!

Of course sometimes, we bring trouble on ourselves, or we stay in troublesome situations that could be avoided. Somebody said if you could kick the person responsible for most of your troubles in the backside, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for two weeks.

I read another story about a hound dog that was sitting in a country store and howling as hounds do. In comes a stranger who says to the storekeeper, “What’s the matter with the dog?”

“He’s sitting on a cocklebur.”

“Why doesn’t he get off?” the strange asked.

The storekeeper said, “He’d rather holler.”

When Billy Graham’s wife Ruth passed away earlier this year, one article commemorating her mentioned that she had a blue sign hanging over the door of her bedroom that said, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve been.” I think the old hound dog falls into that category - along with some of us.

But the old song says, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,” but then the second line says, “Nobody knows but Jesus.”

In his book, “The Attributes of God,” A. W. Tozer spoke of Jesus when he said…

“Partaker of the human name, He knows the frailty of our frame.” Don’t pity yourself. Don’t be afraid to tell God your troubles. He knows all about your troubles. There is a little song that says, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,” but (said Tozer) there’s Somebody who knows, all right. And our Fellow Sufferer still retains a fellow feeling for our pains.

I want to preach this morning on the thought, “Somebody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen.”

In our text today, Jesus said, “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)

Now when Jesus said “these things,” He is referring to the past three chapters that comprise the very intimate message that He shared with His disciples after their “Last Supper.” Warren Wiersbe said that “John 13-17 is our Lord's ‘farewell message’ to His beloved disciples, climaxing with His intercessory prayer for them and for us.”

Another commentator said that in referring to “these things,” Jesus is referring not to “the immediately preceding words, but this whole discourse, of which these were the very last words, and which He thus winds up.” (From the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

He had spoken to them about Followers in chapter 13. He had spoken to them about the Father in chapter 14. He had spoken to them about Fruitfulness in chapter 15. He had spoken to them about the Future in chapter 16.

And as He gives this “farewell message,” these are “the very last words, and which He thus winds up.”

On this last Sunday of 2007 as we bid farewell to this year, this is the message that I want to wind up with. Jesus said - (John 16:33) “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.”

As we look at this verse we learn some important truths.

I. There Is The Vexing Aspect Of Jesus’ Statement

(John 16:33) 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.

I wish that I could tell you with assurance that all will be great in 2008. But Jesus said, “In the world you shall have trouble.”

A. Notice The Relationship To This Tribulation

1. It Is A Current Relationship

“Ye shall have” – The best texts read, “ye have.” (From Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament)

2. It Is A Continuing / Coming Relationship

Adam Clarke said of this phrase “ye shall have” that is suggests “ye have – the tribulation is at hand; ye are just about to be plunged into it.”

B. Notice The Reality Of This Tribulation

1. This Concept Can Be Explained

tribulation – Greek 2347. thlipsis, thlip'-sis; from G2346 (to crowd); pressure (lit. or fig.):--afflicted, (- tion), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.

tribulation – Greek NT:2347. thlipsis; properly, it means a pressing, pressing together, pressure; in Biblical and ecclesiastical writings, it is a Greek metaphor that means oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits. The same root word is used in John 16:21 where it is translated “anguish,” and it refers to the distress of a woman in childbirth. (From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words says that this word may refer to “sufferings of body or mind,” or “of sufferings in general.”

2. These Circumstances Can Be Experienced

I don’t want to ignore all of the blessings of 2007, but neither can I pretend that there was not difficulty and pressure during this past year. It is not my goal to provide a litany and listing of hardships just to elicit sympathy, but my own experience in this past year proves in a small way that what Jesus said  is true. I faced the death of a grandmother this past year. My wife had major surgery this past year. I personally spent many dark hours of the soul trying to seek God’s face and guidance and strength  as we faced a measure of conflict in the church this past year. There are several other trials that I won’t list, but suffice it to say that I have seen experientially that “in the world ye shall have tribulation.” And every person in the room today has their own list.

Listen to Paul’s testimony…

(2 Corinthians 11:24-28) Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. {25} Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; {26} In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; {27} In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in  hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. {28} Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.

II. There Is The Victorious Aspect Of Jesus’ Statement

(John 16:33) 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.

A. In Christ There Is Comfort

1. This Comfort Is Set Forth In Terms Of Contrast – Notice How It Is Different

but – Greek NT:235. alla; an adversative particle that means “other things” namely, than those just mentioned. “But” (is a word that is) so related to the preceding words that it serves to introduce an opposition to concessions (the point that has been conceded); the word means “nevertheless,” or “notwithstanding.” (From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

“In the world ye shall have tribulation.” ‘Now here is something that is totally inconsistent with what I have just told you, but valid nevertheless,’ “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

2. This Comfort Is Set Forth In Terms Of Courage – Notice How It Is Defined

be of good cheer – Greek 2292. tharrheo, thar-hreh'-o; another form for G2293 (tharseo – which means “to have courage”); this word means to exercise courage.

be of good cheer – Greek NT:2292. tharseite; It has the basic sense of “to dare,” “to be bold,” and thence “to be of good courage,” “to be cheerful,” “to be confident,” ?”to be bold against someone or something,” “to go out bravely to,” “to not be afraid.” Sometimes, men are summoned to “be of good cheer” in respect of what Jesus gives them or (what He) is to them. Behind the summons lies the claim of Jesus to give the necessary assurance in His life and work. The summons is dynamic evidence of the fact that in encounter with Jesus God’s action is accomplished as a liberating action.

… It chases away anxiety and distress. The disciples are constantly threatened by persecution and martyrdom in the world. They live in the situation of the parting discourses before Gethsemane.

Hence they live always in anxiety. Yet they are summoned to “be of good cheer” in every respect. This summons is based on reference to Christ: “I have overcome the world.” They are in the hands of the Victor over the cosmos. Hence they need have no fear what the cosmos will bring.

(From the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament)

B. In Christ There Is Conquest

1. Notice The Operation Of This Conquest

overcome – Greek NT:3528. nenikeeka (from the word nike meaning victory); in this context it means to deprive it of power to harm, to subvert its influence. (From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

overcome – Greek 3528. nikao, nik-ah'-o; from G3529 (nike – the means of success; victory); to subdue (lit. or fig.):--conquer, overcome, prevail, get the victory.

Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament says that this word “overcome” speaks “uniformly of spiritual victory.”

Listen to the words of Adam Clarke as he paraphrases Christ’s statement, “I have overcome the world” …

‘I am just now going by my death to put it and its god to the rout. My apparent weakness shall be my victory; my ignominy (humiliation) shall be my glory; and the victory which the world, the Devil, and my adversaries in general, shall appear to gain over me, shall be their own lasting defeat, and my eternal triumph. Fear not!’ Luther writing to Philip Melancthon, quotes this verse, and adds these remarkable words: “Such a saying as this is worthy to be carried from Rome to Jerusalem upon one’s knees.”

2. Notice The Objective Of This Conquest

The “world” (NT:2889 – kosmos) here indicates “the sum of the divine creation which has been shattered by the fall, which stands under the judgment of God, and in which Jesus Christ appears as the Redeemer. The cosmos (world) is as it were a collective person represented by its prince. Christ and the cosmos are thus opponents. Salvation history is a struggle between Christ and the cosmos, or the evil one who rules it. Christ is victorious in this conflict (John 16:33). (From the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament)

The “world” suggests the world system with all of its pull and influence on the carnal nature of mankind along with all of the sorrow and pain and trouble that is associated with and produced by this world system.

III. There Is The Vital Aspect Of Jesus’ Statement

(John 16:33) 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.

The vital aspect of this statement is the peace that can be found even in the midst of the tribulation, and it can only be found in Christ.

He offers a similar promise of peace in John 14:27…

(John 14:27) Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary said of this statement…

It is a parting word, but of richest import. It is the peace of a parting friend, sublimed in the sense of it, and made efficacious for all time by those Lips that “speak and it is done.” As the Prince of peace

(Isaiah 9:6) He brought it into flesh in His own Person; carried it up and down as His Own – “My peace,” as He here calls it; died to make it ours, through the blood of His cross; left it as the heritage of His disciples here below; and from the right hand of the Majesty on high implants and maintains it by His Spirit in their hearts.

Sometimes when someone prays over the offering, they will say something like, “Bless the gift and the giver.” As we think about this vital aspect of the peace that Christ gives, I want us to Behold the Gift and the Giver of Peace.

A. Behold The Gift Of Peace

1. This Is A Significant Gift

peace (John 16:33) – Greek NT:1515. eireéneen; a conception distinctly peculiar to Christianity, “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.” (From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

2. This Is A Sustaining Gift

It was A. T. Robertson who said, in his Word Pictures in the New Testament, of this phrase, “That in me ye may have peace,” that it is a “present active subjunctive” that presents the idea “ ‘that ye may keep on having peace in me,’ even when I am put to death, peace to be found nowhere except in me.”

B. Behold The Giver Of Peace

(John 16:33) 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.

1. We Can Have Peace In Christ Because He Personifies Peace

Cf. (Isaiah 9:6) For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Cf. (Ephesians 2:14) For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

2. We Can Have Peace In Christ Because He Possesses Peace

In John 14:27, Jesus said

(John 14:27) Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

And speaking of the phrase “My peace I give,” Marvin Vincent cites Frederic Godet who said, “It is of his own that one gives.” (Godet from Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament)


On the afternoon of Friday, June 7, 2002, New Tribes missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham huddled together for the last time in a hammock beneath a makeshift tent in the steep mountains of southwestern Mindanao Island in the Philippines.

On May 27, 2001, Gracia and her husband, Martin, who had been aviation missionaries in the Philippines since 1986, were vacationing at a resort in the southwest Philippine Islands to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary. Suddenly early in the morning, the Islamic terrorist group Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 20 people at the resort. Most of the hostages were ransomed and set free by November 2001, however, the Burnhams and a Filipino nurse were still held captive. For an additional seven months, sick and starving, the Burnhams traveled through the rugged Philippine jungles with their captors.

Occasionally, the boredom and fatigue of the journey would be interrupted by unexpected gun battles between the Abu Sayyaf and the Philippine military, which was trying to rescue the captives. Through this, the Burnhams managed to hang on to their faith. They would encourage themselves by recalling all of the passages of the Bible they could remember.

On June 7, 2002, the Philippine military initiated another attempt to rescue the hostages. Unfortunately, Martin and the Philippine nurse were caught in the crossfire and killed. Gracia was wounded in the leg and was quickly evacuated by the military. After being debriefed at the U.S. embassy in Manila, Gracia was flown home to Kansas and reunited with her three children. Shortly after she returned home, Gracia wrote about her experiences over the past year in captivity in her first book called “In the Presence of My Enemies.”

During those 376 days, Gracia went through a time when she doubted God’s love, but she and Martin and a couple of the other hostages began to sing some of the hymns that they knew so well. And as Gracia said in her book…

Gradually, my crisis of faith passed. I realized it would do no good to be angry with God. He had neither inspired the Abu Sayyaf to abduct us nor would he force them against their will to release us. Instead, he would sustain us day by day, night by night, mile by mile, for as long as it took.

Martin sometimes helped me get to sleep with his favorite hymn, “Wonderful Peace.” He would hold my hand and quietly sing:

Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;

In celestial-like strains it unceasingly falls O’er my soul like an infinite calm.

Peace, peace, wonderful peace, Coming down from the Father above! Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray, In fathomless billows of love!

And in that divine peace, said Gracia Burnham, I could rest.

Sources: (Google Book Search - “In The Presence Of My Enemies”)

I would close with the inviting words of another verse from Warren Cornell and George Cooper’s old song…

Ah, soul! are you here without comfort and rest, Marching down the rough pathway of time?

Make Jesus your Friend ere the shadows grow dark;

O accept of this peace so sublime!

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