"Then Jesus' disciples said, 'Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.'
"'Do you now believe?' Jesus replied. 'A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
"'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.'" John 16:29-33 NIV.
Stuff happens! At least that's what Jesus said, and I think He was a realist.
Contrary to the thinking and teaching of some Christians, following Jesus is not an insurance policy against trouble. Those who believe that have to lie to themselves and to other people when things go wrong in their lives. They have to put on a happy face and shout "Praise the Lord" when they are crying or dying inside because they can't deny their faith or let it be known that they are also human.
Jesus did not take His disciples seriously when they reassured Him that they believed in Him. He understood human nature too well. 'Just wait,' He warned them. 'Before you can convince me of your confidence in me, you have to be tested. And, believe me, you are going to fail.' Untested faith is as flabby as wet spaghetti! Faith only becomes real when it has to be exercised in desperate situations.
Following Jesus as a vaccine against trouble is a poor motive for being a believer. We are to follow Him because of who He is, Son of God, Messiah, Lord and God, not because of what He can do for us. Isn't it unfortunate that Jesus is often presented as the solution to all our problems, and when He does not meet our expectations, we lose faith, become disillusioned and even walk away until we are called to "rededicate" our lives to Him? He is presented as a celestial "911", an emergency call centre or a "Walmart" where we can get our supplies for the month.
Jesus called His disciples to go out into a hostile world to face the Roman might and a Caesar who claimed to be "the Son of God, Prince of Peace and Lord". They had to face him and tell him, "You are dead wrong. Jesus Christ, a Galilean Jewish peasant, is the Son of God, the Prince of Peace and Lord! Your mob killed Him but He rose from the dead to prove it. You have to bow to Him, not Him to you!" What do you think that did for his ego?
They also had to face the hatred of Jewish religious bigots. They had to declare that Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah when their opponents utterly repudiated Him because no Messiah of theirs would be a law-breaker and die on a cross as a criminal. And certainly their Messiah would not expect them to hob-nob with Gentiles and the riff-raff. Would their faith stretch to embrace Him in an environment like this?
"Take heart! I have overcome the world." What would this mean to them when they faced the "firing squad" of earthly trouble? Because He overcame, they didn't have to be afraid of their enemies. Because He overcame, they could love and forgive when they were hated, rejected and persecuted. Because He overcame, they could live righteous lives in a crooked world. Because He overcame, they could be at peace in the midst of turmoil and conflict. Because He overcame, they were citizens of a heavenly realm in the midst of a wicked world, where God reigned in righteousness and truth.
It might have only been words to them then, but their journey would take them deep into personal experience and growth in this faith they had then, but in embryo.
Reuben Morgan penned these beautiful words:
Hide me now under your wings; Cover me within your mighty hand. When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm; Father, you are king over the flood; I will be still; know you are God.
I rest my soul in Christ alone; Know His power in quietness and trust.
When the oceans rise and thunders roar...
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