It seems that a lot of God’s people would readily opt for a peaceful and trouble-free life, if they were given the option. It also seems that very few of God’s people actually experience this kind of life in what many like to call “the real world.”
In a way, this should not be at all surprising. Jesus told his disciples just before he himself went to the cross, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 New International Version)
When I point out this verse many Christians nod their heads. They have had troubles for sure! They have been sick, they have had relational difficulties and financial hardships. They have had dreams that have crashed at their feet. Life really is full of troubles.
But few realize the context of the verse (actually half of a verse) that I quoted above. The scene is the last supper. Jesus has been trying to get across the gravity of the hours that are quickly approaching, hours in which Jesus will be torn from them, executed and buried in a borrowed tomb. Hours in which they will be scattered and driven into hiding. Troubling times are right on the horizon.
But even that is not the only trouble that Jesus is talking about (although that is definitely part of it). Shortly before he reassured his followers that he had overcome the world, Jesus painted a picture of some very real troubles that would come upon his followers as they lived out his commands in the world: “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. (John 16:1-4 NIV)
As 21st century Christians, we live very blessed lives, regardless of the pains and sufferings that we might go through that are predominantly the result of being a human being. In many parts of the world, people become disciples of Christ at the cost of all that they own, at the cost of family and friends. Many become outcasts the moment that it is known that they have decided to follow Jesus. Many instantly become a target for persecution, torture and even death, simply because they have become a Christian. And even to those, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
It is not that I am minimizing the pain and sufferings that we do go through. I have gone through a number of them myself over the last few years. And I can indeed testify that the presence of Jesus has helped me to be an overcomer. I know many of you can testify to the same thing. But in the midst of our aches and pains and sufferings, it is important for us to keep our perspective, to realize that, no matter how terrible we feel at times, no matter how weak we feel under the strain of events, the grace of God and the presence of Jesus that is able to comfort and empower those who are imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith, is absolutely all that we need to help us to be overcomers of the world, just like Jesus.