We are studying through the book of John this year in BSF, and there have been a few things which have really stuck out to me over the past couple weeks, as I recognized this day was coming – certainly still a day of celebration, but in a very different way. A verse which stood out to me this week (and has been helpful to me over the journey of the past 4 years) is Jesus’ words recorded in John 16:33 – "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."
It doesn’t take a lot of close looking to recognize there is trouble in the world. I think of my good friend who has had a recurrence of cancer and is in the midst of an aggressive chemotherapy while his wife is expecting their fourth girl any day. I think of my uncle, who is walking with my aunt through her cancer treatment (after she suffered from a stroke which has left her needing pretty constant care and not being able to be her normal independent self). I think of couples on the brink of divorce, people who are dealing with the fallout of a divorce, parents who question why their children have made terrible choices and now have to deal with the consequences. Trouble.
Then I look back at that verse. Why am I surprised? Jesus promised there would be trouble. Yet, sometimes we seem to get smacked out of the blue with it. Certainly there has been trouble in my life over the past 4 years. A cancer diagnosis, watching my wife go through a battle with cancer all the while wishing I could help, praying God would heal her, the details of a memorial service, details of making sure Alexa has good care, making sure the house doesn’t fall to pieces, needing to continue to work, trying to navigate the waters of dating when I certainly didn’t anticipate that being something that would be necessary. This isn’t a pity party, it is just pointing out the reality: Trouble. But, oh, thank God, the verse doesn’t end there.
Jesus knew His disciples and those who followed Him in years to come would have trouble, but He shared more. "But take heart!" What? How can we do that? That is the freeing part, it isn’t up to us to muster up the "taking heart", we can trust that Jesus has overcome the world. Think about this for a moment. Here are the disciples, being told (once again, but perhaps starting to get it a bit this time), that Jesus is going to die. The man they have left everything to follow for three years. How can this happen? Their sorrow is intense and will be even more intense in a matter of hours. Jesus recognizes all of that, but He says, "Take heart!" And the reason He gives: He had overcome the world. Now, the timing of when He said this is crucial. This is before He was arrested, before His friends deserted Him, before His sham of a trial, before being beaten and forced to carry His own cross to the place where He was crucified, before being scorned by the crowds, before all of the wrong things we have done were laid on Him (who is completely holy) and there was a moment when God the Father looked away – a relationship which had been completely unbroken from eternity past was broken. Trouble. For us. But, notice Jesus didn’t say, "Take heart! I will overcome the world." He said, "I have overcome the world" [emphasis mine]. He knew what lay ahead, but He knew he was going to die for our sins, rise again, ascend to heaven where He sits at God’s right hand, waiting eagerly for the day when He comes to claim His own. From the moment when Adam and Eve chose their own wisdom instead of God’s, Jesus had overcome. From before the world was even in existence, Jesus had overcome. Wow! Since I serve a God who has overcome, I can take heart.
That doesn’t mean the trouble won’t be hard. That doesn’t mean we won't have questions, but we know it is not a surprise to God - the same one Who told us to take heart has overcome the world. And God provides us incredible resources. If we have chosen to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the truths at the end of 1 John 5 (verses 18-20) are true for us: "We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life" [emphasis mine]. Sin no longer holds power over us, we are no longer under Satan’s power, we can have understanding! In the midst of trouble!
Reminds me of a great song, As Long As You Are Glorified, by Sovereign Grace Music. Here are the lyrics:
Shall I take from Your hand Your blessingsI am thankful for the amazing provision God has given in the midst of the challenges of the last several months. Alexa continues to grow and is a joy to be around (the vast majority of the time). She is enjoying first grade (here is a first day pic):
Yet not welcome any pain?
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
Yet grumble in days of rain?
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought?
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt?
Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified
Are You good only when I prosper
And true only when I’m filled?
Are You King only when I’m carefree
And God only when I’m well?
You are good when I’m poor and needy
You are true when I’m parched and dry
You still reign in the deepest valley
You’re still God in the darkest night
Christmas in California.
There is a bit of a photo journey over the last several months. Also in there are numerous trips to the park, bike rides, trampoline jumping, and a lot of other things I have probably forgotten.
If you have made it this far, you are a glutton for punishment! Seriously though, God is good. Please do continue to pray for Alexa’s salvation. We have had some great discussions going through John this year in BSF, but she has not yet made a decision to follow Jesus. Pray for wisdom for me as I seek to raise her in a way that is God-honoring. Pray I will be faithful to encourage others who are walking through trouble of their own.
Thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement!