Summary: We are not immune from the pressures and challenges of life. In Christ’s strength we can not only triumph but prosper.
NO TRIBULATION PLEASE, WE’RE CHRISTIANS !
Life can be troublesome. It can be tiring, frustrating, disappointing and painful. It is probably true for all of us that our first introduction to life was a slap on the backside. As we entered this world after a pretty difficult journey from Moms womb some rather enthusiastic woman took us in her hands and belted our bum. What a great beginning. For not a few of us it was the sign of things to come.
How many of us really did expect when we became Christians that all our troubles would disappear ? The truth is …. They don’t ! Our motto very quickly becomes ….. “NO TRIBULATION PLEASE WE’RE CHRISTIANS !”
This world is not a trouble free zone. I had a brief conversation with someone this week that started me thinking about this theme and in particular those Christians who are often left confused and in a daze when their lives don’t seem to work out like other peoples.
There are many good Christian people who find things happening in their lives that they have never chosen. Crisis in relationships, sickness, bereavement, financial difficulties, unemployment or other anxious and heartbreaking circumstances. None of them sought these things they just seemed to happen. One day everything was fine, the next chaos reigned. All of these people would rather be free from these troubles but are left feeling regret, guilt and frustration.
So how can this be ? Many heard and responded to preaching that seemed to suggest that when they gave their lives to Jesus they would never again have a sad day. For some they can still live life pretty well, they have accepted many of the accompanying circumstances and have in fact grown in their faith but the memories never go away and their present situations won’t allow them to forget those awful days, months or years.
I do believe that the Bible can help us. In fact it can help us cut through some of the rubbish those other well meaning Christians, who have never had a crisis in their life, feed us.
Jesus, some have said, was a realist. I’m not so sure that is the best description of him. But he was and is the most honest man who ever walked the earth. And his teaching, given to us to HELP US not hinder us, is where we will find our way through this maze of human experience.
Read: John 16:17-33
The verse in this passage that always stands out to me in verse 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 ! For I have overcome the world”
To truly understand this last verse which we will look at in a moment we need to examine some of the things that precede it.
The scene is the upper room, the time just a matter of hours before Jesus’ impending arrest in Gethsemane. These are some of the last moment Jesus has with his disciples before his death and probably the last opportunity to say many of the things he really wanted to say. He clearly seeks to prepare them for a rough ride.
In the immediate they may well grieve his death but long term they will experience grief many more times. This is also prophetic to us of the way things are as we await his return for us. He illustrates the point with the picture of a lady in childbirth whose pain is forgotten when her baby arrives. Any mom will tell you though that the pain is severe enough while you wait and that the wait is much longer than desired. The thought does cross most mothers mind “Is this worth it ?”.
The hardest thing for the disciples to hear we read in verse 32 (read). Jesus tells them that this secure, intimate, holy huddle will be scattered and they will then have to road test their true discipleship where they live. Religious communes were never high on Jesus’ agenda for his church.
So we come to verse 33 …. Believe it or not this is a PROMISE. Not as exciting as some of the other promises of scripture but nevertheless as important.
HE PROMISED PEACE …
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace”
Jesus never hides the truth from his followers. He is truth personified (John 14:6) He never painted a picture of discipleship that was only attractive without also displaying the cost. He says that his honesty has one aim … “that in ME you may have peace”
He tells it as it is. Peace is only possible IN HIM. i.e. as we live in meaningful and consistent relationship with God (John 14:25-27). Peace is necessary because of strife. A promise of peace is a promise of strife.