If I’m honest, there are some promises in Scripture that I’d just as soon not claim as my own. Some, I’d rather not even be reminded of. I came across one of those in John 16 this morning where Jesus tells His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation.”
Who wants to spend a lot of time noodling on that? Whether it’s something as big as the world economy, or something as personal as a struggling relationship; whether it’s society’s tendency towards, in the name of tolerance, becoming less and less tolerant of those who follow the Way, or something much more personal involving failing health, in this world, Jesus assures His own, we will have tribulation. Pressure . . . affliction . . . distress. It’s gonna be ours at some point. Count on it.
But I’m only focusing on a piece of what Jesus is telling His disciples. If I stop there, I’m going to miss the whole promise.
Sometimes we do that. Sometimes that’s exactly what the enemy would have us do–focus on a just a piece of the puzzle. And it can kill the “joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart” if I focus just on the tribulation and trials. It can distract from the faithful walk if I’m crushed and discouraged by the hard things of life. It has the potential to hamstring the “abundant life” if I’m consumed by how tough or how unfair things seem.
I think about Paul and if anyone knew that in this world there would be tribulation it was him. Yet what does he say? “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; . . . we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day” (2Cor. 4:8,9,16 ESV).
So how could Paul write this? How did he live it out in day-to-day life? Paul remembered the whole promise.
“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~ Jesus
(John 16:33 ESV)
Yes, in this world we will have tribulation. Troubles, trials and sorrows are going to come. But take heart, says the Risen Savior. Be encouraged. Know also that I have overcome the world. And in Me, regardless of the nature of the storm, there is a great shalom to be known.
I was also reading in Revelation 6 this morning. And it is so obvious that the Lamb who has stepped forward as the One worthy to take the scroll is calling the shots concerning what happens on earth. As He opens seal after seal there is no doubt who is in control. No question as to who has overcome this world. And so, when the souls of those who had been martyred for the word of God ask Him, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth,” the Sovereign Savior says to them, “Rest a little longer.” And to the soul in this chair He says, as well, “Rest. Take heart. In Me you have peace!”
No promise of answers, necessarily. No guarantee that we’ll understand all that’s going on. No assurance of the resolution of our choosing. Just the whole promise that though we will have tribulation in this world, He has overcome the world. And thus, in Him, we can have peace.
Not ours to understand fully, but ours to appropriate by faith. A peace that passes understanding. A deep abiding sense of security and safety, because He has overcome.
Hard-pressed? Maybe, but not crushed. Perplexed? Sometimes, but not in despair. Feeling like we’re in the fire, like we may be going down for the count? Could be, but also knowing that we are not forsaken and will not be destroyed. Because He has overcome.
Tribulation in the world? Yup, gonna happen. But that’s only part of it.
Peace in the inner man? Just as sure. For He has overcome the world.
That’s the whole promise.
By His all sufficient grace. For His everlasting glory.