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 16:33
Jesus’ words to His disciples in John’s Gospel are clear: “In this world, you will have trouble.” He didn't say we might have trouble. He was unmistakably confident that the choice to follow Christ will not be easy or free from struggle. It is interesting, however, that He sandwiched this statement between two wonderful truths.
On one side of trouble, we find peace in Christ. On the other is the reminder that Christ has overcome the world. “Take heart!” Jesus tells them. In other words, He is saying, “Have courage!” or “Be encouraged!” Imagine yourself as one of the disciples hearing these words from the mouth of your Rabbi. Remember that when Jesus spoke these words He had not yet gone to the cross or been raised from the grave. Yet He says, “I have overcome the world.”
Do you think the disciples believed Him? Could they have even fathomed the trouble that Jesus was foretelling? Hate-filled persecution, temptations to deny Him, standing firm in the face of death, and even dying for their faith. “Trouble” doesn't seem like a strong enough word, does it? And yet there is peace in Christ. Many times we think of peace as being free from trouble or conflict. Clearly this is not what Jesus meant. In fact, He says there is peace in the middle of even the greatest trials we will face. Why? Because He has overcome the world.
We have an advantage that the 12 disciples didn't when these words were first spoken. We read these words on the other side of the cross and resurrection. And yet I still wonder, do we believe Jesus? Do we live as conquerors, having faith that Jesus has indeed overcome the world? Is peace in Christ what characterizes our lives in the midst of life’s storms? Or, are we chasing the false peace and satisfaction that the world offers? There is no lasting peace apart from our Savior. He is the only One who overcame what man could not—sin and death. And just as the old hymn says:
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth the living just because He lives.”
The motivation to persevere, to take heart and be brave when everything in us wants to quit, is Christ and His victory over whatever we are facing. Knowing that Christ the risen Savior is for us is reason to press on. And we can have peace knowing that our troubles, no matter how difficult, are temporary.
Dear God, Following You is not always easy. But with all my heart I want to please You in all I do. Help me to remember that because You have overcome the world, I can persevere. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.