“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 (NIV)
"If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” - C.S Lewis
By far one of my favorites sections in scripture, this closing to John 16 has been one of the most challenging and encouraging passages for me throughout my faith.
“Take heart!” says Jesus, or as other translations have it, “Fear not!” Do not succumb to the despair or disenchantment placed on you by this world. Do not buckle under its weight.
Because he has overcome the worlds: The world of this earth with its brokenness and pain, as well as the world of darkness, driven by our madness and destruction.
“I have overcome,” he says. And his victory is, and will be, our victory.
What powerful and piercing words he offers up to his disciples at a time that would soon appear to be anything but victorious.
And herein lies both the challenging and encouraging components of this passage, and really of Christian faith in general.
In the overhang of death’s shadow, Jesus calls his disciples, and in turn, us, to a belief beyond beliefs. To a faith we’ll need to hold on to, at times with a white-knuckled-grip, if we’re going to be able to experience any measure of the peace and joy of his kingdom. If we are to catch any shimmer of it’s guiding light. If we are going to have any chance of partnering with it’s work.
What is this belief?
It is the belief that despite what our present circumstances may try to communicate, we are not alone, brokenness and pain will not last, and evil will not have the last word. That God has come, he has won, and he is making all things new: You, me, and the world at large.
What a thing to believe. What a thing to hope in.
At one level, we could only imagine the impact Jesus’ words had on the disciples as their time with him came to a dramatic and fatal turn. As all that they came to hope in and sacrifice for, seemed to be tumbling down around them. What it must have been like for them to wrestle with the decision to surrender to the paralyzing affects of their fear and confusion, or give themselves to the recklessness and risk of their faith?
At one level we can only imagine, but at another we can relate. Many of us, like the disciples, know what its like to experience hardship and betrayal. We know what its like to not be taken seriously, to be told to quit being so “narrow minded”, “righteous”, or “idealistic”. We know what it’s like to have our faith disappoint us.
We also know what it’s like to be a deserter, to flee from our confession because of outside pressures and internal wars.
And despite all that, we also know what it’s like to be loved by Him, to be welcomed in the arms of his mercy and peace, despite our failings. We know what it’s like to be propped up by his grace and ignited by the hope of His good news.
In short, we know the moments we’ve felt the weight of the worlds, but more importantly, we’ve also known the moments where we’ve been empowered by His victory.
So what is the way forward for us in our present world? – Only we can answer that, day-by-day, with each choice we make.
According to C.S. Lewis “the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this."
The power of choice is a power that God himself will not violate. He has left it up to us to decide what we will reach for, what we will set our eyes and energies on. What we’ll find our peace in.
I’ve once heard it said, that you should only feed what you want to grow. So may each of us feed that hope that is within us, the hope of Christ’s victory. And in turn, may we find the peace and power of His kingdom growing steady and strong in us, and in our world. Amen!