John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
“Take heart,” would be a useless command, or a cruel taunt, if Jesus had nothing more to say. Does it help to tell a weak person, “Be strong”? Does it help to tell a sick person, “Be well”? Does it help to tell a hungry person, “Be full”? Only if you have strength, and health, and food to give them. Jesus has “heart” to give us–the courage and faith that come from knowing that he has overcome the world.
Jesus has conquered sin and death. What more can the world do to me? Accuse me? Condemn me? By what standards? If it uses its own twisted standards, where goodness and purity become evil, and its filth and perversion become virtues, Jesus has already settled that. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We gladly plead guilty to breaking the sinful world’s code of belief and behavior. Even if we do, we are still innocent in the eyes of Christ.
But what if the world discovers our real sins, and its self-righteous charge is, “You’re no better than me. You’ve broken the same commandments of God. You are guilty”? Though we are not proud to say so, the answer is, “It’s true! It’s true!” But Jesus has overcome the world, and by the grace of God I can say with the Apostle Paul, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus who died–more than that, was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
No, really then, what can the world do to me? Kill me–and in doing so complete my escape from this prison in which we live and hurry me to the end of my journey home to heaven? Thank you! Thank you for this gift! You have given me the one thing I have longed for since the moment Jesus claimed me for his very own–to see him with my own eyes and live with him in his loving presence forever.
If the world can’t accuse me, and it can’t destroy me, then what is left? Torment me while I am here? Bestow on me the same honor it once bestowed on my Lord as it fills my life with misery? Then it will drive me deeper into his Word, and deeper into his love, to survive. It will drive me closer and closer to my Savior and make me more and more like him. It will strengthen my faith and hope, because “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” That’s not so bad, now, is it? In the end, it still ends in glory. Since Jesus has overcome, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
By bringing us troubles, by making us suffer, the world has done all it can do. In spite of our troubles, Jesus has overcome, and so will we. Take heart!