I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage – I have conquered the world. (John 16:33, NET)
I’ve been thinking about this verse for awhile now. My life has not been comfortable lately. I wish I could stop saying that. I wish I had less blogs that started with, “It’s been awhile. Life has been difficult.” It reminds me of one of my first mentors, Coach Sandy. He was my middle school science teacher. When he could manage, he would also teach us some philosophy. There were two things that he said constantly. One was,
Life is difficult. This is a great truth. Perhaps the greatest truth.
The other was John 16:33. I wasn’t even really a Christian in middle school, but I had that verse memorized because of Coach Sandy. Apparently it’s taken the better part of twenty years for that verse to really take root in my heart.
Jesus wants his disciples to remember a few things. Notice, trouble and suffering are guaranteed. That’s a fact. You can’t escape them. If someone tells you that you can, they can take it up with Jesus. Trouble is guaranteed. Well that’s awfully encouraging, huh? Yay Jesus! Let’s sign him up for a book tour and get him on TV. That message will sell. “Hello, my name is Jesus, and I’m here to tell you that your life is going to suck a lot of the time. Count on it.” I feel better already.
But what else does he have to say? “…take courage – I have conquered the world.” Now that is encouraging. It’s easy to tell me that my life is going to be hard. It honestly doesn’t take a lot of insight to make that prediction. It’s true for all of us. Don’t believe what you see on social media. Those same smiling faces are often going home at night to cry about how they are going to pay their bills. So Jesus’ landmark observation is pretty common knowledge. But take courage. Why? Because the same thing that brings you trouble has been conquered. We’re not headed to D-Day. We’re not storming the beach. The war is over. This is just mopping up. We’re not fighting anymore. We’re just informing people who won. That’s the gospel, the good news. The enemy is defeated. The world doesn’t get the final say. No matter how ugly things look, the enemy of your soul has lost and his defeat will reach completion.
In light of that…let’s go back to Jesus’ first statement in this verse. “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.” Notice the may. It’s remarkably different from will. Jesus doesn’t say peace is guaranteed. It’s a choice. Peace is a choice. It’s entirely up to you. How do you attain this fleeting objective? Well, in a world that is ever-moving and ever-changing, we all want to focus on something permanent. We want to focus on a guarantee. Two things are guaranteed. Our life will be difficult, and our enemy will be defeated. Guess which focal point brings you peace?