Have you ever had moments when you were just scared to death? What has terrified you the most or given you the most unrest in your spirit? Maybe it was news coverage of a calamity or evil on world news or the announcement of a local tragedy. Or for you, it may be the political state of our nation or just politics in general, both international and domestic. We all have things that we fear and that give us anxiety and unrest. Yesterday was the remembrance of September 11th, the day fifteen years ago when all of America was struck with fear by the destruction of three key buildings and icons of American liberty. Since then, there have been many acts of terror, tragedy, and evil committed around the world that can cause us to fear and fret. Therefore, the final words Jesus speaks to His disciples in the Great Discourse are a timely message for us.
“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.”
At the beginning of John 16 and our look at “The Reason Why”, we saw that the reason why Jesus was teaching the disciples these things was to keep them from falling away. Now, at the end of the chapter, He adds another reason why: “that in me you may have peace.” Peace. What an amazing promise! Our world is in desperate need of peace, and people are looking for it in all the wrong places. We see the peace symbol everywhere, and people advocate for world peace. However, the truth of the matter is found in Jesus’ next sentence: “In the world you will have tribulation.” There is no peace in this world only tribulation, strife, and calamity. Jesus is the only one who can give peace, and the peace He gives transcends our understanding and defies human logic. And this is the peace Jesus is promising us in John 16; and the reason why He’s imparted the teachings of the Upper Room Discourse, that in Him we may have peace.
We like the “in me you may have peace” and the “I have overcome the world” part of this promise, but we must not forget the “you will have tribulation” portion. The word tribulation is translated from the Greek word thlipsis that literally means pressure. Now pressure is a word that sounds more familiar to us. What first comes to mind is peer pressure—the social strain upon one to “fit” in with their age category. Though peer pressure is not physical, it can be even more impacting and powerful because it’s mental and emotional. Other types of life pressures are generally labeled as stress or stressors and they may include job concerns, physical ailments, financial struggles, family issues, etc. For some people the pressure or tribulation of the world might be more obvious and blunt, but for others it could be gradual and subtle to the point where they don’t recognize it as a tactic of the enemy. Just like most teenagers don’t realize the enormous influence of peer pressure on their lives, so also we can be oblivious to the way the world’s pressure is influencing our thinking, mindset, and lifestyle. So tribulation doesn’t necessarily entail physical or brunt force opposition, but it can be gradual, steady, subtle, mental, and emotional pressure—pressure to conform to the world, join the crowd, and be like everyone else.
We all will have tribulation in this life because we have been called out of the world. Remember “Hated by the World”? In that study we discovered that those who are truly called by Christ’s name will face persecution. But before you get all depressed and discouraged, this is where the last part of the promise comes in! “But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Hallelujah! If Jesus had not defeated death and risen from the grave, there would be no hope, but our Lord is risen and has overcome the world! Therefore, we can have His all-surpassing peace and join Paul in declaring:
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed…”
~II Corinthians 4:8a (NIV 84)
So now the question is…are you finding your peace in Christ or are you looking elsewhere? Have you fully embraced the truths found in John 13-16 that in Jesus you may have peace? Or has the pressures and tribulations of this life crushed your spirit? Are you living your life from the hope and victory that Jesus has overcome?
The promises of John 16:33 are the last words of teaching Jesus gave to the disciples before the crucifixion. Just like a preacher or public speaker makes his last point the most powerful and important, so also Jesus sums up His teaching with these important last words on peace, tribulation, and hope. Therefore, may we take hold of the peace Jesus offers and take heart, knowing that He has overcome the world!
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”