“Jesus replied, ‘Do you now believe? Look, a time is coming—and has come—when you will be scattered, each one to his own home, and I will be left alone. Yet I am not alone, because my Father is with me. 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 16:31–33
Certainly, our Lord’s words to His disciples must have stung bitterly. They could not have imagined forsaking their Master. Over-confidence in our actions and abilities can be our downfall, can it not? Preoccupied, distracted, lacking focus, selfish indulgences, vain conceits, and fears all have a way of catching us off guard. Before we know it, we, like the disciples, find ourselves doing something we could never have possibly imagined doing. The disciples were sure of their stick-to-itiveness—seemingly unable to comprehend that they could forsake or flee from the One they so dearly loved. Paul tells us:
“These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So let the one who thinks he is standing be careful that he does not fall. No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.” —1 Corinthians 10:11–13
Even the most committed followers of our Lord know little of their own hearts—loudly professing loyalty yet scattering for cover as soon as difficulty strikes. The disciples simply did not know themselves—they were unaware of the shallowness of their convictions, the weakness of their flesh, and the depth of human depravity that was buried within their hearts. Scripture tells us:
“The human mind is more deceitful than anything else. It is incurably bad. Who can understand it?” —Jeremiah 17:9
We would do well to mark this in our memories—we are all capable of a fall.
We must remember that we can do nothing of eternal value apart from Christ. It is only when we are weak in the estimation of our own abilities that we are strong in God’s perfect all-achieving power. Paul tells us:
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” —2 Corinthians 12:9–10
Life is difficult. We can expect trouble and hardship. The word that Jesus uses for “trouble” in our verses for today is translated from the Greek word thlipsis meaning “to crush, press, compress, squeeze; tribulation, trouble, affliction; conveys the picture of something being crushed or squeezed as from a great weight; used to denote grievous physical affliction or mental and spiritual distress” (Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible New Testament Lexical Aids). Yet, Jesus goes on to say that in Him we can have His perfect peace amid the turmoil, trials, and testings of this life. He is our only sure and continuous fountain of true and lasting comfort.
Paul tells us:
“For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility.” —Ephesians 2:14
Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.” —John 14:27
As we live in close communion with the Lord—with a steadfast mind and focus on the Prince of Peace and His achieving power, we are able, like the eagle, to soar above the storm clouds. This does not mean that we will not feel the pain or the loss or hurt, rather our pain can be seen with a view of “the big picture.” Whatever God allows can ultimately be used for our good and His glory.
“And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” —Romans 8:28
“They had not rightly estimated the weakness of the flesh, the power of the devil, the feebleness of their own resolutions, the shallowness of their own faith. All this they had yet to learn by painful experience. Like young recruits, they had yet to learn that it is one thing to know the soldiers drill and wear the uniform, and quite another thing to be steadfast in the day of battle.” —John Charles Ryle
“In the Kingdom, there are no great men of God, just humble men whom God has chosen to use greatly. How do we know when we are humble? When God speaks, we tremble. God is looking for a man who trembles at His word. Such a man will find the Spirit of God resting upon him; he will become a dwelling place for the Almighty. God asks for nothing but ourselves.” —Francis Frangipane