Friday, January 25, 2013

You're Gonna Need a Quality Shoe

If we expect the path of our life to be all freeway, or even paved sidewalk, we’re going to be disappointed. Jesus warned his disciples that in this world they would have trouble. Why would we expect it to be any different for us? Eventually, we’re all going to run into difficult circumstances and we may have to endure them for a long time. It’s the way it is for believers in this world.

Jesus didn’t tell his disciples how hard things would be for them because he wanted to scare them, but because he wanted to prepare them for it. When persecution and difficulty came, he didn’t want them to be blown away by it.

Do you remember Jesus’ words of warning?
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33 ESV 0.
Did they remember what he said? How did the disciples react the first time they faced trouble after Jesus ascended?

It’s all recorded for us in Acts 4. Peter and John were held in jail overnight and then brought before the Sanhedrin, where they were threatened by the rulers in an attempt to get them to stop preaching. When they were released, they joined with their brethren and prayed this prayer:
...[T]hey lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, [25] who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
[26] The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
[27] for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, [28] to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. [29] And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, [30] while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:24-30 ESV)
It’s their very first persecution. You might think that since they, of all people, knew the mighty power of God, they would ask him to make the road easier for them by taking this persecution away. But instead, they asked God to give them courage to keep on proclaiming the gospel in the face of persecution. It seems they expected trouble.

But there was more to it than that. They expected trouble and they viewed their trouble as God’s plan for them. Their prayer opens by affirming that everything comes from God and that he is sovereign over it all. It continues by declaring that God had not simply foretold the crucifixion, but he had planned it. They see Christ’s suffering as the centerpiece of God’s plan to conquer sin, and I think they see this as a pattern for the way God works generally. Their God is a God who accomplishes his good purposes through suffering, and he will accomplish his good purposes through their persecution. Instead of asking that the persecution be stopped, they accept it as God’s plan for them, his way to accomplish his good purposes in the world.

Jesus had told them they could expect trouble, but to be courageous. So they asked for courage to keep speaking God’s truth as they face persecution. “I have overcome the world,” Jesus said, and they knew that. They also knew that just as God worked Christ’s victory over the world through his suffering, he would spread the news of Christ’s victorious work through their suffering. But they needed courage to endure persecution and keep on preaching the gospel undeterred.

Like the early disciples, as long as we’re here in this world, we can expect hardship and difficulty. It may not be persecution, but we will have trouble. Like Peter and John and their brethren, we can face our trials with courage because Christ has overcome the world. Our suffering will bring about the fruit of his victory by working God’s good purpose for our own redemption and the redemption of the world. Our troubles work to conform us to Christ’s image (James 1:2-3; Romans 8:28-29), and in many cases, they work in the same way Paul’s imprisonment did: they turn out to advance the gospel (Philippians 1:12-14).

All our trials — and we’ll have them — work together for good purposes because Christ has overcome the world. We’ll need our sturdy shoes, but we can hike on knowing that the difficult trail is the best way — God's way — to reach our perfect destination. We can take courage, and when we don’t have it, we can ask for it, knowing that a prayer for courage in trouble is a prayer that pleases God and one that he is pleased to grant:
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31 ESV)

1 comment:

  1. There is no comfort like the comfort that comes from the Word of God. Thank you.