Be at Peace and Be Courageous!
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
When Jesus offered these words of encouragement to His disciples before going to the cross, His language emphasized the significance of what He had to say. He used the present tense to indicate the reality of suffering, or tribulation, a continuing reality they would have to deal with. No one has to tell us we still have to deal with tribulations during our time here as well. This term in the Greek (θλῖψις, thlipsis) means to crush, press, compress, or squeeze. It is an appropriate term to indicate the pressures life can place on us, the distress that accompanies sin in life. It can be used of a woman in childbirth (John 16:21), the struggles that afflict one physically, or the spiritual difficulties that the ungodly can bring against those seeking to live for God (Heb. 10:33). It vividly illustrates how living for Christ will bring challenges to our faith by a world living apart from God’s good will.
While this reality can be disconcerting, Jesus also used the present tense to tell His disciples that He had overcome the world. This too would be a continuing reality that could assure them of the value His death had for them. This term in the Greek (νικάω, nikao) means to be victorious, to prevail. This too is an appropriate term, as it indicates in Him they could be victorious over the world, evil, and all the adversaries of His kingdom. Jesus reminded His followers that, no matter the effort expended by Satan to mislead them and destroy their faith, they had the power to be victorious over the devil and find the victory that faith provides (1 John 5:4). John would later write, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4).
So, knowing the devil was trying to defeat them spiritually, how should they live? Christian living was then, and still is, a battle (Eph. 6:12), but Jesus has overcome the world and so could they, as well as us, if we are in Him. In fact, Jesus told the disciples there were two qualities they possessed that could assure them of this victory. First, they could be at peace, even in the midst of the chaos sin would try to spread, because they were right with God (1 Cor. 14:33). Because of this, they must take courage! The term for courage in the Greek (θαρσέω, tharseo) is in the imperative tense, a command they could fulfill because of what it means to be in Christ. Courage is to be a constant attitude we have because all Christ offers us is constant and true, assuring us of what we have waiting in eternity. The importance of courage is seen in what Jesus told the person whose friends placed him before Jesus, lowering him through a roof, hoping He could provide him healing. “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven’” (Matt. 9:2). Of course, Jesus offered him healing of his physical infirmity, but the greater blessing came in knowing his sins were forgiven, that he was right with God, and the courage to live faithfully each day.
As we go through the days of our lives, no matter who you are, there will be challenges to face. We too live in a world of sin, and the consequences of such can be difficult at best. However, knowing we have victory in Jesus, offered by His blood, we can be at peace. With that peace, we find courage to face whatever life throws against us, because with forgiveness of sin, there is the promise of eternal life. In the final analysis, this matters more than anything else. The physical will one day fail us, but we look beyond the physical to the eternal, the place God has prepared for us with Him in heaven. We may have physical and emotional problems today, but being right with God offers us peace, knowing He goes with us every step of the way. Beyond the veil of the flesh, knowing God’s promise of eternal life, we can face anything and everything, because we know we have victory in Christ, a peace that passes understanding, and an ever-present courage because the best is yet to be. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:57-58).
μαράνα θᾶ (1 Cor. 16:22)