In John 16:32-33, Jesus spoke these words to His disciples:
“Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 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.” ESV
There are two significant assurances to the disciples here: 1) that they will face tribulation, and 2) that they will have peace. These competing forces, tribulation and peace, will somehow converge in harmony in the lives of the disciples. This convergence comes in true in the lives of all believers as well. Why would these two opposing entities – tribulation and peace – coexist? It would seem that living a peace-filled life would mean finding a way to live life away from tribulations. Yet, Jesus offers a different path to His followers. Here’s why:
Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” In Romans 8:35-37, it says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” In order to fulfill the definition of “conqueror” and “overcomer”, you must conquer and overcome something. An overcomer is not one who figured out how to avoid all difficult circumstances – an overcomer is one who persevered through the difficult circumstances. Our faith is not strengthened while we sleep, unconscious to all of life’s challenges. Instead, our faith is strengthened while we press through whatever tribulation and challenge comes our way. We press through because we know that He has already overcome. We press through because we know that we are not alone – the Father is with us. We press through because we know that the testing of our faith produces stronger faith (James 1:3).
The challenges of today are not used by God to tear you down; they are meant to be God’s tools for building you up. The assurances to the disciples were that they would face tribulation and that they would have peace. Instead of thinking of tribulation and peace as “either/or’s”, what if one is the building block of the other? What if the path to peace is in persevering by faith through the tribulation? And if this is true (spoiler alert – it is!), then tribulation is necessary for peace.
So – when the difficult moment comes today, welcome it. Don’t view it as another setback in the struggle of your life; instead, view it as another opportunity for the strengthening of your faith and another building block to peace in Christ.
-Pastor Steve Coleman