Being a Christian in the past couple of years has become really tough. The noise of the world has been getting closer and closer to home, and shutting it out has gotten harder and harder to do. People’s perceptions of Christians seem to have gotten less and less favourable, making it increasingly difficult for us to convince any of the people around us that we love them. How in the world are we supposed to respond to all of this?
The answer, I believe, is to fix our eyes on Jesus.
In Him are so many beautiful promises for the Christian who shuts out the hosts of potential discouragements in the world and perseveres in their faithfulness to God in Jesus Christ. Here are just a few of the ones that have encouraged my heart lately:
1. The Promise of Peace
Reading Jesus’ words, it’s pretty clear that he did not expect there to be an awful lot of camaraderie between Christians and their culture. In John 15:19, He is bold enough to tell his disciples that the world will actually hate them. The reason this isn’t a problem is that our peace is not based on the ability of people to get along. In fact, our peace transcends the world altogether:
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. // John 16:33
In Christ, we see that our peace has nothing to do with our ability to make the world love us or to avoid difficulty. Instead, our peace has everything to do with the victory that Jesus has won over the world.
Practically speaking, this peace gives us the freedom to love our hateful world without the pressure of analyzing whether or not our efforts seem to be “working”. It’s not our job to love in order to make peace, but to love by the power of the one who is our peace.
2. The Promise of Joy
The world promises us that we will find joy and satisfaction in all kinds of things. For the generation before us, a lot of people placed their hope in prosperity and acquiring valuable material things. Our generation seems to feel that we are more enlightened, placing our hopes instead in things like freedom of expression, romantic relationships, or in alignment with social justice initiatives. Here’s where joy comes from, according to Jesus:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. // John 15:9-11
The joy of Jesus is a promise to the Christian who perseveres. And the beautiful thing about this passage is that the obedience that is required for us to obtain this joy is not the product of distress or fear of punishment. God’s design is for our obedience to lead us deeper into our appreciation of the love that Jesus has for us, which is just as strong as the love that God has for His Son! That means that when we purpose in our hearts to be obedient to Jesus, we are promised the company of God’s love and a heart that is full of joy. Any joy that is to be found in the world around us is temporary at best. But if we look to Jesus, we will find a joy that is truly satisfying to the soul.
3. The Promise of Hope
“Hopeless” is a pretty good word to use to describe a lot of what we’ve been seeing in the news lately. Our future is so full of questions: When is this virus going to be gone so we can finally be together again? When are people going to give up on harbouring such racist attitudes toward each other? When are people going to stop turning to violence to solve all of their problems?
As Christians, it’s so important that we don’t get caught up in the search for things that will give us hope in this world. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:19 that, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Notice that he doesn’t say that there is no hope to be found in Christ for this life. God commands us to pray for the very reason that He is still involved in our earthly affairs and is capable of affecting positive change in even our most difficult circumstances. But the big picture that we must always keep in mind is that our ultimate hope is in the future that is coming:
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. // 1 Corinthians 15:54-58
A hope that we hold in this life for outcomes on our present earth cannot help but be fragile. But a hope that is properly placed in the power of God to make everything new in the end cannot be shaken by anything.
Keep the Faith
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. // 2 Timothy 4:7
Knowing all that we have in our Saviour Jesus, my prayer is that you will persevere. When the worries of our culture become overwhelming, remember what it is God has called you to. It is not our job to single-handedly fix the reputation of the Church, or to make an end of the world’s sin. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed to the point of giving up on this faith. Remember the peace, the joy, and the hope that you have in Christ, and surrender to Him the rest of what is too heavy for us to carry.
Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. // Matthew 11:28-30
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