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.
The world is fast falling into lawlessness. Just in the past few weeks, the incidents of violence around the globe certainly have all of us on edge. We sense that evil has influenced the hearts of men and these are dangerous times in which we live.
I wonder how many Christians are unsettled about these events, but think evil will never touch them. And how many are unaware that their Bible tells them to expect such chaos and bloodshed. Of course, the Bible also tells us in Psalm 27 that the Lord is the protector and defender of our lives; and if you read the Good News Translation, "God protects me from all danger. I will never be afraid."
But if we are honest with ourselves, we are afraid. And we know it's not that simple. Good people -- faithful people who trust Jesus as their Savior -- are victims of evil and violence every day. And careful inspection of today's verse has Jesus telling us, Himself, that in this world, we will have tribulation.
It is interesting to note that these words from our Lord appear to be the last advice He gave to His disciples before going to the Cross. Therefore, they should have great significance to us. It is important to discern that, even as Jesus knew that Judas was meeting to betray Him -- He knew the humiliation, torture, and execution that awaited Him -- He was able to offer peace to His disciples ... because He had peace.
Also, note that Jesus did not promise peace, but He offered it. He said, "you may have peace. " A person can follow Jesus, yet deny themselves that peace. How do you get that Peace? It's only available by faith in Jesus.
Notice, however, that He promises tribulation ... In the world, you WILL have tribulation. Peace is offered to us, but tribulation is promised! So how are we to handle that information? As Christians, we must not get caught up in the false hope that we will live trouble-free lives. That leaves us totally defenseless when the devil assigns a spiritual force of wickedness to our life. And it renders us as deniers of demonic oppression in a Christian's life, and totally unprepared to fight the spiritual battles that will be ours. Of this, I can assure you: if we belong to God, times of calmness and serenity will be disrupted by seasons of struggle, because if we are bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God, there will always be new territory to conquer for Him.
To uplift us, Jesus tells us to "take heart" or "be of good cheer" because He has overcome the world. I wish to share with you commentary about this verse by Bible scholar Leon Morris: "This statement, spoken as it is in the shadow of the cross, is audacious … He goes to the cross not in fear or in gloom, but as a conqueror. "
But now we come to the reason that we can take heart ... Jesus has overcome the world! It's very important that we understand what that word "overcome" means. It is translated in the Greek as nikao, and means "to subdue; conquer; prevail; or get the victory". In effect, Jesus is telling us that, "I am warning you that you will have great troubles while you are here on earth, but I don't want you to give up, and I want you to be encouraged. I want you to not dread or fear what the world will bring upon you, because you can have the same peace I am experiencing now. The peace I have now, knowing that I am going to My death, is the same peace that is yours, because the ultimate victory will be Mine. I am going to conquer Death ... and so will you, if you believe in Me."
That is the essence of what Jesus is saying in this verse. But I would like to take it one step further... to get the full picture of what Jesus is trying to communicate here, we must continue reading. This is the last verse in John, Chapter 16; but in Chapter 17, Jesus shares an intimate conversation with His Father. The purpose is to let us in on the real purpose of His time on earth, and our subsequent purpose in the Father's Plan.
Jesus lets us in on these important facts: "While I was with them [the Disciples], I was keeping them in Your [the Father's] name which You have given Me ... They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth [set them apart for Your purposes, make them holy]; Your word is truth. Just as You commissioned and sent Me into the world, I also have commissioned and sent them (believers) into the world. For their sake I sanctify Myself [to do Your will], so that they also may be sanctified [set apart, dedicated, made holy] in [Your] truth."
Here's what we really need to take away from this entire passage of Scripture: Yes, Jesus will never leave us, and in fact we are to be at peace during the coming tribulation, knowing that His victory affords us our own victory (eternal life). BUT, we are not to sit here idly and passively, waiting for the Rapture, safe in the knowledge that this life will soon be over and we will join Him in Heaven. No! We have a purpose! Either until He returns, or until the day we die, we are to spend our remaining time on earth fulfilling the commission that we have been given. It is the same assignment the Father gave Jesus... to tell the world the Truth of God.
I fear that too many Christians have selective comprehension of John 16:33. They read the part about peace, thinking they will have it, instead of correctly understanding that they may receive it. And secondly, they focus on Jesus's (and our) victory over Death. They fail to see that we have a commission and a purpose to fulfill in claiming that victory; we need to be committed and devoted and actively in pursuit of accomplishing our goal for God ... we need to be as dedicated as Jesus was about winning souls for our Father's Kingdom!