Tribulation in the World
“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, NASB).
There has always been a rift between the Lord’s people and followers of the world. This goes back to the time God told the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Gen. 3:15). We often point to this passage to show how Jesus would overcome the devil (and He did), but the text also points to the enmity that exists “between your seed and her seed,” that is, those who follow God and those who don’t. The seed of woman refers to “her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17), and the seed of the serpent are well represented by those who opposed Christ, as Jesus told them, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44).
There will never really be peace between God’s people and the world. While Christians want to be peaceful (cf. Rom. 12:18), the fact remains that the world will continue to despise what Christ and His followers stand for. We should not be surprised, then, when the world shows such hatred. Peter made this very point:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Pet. 4:12-14).
Jesus pointed out this same problem:
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (John 3:19-21).
The only way to have true peace in the midst of tribulation is to find it in Jesus, not to give in to the world. Yet it is because we trust Jesus that we will have tribulation in the world, and we need accept that. We must make a choice, just as Moses did when he chose to suffer ill-treatment with God’s people over the passing pleasures of sin and the treasures of Egypt (Heb. 11:24-26). The fact is that if we want friendship with the world, we will be at enmity with God, just as James wrote:
“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
If we wish to have peace with God, the peace found in Christ, then the world will be at odds with us. We need to decide what we believe is more important. If we are serious about serving God, we need to be done trying to be so friendly with the world (i.e., living like the world, giving in to the desires of the world). With whom are we going to stand, and who will be standing with us in the end?
Jesus warned His chosen disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).
Straddling the line between Christ and the world doesn’t work. It never will, and we’ll only be miserable trying. If we cannot be content with being objects of ridicule to the world, then we won’t be happy with what the Lord is offering. Trying to blend in more with the world hurts us and does a grave injustice to what Jesus did for us. The world will give us tribulation. In Christ we have peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:6-7). Keep the focus on Him (Heb. 12:1-3).
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).