Monday, December 16, 2013

The World Overcome

We are so frequently misguided about God's plans. Day by day we measure our progress toward anticipated goals; we judge God's faithfulness and our performance by the proximity of the desired accomplishment. Is everything progressing as it should? Am I getting through this rough patch? Are my kids achieving? Am I paying down my debt? Is my boss finally appreciating me? And then the kids fail (again!); foreclosure looms; we discover that the boss not only doesn't appreciate us, but he's actually considering demoting us. Hold on! we think. This isn't what I signed up for. This isn't right. I've followed God. Where is he now that I really need him? What happened to all the plans we made together?

We suffer because we mistakenly believe that God's goals and our goals are identical. Into this confusion and sorrow, your Savior, who isn't insensible to your pain, speaks. "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). We think, The fact that I'm going to have tribulation is quite obvious, thank you. And, its nice that you've overcome the world (whatever that means), but how does that help me right now?

The gospel dispels darkness and confusion. It tells me about him, about myself. It tells me that I am in him, and because that's my identity, I can have peace when peace is beyond comprehension. But my experience of peace in tribulation also grows more brightly as I remind myself of the things he taught (John 16:33). He taught these truths so that I might have peace; they shatter my misguided illusions: my selfish ambition, even for his kingdom, is not his goal. Washing feet is. I believe that a pleasant existence free from tribulation will bring me happiness. He teaches that fullness of joy is found in divesting myself of pride and idolatrous desire for pleasure, respect, and comfort.

I think that I am wise and know what's best. His plan confound the wisdom of the wisest man and flay him in the dust. I deceive myself into believing that I deserve better than this. He gently reminds me that I deserve an eternity of excruciating flame eating at my soul and separation from his Son.

Peace begins to fill my soul when I remember the truth of the gospel: I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe, more loved and welcomed than I ever dared hope. I deserve less than nothing but have been given everything.

Jesus Christ has overcome the world. Although it seemed (and still seems) like night would eclipse the light, as though the "ruler of this world" would forever reign, the glorious radiance of the Son is seen with eyes of faith. Peace can flood outsold because our trust isn't misplaced. He has already overcome the world, and it will not triumph over him, and so, by implication, it will not triumph over us either because we are in union with him.

He resisted the temptation to prove his rightful place as Lord of the universe. He perfectly fulfilled every command of the law. He willingly laid down his life in our place and permanently threw open the doors of heaven. He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort and teach us. We're not alone; we're not orphans; he hasn't deserted us. And he has overcome the world through his conquest of our final enemy, death. The resurrection speaks powerfully into our lives when it seems as though the light is about to be extinguished. But this world isn't all there is. What we're seeing right now isn't the end. The one who said, "I have overcome the world," walked through the travail of Gethsemane. He was nailed to a tree, suffered, bled, and died. But then he rose again, breaking the bands of death, and walked with his disciples again. He had overcome! And now he is ruling and overruling at the seat of power by his Father's right hand, there in the flesh like mine and yours. Does it feel like night? Be of good cheer; morning will dawn. He has overcome the world.

From Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick

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