By Brother George
What a tumultuous year 2020 was! COVID-19 caused havoc throughout the world, and as we are in the later stages of 2021, the situation has still not settled down. Many have died and continue to die; the virus (along with new mutations) is still spreading; international travel is still heavily restricted; and, of course, there has been a massive negative impact on economies, resulting in many jobs lost, the closing of large and small businesses, and many people suffering anxiety and depression.
Besides that, in a number of nations the political and cultural situations have experienced deterioration as secularism has taken root and spread. Western nations that were built on a foundation of Christian principles have all but abandoned their Christian moorings. Atheistic, progressive ideas have gotten a strong foothold and dominate popular culture. Globalization has become a reality. Cancel culture is gradually pushing Christians to the sidelines of public discourse in Western nations, and bit by bit laws are being introduced that contradict biblical principles and in some cases are disallowing the publishing or preaching of such ideas.
While pondering these things, I must admit that at times I’ve become rather downcast and even fearful of the future. I have been overwhelmed by a foreboding sense of landing on the wrong side of the cultural landscape and the “politically correct,” and wondered what the implications will be for my wife, myself, and our young children. It has been a fight to remain positive and hopeful in the midst of it all.
One day recently while fighting this battle I was quickly reminded of the scripture “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 This was quickly followed by “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 As always, when I start to feel down about something, the Holy Spirit brings to mind the scriptures I need that lift my spirit and are the keys to unlock scriptural counsel that perfectly fits my situation. Thank the Lord!
Jesus spoke John 16:33 during His beautiful discourse to His disciples after the Last Supper on the evening before He was betrayed and eventually crucified. I’ve often marveled at how John the Beloved dedicated five full chapters of his Gospel to the final hours Jesus spent with His disciples before His crucifixion. John chapters 13–17
That evening, Jesus was facing what would be the most painful and grueling time of His earthly life, and He knew that His followers were similarly headed for a time that would severely try their souls. And so, with great love and compassion, He spends the whole evening with them giving them His final words of instruction and encouragement to help prepare them for what lay ahead.
The first verse of chapter 13 gives us a look into Jesus’ heart at the time. “Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end.”
And so, with a heart full of love for His followers, He starts off by humbling Himself to do the work of a servant in washing their feet and urging them to likewise serve one another in love. John 13:4–17
Soon after, He prepares their hearts by warning them that someone was about to betray Him, even indicating who it would be. John 13:21–26 Then He gives them His new commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.” John 13:34–35 Besides this kind of Christian love becoming a testament to the world of the truth of Christianity, Jesus must have known that His disciples would need this kind of sacrificial brotherhood and the resulting unity in order to withstand the perilous days ahead.
Being told of His imminent betrayal must have greatly shaken the disciples, and in the first passage of chapter 14 Jesus urges them not to let their hearts be troubled and gives them the good news that He will be going to heaven ahead of them in order to prepare the beautiful eternal home that awaits them, John 14:1–4 that He would not leave them comfortless, John 14:18 and that He would give them peace in the midst of their troubles. John 14:27
Chapter 15 begins with a call to remain strong and fruitful by abiding in the vine, Himself, and a firm promise that He would answer their soon-to-be desperate prayers if they did. John 15:1–10 He then gave them another call to love one another, John 15:17 and encouraged them not to be down about the coming hatred by the world because that would be a sign that they were emulating their Master. John 15:18–25
In chapter 16 Jesus acknowledges the sorrow filling His disciples’ hearts upon hearing these things, and He encourages them that they will not be left without a shepherd because He will continue to guide them through the Holy Spirit. John 16:6–13 Later He comforts them by telling them that somehow their grief will be turned to joy and rejoicing and that they should take heart because He would overcome the world and give them peace. John 16:20–22, 33 Their Lord’s betrayal and death and coming persecution by their enemies would result in peace, joy, and rejoicing!? It must have seemed so contrary to their natural fears of such things. But surely the disciples must have believed Him, and so should we.
Finally, in chapter 17, Jesus prays for His followers. He doesn’t pray that they would completely escape the coming hardships, but rather that His Father would watch over them through it. John 17:15 It’s a very beautiful prayer, and ending the conversation in this way must have been a great comfort to His disciples.
By imagining myself in the disciples’ shoes at the time, I get a better understanding of these passages and how much it must have meant to them to be forewarned and encouraged like that. They must have deeply felt the Lord’s love and care for them and, in spite of the bad news of what lay ahead, surely they felt strengthened.
I’m not exactly sure how present events will unfold and what the future will hold, but if the times we are living in continue to worsen, then these passages will be a great comfort to me. Within them are just the counsel, instruction, and comfort I need to face whatever the future brings. Not only can I be comforted by the knowledge of the presence of Jesus and His Spirit, I can even rejoice and be joyful! I don’t need to let my spirit be overcome by evil, rather I can take the worsening world situation as an opportunity to overcome evil with good by being a witness to those around me who might also be despairing at the state of affairs, but who don’t have Jesus to comfort them.
I’m so glad that the Holy Spirit brought these scriptures to my remembrance. John 14:26 Though I am at times unbelieving and unfaithful, He remains faithful. 2 Timothy 2:13
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20