"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
Jesus told his disciples this as he prepared them for his own death and their lives afterward. They were about to enter an adventure that none of them foresaw. If they thought following Jesus around and listening to his perplexing teaching was something, they hadn't seen anything yet. What would follow was his death, resurrection, ascension, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And all that was followed by them learning to walk after his footsteps, in step with the Spirit, to bring the kingdom of God on earth.
And we've been invited to do the same--to follow after Jesus's footsteps and bring the kingdom of God on earth. We do this with our lives, as we daily surrender our thoughts and actions to him, allowing him to make us ever more like him. But we also do this by doing the kingdom works of God--seeking love and justice and humility, learning to share God's story with those around us.
But just like the disciples, we should expect to face resistance. Jesus did not promise that the path would be easy, and it's not. The Apostle Peter explained to the early church that the devil roams around like a roaring lion, seeking for those he can devour. Devour is such a graphic, violent word. Why do you suppose he used it there? And Paul seemed to have a similar idea when he explained to the Ephesian church their desperate need for what he called the armor of God.
I have to say that my experience has borne this out. Whenever I see the kingdom making headway here on earth, so that Jesus is praised or his will is being done more fully, I also see and experience resistance at a spiritual level. And though I can't say that all human suffering is directly linked to hearing and following the voice of God, I will say that much suffering in the lives of the surrendered often comes. I can't help but think of our 11 baptisms at church last week on Easter Sunday, and then this Sunday's devastating news about the suffering of some of our church's families.
But my pastor's response on Sunday was just the response that I think we're meant to have. Instead of preventing us from walking forward, I think that we are meant to fall to our knees and cry out to God to intervene. We need to ask for the strength to keep on walking along the difficult path. And we need to keep asking God to make the name of Jesus known through our attitudes and actions.
And the comfort Jesus gave is meant to give us peace. Because at the end of the story, justice, wholeness, healing, reconciliation, love--it wins out. Jesus overcame sin and death for all mankind, and God is working still to reconcile all the world to him. Good things are coming, and the brokenness of the world will be set right. Hallelujah.
Have you sensed a spiritual resistance to the coming of God's kingdom on earth? How did you respond? How can Jesus's words encourage you and strengthen you? How might Jesus want to use you to strengthen and encourage others in the body who are walking alongside you?