Saturday, May 27, 2006


Ever hear a preacher suggest that if you become a Christian, you'll get rich or find the perfect mate or all your problems will disappear? Where do they get these ideas from? Not from today's reading:

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word" -- Psalm 119.67
"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees" -- Psalm 119.71
"...In this world you will have tribulation." -- John 16.33

I quoted that last verse and the elder teen said, "That's a great promise." Well, of course that's not the whole story. The rest of the verse says:

"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."

The "trouble" part isn't particularly great news, but it's a great corrective in case you've been sold a bill of goods on what the Christian life is like. I think Peter says somewhere, "Don't be surprised if you get a lot of hassles, as though some strange thing were happening to you."

I heard a sermon on this passage some years ago. Sometimes people say, "If God lets me down this time, it'll be the first time," but some others feel like God has let them down. The sermon talked about various kinds of troubles people have had. Someone going in for surgery, and the anaesthesiologist stepped out to take a phone call, and the guy never woke up. At the men's retreat earlier this year, a man talked about how his son has debilitating physical and mental problems. There are real troubles out there.

What the good news is, though, is the stuff that came earlier in chapter 16. Take for example verse 24: "Until now you have asked for nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be made full." And the part at the end of 33: "I have overcome the world."

The good news seems to me that he is with us. He has overcome the world, he knows, he cares, he will help us. He is with us always. He will never leave us or forsake us. It will not be easy all the time. Sometimes there will be heartbreak -- and some of us get more than others.

But he is with us.

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