Never tell your child before his first visit to the dentist that it won’t hurt. The truth might be fearful, but anything less will have far worse consequences. This makes sense. If a child is promised it will not hurt and it does, then you have betrayed them and trust is broken.
Jesus knew this principle works. He told the disciples that their joy would turn to sorrow (and back to joy), and that they would be scattered and alone because of their faith in Him. He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)
Christianity is not a Pollyanna religion. It is not “pie in the sky” for those who wish to absent themselves from the concerns of life. Rather, living for Jesus can be filled with lonely and tumultuous experiences, tribulation in a world that is at best blase about faith in Christ and at worst, hateful. Jesus never promised the proverbial rose garden.
I live in a country whose laws protect God’s people from open persecution, at least for now, but there are places in the world where Christians are daily murdered simply because they believe in Jesus. How can His words be practical for me when my world is relatively peaceful? How can they be practical for those whose world is filled with horrors?
The author of today’s devotional reading says that serving the Lord and staying true to Him can be more difficult in a world like mine than in a place where persecution is open. He once asked a Russian pastor, “Is it difficult to pastor a church in your country?” The pastor responded, “No, it’s easy because I know where everyone stands. But how can someone pastor a church in America, where compromise is so common and subtle?”
Here in North America many people who call themselves Christians still want to fit into this comfortable world around us. Acceptance becomes more important than truth or taking a stand on spiritual matters. Instead of saying that we believe in Jesus, we will say we believe in God. The difference may not seem like much, but believers in God are common. Name the name of Jesus Christ and things change.
We will talk about doing church work rather than serving Christ. We will tell others that God loves them, but shrink back when it comes to saying that Jesus died for them. We know what Jesus said — in the world we will have tribulation, but then ignore that He also will give us what we need to overcome the world. Instead, we do our best to fit into it so we can avoid the opposition of its people.
When we do that, the oddest thing happens. Once the people of the world realize that we are Christians yet see us trying to be like them, instead of acceptance, they reject our “faith” and call us hypocrites.
There is only one way to overcome the world. It is by accepting the tribulation Jesus predicted and embracing His power and grace to live in this world — loving them as Jesus did, but without back-peddling or compromising the truth.