The American promise is one of self-gratification and self-realization. More and more, it promises a problem-free life, where we can live as we want if we just buy, ingest, or apply the right solution. Everyone knows this is a fake promise, but we often choose to ignore that in a quest for comfort. The Christian life makes no such promise. Yet even while recognizing the nature of life in the flesh, it does promise victory, both for today and eternity. But the victory of abundant life today involves making a choice.
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NASB95)
Towards the end of His time with the disciples, Jesus spoke plainly to them about the coming events, in order that they would have peace. Part of His statements acknowledged the reality that we live in a broken world, and no matter how much we want to avoid trials that are part of this life, we cannot.
In this passage, Jesus says that we will have trials in this life, but that He has given us hope because He has overcome the world. Our hope is in what He has accomplished, not in what we can accomplish or what the world can give us. Therefore, we have to put ourselves totally in His hands. This act does not come automatically, but is a willful decision we make every day, even every moment.
The thing to realize is that we don’t get to choose a path that doesn’t have trials; this should be clear simply by reflecting on our lives and the world around us. Although we may receive a temporary blessing of worldly peace for a while, it passes, and we are reminded that the rain falls on everyone sometimes. Our choices are not between paths of peace or paths of trial, for there are no true paths of peace. Instead, our choice is whether we walk the inevitable paths of trial alone, or with Him. Do we choose to live life as a victim of our circumstance, or a victor by His power?
The way of the world is to strive for comfort, for physical peace. We work with our own power to solve problems, or run from them into pleasure and distraction. But the reality that we all know, is that the best we can hope for is partial, temporary success. In the end, since there will be trials, the reality is that striving for worldly peace really means not striving for Him. In essence it leads us into trials without God, that we have to face alone. But facing a broken world without the power and active presence of God is beyond human ability. So we experience failure, and see how out of our control things really are. The worldly way is the path of self-hatred, doubt, and fear. The more we seek to love ourselves, the more we fail.
So what then, is His better way? It is the way of discipleship, of growing closer to Him.
We do this by learning His ways, listening to Him in prayer, and living each moment for Him. Even this does not guarantee an absence of trials, but it does guarantee that we face no trial without Him, and we will encounter nothing we cannot handle. This is an active, seeking path, a deliberate turning away of worldly things. We spend time in the Word, rather than turning on the TV; talk to Him more about our concerns, instead of talking to ourselves; seek comfort in His presence, rather than physical pleasure; memorize promises in the Word, rather than dream of what we cannot have. This is the path of joy, comfort, power, and the certainty of experiencing (not just studying about) life with an active, living Savior. This is the path that brings us true peace, allows us to bless others, makes us more like Him, and ultimately glorifies God. And we are glad for that, because we love Him above all else.
Remember, avoiding trials is not an option. If we try to live that way, then we end up experiencing life less abundantly. We may want everything easy and comfortable, and so strive for that. But that’s not His way. The question is: Do we really want to face our trials without Him?
So which path do you choose? How much of your focus is on the world, rather than on Him?