Take Courage in the Face of Tribulation

Jesus with His Disciples

Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 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 16:32-33).

On this occasion, Jesus was talking with His apostles shortly before His death. He warned them that they would be scattered, which would happen when He was arrested (Matthew 26:56). However, despite the fact that these men would leave Him, Jesus knew that the Father would not leave Him so that He was “not alone.

Jesus encouraged them with the fact that He had “overcome the world.” It is important to note that this was said prior to the crucifixion and resurrection. Yet these events were so certain, Jesus could speak of them as though they had already happened. They were still in the future, yet they were facts. He told them this to give them the courage to endure the trials they would face (cf. John 16:2).

The Lord’s disciples continue to face tribulation even today. Paul encouraged the brethren on his first preaching tour “to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22). We suffer in this life on account of persecution, sin, hardship, sickness, and more. Yet we can “take courage” just as the apostles were told to do.

So how can we “take courage” in the face of tribulation? Jesus made three points in our text – reasons why His disciples can take courage.

Jesus Overcame the World

Again, Jesus stated with certainty that He had “overcome the world” (John 16:33). How did Jesus do this? First, He did so by living a sinless life. He was “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). Jesus described Satan as “the ruler of the world,” yet said “he has nothing in Me” (John 14:30). Jesus never succumbed to any temptation put before Him. Second, Jesus overcame the world by being raised from the dead. In the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter said, “But God raised [Jesus] up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24). Jesus was “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4), proving that Satan and the world had no power over Him.

This world is filled with trouble, yet we can overcome through Christ. Paul wrote, “But in all things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Though we become “the slave of sin” when we commit sin, Jesus “makes [us] free,” so that we are “free indeed” (John 8:32-36). He has promised to “provide the way of escape” every time we are tempted (1 Corinthians 10:13) so that we are never forced to sin. He also frees us from the “fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15) by giving us hope of the resurrection. Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). Just as Jesus overcame the world, we can overcome the world; so take courage!

God Does Not Forsake His Own

Despite the fact that the apostles would desert the Lord, the Father was with Him. Jesus said earlier, “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:29). The Father did not leave Jesus because He always did the Father’s will. However, when Jesus was on the cross, it appeared as though the Father did leave Him. Jesus even cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Yet even then, the Father did not leave His Son! In that cry, Jesus was actually quoting the first verse of Psalm 22 – a psalm describing in detail the events of the crucifixion. The psalmist went on to explain that God was to be praised because He never forsook the suffering one: “I will tell of Your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel. For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard” (Psalm 22:22-24).

Through all of the hardships we endure, God is with us! The Hebrew writer reminded the Christians to whom he wrote of this fact: “He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6). Earlier in the same letter, the Hebrew writer reminded these brethren that “it is impossible for God to lie” so that they (and we) might “have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18). Just as the Father never forsook His Son, we can be assured that He will not forsake us; so take courage!

Tribulation Is Only of This World

Prior to coming to earth, Jesus shared in “glory” with the Father since “before the world was” (John 17:5). However, while on earth, Jesus faced hardships. On one occasion, He said He had “nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20). Besides what He endured in life, He had to suffer the cruel “death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). Yet He left us with an example. The Hebrew writer explained: “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). He went through all of this because it was worth it to get back to heaven with the Father – and bring us with Him as well.

We will face trouble in this life. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). There is no escaping this. However, we need to remember that the trouble we face is only in this life. Compared to our hope of heaven, anything we endure in this life is only “momentary, light affliction” and our hope of eternal life is “far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). We have the assurance that there will be no troubles in heaven: “And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Yet we must be faithful to the Lord to obtain this: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14, KJV). Whatever hardships we have to endure in this life will not be carried over into our home in heaven, so take courage!

Conclusion

There are troubles, trials, and tribulations in life; yet we have hope in Christ. So let us take courage! Christ has overcome the world; we can overcome through Him.


When you subscribe, you’ll also receive 3 free PDF’s: Plain Bible Teaching on Baptism, the latest issue of Plain Bible Teaching Quarterly Review, and Regular Christians.


Comments

  1. Wayne D. Teel says

    Andy, I appreciate the encouraging words you write to build us up in the faith. Words such as these do give us hope and remind us as Christians we are not alone. God has not forgotten us. He will be with us through all adversity. What a glorious thought!