by Ricki Pepin© – 10/13/16
As we gain knowledge and understanding of our nation’s Biblical founding, particularly as it relates to law and government, we simultaneously become aware of America’s catastrophic fall from those principles. How should a Christian respond to this? Is it “too late” to restore the foundations? Is it possible for anyone to really impact positive change or is the system too far gone?
We need to look to the Bible and Jesus for the answers to these critically important questions as well as examples to follow. In John 16:33 Jesus is speaking to His disciples just before He is to be taken away to His death. He knows He is about to die. His disciples do not. He knows this is the last message He can give them before their whole world shatters and their faith will undergo its greatest challenge as He dies and leaves them. His words needed to be very powerful. What did he tell them?
I told you these things so that you can have peace in me. In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world.” John 16:33 [emphasis mine]
I told you these things…What things? Jesus just finished telling them about His impending death, though they did not understand what He meant. (John 13:21-35) He told Peter he would deny even knowing Him [Jesus] in a very short time. (John 13:36-38) He told them not to worry though, because He was sending help, and emphasized how important it was to stay connected to Him. (John 14:1 – 15:17) He warned them of the hate they would face in the world and the profound sadness they were about to experience. (John 15:18 – 16:32).
In the midst of all this (mostly) very bad news, he said a remarkably ironic thing in John 16:1 – “I have told you these things to keep you from giving up.” This is a tremendous parallel to where we find ourselves as Christians today: Bad news all around us, and the more we learn, the more we are tempted to give up. But Jesus said the very reason truth is revealed to you is to keep you from giving up.
In this world you will have trouble[tribulation]…Jesus made this a very straightforward statement. While you live on planet earth you are going to have tribulation – pressure, affliction and anguish (the definition of “tribulation”). This does not mean you cannot have peace in this world, however. We just need to clearly understand the source of our peace: …you can have peace in me [Jesus]. He followed this statement with the reason why – an absolutely incredible proclamation:
I have defeated [overcome] the world. What did He mean by this? How did He overcome/defeat the world? What did that look like? And the most important question: What are the implications and applications for us today? The word “overcome” means to subdue, conquer, prevail, get the victory, but it also includes the means of success. The “means” is an instrument, the medium through which something is done. What “success” are we looking to achieve, and what “means” will we use to get there?
Christians understand that Jesus “overcame the world” through his death and resurrection, a victory with both spiritual and physical consequences. But once again, what does this really mean? His death and resurrection did not bring world peace. It didn’t even bring peace to his corner of the world. During His lifetime Jesus walked in constant tribulation with government and religious officials, many of them even trying to kill Him. What did He do about it? What “means” did He use to overcome this?
He faithfully performed His purpose on earth – teaching and preaching the TRUTH of the Kingdom of God. Did He see results? Yes and no. There were many miraculous healings, and many, many people followed Him, but very few became his actual, loyal disciples. Yet, He maintained His peace and stayed the course in spite of the results He saw. This is how He overcame the world. This was the source of His peace. It was not results oriented. It was obedience oriented, centering on completing His God-given purpose on this earth.
What about us? What is our purpose on this earth? How are we to “succeed”? We can find a vivid example of this pattern in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Time and space will not permit a detailed examination of this parable, and I hope each reader will undertake the task of reading and meditating on this passage personally to glean more. But here is an overview:
Before a master left on an extended trip, he told each of his servants to take care of his things while he was gone. He gave one servant five bags of gold, another two bags of gold, and a third servant one bag of gold. The first two servants went right to work, USING the treasure their master had given them, and both doubled the amount of gold given to them. The third servant was afraid and buried the bag of gold, waiting in fear until his master returned. Upon his return, what was the master’s reaction?
He praised the first two servants, calling them “good and faithful,” and gave them even more treasure and responsibility to oversee. And their reward was an invitation to share his “joy.” Defining these words in Strong’s Concordance and Webster’s 1828 Dictionary deepens the understanding of this outcome:
Being “good and faithful” is to be valuable, virtuous and trustworthy. Virtuous means practicing moral duties. Entering the “joy of the Lord” is to experience cheerfulness, calm, and delight. Delight gives great pleasure, more permanent than joy, and is not dependent on our circumstances. This is “overcoming” the world – not being depressed or giving up hope, but actually finding joy in the midst of the tribulation. This is “success” according to Jesus. He is not results-oriented. He is obedience and faithful oriented. And this obedience and faithfulness leads to peace and joy in Him!
On the other hand, the servant who fearfully buried his bag of gold was scolded by the master. The gold he had was taken from him and given to the others who were good and faithful. His master called this servant “wicked and lazy” and threw him out into the darkness instead of inviting him to share his (the master’s) joy. Defining these words also deepens the understanding of this outcome:
Being “wicked” in this passage means hurtful or evil in effect and influence. It does NOT mean wicked or evil in one’s essential character, but rather a dereliction of duty! (as compared to virtuous which means practicing moral duties!) Being “lazy” or “slothful” is irksome, inactive or indolent. Indolent is habitually idle or indisposed to labor; indulging in ease. The outcome for this “wicked and lazy” servant was to be cast into outer darkness where he would experience pain and suffering. (Compared to sharing the master’s joy!)
The application for us today is clear: The greatest treasure Christ has given us is Himself. He says He is the way, the TRUTH and the life. (John 14:6) Truth is the “means” to success. As we learn the TRUTH of the right way of doing things (in our personal lives, society and government) it is our moral duty to USE it. How do we do that? Apply it in every situation and teach it to your children, grandchildren and anyone else who will listen (Facebook postings, school board or local government meetings, sharing Constitutional principles with your elected reps, etc). Will it bring about the desired change? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. Just like Jesus experienced in His life. The “victory,” the “overcoming the world” occurs when you are good and faithful, practicing your moral duty to apply, speak and teach truth. Success is obedience. Obedience is multiplying the message. This is your purpose for every day of your life.
Founding Father John Quincy Adams understood this when he said: “Duty is ours. Results are God’s.” I pray we are all able to learn and apply this: to find our “personal peace” in Him, to set an example for the world, giving the world the blueprint for peace, and finding our “personal peace” even when the “world peace” does not manifest. This is where the joy of the Lord resides.
Blessings and peace to all.