“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.” (John 16:33)
Looking carefully at Jesus' words above, He makes a couple of promises. One is very comforting, for He has overcome the world! Yet there is another, integral to the first: He promises us trouble in this world.
So why am I surprised every time trouble intrudes into my ordered life?
As my long-time readers are aware, I commanded the United States Air Force Honor Guard from 2009 to 2011. It was, as my predecessor foretold, "the ride of my life," full of heady experiences and proud moments. It also featured the hardest span of my military career.
|"Please behave yourselves!"|
To this day I'm still not certain what made January-July 2011 so much different than the previous 18 months in command, which had been relatively quiet from a discipline standpoint. What I do know is that I felt mercilessly plundered of my self-esteem and my reputation--both of which I suddenly found I valued much more than I'd previously been aware. I was also made vividly aware of my own severe limitations. I could do many things as commander, but couldn't promise I could stop the madness. Every day there were about 250 young men and women barely out of high school, any one of whom might be plotting my demise (likely beginning with simple words like, "Hey, dude, I've got an awesome idea!").
It was just awful. Still, the one comfort I discovered was in embracing the loving discipline of my Father, who drove me back to my knees--on which I seem to spend precious little time when things are going smoothly.
Which brings me to this thought: Forgetting my moment-by-moment need for God and neglecting to spend time with Him almost necessitates trials in my life. God really must make my life messy in order that I might recall that I am weak and destitute without Him. After all this is what loving fathers do:
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,God's commitment to me is such that He guarantees trial. What good is an arrogant, worldly, successful servant? I truly ought to have expected this season, knowing that "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:4-11)
In this spirit, I must thank Persis for posting this gem from Kevin DeYoung this morning:
Too often our struggle with prayer is that we focus on the wrong things. We focus on praying better instead of focusing on knowing better the one to whom we pray. And we focus on our need of discipline rather than our need for God. So many of us want to pray more but our lives seem too disordered. But God wants us to see that our messy, chaotic lives can be an impetus to pray instead of an obstacle to prayer.
You don't need discipline nearly as much as you need a broken heart and faith. You don't need an ordered life to enable prayer; you need a messy life to drive you to prayer. You don't need to have everything together to pray. You need to know you're not together so you will pray. You don't need your life to be fixed before you pray. You need a broken heart. You need to realize "Tomorrow is another day that I need God. I need to know Him. I need forgiveness. I need help. I need protection. I need deliverance. I need patience. I need courage." And because of all these needs, you realize you need prayer. If you know you are needy and believe that God helps the needy, you will pray.This is why we are able to: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4) Because frankly, we need our our lives to get messy, and we need to be hearts broken once in a while.
My hope is not in avoiding trouble. My hope is in Him who has overcome the world.