My head is spinning. This morning, my father went to be with Jesus. I am a bit numb. Two days ago, a life-long college friend died from the Covid-19 virus. Yesterday, an early-in-my-ministry mentor passed away. Add to that the fact Covid-19 is causing fear and anxiety just about everywhere. My head is cloudy right now. And so I reached back a few minutes ago to find and read these words I penned two years ago. . .
“Come and follow Jesus. . . and everything will fall into place.” Count me in as someone who has heard, believed, and sought after that reality over the course of my life. In many respects these words are true when understood in the context of what we wait for with eager expectation. But I came to expect this to be the case in an immediate sense that would be realized in a trouble-free life.
Today, my head and my experience tell me that the life of discipleship is not easy. . . nor, was it promised to be easy. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Still, I sometimes find myself living functionally with the expectation that the “victorious Christian life” should be one free of pain, heartache, and difficulty.
Our kids are growing up in a world where the cultural narrative pushes the expectation and pursuit of pleasure and the total avoidance of pain and difficulty. But what’s realistic is what Jesus said in John 16:33.
Are you familiar with Charles Spurgeon’s insightful answer to the question, “What is the reason for our troubles?” Spurgeon said there are four reasons that we find in Scripture.
First, God uses the furnace of affliction to refine us. “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10). This is the upward reason for our troubles.
Second, as followers of Christ we are enemies of Satan. . . and he assaults us. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8). This is the downward reason for our troubles.
Third, because we are strangers and aliens in this world we will face the trials that come with living life on this broken earth. “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). This is the outward reason for our troubles.
And fourth, we battle our own broken and sinful hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). This is the inward source of our troubles.
Spurgeon reminds us that while we must recognize and reckon with these realities, we can’t throw up our hands in despair. The good news is that God promises to be with us and to deliver us. “When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15).
The cultural narrative is pointing us and our kids into false expectations and beliefs that will influence our desires and behaviors in the wrong direction. Thanks be to God for his Word. Take heart! He has overcome the world! Let’s learn it, embrace it, live it, and teach it!