How to Overcome Inevitable Tribulation (Thurs. Feb. 16)

The word of the day is “overcome.”  At the Last Supper, on the night of His betrayal, the Lord Jesus assured His disciples of His victory over the world He would give Himself up to save.  He said, “These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  In our reading of 1 John 4:20-5:21, John echoes this reassurance: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith” (vs. 4).  In today’s study, we learn the source and nature of tribulations and how faith overcomes them.

Because the World Hates Us

Note the parallelism in Jesus’ promise of victory.  He teaches that you have tribulation “in the world,” but “in me” you have peace (John 16:33).   Surely, we do not have to define “tribulation.” We experience these burdens of the spirit frequently (Strong’s #2347, 116), but what is the source of these afflictions?  They are the trials of the soul that come from the evil one.  Satan hates all that is godly, true, and good, and he has infected the world with his animosity.  Tribulations come from circumstances, from the hostility of others, and from inner struggles. They not only afflict us but challenge us.

The Scriptures agree that tribulations are an inevitable part of the Christian life.  Accordingly, John writes that we should not be surprised if the world hates us (John 3:13).  After all, it hated our Savior first (John 15:18).  The Lord told his disciples, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world; therefore, the world hates you” (John 15:19).  Because of that hate, the devil and the world conspire to snatch faithful away from their life as children “born of” God.

Peace in Tribulation

Nevertheless, though we suffer the tribulations of spiritual warfare, the Lord promises us peace (John 16:33)–but peace only “in Him” (John 16:33).  The Lord said, “I have overcome the world,” at the very time that he was facing the dark hour of His Passion.  It was as if the conquest of death and the devil had already happened.  It was as if the victory had already been won.  And, indeed, it was during and not just after His Passion that the Lord did conquer.  As Judas left the supper to carry out his betrayal the Lord, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him” (John 16: 31).

Therefore, in Christ, we have the “peace” of His ultimate and final victory.  We have this confidence by faith.  The apostle puts it, “This is the victory that overcomes the world–our faith” (vs. 4).  This promise means that by Christ’s triumph, we have already overcome every tribulation, trial, conflict, or sorrow that we could ever face.  By faith, we participate in that victory.  As fans of a winning team share in the glory of that triumph with their cheers, hugs, and waving banners, so by faith, we already possess the victory of Christ.

For Reflection

In the book of Acts, we learn that Paul and Barnabas retraced their missionary journey.  They visited the cities where they had started churches, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).  They gave this encouragement of the faithful just after Paul was stoned and left for dead outside one of those cities.  God does not promise that we will never encounter tribulation nor escape it when it comes.  But He does promise to sustain and strengthen us in it.  In the midst of suffering and struggle, may we recall the Word of the apostle, “Who is he who overcomes the world, but He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (vs. 5:5) and that He has already triumphed over whatever assaults us?

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