A Christian does not have peace in the world: he has peace in Christ. A Christian does not have peace in the world: he has trouble in the world.
Jerry Brown-Johnson took his young son, Jedidah, to a children’s hospital. When he got there, he was told Jedidah would have to be given an injection. Because it is often difficult to find a vein in children, the injection would have to be inserted through his head.
Jerry had to hold down Jedidah while a vein was provoked by slapping him repeatedly on the head. Then a needle was inserted. You can imagine how painful this must have been for a boy barely two years old. But Jerry was pleased for his son to go through the ordeal in order to prevent him from the greater agony of sickness and death.
The truth is that Jedidah needs to be taught to trust his “old man” in pain as well as in pleasure. Even though he might not understand why he had to be given the injection, the presence of Jerry while the pain was being inflicted on him should be sufficient as a source of reassurance.
Job said of God: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” (Job 13:15). He asked a telling question of his wife who wanted him to curse God when he fell into adversity: “Shall we receive only pleasant things from the hand of God and never anything unpleasant?” (Job 2:10). This shows Job’s commitment to God was on a solid foundation for better for worse.
To what exactly is the believer called? What kind of life can we expect in the world? Are we called to prosper in the world as many have led us to expect? The answer is an emphatic “No.” It is the ungodly who prosper in the world. (Psalm 73:12). As a matter of fact, the believer is called to suffer in the world. Peter says: “To this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21).
Peace (shalom) is another word for prosperity in Hebrew. For a Christian to have peace in the world is to negate the ministry of Christ. The bible pronounces woe on those who are at ease in Zion. (Amos 6:1). If we have peace in the world, then we have no need for Christ. A Christian does not have peace in the world: he has peace in Christ. A Christian does not have peace in the world: he has trouble in the world.
Bad times are inevitable in a world of sin and sickness. Therefore, Solomon counsels: “Enjoy prosperity whenever you can, and when hard times strike, realize that God gives one as well as the other- so that everyone will realize that nothing is certain in this life.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). Christianity does not promote expectations of worldly advantages, but of heavenly reward. Jesus says: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
There is a fundamental difference between gaining the world and overcoming it. The Christian faith is an instrument by which we overcome the world. John says: “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world- our faith. (1 John 5:4.)
When a man overcomes the world, he survives without those things the world esteems. When a woman overcomes the world, she sings even though she is barren. (Isaiah 54:1). She is unfazed, even though she is single. When a man overcomes the world, he is not ashamed to be born in lowly Nazareth. He is comfortable riding a donkey instead of a Cadillac.
The believer is called not only to suffer, but even to suffer unjustly. We are called to suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake. (Matthew 5:10). We are called to do good and suffer for it: “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake.” (Philippians 1:29).
The Holy Spirit is given to prepare and strengthen us for the journey ahead. He is given that we may be supernaturally empowered to bear all our trials without complaining. He is given that we may be patient and long-suffering in the crucible of life, and that we may face its inevitable ordeals joyfully. (Colossians 1:10-11). The promise is that, after we have suffered for a while, God will restore, establish and strengthen us. (1 Peter 5:10).
God has left the new creation as new wine in old bottles? This is because he wants us to work out our own salvation. (Philippians 2:12-13). He wants us to take the kingdom by force. (Matthew 11:12). He wants us to strive to enter the kingdom through the narrow gate. (Luke 13:23-24). He wants us to labour for the food which endures to eternal life. (John 6:27). He wants us to labour to enter into the rest of God. (Hebrews 4:11).
For this reason, Jesus warns us to count the cost before accepting his invitation to discipleship. If we are not prepared to pay the price, we should not even embark on the project. (Luke 14:28-30).
Losing to gain
A lady phoned me from the United States with a burning question. “Doctor,” she said, “since you committed your life to Christ, what have you gained?” I told her I had gained Christ but this was meaningless to her. She wanted to know what I had gained in the world.
She hit the nail on the head by asking the wrong question. I told her that her question came from lack of understanding of kingdom dynamics. In the world, you gain by gaining. But in the kingdom of God, you gain by losing. Her question should therefore have been: “Doctor, since you committed your life to Christ, what have you lost?” In order to know Christ, we have to lose so many things we have acquired in the world.
What are the Isaacs in our lives? What are those things that compete for the love of God in our lives? What are those things that compete with God for our attention and devotion? Is it our husband, wife or children? Is it our homes, jobs and possessions? Jesus requires that we give them all up for him. (Matthew 10:37-38). If we are not prepared to give them up we cannot expect to be heirs of God.
How do we recognise a true believer? Not by his church attendance record. Not from the number of scriptures he can quote. One of the ways we recognise a believer is by how he responds to affliction, to temptation and to difficulties. (2 Corinthians 6:4-10). Satan has a simple thesis: slap the Christian and his faith will be scattered. Kill his son and he will become an unbeliever. Break up his marriage and he will stop going to church.
However, true believers put on the whole armour of God and are able to stand against all the devices of the enemy. They do not put on the armour of Saul: they put on the whole armour of God. (Ephesians 6:11). “Take heed, do not turn to iniquity, for you have chosen this rather than affliction.” (Job 36:21).