The Gospel of John is my favorite of the four Gospel accounts. I think that is in part because it contains much of what Jesus said to the disciples before His crucifixion, warning them of what was to come, so that they would be prepared. His words of warning and preparation are equally important for anyone who desires to be His disciple today. After a laundry list of warnings, Jesus said: “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 (NIV).
In this world, we do have troubles. For My Tuesday Three, I want to highlight three ways in which Christians face troubles and persecution in this world.
The first post I want to showcase is titled Living in Fear in Cairo by Jim Travis over at BlessedDad’s Weblog. Jim is a wonderful writer with a heart for persecuted Christians around the world. He writes both fiction and personal accounts, and he always makes me think about whether I have become too complacent in my own freedom and safety. This particular post is based on facts he received from a fellow believer in Egypt regarding the recent burnings of Coptic Christian churches in that country. The mainstream media seldom picks up stories like this, and much of the church here in the West has failed to recognize the extreme persecution Christians face in countries where there is much less religious freedom. Jim writes:
This is Cairo, and it is a powder keg now, a pressure cooker just waiting to explode, and when it does it will be us who will pay. A Holocaust is coming if things continue to progress as they are. We know our God is faithful, we know we will have a home with Him when we move on, but as humans, we fear pain and torture like anyone. Our plight is not unlike being a wounded antelope in a herd of hungry lions, waiting to be devoured.
It is for the faithful such as these that Jesus’ comforting words that He has overcome the world must be their sustenance and their source of peace. In the West, we know very little of such persecution now, but our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world need our support and our faithfulness to share the truth of their plight. We can start by reading and sharing stories like the one Jim has posted.
But outright persecution is not the only trouble facing Christ’s church. The second post I want to showcase is titled MURDERER! by Cloudwatcher over at Meeting in the Clouds. I only just found this blog this week, but I already know it’s one I will return to often. This particular post starts with an analogy based on two insidious plants that strangle and kill their host plants, though they both start out quite innocent and small. Cloudwatcher then reveals the trouble, also seemingly innocent and small, that seeks to strangle and kill the individual Christian and, in the process, the whole church. What is this trouble? Compromise. I love her connection between the plant and compromise:
Just like that vine,
COMPROMISE WITH THE WORLD
will choke the spiritual life of the believer
who allows it to grow and send out its tendrils.
The host tree had no defence.
It could not fight back.
We are WITHOUT EXCUSE!
We do have a defense, and it is the Holy Spirit. Jesus has overcome compromise and has given us the power to overcome as well. Sometimes it seems easier, less troublesome, to just go with the flow and compromise on “just this one little thing, and it’ll be okay.” We try to avoid having others look down on us for our firm stand so that we will be accepted and not be persecuted. But the real trouble comes when the vine of compromise takes hold and chokes out the life of Christ.
Then there is a third area in which we face troubles and persecution. It is an area I am all too familiar with, and so I can so relate to this post titled Magic Eye mountain by Char over at Learning to be Still. This is the trouble and persecution that comes from within when depression consumes us. If you’ve never suffered from depression, I imagine it’s hard to understand. Char is a medical student and a fairly new Christian struggling to heal from depression. Her honesty and candor are both heartbreaking and encouraging. Of the troubles she faces she writes:
In some ways, the path ahead of me is like one of those Magic Eye paintings; at first glance, all I see is the trouble, and the challenges, and the fear of falling. All I see is the pattern that went before, of gaining a little ground, and then, oh so quickly, losing it, and falling even further back. All I see is a future stretch of never-ending depression, of never-ending torment, and the possability of unchanging, unstoppable strife is more than I can bear.
But then, I remember a section from the Bible, or have a thoughtful conversation with someone, or see something that reminds me that the world isn’t quite as bleak as I sometimes think it is, and I am pushed to look from a different angle, to refocus, and I see that behind and amongst that bleakest of patterns, that highest of mountains, is God, clear as crystal, hard as iron, and I can’t believe I didn’t see Him there before.
Yes, we will have troubles in this world. Christians face troubles from non-believers who persecute and hate us; we face troubles from the pressure to compromise with the world; and we face troubles from our own inner dialog that, in the case of one suffering from depression, can be the worst enemy of all. But in spite of all of these troubles, we take heart because Jesus has overcome the world and has given us the ultimate victory in all of these troubles. We have salvation through faith in the One who loves us enough to face the persecution and trouble of the cross so that we might live and overcome.
I hope you will check out these three great bloggers and the ways they encourage us to trust in Christ and to overcome the persecution and troubles of this world.