Week of Monday, February 1, 2021
Opening Prayer (from Occasional Prayers, BCP 2019)
Gracious and holy Father, please give me intellect to understand you, reason to discern you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, a spirit to know you, a heart to meditate upon you, ears to hear you, eyes to see you, a tongue to proclaim you, a way of life pleasing to you, patience to wait for you, and perseverance to look for you. Grant me a perfect end, your holy presence, a blessed resurrection, and life everlasting. Amen.
Bible Reading – John 16:29-33
29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (ESV)
Devotional – Inner Confidence
It sure feels like there are battles raging all around us. As Christians we feel the angst of the battle that is being fought for the moral integrity of our culture. If you are like me it can all seem rather exhausting. Within the big battle there are many smaller battles that are being waged all around us. There are so many battles to be fought and so many issues worth fighting for, that it is humanly impossible to take up arms for every single cause that warrants our best efforts. The best we can do is choose one or two that the Lord has put on our hearts and do the best we can to be faithful to His cause. Causes such as the sanctity of life, religious freedom, and human sexuality are all important battles, but the fight can be overwhelming and discouraging at times.
I think we can find some real encouragement in the words of Jesus from John 16. At the end of this passage, where Jesus is telling His disciples of the difficult road that awaits them after His death, He ends with these words, “take heart; I have overcome the world.” Why do you think Jesus ends the difficult news of the hardships they will face in His absence with these words? The reason is because these words hold the key to finding the strength to fight all the battles before us in this world.
First of all, notice that Jesus says, “take heart.” The literal translation is to “take courage.” This word that Jesus uses for courage refers to a bold inner confidence. It is the kind of confidence that lights a fire deep inside a person and compels them to move forward in life despite difficult circumstances. For the disciples, Jesus has told them that they will be scattered, they will run to their own homes, and they will abandon Him in His greatest moment of need. In other words, Jesus told them that in the face of the greatest battle of their lives they will all fail miserably. Yet Jesus, instead of criticizing them or chastising them for their failure, encourages them to be of good courage. Which begs the question, how? How can they be of good courage, when their world is falling apart around them, their hopes for a better future appear to have been dashed, and to top it all off they failed to fight back in the process?
The answer to that question lies in the final words Jesus offers them, “I have overcome the world.” To overcome means to conquer or prevail against in victory. In essence what Jesus is telling them is that the battle has already been won. We may think that all the battles we are fighting in our culture are matters of life and death, but the truth is that Jesus has already won the victory. Success or defeat is not our calling. Jesus defeated this world in His victorious death and resurrection. Jesus has defeated sin, death and the devil. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are already victorious. We have nothing to fear in this life. The kind of inner confidence that is needs to compel us to continue moving forward in the midst of so many battles, is the knowledge that Jesus has already won. In Jesus we have everything we need for life and godliness.
Friends we are called as followers of Jesus Christ to stand up for what is good and right. We are to fight against those cultural ideologies that stand in direct opposition to the word of our God. We are never promised that it will be easy. We will fail at times. We will be scattered at times. We will run home and hide our heads at times. Worst of all there are times when we will abandon our Savior’s cause. But take heart, Jesus has overcome the world. Keep fighting the good fight knowing that your victory has already been won by our Savior Jesus Christ.
Today let us make the words of this wonderful old hymn, “The Strife Is O’re” be our prayer for courage in the face of life’s many battles.
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun:
The pow’rs of death have done their worst;
But Christ their legions has dispersed;
Let shouts of holy joy outburst:
The three sad days are quickly sped;
He rises glorious from the dead;
All glory to our risen Head:
He closed the yawning gates of hell;
The bars from heav’n’s high portals fell;
Let hymns of praise His triumphs tell:
Lord, by the stripes which wounded You,
In us You’ve won the vict’ry too,
That we may live, and sing to You: