A small stream runs past my apartment building. A few hundred yards away, it flows into a pipe before going under a street. Unfortunately, that pipe is too narrow. Whenever we get abundant rain, the water overflows and gushes out into the road, sometimes making it impassable. It’s even flooded the basements of nearby buildings. So far, no one has done anything to rectify the situation.
I’m sure you’d agree with me that doing nothing while hoping it won’t rain again isn’t a wise course of action. Thunderstorms and abundant precipitation are to be expected in northern Europe. But don’t we sometimes behave in a similar way when it comes to spiritual matters?
Jesus repeatedly encouraged his followers to be ready for the inevitable storms of life. For example, in the garden of Gethsemane, right before his arrest, he urged his disciples to pray not to fall into temptation. They responded as most of us probably would – by falling asleep. Is it any wonder that they all scattered in fear or that Peter denied knowing Christ?
A few hours earlier, while they were eating the Passover meal, Jesus spent a lot of time trying to prepare his disciples for what was to come (I say “try” because they didn’t grasp his message until after the resurrection). During his discourse, he shared essential truths to help us be ready for any adversity that comes our way.
Jesus couldn’t have put it any more bluntly: “In this world you will have trouble.” (1) As long as we’re on this planet dominated by the devil, we’re going to face storms of all kinds and shouldn’t be surprised when they strike. But fortunately, Jesus gives us two reasons why the situation isn’t hopeless.
First of all, we learn how to be ready. There are things we can do to mitigate the damage. We don’t have to stand by and helplessly watch the storm destroy our lives. What do we need to do? Jesus promises peace to those who are “in him.” He’s the key – we can’t prepare our defenses without him. With his help, we can have peace even during the most violent gale.
So what does this “in him” mean? It describes a close relationship where we have given him access to our lives, and he actively leads and guides us. Therefore, any action that strengthens our bond with him also prepares us for hardships and trials. Different things will work for different people. Some can spend hours reading the Bible and prayings. For others, watching devotionals on YouTube or listening to sermons is helpful. Regardless of the means, it’s crucial to have a relationship with him and invest in it. Only then will we be ready for the storm.
Secondly, Jesus encourages us to never give up. “Take heart,” he says, “because I’ve overcome the world.” Not only does he help us prepare for trials, but he’s the ultimate authority in the universe. He’s defeated Satan. His victory may not be evident yet, but the day will come when he’ll reclaim his crown. We must remember that we don’t see the whole picture, and the end of the story – his complete triumph – is yet to come.
In closing, let’s go back to that stream by my apartment building. During an unusually powerful storm, it overflowed and flooded the lowest level of our basement. It wasn’t by a lot, but any amount is too much. We are now in the process of figuring out how to make sure it never happens again. We have to be ready for the next deluge. Let’s have that same attitude when it comes to our spiritual lives.
(1) John 16:33