Last words are often profoundly important! This is definitely the case with the very last words of Jesus to His disciples. Moments before Jesus was about to be arrested, tried and crucified, He spoke words that still ring loud and clear for all disciples of Jesus. He said to them, “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). This one statement includes promises that may cause our hearts to tremble, but at the same time should cause us to rise up with a persevering hope!
Tribulation is Certain
Expectations are important. If Christians are to persevere to the very end, we must know what we are getting into when we sign up. Unlike what the prosperity gospel teaches, Jesus assures all of us that we will experience tribulation. The prosperity gospel teaches that if we have enough faith we will escape trouble and live luxuriously in this life. The true Gospel is quite the opposite. Scripture is clear that those who follow Christ and desire to live a godly life in this world will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). Jesus promised that His disciples would be hated in this world (Jn 15:18-25). In his epistle Peter promised Christians that they would suffer but must entrust their souls to a faithful God (1 Peter 4:19). Tribulation is inevitable.
Not without Hope
But we are not left in this world without hope. Jesus tells His followers to “take heart.” This is not an empty pep talk from someone who doesn’t understand. But rather, Jesus being the Son of God gives us reason to have hope. Our hope doesn’t reside in what we can do, but rather what Jesus has already done! Moments away from going to the cross, Jesus told His disciples that He had “overcome the world.” He didn’t say that He was going to overcome the world in the future. Rather Jesus spoke with a past tense verb implying that this overcoming was already complete. Jesus was anticipating His powerful work on the cross and the defeat of sin, death, Satan, and the world by resurrecting from the dead. By rising from the dead, Jesus proved victorious over the grave (1 Cor 15:55-57). He destroyed the work of the devil (1 Jn 3:8). His resurrection proved victory over the world and the system of the world.
United with Christ
Since we have put our trust in Christ, we are united in Christ’s victory. “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 Jn 5:4-5). Christ always leads us in triumphal procession (2 Cor 2:14). By believing in Christ, we become overcomers. Sin, Satan and this world no longer have a hold on us. While we will die physically, we will be resurrected and live forever with Christ (Jn 11:25-26). We also will reign with Christ in the world to come when Jesus comes to set up His new throne on the earth (Rev 20:4-6).
Since we have been united with Christ in victory how shall we live? The Apostle Paul commands us, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58). Since we have victory in Christ we must live differently.
We must be steadfast & immovable: Steadfast means literally to be seated implying that we are settled and firmly situated. We must not be moved away from the truth of the Gospel by the onslaught of diverse teaching in a pagan culture. We must remain firm in the Lord and the Word of God and not waver. In other words, we must be immovable and not easily swayed.
We must be abounding in the work of the Lord: We must also continue in the work of the Lord. This means that we must be bold and confident in sharing the Gospel and the contents of Scripture. We must edify one another. We must fight the good fight of faith, obeying all of God’s commands. We must abound and exceed in these things. Life is so short and we must not waste our lives on trivial things.
We must know that our labor is not in vain: We must labor with our lives freely in service to the Lord. He knows our work and our work on this earth is never useless. It may appear that no one notices, but Jesus knows and sees. Our prayers, edification of others, evangelistic efforts, and service are never wasted.