An overcomer or underachiever?
When I first became saved, I had read the words of Jesus, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). At the time I was unable to find comfort in such a statement. I had reasoned, how does his overcoming help me? Sure, it is easy for him to say ‘Be of good cheer’ since he had overcome the world. But I had not and cannot be of any such cheer until I also have overcome like he had. These were my thoughts so many years ago.
Jesus said ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation’. What did he mean ? What is the world? It is rather simple. The Greek word for world is ‘kosmos’ which means the order or arrangement of things. It is the method or state of affair in which everything around us operates. In the world is the methodology around us, the system in which everything functions
Furthermore, I think the commonly used phrase, ‘they are of the world’ has an altogether different meaning than how it is used today. Often, not always, it is intended to imply that the party in question is of the flesh, mindful of earthly things, living under the influence of the devil, etc. Yet if we held to the definition of the word ‘world’, we would find that most every business, religion and activity would fall under this category. They are of a particular method, order and arrangement of things, in accordance with their day. Such is the case when one finds that they are operating according to the methods of their day.
What is tribulation?
The Greek word used in this verse is “thlipsis” and has been translated as tribulation, persecution, trouble, affliction, anguish, and burden. It is also related to another word which has the meaning of narrow and crowding. There is yet another word offered by Strong’s concordance which probably makes more sense for our present-day vocabulary – PRESSURE. Whether on the job, at home or among family and friends, everyone at one time or another has experienced pressure.
Jesus said that in the world you will have pressure. He did not say that you would have peace but rather pressure. In other words, the world operates on this principle of pressure. Whether it is to perform at work or to conform with family and friends, it is all the same, it is the order and method in which the spirit of man functions. Yet, Jesus tells us to be of good cheer since he has overcome the whole method, order, or arrangement in how things operated in his day.
In fact, he also said, “I am not of this world.” He never manipulated others by using pressure, he never controlled others by subtle tactics and emotional powerplays. Nor was he ever influenced or moved by the very principle in which everything around him operated. He overcame and conquered such outside behaviors of others. Indeed, he was able to come above any pressure since he lived in another order, another sphere, another world!
Don’t be fooled by religion
Religion has done very well by using this principle of pressure. Rather than “blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”, they have become the pressure makers! They have devised all sorts of doctrines, from using the book of Revelation and its imagery and symbolic language to frighten people; to taking other scriptures out of context and applying events to another time and generation, giving no regard that it may have already been fulfilled. This is particularly true regarding the theory of the GREAT TRIBULATION. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21). Any bible teacher worth listening to would tell you that this was referring to the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by Titus.
In fact, the first century writings of Josephus have described that the Roman Empire had killed so many Jews, they were unable to lift their sword to the slaughter of another. Yet ironically, bible teachers would err by proceeding to explain to us that the remaining portion of prophesy was for another time and another people, namely our generation! Why has it become so difficult to believe the simple words of Jesus. “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matt. 24:34). Jesus said it would come to pass to ONE generation. He started and ended his discourse with one particular generation in mind, his own. Clearly, it does not pertain to our day, nor does it suggest a coming ‘great tribulation’. Such fables ought to be discarded from our very conversation.
Taking our rightful place
I have observed that many Christian circles seldom have answers for those among them who are having a difficult time in coping with pressure. They often present the Christian way as a trouble-free, lopsided impression of life. As if the famous musical song by Simba and his friends in the movie Lion King were an accurate representation of our conversion and new life. Remember the tune as he wanted to put his past behind them……”means no worries for the rest of your days, its our problem free philosophy, Hakuna Matata”. For those who saw this delightful film, Simba realized that he was to take his place in the great circle of life, accepting that he could not change his past. As he recognized that his father Mufasa was alive in him, it enabled him to defeat his oppressor before he could take his rightful place as king. And so it is with us as we take our place in the great kingdom of God and the sphere of his life, he enables us and teaches us through many trials and afflictions, through daily chastening if need be, yea… through periodic walks in darkness if required, to turn us back and take our rightful place as kings!