Five Incredible Words

In John 16:33, just hours before his crucifixion, Jesus tells his bewildered apostles, "In this world, you will have tribulation. But take courage, for I have overcome the world." As I consider the kinds of tribulations this world swarms with, like a petri dish full of deadly bacteria, I find those few words of Jesus, "I have overcome the world," utterly mind blowing. They are either one of the most arrogant and self-deceived statements ever made, or they are the declaration that a miracle of cosmic proportions has occurred: that a way has been made through everything this present world could ever throw at Jesus—and at us who belong to him. For 1 John tells us that in him, we share in his victory: "Everyone who is born of God overcomes the world (1 John 5:4)." That victory cost Jesus his all, so we can expect that we too will have to fight for it. But it is guaranteed to those who persevere.

So much to say on this topic, and I don't wish to minimize the reality of the struggle in a way that turns a stunning promise into glib, pie-in-the-sky theology. It is no pie in the sky; the promise is as real as every tear you've ever cried and every spear that has pierced your heart, and far more powerful, and lasting. There is wholeness beyond the pain; there is glory beyond the battle; there is redemption—yes, and transformation—beyond the tribulation.

Be of good courage—for all that the world is, and all that is in the world, he has overcome. And so, therefore, shall you and I.