International (EFCA) – [Editor’s Note: Shane Stacey has been involved in student ministry for 19 years. He currently serves as the Evangelical Free Church Mission’s national director of ReachStudents.]
“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” (John 16:33).
Jesus does not mince words. He does not shrink back from the reality of hardship. It’s not something to escape, but rather an expectation. Life–even with Christ–will not always be a bowl of cherries. At times, it will be a soup of suffering.
Injustice. Suffering. War. Terrorism. Racial divisions. Persecution. We can expect it all in the “now but not yet” kingdom of God. And Jesus is well aware that suffering and trials can stir up fear, anger, discouragement, despair and grief.
Jesus is not content with these things. He is not settling. He is not saying “it is what it is.” No, Jesus encourages us by directing our attention to both a current and future reality. He says take heart or more accurately “be of good courage/cheer.”
Why do we take courage? We find courage, comfort, and hope in the fact that Jesus has overcome the world. The troubles that surround us and the all-too-often “eye for an eye” solutions are not the main problem (Matt. 5:38). The core problem is in the very heart of man. We have a sin issue not a skin color issue.
Jesus has conquered sin and death. While God’s kingdom has not come in full, He is making a renewed people (1 Peter 2:9-10) consisting of every language, tribe, and nation (Rev. 7:9) for Himself and through which to display His justice, mercy, love, selflessness, and beauty. We take heart and rise up in courage with our confidence in the power of the gospel to transform, heal, and cleanse the human heart and bring wisdom and a better way to complex, volatile issues.
Stories of hope
The stories often missed are stories of transformation, hope, and restoration. They take place silently all around us. Because I spend much of my time with young people, and those who work with them, many of the stories I hear that cause me to “take heart” are attached to the lives of the emerging generation.
One story is about teens from Fargo, North Dakota, who started a ministry called Freedom Moves. While attending the Challenge Conference in 2014, these young ladies participated in Love Moves: Berlin—a 20,000 sq/ft experience that introduced teens to what God is doing through ReachGlobal staff and ministry partners in Berlin. One of the ministry partners focuses on rescuing women from sex trafficking and providing emotional, relational, spiritual, and physical healing and renewal.
The North Dakota teens were deeply moved and wanted to find a way they could get involved in combating this injustice. They returned home and began meeting and praying together. They quickly learned that because of the oil boom in their state, sex trafficking had increased and grown among the “man camps” of the Dakota oil fields. The young women started Freedom Moves to raise awareness and money to help women in their community.
While the media often focuses on stories of hatred, murder, political unrest, and division, plenty of stories exist of everyday people changed by the Christ and bringing expressions of His Kingdom into dark places. See more Take Heart stories here.
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).