In the church you will have tribulation


Well, that’s not exactly how Jesus said it. His actual words were:

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, ESV

But the problem is that those of us that are in the church have been pulled into the church out of the world and we carry some of the mess with us.

Perhaps it would be instructive to examine the word that is translated world. The Greek word is transliterated as Cosmos, which one lexicon defines as “the sum total of everything here and now, the (orderly) universe.” Another lexicon tells us, “When what is constructed consists of people, we find the sense of “human order,” e.g., of rowers, of an army, or of a city or state.”

So, we will have tribulation in the physical universe around us and the human forms of order or government in which we move and operate.

But the problem is that we (or perhaps it is only me) have the expectation that this same type of tribulation will not be experienced in the church. Intellectually, I know this is an unrealistic expectation, but yet, I am frustrated every time I actually experience tribulation in the church.

There is an old saying that if you find a perfect church, you should refuse to join it because you will spoil the perfection. That saying is an indication that we each bring baggage into the church and must acknowledge that God has much more work to do in each of us.

Two ideas come to mind in response to this.

First, I cannot let my frustration with the ways the church falls short keep me from seeing how God uses His Church to bring people into relationship with himself. To focus on the failures without seeing the good things gives a distorted and harmful view. And, focusing only on the failures is a means the Enemy uses to keep us scattered and divided.

Secondly, Jesus promises to overcome the failures. The fact that flawed humans (including me) make up the church and participate in leadership of the church does not prevent Jesus from accomplishing his purpose for the church.

I echo the words of Paul:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6, ESV

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