I'm not a big NBA fan...honestly, I really can't stand it. I think NBA basketball is five games of 1-on-1 basketball and there isn't really a lot of team effort on either side. I know some of you are gasping right now and are wondering if I've lost my salvation or my mind (or both). I know some of you think I'm crazy to talk bad about these high-priced, highly-efficient athletes in such a derogatory manner, and I'm okay with that.
Now that you know I'm not a fan, it might surprise you to know that I still manage to follow it. I suppose this allows me to keep my hatred alive. Yesterday, one player (Nikola Jokic, the league's Most Valuable Player) went to try to swat the ball from another player's hand and ended up hitting him in the face. He says it was accidental, the referee said it was intentional and he was ejected from the game because of it. His team went on to lose that game (and the series) and blamed it on this one play.
If I'm being honest, I have times in my life where I have done the same thing. There have been times where I fouled (wronged) people and someone else notices it. And if I'm being REAL honest, I have times where I am shocked by that. I can cry out that it was an accident and that I'm the one being wronged here - because I'm being falsely-accused. But Jesus never promised me that being in this world would bring me peace. In fact, He said the opposite. Read it for yourself and you'll get a better understanding of what He said:
"I have told you these things, so that IN ME you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
If anybody had a right to cry out that they were being wronged for something they didn't do, it was Jesus. He was about to die for the sins of the the world - even though He was sinless! He knew that in just a few hours, He would be arrested, unfairly-tried, wrongly-convicted, and then crucified. Instead of whining about it, He warned His followers that "these things" would happen and that they should find peace in Him. The world would never bring them that, only He would! So, Jesus spent His final hours preparing them for this hard truth. And if I read that from His perspective, He will give me some hard truths as well.
Don't be surprised by what you experience when you follow Jesus
Choosing to align yourself with Him doesn't guarantee you an easy life. He didn't have one, so why should we expect one?!? Jesus never sugar-coated things for His disciples, because He knew that they needed to know how to live in the real world...with peace that only comes from Him! When He told them these things, He was telling them about it so they would know how to handle it. How should we handle it when you are wrongly-accused or are forced to suffer for something we didn't do?!? This passage gives us the starting point for this - don't be caught off guard by this and don't be paralyzed by this. As a Christian, people will hate us because they hated Him first. And when this happens, we are getting to join in on His sufferings in that moment, and that can help us become more like Him.
Don't go anywhere else to get the help you need
I'm so glad that Jesus doesn't end the verse with the trouble part of the announcement. Instead, He goes on to tell them how He will help them during this time: "I have overcome the world!" Last night, I was at Celebrate Recovery and heard this verse and thought about how big this news was. Since He overcame "the world", that means that He overcame anything (!) in the world that can trip us up. Some people put their hope in lottery tickets, what they find at the bottom of the next bottle, or what crutches they can use to remain where they are. But when we go to Jesus, He has already done what needed to be done...so there is no longer any reason for us to go to someone else or somewhere else. We just need to go to Him!
As you pray this week, be praying for each other - that we will handle life in "this world" with His Peace! When we are wrongly-accused, trust Him to help the truth come to light. And when we are just plain wrong, pray that He will help us promptly admit that and confess that. Handling situations that way won't necessarily make the situation go away, but it should make a difference in how we handle that situation...and that should point people to Jesus because He helped us handle it!