Life is filled with uncertainties, dangers and threats. Any day could be our last. We never know exactly how it will end for any of us. Upon occasion, life conspires to remind us of our own mortality. Large scale tragedies, the sudden loss of a loved one, or even a global pandemic all work to make us aware that we could very well be next; tomorrow is not guaranteed.
In the face of such grim reality, the message of Christ, to each of His followers is, “do not worry.” Christ assures us, “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) And elsewhere, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 2:6-7; ESV)”
We need to be somewhat clear here on what Jesus was saying, as well as what He was not saying. Jesus was definitely saying that His followers should have peace within themselves and a lack of fear going forward through life. He was absolutely not suggesting that His followers would not suffer alongside everyone else. “In the world,” He promised, “you will have tribulation.” Tribulation means trouble, trials and hardships, even persecution. The sparrows that were sold for two pennies were not being sold to be set free in the wild. Some of them were purchased to be used as sacrifices. Others, we imagine, were destined for the cooking pot. They weren’t going to make it out of their situation alive. But Jesus’ point was that if God’s awareness extended even to such mean creatures in their trials, would God not much more be concerned for His children?
Faithful followers of Christ are going to have turmoil and hardships like everyone else. They are going to get sick like everyone else. They are going to have accidents and mishaps like everyone else. They are going to eventually die, just like everyone else in the world. But to the follower of Christ, these things are incidental. Because they are in Christ, it is going to be alright.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8:35; ESV)” These things may separate us from life, but they cannot take away our part in Christ. And if we are in Christ, “we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1; ESV).” Therefore, “we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. (2 Corinthians 5:6-9; ESV)
This was the understanding that allowed the apostles to go before kings and princes with good cheer, because no matter the outcome of their trial, they knew that they would be protected. This was the knowledge that allowed Christians to sing joyfully as they were marched to be burned alive, or tossed to lions, because they knew that even if the lions or the flames killed them, they would be safe. This is the faith that today allows the follower of Christ to submit cheerfully to surgery, knowing that no matter what happens on the operating table they are going to be alright. This is the truth that allows the followers of Christ today to bravely face any situation with love and optimism, no matter how dire, knowing that even though all the world might collapse around us, if we have Christ, it will work out in the end.
Contrarily… if you don’t have Christ… if you are not in a right relationship with the savior of men and the Son of God, there is no such comfort. Today may end as every other day has, with you still standing, but there will eventually come a day when no matter how many battles you have faced and won, or how many dangers you have avoided, you are going to lose that ultimate fight and then what will you do?
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10; ESV).” And, “There is no other name given under heaven by which men must be saved (Acts 4:12; ESV).”
If you would like to learn more about the salvation Christ offers, the church of Christ invites you to worship and study with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions or comments, we invite you to share them with us at chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.