When Life Gives You Lemons: Living Victorious No Matter What

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I have often said that one of the most overlooked and under taught teachings of Jesus was when he told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble…”  Who knew?  Jesus, right there in plain text in John 16 makes this very definitive statement that life is going to give you lemons.

But this wasn’t just an isolated statement in this text.  This chapter starts with some very woeful thoughts in verses 1-4:

“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

Thanks a lot, Jesus!  Just imagine that your hero and leader tells you that the price of being a member of the this new covenant is being kicked out of the local fellowship of believers and even being pursued and killed.  Step back in time and put yourself in the shoes of these simple fisherman, loathed tax collector, and general band of losers and societal rejects.  And to top it off this cool guy who you have fallen into a deep bromance with (don’t read into that) tells you, “yeah, it is going to get worse for you now.”  I think Jesus may have missed his copy of Dale Carnegies’ How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Before he makes this great announcement of this life being filled with trouble Jesus makes sure that any hopes of an easy ride are thoroughly dashed.  He says in vs 33,”Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.”  “Yeah, that’s right.  You are going to completely run away from me and hide.” (My paraphrase, of course.)

If these were the only words that Jesus left with his disciples I have no doubt I would have went back to fishing and never looked back.  I mean, this message is like getting a paper cut and squeezing lemon juice into it.  It hurts and it hurts bad.

But that isn’t the real story here.  The complete story is a Kingdom story.  If we took out all of the truths mentioned above and simply left the rest of the story people would simply have an expectation that being a Christian means no more problems in this life.

This chapter is such a wonderful example of the Kingdom of God being in a Not but Not Yet reality.  Jesus doesn’t sugar coat the Not Yet of living this side of heaven.  Instead he is brutally honest with his disciples about their future and about their ongoing personal struggles that will often have seasons of doubt and unbelief.

Sandwiched in the middle between these disappointing words is a very powerful message of hope.  Jesus assures his disciples that his leaving them will be replaced by the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives.  And he assures them that this new replacement of physical human presence with the presence of the Holy Spirit will be better for them.

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

“All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he (the Holy Spirit) will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  So what does the Father have?  Perhaps a better questions is “What does the Father not have?”  Your heavenly Father is loaded!  (And I am not talking about just gold and silver just in case anyone with Prosperity Gospel leanings is reading this.)  Your heavenly Father is loaded with the power of the universe.  And he is loaded with the capability to supernaturally empower you to endure the Not Yet aspect of this side of heaven.

Wait, don’t misread or read into what I just wrote.  Don’t look at the word endure and get some kind of sick notion that God wills the troubles onto his children.  At its very core that is a sick notion.  To think that our heavenly Father has some kind of plan for us that includes the pain of cancer as his resource for working in his righteousness makes the Holy Spirit not only a weak God, but a sick person.  Which one of you would actually curse your children or loved one with a fatal and painful disease just to make them love you more?  Yeah, that feeling you just got in your gut when you thought of that means you get it.  So, don’t place that kind of sick mentality on Father God who, according to Jesus, is a better Father than any on earth.  (Just read Matthew 7:7-21 if you need some clarification.)

The enduring I am speaking of is this empowering of the Holy Spirit that helps you realize your identity in Christ Jesus as a rightful heir to the goodness of the Father.  And it it his goodness that will allow us to fight back with faithful resistance when this world system attacks the Kingdom of God, and specifically, each of us as individuals.

We will have unexpected tragedies, sicknesses, surprises and ultimately personal death to face.  These are the troubles that Jesus is speaking of here.  We are constantly being assaulted from the enemy on every side.  With each blow he tries to waiver our faith and get us to doubt the goodness of God.  However, Jesus’ promise of the empowering Holy Spirit inspires hope to each and everyone of us that in those times of troubles we can at some level be victorious.  This is why Jesus has a much more complete thought.  He says in vs 33,

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation (trouble). But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Take heart!  In other words, dig deep and put all your faith into this!  Jesus has overcome the world!!!  What this means for us as believers is we are equal participants in being victorious with Jesus.  We have not been left out to dry in this new faith.  No matter what the attack (even sickness, disease and death) we have a victorious leader who has sent us the power of the universe in the presence, person and power of the Holy Spirit!  When he enters the situation we become joint heirs with Jesus and can join him in saying, “I have overcome the world!”  No amount of lemons that come your way this side of heaven in the Not Yet reality should result in anything less than a good, fresh glass of lemonade.  No amount of sickness, disease, tragedy, loss, or even death itself can reign victorious over you!  You are an overcomer!  And it is in these times of trouble that we get to see the goodness of God rise to the occasion and go to battle on our behalf.

Proverbs 3:5-6 reads,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

 Invite the Holy Spirit into each and every situation you face.  Stop facing these alone.  And stop assuming the worse of your heavenly Father!  Realize his goodness and allow the Holy Spirit to come with all of his power and comfort in the midst of your trials and tribulations.  Allow the Now of the Kingdom to invade the Not Yet of your troubles.  Continually pray “your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” over every situation you face.  Don’t just take it laying down, but instead fight the good fight!  And always remember to pray with faith filled expectation…

Come, Holy Spirit!

 

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