Hello Church Devotion Aug.23, 2013



T is for Tribulation

 
 

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. 33 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 16:32-33
 
Jesus, in His high priestly prayer as captured in the Gospel of John addresses the dread of “tribulation”.  In the world, Jesus says, we will have tribulation. 
 
A cursory look at the definition of “tribulation” illustrates that this is not something we look forward to living through: 
 
Tribulation:  a cause of great trouble or suffering; distress or misery; wretchedness or unhappiness; sadness or heartache; woe or grief; sorrow or anguish; agony, etc.
 
Whew!  Tribulation is definitely not something in which we want to participate.  Yet, if we look closely at the text, we can see that Jesus does not state that we will be spared with being touched by tribulation, but rather, Jesus says we will encounter tribulation, but that He has overcome the world. 
 
Jesus, as He goes toward the cross of Calvary, sees His closest followers desert Him; Peter denies Him; Judas betrays Him; others scatter and run away…  Yet, when Jesus gets to the crucifixion, we hear Him cry out: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Jesus is utterly alone. He has become as sin for us.   Even the holy Father, has departed to a distance.  That is, as far as one part of the Trinity can get from the other persons. 
 
Tribulation certainly chased Jesus throughout the days and years of His earthly ministry.  His hometown acquaintances tried to kill Him, but He escaped.  The devil sought to tempt Jesus away from His mission, but Jesus overcame Him.  The religious establishment including the high priest became opposed to Jesus, and eventually orchestrated His capture and sentencing. 
 
What would make us think, that somehow we would escape tribulation?  The apostles certainly didn’t “live long and prosper” as they proclaimed Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The Church grew as God called and gathered people through His powerful Word.  But, the earthly leaders were targeted and taken out.  Yet, God persevered in protecting and increasing the believers through the persecutions and tribulations.  We were told by Jesus, to “take up our crosses and follow Him”.  Those crosses in some ways could be construed as our own unique encounters with tribulation. 
 


Tribulation, besides being a word to describe our ongoing struggles against the corrupt world, can also point us to the final tribulation… the last day.  When all the struggles culminate and spiral out of control until God steps in and makes an end and a new beginning.  As Lutherans, we follow an “A-Millenial” view of the end times.  We believe that the reign of Christ as mentioned in holy Scripture as being 1,000 years, is symbolic of a long time.  A-Millenial then means for us, not a million, but rather a large length of time. 
 
Basically our view is that on the Cross, Jesus conquered sin, death, and the devil.  At Jesus’ ascension, the devil and his minions were barred from entrance into the presence of God.  When Jesus returns to earth, immediately preceding it will be a time of great peril and tribulation.  That period will be cut short by God on behalf of the elect who continue to hold fast to the promise.  At that time, Jesus returns.  The earth is cleansed.  The dead raised.  The saints raised to new life.  The unbelievers to eternal punishment.  Satan and His minions will be cast into the fire of torment.  And God will bring Himself and the New Jerusalem down from heaven.  He will dwell in the midst of His people and there will be no more despair or tears; no temptations or tribulations; only divine love and love for neighbor. 
 

I am reminded of the C.S. Lewis book “The Last Battle”, where the beloved land and world of Narnia is ended and the door is closed.  Yet, the story does not end there.  It continues in the beauty of the Jesus’ character’s presence in Aslan.  Jesus reminds us that He has overcome the world. 

His restitution paid on the cross has once-for-all made things right with God.  He has overcome the world.  We see and witness this overcoming in the resurrection from the dead and the life everlasting. 
 
Trouble and tribulation are always on hand in this current world.  Errors abound as does pain and suffering.  Yet, we are not dismayed.  We have a Lord who indeed has overcome the world.  We have a Savior, who has beaten back the enemy and soundly defeated him.  Yes, we do encounter suffering and tribulation during our lives in this world, but we have a certain hope that does not disappoint us.  We have the certain promise of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins.  O, what a Savior.  O, what a Lord!
 
From Martin Luther:  In times of trials, we should learn to judge, not by our feeling but by the Word of God.  This Word promises us that every trial is only the eventide upon which the morning of comfort follows.  But our flesh does the opposite and disregarding the Word, directs its attention only to the present feeling of affliction and judges by that feeling.  Therefore it cannot conceive of the end of the trial in its hearts. 
 
Also from Martin Luther:  One Christian who has been tried is worth a hundred who have not been tried, for the blessing of God grows in trials. He who has experienced them can teach, comfort and advise many in bodily and spiritual matters. 
 
Prayer:  Lord, deliver me from evil; cast out the darkness within my own heart.  Help me Lord, to dwell on Your holy Word, Your promises, and Your fine decrees.  Let those things occupy my time and the space of my life rather than the perishable things of this life.  Lord, forgive me of my sins and help me to not serve myself, but rather serve my neighbor and indeed all of creation with my actions and my strength.  For at the end, tribulations will be finished and You will be my light and my salvation always!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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