It's been a troubling year, and as we go into the second half and as many churches approach a new season of children's ministry, the reality is that more trouble may come. But I want to give a word of encouragement and hope, a reason to take heart.
I am taking my cues from the Lord Jesus, whose final words for His disciples span chapters 14-16 in gospel of John. One clear message of this discourse is that trouble is coming.
“I am going away,” (14:28)“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming” (14:30).“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (15:13).“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (15:18).“I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (15:19).“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (15:20).“ They will put you out of the synagogues…” (16:2)“…the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (16:2).“A little while, and you will see me no longer…” (16:16)“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament,…You will be sorrowful,…” (16:20)“….you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone” (16:32).
Though these chapters are filled with promises and hope-giving truth, Jesus says enough in them to make the toughest fisherman nervous. Why does Jesus talk about the trouble when there were so many positive and hopeful things to say? Jesus gives us the reason in 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that…you may have peace.” Their response might logically have been, “Really Jesus? You are telling us you’re leaving, and we will be hated and persecuted, cast out of the synagogue, cut off each other, and left weeping and lamenting like a woman in childbirth. This is not making us feel peaceful!”
Notice, I omitted two crucial words from 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace” (emphasis added). We cannot expect our circumstances to give us peace. In fact, Jesus assures us in the next part of this verse that “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; [because in me you will have peace] I have overcome the world.”
Here are the two specific applications of Jesus’ teaching that help explain why the assurance of trouble can give us encouragement and hope for seasons of ministry.
Troubles are common, and no trouble for Jesus
We should not be surprised if trouble comes for us this year. I have been personally involved in 17 September launches. To be sure, the months that followed each launch brought precious fruit, many encouragements, great progress, and much joy in our labors. But never was there a year without troubles, disappointments, discouragements, problems, and difficulties of various kinds. Let us anticipate troubles this year, so that when we encounter them, our hearts are not troubled by them. Instead, let us “take heart” in Christ, and embrace the peace that comes from Him who has overcome the world.
If He has overcome the world to accomplish His purposes, then certainly He can overcome our troubles to accomplish His purposes for the sake of those we are serving in ministry.
Furthermore, few things give us more joy than when we witness such amazing grace in face of such amazing trouble.
Troubles will come for the next generations, we must equip them
As we approach children’s ministry, may we not lose sight of the fact that we are raising this generation for trouble. This adds to the urgency of our labors to teach and equip the next generation. We are preparing them to be hated and persecuted. We are preparing them to be isolated from their loved ones, cut off from their friends, and left weeping and lamenting like a woman in childbirth. We are devoting ourselves to laying a rock-solid foundation of truth beneath them, so that in Christ they will not be shaken when the troubles come. We give our children a God-centered orientation to a world of trouble, so that in the One who has overcome the world, their faith will not fail. We are preparing them in the hope that they will be found in Christ, at the last day, and inherit the eternal joys of a world where trouble will be no more.
Let us also keep in mind that there is probably no better way for the next generation to learn how to keep from being consumed by trouble than by watching this generation rest in the back of the boat with Christ while the storms of our lives rage around us.
Let us take heart! There are many good gifts set aside for us in this next year of ministry. Some are wrapped with great delights, and some are wrapped in great tribulations. But all good gifts are from our infinitely good, infinitely wise, and infinitely sovereign King who has overcome the world.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).