A few years ago, I saw a blackberry seedling pushing up through the leaf pile in the far corner of the yard, dropped there by a traveling bird. With visions of ripe berries a short walk from my back door, I allowed it to grow. I didn’t know then what I know now: there’s no stopping its spread.
Thankfully, I can at least keep the underground shoots at bay. But I stand here, getting ready to mow this morning, admiring the persistent growth, wondering what I have unleashed in my yard.
And I’m thinking about Jesus. In Revelation 3:21, he states that he has overcome. In fact, that word is used ten times just that book alone. In John 16:33, he says:
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
He said this in advance of his crucifixion. Before he was brutally murdered for crimes he did not commit. Before he was sacrificed for sins that were not his own. Before he was cut down by the wrath of God for our behalf.
He said this, trusting in his Father’s power to resurrect him, defeat death, and redeem his people.
I feel a bit mowed down myself right now. People dear to me are struggling with significant health issues. And my freelance work has ground to a halt – a temporary setback, I’m sure, but it brings to the forefront the questions I’ve had for some time about God’s will for skills he has given me.
But challenges to health and livelihood are a part of what Jesus meant by the trouble we have in the world. We are to take heart! Because he is the Prevailer. The emphasis in “I have overcome the world” is the pronoun: “Take heart: I have overcome.”
Like my bush, Jesus wants to produce fruit. (Hopefully better than my pathetic berries.) Even in the midst of trouble, we are to “take heart.” Other translations have “be of good cheer” or “be courageous.” Overcoming is not simply outlasting. It is thriving. It is producing Christlikeness even while we struggle.
Courage and cheerfulness in the face of adversity are powerful testimonies to a world that doesn’t know the Overcomer.
So, for sake of my yard, I’ll mow these sprouts under. I’m certain that when I cut the grass in a week or so, they’ll be up again.
For the first time, I’ll take comfort in that.
Jesus, we can be strong in our present troubles because you are the Overcomer. No matter what cuts us down, you bring new shoots of growth. Nothing can stop you!
Reader: How do you maintain your “good cheer” when you are faced by troubles? Got any tips for me?