In the days before Jesus is arrested and killed he spent time preparing the disciples for what was about to happen. They did not understand and had even become depressed at how things were working out for their Messiah (John 11:16). Jesus knew the big picture and he wanted to provide words that would encourage the disciples for the future tribulations they would face.
“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. John 16:1-4
In western culture there is an idea that God will bless his people with prosperity and long life. Christians proclaim Jeremiah 29:11 with regularity that God’s plans will not harm, but will give hope and future. There are gospel preachers that promise the best life now if one will follow God’s principles for life. In a culture that is free and prosperity is possible because of that freedom, it is true that following the wisdom of God’s economic and interpersonal guidelines as found in books like Proverbs can lead to prosperity and wealth. However, I want to pause here and challenge the reader with a very uncomfortable idea. What if God choose to put us into a culture where this kind of freedom was not available? What if the world was turned on end and following Christ shut one out of the business world? What if following Christ caused one to be relegated to the edges of society unable to participate in the center of that culture? This is what Jesus was preparing the Disciples to understand. To put this into the context that western contemporary culture might understand I can think of no one who crushes the idea that God’s plan is for each individual to have nothing but good times here on earth better than John Piper.
We get confused about God’s plans and assume he will provide a perfect life now and we get upset when that perfect life only seems to happen to others. God’s plans are his own and his plan is not all roses for anyone. God has provided a realistic picture of life throughout the Bible and none is more challenging than what Job had to say after news that his family and wealth had all been destroyed.
We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?” Not once through all this did Job sin. He said nothing against God. Job 2:10b (Message)
For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45b ESV
Prosperity in the here and now is not God’s goal for his followers and Jesus wanted to prepare his followers that this world would reject him and that eventually from following in his footsteps they also would be hated by the world. God’s plan is to be glorified so that His creation can be saved and that might take the form of tragedy for some people. So the question I ask myself as I sit in my cozy home in a free country that allows me to do as I please, would I follow Jesus if he made me unprosperous? Will I praise him when calamity strikes? Will I step forward to tell others about the good news of Jesus even if it might cost me my job or even my life? These ideas are hard to contemplate and I would like to think so, but I evaluate my life now and look for evidence that I could step out into persecution? Maybe not if I am uncomfortable talking to my neighbor or coworker about Jesus when at best they might just be annoyed with me. Could I take actual hate from the world right to my face? Is it a shock to think that God would be happy for me if the world hates me for serving him?
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15 ESV
Do not love the world. This is what Jesus wanted the disciples to know. Everything this world has to offer good or bad is temporary. Jesus kept his eye on the greater prize and this is the good news of the gospel that he left for us to communicate. The good news is eternal life with the Creator. Eternal life because of what Jesus did for us by dying in our place. My constant prayer to Jesus is that he would not let me forget the eternal perspective of my purpose here. I pray to seek him first when I am happy and I pray to seek him first when I am persecuted for His sake.