I re-dedicated my life to Christ when I was 26 after a long hard fall away. As excited as I was to feel ALIVE, and even though I had my beautiful children to look after, I longed to be done with this hard place called 'life on Earth'. I couldn't understand why God wouldn't spare me from the brokenness. Surely, now that I had Jesus in my heart, I was ready to go... right? It didn't take long for God to deal with me on humble service and shining His light!
In the final hours before Jesus' arrest He takes time to leave His followers with words of hope and encouragement... and a powerful prayer, one I look to often when my strength in this broken world fails me. One part in particular speaks loudest in my heart:
But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
Jesus doesn't wait till heaven to encourage them, no, he speaks to them in the world and why? That they may have His joy fulfilled in them... right at that moment, not to be delayed. But Jesus' Joy isn't the only thing planted in the hearts of His followers, God's Word has been seeded as well. This implanted Word has set them apart, profoundly...
...and the world hated them because they are not of the world...
It is so easy to strive for the acceptance of those around us, but that isn't God's plan for the implanted word and Joy from Jesus... no... it is that we should STAND OUT, and they aren't alone: Jesus set the example as he walked and lived counter-cultural His entire life! Not once in Scripture do we see our Savior attempting to fit in, say the right thing, or be accepted. His eyes were on the Father, walking the path He laid, regardless of what the World wanted of Him.
Having walked in all the hard places, endured all the ridicule, spoken boldly for the truth and persecuted as a result... all the broken places.... He prays not that they should have early leave, but rather, that God would keep them from evil for as long as their time should continue here. He calls on God to sanctify them in Truth and then.... he sends them.
Easter is on approach, resurrection season is coming to a triumphant close... I should be celebrating. But week after week this year has brought trials and strife. Going Home looks so good in this moment but this is where I am to stay... not to sit and absorb like Zacchaeus the Tax Collector pre-dinner with Jesus... no, to shine and issue and give back like Zacchaeus the Redeemed post-dinner with Jesus.
Jesus didn't let the world get Him down: He didn't quiet His living, He lived OUT LOUD. Jesus didn't blend in, He STOOD OUT. And a few short days later, he didn't stay in the grave, He ROSE AGAIN.... for us. For redemption, yes, but also to blaze a trail we may follow so that the world may see and join our ranks.
To read more of Jesus' prayer for His followers in John, visit chapter 17. It is beautiful and powerful and I pray you may be encouraged as you walk through a troubled world. Yes, look to the cross this week, but also remember the empty grave and be strengthened: you can overcome the World because Jesus went before you. He doesn't want you to blend in... He calls you to STAND OUT.
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