Today’s Reading: John 15:18-16:4; Psalm 59 & 61
When our daughter Brooke was in junior high, she tried every sport she could sign up for. By doing this, she introduced our family to the world of track meets. We knew swim meets, basketball & softball games, Bible quizzing invitations, as well as volleyball tournaments, but track meets were a new experience for us. At the end of both seasons, we bravely walked into a crowd of junior high students and their families at the IESA State Track Meet. Wow! What an experience!
As a slid down a grassy hill to my seat (literally), I joined a crowd of thousands of people cheering on the athletes. I watched as these young people lined up for their event and I felt nervous for them. Months of preparation and lots of hard work had brought them to this big moment. Every time a runner finished their race or stood on the podium to receive their medal, I felt the significance of the moment. Every time there was a false start or a pole vaulter missed their jump or a runner fell just inches from the finish line, I felt their disappointment and pain.
There were several moments when I felt like I was at the Summer Olympics, which was great because I love watching the Olympics. I look forward to them. I love to hear the stories of the athletes and then watch as their journey of hard work and dedication becomes the reality of a medal around their neck. I especially love the moment when an athlete throws their arms in the arm, looks to the sky and has a moment of praising the God who has been with them on their journey. Athlete after athlete have stood at a microphone and given glory to Jesus for what their body and mind were able to accomplish. Several athletes have been seen “Tebowing” as they fall to one knee and bow their head in thanksgiving to God.
In that moment, the world is cheering them on but we also know the reality that the cheering will soon cease. The patience with those who use their Olympic platform to glorify God runs out and many criticize the athlete, looking for holes in their faith – hoping for the moment when this follower of Christ will mess up. They will pull their support of the athlete, just as millions pulled their support of Chick-fil-A when its owner stood for the Christian values on which his business is built, and just as many pulled their support of Hobby Lobby when they stood for the right to life for the unborn.
Jesus spoke of how this world would treat his followers and how the ruler of this world would be an enemy seeking to destroy them. He mentioned this in his prayer for his disciples and spoke of it often when preparing them for what the world would do to him. Let’s look at the words recorded by John:
“I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father.” (John 14:30-31a)
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? “A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me…Anyone who hates me also hates my Father.” (John 15:18-21, 23-24)
“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the Father or me. Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning.” (John 16:1-4a)
“The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go the Father, and you will see me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.” (John 16:9-11)
Jesus’ final prayer: “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by our truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:13-21)
In that moment, Jesus was praying for us! He has called us to bring the message of God’s love to the world around regardless of how they respond to that message. There will be times when our message is rejected or times when we are treated unfairly because of our faith but it is okay because we do not belong to this world. Our eternal rewards will far outweigh any Olympic medal or earthly praise and position we could attain here on earth. So let’s stand tall on the podium of life, giving God the glory in every situation. Whether we are receiving applause or criticism, congratulations or rejection, let’s stand tall for the One who prayed for us before he died for us.
Do not be surprised, my brother, if the world hates you (1 John 3:13).
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12-13).