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.
Just before Jesus is betrayed and handed over the be crucified, He prays His last prayer – for Himself, His disciples, and for all believers. It’s interesting to note in the verse above that right after He acknowledges that the world hates the disciples, He makes sure that God the Father doesn’t jump to any conclusions. He makes it clear that He’s not asking the Father to remove them from the world and thereby save them from going through the trouble of being hated. His request is simply that they be kept and protected from the evil one.
He could have certainly requested that the Father take them out of the world. But He didn’t. In fact, He made it clear that wasn’t what He was asking. Why?
Well, there are many reasons but the one that comes with a knee jerk is that there would be work for them to do. They were to continue their ministry and in so doing, glorify God the Father just as Jesus had glorified Him by doing His will and completing the work with which He had been tasked. In particular, Jesus had manifested God’s name, demonstrating the full reality of God’s attributes through His life (in both word and deed) here on this earth. Before ascending into Heaven Jesus commanded His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything they had been commanded. They had work to do. They had a purpose. They had a mission that could not be fulfilled if they were taken from the world at that time.
Perhaps another reason is that the trouble to be found by remaining in the world would be useful for the perfecting of the disciple’s faith. Perhaps it would provide the right conditions and context to magnify their testimony of the power and grace of the almighty God in Heaven.
As I think through this it certainly provides me with a different perspective and filter which I can apply to my own “troubles’ in this world. It encourages me to consider how my troubles might be useful in refining my faith, in reinforcing my dependence on the presence and power of the Spirit, and in providing a living testimony of God’s all-sufficient grace. And, as I encounter trouble in this world, I can take heart and remember that Jesus has overcome the world, He has conquered sin and death, and He has promised that no one can snatch the believer from the Father’s hand.
God is sovereign and there is nothing that happens that He does not allow to happen. The next time trouble comes your way, don’t just look for an escape. Look for how you might press into the Lord and glorify Him in the midst of it.