Deliverance or Strength?
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
John 17:13-18 (NIV)
Jesus knows that in order for God to redeem the world there must be a clash of kingdoms. His greater concern is not that his followers will face persecution for his sake, but rather that in the midst of it they will become vulnerable to the evil one. He prays for our strength rather than our deliverance. For his followers to be taken away at such a critical juncture would not only be counter to God's loving purpose, but also keep us from the opportunity to grow into His likeness. There can be good for us and for those around us when we stay in the pain and discomfort of adversity. It is a certainty that the enemy of our souls will exploit the moment to turn us by degrees away from our purpose and ultimately away from God.
Are you in a place that has caused you to doubt God's word to you? Jesus indicates that the greater danger is not the one that presents itself overtly. It is not our "light and momentary troubles" (2 Corinthians 4:17) that are the real danger. It is the hidden danger of doubt that slithers under the door, finding refuge in a dark corner of our thoughts, waiting to prey upon our fears and insecurity. Where is God's power more evident? Is it in the lack of hardship? Or is it in wholehearted courage in the face of adversity? We cannot see our suffering in the light of eternity, but God can. He knows that our lives are but a vapor. That even in such moments we can know his presence, feel his pleasure, and find contentment outside of our circumstances. That we can be near to him independent of the actions of others.
Am I praying for deliverance when I should be praying for strength?
God, my heart longs for love and acceptance. It pervades my interactions with the world around me. Fill me to overflowing with your love for me. Give me discernment to know the difference between my own pride and faithful resolve. Teach me to stand firm in your words and not my own. Keep me from distraction that leads to doubt. From doubt that leads to discouragement. From discouragement that leads to death. Let me know your joy independent of my own comfort.