Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. John 3:36
John 3 offers such a contrast. On one hand we see a towering majestic love for mankind that offers eternal life to those who believe.
On the other hand, we see wrath and condemnation for those who do not believe. Men love darkness. Their deeds are evil.
It is a scary thing to think that the wrath of God remains, literally “abides,” for those who do not believe. It infers that the wrath of God is there to stay, and will continue to be there for all time.
And the same Greek word for remain is used in John 15: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you.” John goes on to illustrate what remaining in Christ looks like: “I am the vine and you are the branches.” We can be integrally connected to God, close to Him.
God offers us a chance to change our state forever, from being in the wrath, to being in His arms, enveloped in His love.
And we need this perspective. We need this comfort. This abiding is what will get us through when life gets hard.
In the book “Yawning at Tigers,” the author, Drew Dyck, talks about the late Romanian minister Richard Wurmbrand, who endured 14 years of torture and imprisonment under a communist regime. He said that it wasn’t Bible verses that helped him through this time. “When you pass through suffering you realize that it was never meant by God that Psalm 23 should strengthen you. It is the Lord who can strengthen you.”
Dyck also relates how Mama Maggie, an older woman who spent life giving to others in the mission field, dealt with her struggles: “In the fire you are either burned or become pure. God’s love is fire. It consumes or purifies. Everyone who carries the fragrance of eternity has to experience the dark valley of death.”
We WILL suffer, and it will change us, for good or ill. It can put us in closer contact with God. It can refine us. Or it can shipwreck our faith.
Note what happened after Jesus was tempted in the desert:
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. (Luke 4:14) Jesus found spiritual strength through his trials.
In the book “Triumphs of Experience,” George Vallant notes that men who scored highest on the measurements of “warm relationships” earned significantly more at their workplace. Men who had warm relationships with their mothers had a better sense of well being in life. Those who had positive childhood memories had a lifelong source of strength.
I believe that Jesus’ relationship with God helped sustain him in his trials. Having a warm relationship with our God, and a memory bank of all He has done for us, can sustain us as well.
We abide in Christ, and He abides in us.
Yesterday afternoon I was tired. I ran errands and the efforts seemed empty. I thought I would swing by the bookstore and try to pick up a copy of “One Thousand Gifts” as a belated Christmas present for my friend. I looked all over the Christian section and couldn’t find a copy. I left feeling more empty.
Then I remembered yesterday’s blog about redeeming the time. It was like the Spirit energized me, and prompted me to go back in the store and ask for help locating the book. I did, and the store clerk found one last copy sitting on the shelf!
Later, I looked at the chili I was cooking for dinner, and saw the layers of red tomatoes and chopped green peppers. It was made with grass fed Georgia beef I’d bought at half price that very day. It was a find! In fact I bought several packages of the meat on sale. I realized I had an abundance.
And then as I was with my friends, we prayed and thanked God for how blessed we all were to have such good friends to share our lives with.
God is continually blessing me. Through trials, or even the most normal of days, I have an unending source of strength.
It is up to me to believe, draw upon the strength, hold fast, be refined. It is up to me to abide.
In closing, here is one more verse that uses the Greek word for abide: “Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love…” I Cor 13:13
It is sobering to think that God’s wrath can remain. It is comforting to know what is good will last even more. Evil cannot defeat it. The gates of Hades cannot overcome it.
In abiding, I will be carried along on the current into eternity with God and His victorious good.