In John 16:1, Jesus said, “I have told you these things to keep you from stumbling.” A discussion about stumbling assumes the presence of obstacles. Jesus’ concluding words of this chapter tie together his concern over obstacles by reminding the disciples that they will suffer in this world but that they must be courageous for he has overcome the world (verse 33). Some like to say that obstacles can be steppingstones rather than stumbling blocks. In Jesus’ way of thinking, obstacles also provide occasions for courage.

Jesus assures Pilate in chapter 18 that he is a king. Though the disciples were unaware of this before the resurrection, Jesus words in chapter 16 warn them of the suffering at the hands of those who oppose his Kingdom. This is why he counsels them to be courageous. When Jesus offers the gift of peace in 14:27, they will soon understand that he is not offering them a world devoid of conflict but rather giving them a source of strength and assurance in order to withstand it.

Choose Courage

I recently heard an advertisement on the radio for a podcast offering prayers to provide comfort by inviting the Holy Spirit to join them in fellowship with God. Admittedly I’ve never heard the podcast and I don’t know what prayers are given, but if I understand Jesus’ words in John 16, courage and assurance, more than comfort, is what Jesus offers in times of difficulty. Direct conflict with the world requires courage as much as comfort.

At the time, the disciples failed to see the new opportunities presented through the Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing. New opportunities are usually accompanied by obstacles. In the Book of Revelation the Spirit warns each of the seven churches in Asia that in order for them to receive their reward they must overcome. They would need to see this new opportunity of being in the Kingdom as a steppingstone to fellowship with God, but it would require a spirit of courage to know how to proceed.

Opportunities for Courage

I don’t want to minimize that comfort is offered to distraught members of Christ’s Kingdom. Many become discouraged by the condition of the world around them. At the same time, the need for courage looks to me like an essential virtue for living a life of fellowship with God. The Kingdom of God has opened up an entirely new opportunity for followers of Christ, the opportunity not only to fellowship with God in this life but also to enjoy eternity with Him in the next. I believe that Jesus wants the disciples to seize the moment as stepping stones. It will take faith that Jesus has overcome the world as well as great courage on the part of all disciples.

Perhaps another way of framing why Jesus insists on the importance of courage is, “The only thing necessary for evil to exists is for good men to do nothing.” Opportunities to do good rather than evil, to follow truth rather than lies, to overcome the world rather than give in to it can be stepping stones if we are willing to be counted worthy of the Kingdom and its final consummation in eternity.

See Conversation on John 16 here.

© 2023 Robert T. Weber, Words Done Right LLC and The Lazarus Chronicles