My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. (John 17:15)
Notice the promise from our Lord Jesus Christ in His great High Priestly Prayer to His Father in heaven: He is praying for our protection, not our departure. To be sure, there will be no sweeter passage in the life of the believer than the one that takes us from this world into glory. And we can be sure that this blessed event won’t be too long from today. But until that day, we are promised protection as we make our way toward the Celestial City, pilgrims making progress for our own good, the good of those God places on our path, and for the glory of God.
Last month I posted an article here, titled “The Grace of ‘No’ in Our Prayer Life,” which recalled Elijah, frightened and discouraged by Queen Jezebel’s murderous threats, crying out to God to take his life. I’m quite sure that many troubled believers have echoed Elijah, saying, “I have had enough, Lord, take my life” (1 Kings 19:4), hoping to be brought into the glories of heaven.
But if we think clearly about this, we will realize that we do this because we would rather run from our struggles than run toward our Savior. Yet it is in the struggle where the saints of God are sanctified! “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Hardships are God’s ordained highways that the faithful must travel in order to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. Difficulties are designed by God to deliver us, not defeat us. And as we travel those rocky roads, it is the unceasing prayer of our Lord and Savior that we will be protected from the evil one.
I want to be clear here: There is nothing wrong with having a desire to depart and be with our Lord, as long as our hope springs from the same sanctified spirit as the apostle Paul, who deeply desired to be with His Savior, which he said would be “better by far,” but who also recognized that it was “more necessary” for him to remain in the present life and finish the work that God had given him to do, no matter what hardships and struggles ensued (Philippians 1:21-26). However, if we simply desire to be delivered from our trials, it is nothing more than our sinful heart being exposed as it beats for the self, rather than the Savior.
When Jesus prayed that we would not be taken out of this world, He made it clear that each one of us has a mission in this world. Let us embrace that mission, knowing that we will be protected every step of the way, in storm winds and on bright sunny days. It is not up to us to decide when the time is right and when we have had enough. This is only for the One who knows everything and knows what is absolutely best for us and for His kingdom. Trust Him, Christian, even when you cannot trace Him; know that He is always with us, in us, and for us.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!