Not of this world, but in it

The large tent on the church grounds of the congregation of Malaika, Tanzania held over 2,500 worshippers on 10 August 2018. In the divine service he conducted there that day, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider spoke about the evil in the world and the power to resist it.

The verses comprising what is known as Jesus’ intercessory prayer are recorded in the gospel of John. In this prayer, Jesus turns to His Father in heaven to pray for His followers and for the congregations that will yet come into being. One of His petitions is the following: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17: 15). It was on this verse that the Church leader’s sermon was based.

Avoiding evil

He began by asking, “What sort of evil confronts us today?” His answers to this question are surprising.

  • Although we human beings must look after our own needs, we must not do so with the help of the evil one: “Let us not resort to sin in order to acquire the things we need.”
  • Although we are exposed to suffering and death, they are not to affect our relationship with God—let us not distance ourselves from God in disappointment.
  • Although we are indeed free to pursue material success, our material well-being must never entice us to forget God.
  • Although we love our family, it should never become more important to us than Jesus: “Family ties must never call into question our vow of faithfulness to Christ!”
  • Although we are persecuted, let us nevertheless remain with the Lord.

The good news about this: “Those who cultivate their relationship with God in this manner will have the Lord on their side,” assured the Chief Apostle. After all, God hears the prayers of believers. He strengthens and protects them from the evil one—this is a firm commitment of faith.

Requesting the aid of God

How does this work? Following are some answers from the Chief Apostle.

  • God Himself defines the limits of our trials, and makes ure that they never become too difficult.
  • God teaches us the truth, and thus at the same time equips us with the ability to expose the lies of the evil one.
  • God loves us and has poured out His love into us. We seek fellowship with Jesus, and serve Him. We deny the devil.
  • Through the Holy Spirit, God reminds us of our calling—our mission is to profess Christ in this world and to proclaim His message.
  • God does not abandon us. He sends us His servants to continually edify us and integrate us into the fellowship of the believers.

Jesus’ prayer is also to be our prayer!

“We suffer from sickness, death, and injustice, but we remain faithful. We have families and friends, but they are not to be more important to us than Jesus. We have success in our lives, but we do not forget our heavenly Father in the process. We are persecuted and led into temptation by the devil, but we ask God for help such that these temptations never become too difficult for us. He grants us truth, which we can use in order to expose the lies of the evil one. He imparts His love to us, with which we follow Him: not out of obedience, but out of love. He has given us a task and sends us His servants to support us.” It was with these few sentences that the Chief Apostle summarised his sermon. And he gave the congregation one more piece of advice: “Let us pray like Jesus, ‘Father, we do not ask that You should take us out of this world, but that You should keep us from the evil one.’ This plea will be granted!”

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Peter Johanning
Divine service, Tanzania, Chief Apostle