“I do not ask You to take then=m out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
J.C. Ryle wrote:
We need not doubt that our Lord’s all-seeing eye detected in the hearts of His disciples an impatient desire to get away from this troubled world. Few in number and weak in strength, surrounded on every side by enemies and persecutors, they might well long to be released from the scene of conflict, and go home. Even David had said in a certain place, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove, then would I flee away and be at rest!” (Psalm 55:6). Seeing all this, our Lord has wisely placed on record this part of His prayer for the perpetual benefit of His Church. He has taught us a great lesson that He thinks it better for His people to remain in the world and be kept from its evil, than to be taken out of the world and removed from the presence of evil altogether.
Nor is it difficult on reflection to see the wisdom of our Lord’s mind about His people, in this as in everything else. Pleasant as it may be to flesh and blood to be snatched away from conflict and temptation, we may easily see that it would not be profitable. How could they do any good in the world, if taken away from it immediately after conversion? How could they be duly trained for heaven, and taught to value the blood and intercession and patience of their Redeemer, unless they purchased their experience by suffering? Questions like these admit of only one kind of answer. To abide here in this valley of tears, tried, tempted, assaulted, and yet kept from falling into sin, is the surest plan to promote the sanctification of Christians, and to glorify Christ. To go to heaven at once, in the day of conversion, would doubtless be an easy course, and would save us much trouble. But the easiest course is not always the path of duty. He that would win the crown must carry the cross, and show himself light in the midst of darkness, and salt in the midst of corruption. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12).
If we have any hope that we are Christ’s true disciples, let us be satisfied that Christ knows better than we do what is for our good. Let us leave “our times in His hand,” and be content to abide here patiently as long as He pleases, however hard our position, so long as He keeps us from evil.