Why I'm not Surprised and Why You shouldn’t be Either
I don’t want to be one of those prophets who shouts, “Peace, peace!” when there is no peace, but I wonder at how many Christians have become unglued because times are uncertain.
“I notice that the Bible gives a decidedly unromantic picture of life on earth. God doesn’t censor the soul-raw moments of His best men (and women). He refuses to airbrush fear, despair, failure, and discouragement. I wonder if He included these spiritually X-rated parts to deflower my distorted picture of what it means to walk with Him.” (Jean Fleming, Pursue the Intentional Life, italics mine)
I’ve been reading what people are saying on their social feeds about the election. I have been reading their words realizing there are motivations behind the words.
I see a lot of despair, some discouragement, and a whole load of fear.
The words from one of the Apostle Peter’s letters came to mind as I considered the pleas for right thinking and the shame talk running through the feeds and comment threads, many of them directed to Christians by Christians.
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
(1 Peter 4:12-18)
It’s interesting that in the Gospels Peter is portrayed as the one who wanted things to be a certain way (under God) and seemed intent on going down fighting when circumstances were contrary to his expectation. He wasn’t into hearing anything about Jesus dying. He didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet. He cut off the soldier’s ear when they came to arrest Jesus in the garden. Then he lurked around feeling sorry for himself and denying his association with Jesus when things turned grim.
It’s a wonder that Peter didn’t jump ship altogether. There was something in him that believed there would be a reversal of fortunes and he was going to be the first in line when things turned toward his point of view. Peter had hope.
I think all of us have been like Peter at one time or another in our walk of faith.
The reversal of fortunes happened, of course, but it looked nothing like Peter had envisioned the few years before when the disciple laid down his fishing nets and followed after the unorthodox rabbi, who in his mind, was going to set things straight for the nation of Israel.
I wonder exactly when it was that Peter decided to live by faith?
Was it a morning after the resurrection when Peter and his buddies had fished in the dark and caught nothing? Was it after the sun rose on their discouragement when Jesus filled their nets?
Was it after the breakfast Jesus’ cooked for the fishermen when he pulled him aside and asked Peter if he loved him---three times? Was that the day Peter let go of his need for a painless path through life?
Jesus told Peter the truth-- that things were going to be difficult:
“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." (John 21:18)
I picture the scene as emotionally charged. I imagine Peter’s mouth falling open with Jesus’ forthright declaration about the future of his disciple. The reality hangs in the air for a pregnant pause, and then Jesus says, “Follow me.” (v. 19)
If you read the account in John 21, you will see that Peter doesn’t accept his lot without protest. He turns around and points at John and says, “What about him?” (v. 21)
Peter seems so familiar.
By the time he writes the words in what the Bible numbers his first epistle, he has grown up in his faith. He has matured. He’s no longer overtaken by circumstances.
Instead of being surprised by the “fiery trials,” Peter has these admonitions:
- rejoice that you are sharing in Christ’s suffering (that’s a big turn-around since his night of denials)
- consider insults as blessings (but don’t bring them on because you are a meddler)
- praise God for suffering when it is because you bear the name of Christ
- remember God’s judgment doesn’t begin with the pagan but with those who are in the household of God
- have compassion for those living without Christ (and remember they are reading your comments too)
And then this, the last verse in 1 Peter 4:
“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (v. 19)
It doesn’t say be right.
Peter had come a long way since that day on the dusty road when he answered Jesus’ revelation of His death and resurrection with these words,
"Never, Lord!" ... "This shall never happen to you!" (Matthew 16:22)
It is time to let go of fear and grab hold of faith, to look up rather than around.The mission has not changed. The News is still good and we should live in light of it.
These are days of opportunity to grow up in Christ, to let the truth of the Bible speak into our lives and give us hope. He is the anchor for our soul in troubled times.