“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
~ 1 Peter 5:8-9
As I read these two verses, what I hear old Peter saying is this: “Don’t be naive, brother. Don’t be gullible, Sister.” Don’t think your faith will somehow exempt you from trials and temptations and invoking the name of Jesus is a sure-fire devil repellant. Dealing with difficulties is a road all will travel at one point or another in life. Perhaps this is why the apostle writes in the preceding chapter:
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.”
~ 1 Peter 4:12 NLT
There are so many difficulties out there making your navigating life a difficulty in and of itself: Sickness and disease, pain and loss, addictions, bad habits, obsessions, compulsive behaviors, mental anguish, anxieties and much much more. In our faith journey, every believer will face opposition, count on it. There will always be something or someone rising up to challenge your resolve, to hinder your spiritual growth and cause you to sometimes miss the mark. But let’s not make the mistake of assessing our spiritual progress, or worth to God based on performance. You will never be more righteous, more redeemed, or more valued by God than you were on the very first day you believed. Or perhaps better said: You cannot be any more or any less saved tomorrow than you are now. “How is that possible,” you ask:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
~ Romans 8:1
Regardless of how difficult the struggle you at any time may be going through or how defiant the stronghold in your life appears to be, continue to resist the temptation to give in or give up. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” James 5:7 tells us. Believe me, if it were not possible, it would not have been written.
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“For now we see in a mirror dimly. . .”
—1 Corinthians 13:12
Sometimes looking back makes things clearer, but not always. Having gone through times of difficulty and struggle. It is helpful to (in review) see that big and obvious moment of breakthrough when Jesus stepped into your storm to say, “Peace, be still.” It makes the next difficulty not look so much like the tightrope stretched over Niagara Falls we thought the previous issue was and gives us the confidence to move forward in faith.
But there are times when in hindsight we reflect to see that defining moment when the curtain rolls back, and God comes on stage to part the seas of our perilous moment, but it isn’t quite so dramatic. There comes a calm, but we don’t see how he makes it happen, we don’t see him. Be assured of this, however, see or not see, God is there else you wouldn’t be here.
In business, a rate of growth that is too fast is dangerous often leading to loss and failure. A slower intentionally paced growth rate will allow a new company to adapt to changes in the economy and other unseen events and is much more likely to experience success and prosperity. The same can be true of believers in the spiritual sense.
God understands our eagerness to know but sometimes sees it best to pull in the reins revealing a little at a time rather than everything at once. Better it is to go wobbling across the floor of life in baby steps glancing back to know only that Jesus is there. It is enough.
Here I go just thinkin’ again but I am truly concerned knowing each week a huge number of people will swallow (hook, line, and sinker) a well-prepared sermon devoid of any spiritually meaningful nourishment leaving that place of worship anemic. Walk with me, please.
To me, one of the most frightening aspects of church life today (one that scares the socks off of me) is the feel-good religious experience that is quickly replacing sound biblical preaching and teaching in many of America’s pulpits and some of the largest churches in the world. To this concern theological ethics professor at Duke University, Stanley Hauerwas, writes:
“The greatest enemy of Christianity is not atheism, but sentimentality.”
I find I must agree with Dr. Hauerwas.
Looking then to scripture, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 reads:
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
Sometimes bringing scripture into perspective for the modern reader requires a little touch-up. Here, I would make but one small change so that the verb tense causes the verse to read, “has come” rather than, “is coming.” Truly the time to which Paul referred is here and now, “has come.”
People in the religious community today want to feel good about who they are in spite of clear biblical teaching that may disagree with their self-assessments and certainly with their personal preferences. They look to align with a church and hear a message that will cause them to leave the building on Sunday morning feeling good about themselves, all footloose and fancy-free. They certainly don’t want to pass through the exit doors heavy-hearted, having just heard a message convicting of sin and knowing the next step may be to make things right with someone they have wronged or a change in lifestyle that they might look more like a follower of Jesus than of the world. No, no, no. People want to hear everything is okay, life is grand and the road ahead is pothole free. We want to hear about the benefits of being a Jesus follower, the entitlements that go along with the Christian life, not things like surrender, self-sacrifice and certainly not suffering.
But a church where the pastor’s messages fail to deliver the whole counsel of God, (including the not so pretty, sin is bad, and hell is real stuff also found in the bible) is a dangerous place for your family to spend Sunday’s. Jesus did not die to get a person’s name placed on the Who’s Who list, but to have it written down in the Lambs Book of Life. In my opinion, your best life now is not the one you will find at Barnes & Noble but the one you will see in a life committed to knowing God and fully surrendered to his plans and purposes whatever that might mean and however that might look. To without question whole-heartedly say as did Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me!”
Rant over – for now.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
— Ephesians 5:25
My younger brother was at the Revere Beach Sandcastle Building Festival and Competition in Boston a few months back, admiring the incredible craftsmanship of the artisans whose work was on public display. The pictures he took were stunning. Mind-boggling, actually.
One work was of a fairy-tale like castle, reminiscent of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, complete with well-known storybook characters like Sleeping Beauty, Humpty Dumpty and the Cat in the Hat. Nothing at all ambiguous about the sculptor’s work either. The details were given such meticulous attention, every component of the sculpture was vividly clear and easily identifiable. You didn’t have to look twice to recognize that an oval figure seated atop the castle wall was Humpty Dumpty.
A successful marriage requires attention to details as much as prize-winning sandcastles do. I pray the love I have for my wife to be so clear that no one would have to take a second look to recognize it. However, that will happen only as I model the same honest, self-sacrificing love Christ has for his bride, the Church. Not just a “till death do we part” kind of love. But a love that is willing to part with one’s own life for the sake of his wife, as did Christ for the Church.
That is the standard Jesus set that marriage might always be rock solid, rather than on the rocks.
To be a husband is a responsibility.