I have been writing these devotions in one form or another for 9 years now and there are some days when it is easier than others. Today is one of those days when I must force my body into submission. It is as Jesus said, "The Spirit is willing but the body is weak". I fully understand what Paul meant when he said that he had to take authority over his body, whipping it into obedience. Sometimes I think we forget how hard it can be to swim against the desire of our body. The easiest thing to do is stay in bed for an extra hour, to ignore our running shoes, to eat that extra helping, to watch TV instead of read that book, and many other such things. As Paul said, "everything is possible, but not everything is beneficial". So here I am, forcing my body into submission.
Yesterday we considered Peter's confession of faith. He declared what perhaps the disciples had been discussing, that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. I don't know if you have noticed yet in your walk with Christ but every declaration you make provokes opposition. We declare that we are setting everything aside to serve only Jesus and suddenly it feels like we are in quick sand. How about when a congregation starts making spiritual breakthroughs, people are being saved, healing comes in, people start rising up with new strength? Then someone's mother dies, someone else receives terrible financial news, another person is facing pressures at work, the pastor gets sick and the church roof begins to leak. I am not saying the enemy causes all of this but he certainly uses it to bring in discouragement so that our focus on what the Spirit is doing is shifted to our own needs.
Peter made a huge declaration of faith and the enemy was quickly upon him. After his declaration Jesus spent the next few days laying out the Father's plan. Now that the disciples had realized who Jesus was he felt comfortable in revealing to them the whole plan. When we have spiritual breakthroughs, when we begin to acknowledge what God is doing around us, he begins to give us fuller revelation. The problem is we don't always like what we see. We are still young and still gaining wisdom in how God sees things. Often these things go against our flesh and we begin to refuse the plan, thinking something has gone wrong. This is what started happening with Peter. He had fixed in his mind that things were now going to go in a certain way. He was seeing the plan according to his own fleshly desires, shaped by his understanding of the world. Remember, he did not yet have the Spirit. He rebuked Jesus for this plan:
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22)
Can you imagine the nerve it would take to rebuke the Son of the living God? Don't laugh too loud; we've done it too. Have you ever been in prayer when you started telling God what to do? "God, bless this family." "God, heal this man." "God, pay these bills." Have we sought for understanding? Have we even asked God what his plan is in this matter or are we assuming according to our limited perspective? How many times have you prayed in opposition to what our Father was doing? Would any of us have understood and accepted what Jesus was saying if we had been in Peter's place? Of course not. It is this limited understanding that the enemy feeds on. He uses our limited perspective to discourage us about our circumstances. He introduces fear because of the unknown. He distracts us from what God is doing by getting us fixed on our own needs and problems. It is an easy trap to fall into because, although we tell Jesus we love him and trust him, most of us have not matured in that love and trust. We are like the soil with the rocks beneath the surface; we do not let the seed take a deep root so that when trouble comes our faith and trust evaporate. The enemy loves to play on this.
So understanding this, we should be able to understand that Jesus was not harsh in his response to Peter. He was not speaking to Peter as much as he was rebuking the enemy for attacking the faith of one so young in it:
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:23)
There is the point for this morning my fellow sojourners; do we have in mind the concerns of God or merely our human concerns?Too often spiritual victory and celebration has been robbed from us because of mere human concerns; worship leaders who become offended, pastors who become jealous, church treasures who become discouraged, prayer warriors who become fearful. In our own families, mothers and fathers become despondent because of wondering children. Instead of continuing on faithfully in our service we begin to turn to other sources for help; books, counselors, medications, whatever we can to try to find the solutions. Mere human concerns.
How many times do we need to read the Bible before we come to understand that victory comes when there is a battle. God gives us seasons of peace but he also gives us seasons of war. The greatest generation of Israelite's were those that emerged from the 40 years in the desert. Mighty warriors, people of obedience, a nation that had come to trust their God in the harsh conditions of life. If our Father leads us into such seasons understand it is for our development, growth, and strengthening. The enemy will try to use it to discourage us and he will succeed if we are not determined to trust our Father. We need to cast off mere human concern and begin to live according to the concerns of God. Realizing this may be one of the greatest victories in your life.