Friday, February 18, 2011

Peter: What Will You Do If It Happens To You?

We do not know what tomorrow will bring. It may bring sunshine, it may bring rain, it may never come at all. We don't give it much though, assuming that we will have a tomorrow and it will look like today, but it doesn't take much to change everything forever. It could be as minor as a misspoken word or as major as disease or as unchangeable as death but tomorrow can end up becoming a whole different world for us. We really don't think it is going to change, that no disaster will ever touch us, that we will never lose anything or anyone, that we will always stay the same. We just don't get how something could change us that much.

This is how I see the disciple Peter as he stood beside his teacher, Jesus. He imagined things remaining just like this or even improving as Jesus came into his full authority and became king of Israel. They had gone through a few rough patches, the Pharisees were a real pain in the neck and some of the things Jesus had said recently seemed strange and had caused a few people to turn off, however, over all, everything was good. I sure feel for him as he heard these words flow out from Jesus:

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” (Matthew 26:34) 

Impossible! That would have been the word screaming through Peter's thoughts. Impossible. What a shock this must have been to him. Although he got confused from time to time about what Jesus said he certainly knew how he felt and what he thought about him. He would never abandon Jesus. He would never deny him. He would stand with him even to the point of death. Yes, he would die for Jesus, he was certain of it and so we have his response to Jesus:

“Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Matthew 26:35)

Oh Peter, as my wife says, never say never. He thought he was so much more than what he was at that moment. He thought he was stronger and wiser than his heart showed to Jesus. He did not understand how weak his faith was because he had yet to be tested. Peter was fiercely independent and he would soon discover how dangerous over confidence could be. Jesus knew because Jesus knew his heart. He saw the weaknesses but he also knew what Peter would become, he saw his potential, if Peter could make it through the next few dark days. Understand that Peter was not Judas; he had allowed his heart to be changed by the life giving words Jesus had spoken. Although his world was about to be flipped upside down, there was enough faith in Peter that when the evidence would present itself, he would believe.

We live with this same danger of spiritual over confidence when our faith has never really been tested. Those of you who have had to live through some life shattering moments can understand Peter's attitude and experience. Today we sit in a place of confidence and trust because it is a fairly easy thing to do, but what about tomorrow when everything changes? What about when 'up' becomes 'down' and 'down' 'up'? What about when our world comes crashing down around our ears like it did with Job? What if you woke up tomorrow paralysed from an accident? What if you end up in jail? What if your family was ripped away from you?

We could do the "what if's" for the rest of the day and all we would achieve is a greater level of anxiety. We can't plan our tomorrows because we don't know what they will hold. We can't say we will or won't have enough faith any more then Peter could say he would not deny Jesus. We don't know what our strength will be and what we will do until such a moment arises but we can make sure we have the best relationship we can with Jesus today. We can make sure we are serving him strong today. We can make the most of every opportunity we are given today. Live as if it is your last day, smile more, hug more, tell your children that you love them more, share more grace, more forgiveness, more mercy. Do not say that you can do that tomorrow because the muscles you exercise today may be the strength you need for tomorrow.

When it comes right down to it, I don't worry about what I will do tomorrow because I know what Jesus will do. My strength is not found in me and I know that I have weaknesses that may cause me to fail just like Peter did. No, my strength is found in Jesus Christ and I lean heavily on his love and forgiveness. I do not plan on falling, failing or denying but I know that if I do, he will be right there to pick me up again. My strength, my salvation is not found in what I do, it is not even found in my faithfulness; it is found in my relationship with Jesus. I trust in his unfailing love, that when I fail his love for me will produce forgiveness as I turn to him. This is where my security is found, in his love, not in my faithfulness.

So, if my world gets turned upside down I plan on holding onto Jesus with both hands firmly grasping his. But if I should slip, if I should fall, if I should fail him or even deny him, my real confidence is not that I grip him but that he grips me. I do not know what tomorrow will bring but I do know who will bring tomorrow. My strength is not found in my wisdom, faithfulness or love as it was not found in the horse or sword for the kings of the past. My strength is found in the fact that Jesus will never let me go.

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