Often we speak extreme words of affection without much thought, but what if God took you up on them? Many of us have stated that even if we lost everything we would continue to follow Jesus; even if the whole world turned against us and hated us we would follow Jesus; even on pain of death we will go all the way with Jesus. We feel that we have what it takes to go the distance. But what if God took you at your word and allowed you to be stripped of everything; family, friends, job and even your freedom? Would you have what it takes to go the distance, to stay faithful to Jesus?
Don't answer too quickly. First take a good look at your children, who we often take for granted. Look your wonderful spouse in the eyes. Take a good look at all the blessings you are surrounded by. Would you remain faithful if they were all torn out of your grasp?
It is an unfair question because we really don't know until such moments are upon us and thankfully not many have to face such situations. Normal living can be stressful enough. But it does happen to some. It happened to Peter, even if it was short lived. In the blink of an eye Peter lost everything. All his friends had scattered. His purpose for living was arrested and taken from him. He was left with nothing but the clothes on his back so he did what many of us would do, he tried to hold on to what he had. He followed those who had arrested Jesus and sat outside the court in the hopes of a miracle. But no miracle came. In its place came accusation:
“You are not one of his disciples, are you?” the girl at the door asked Peter.
He replied, “I am not.” (John 18:17)
It slipped out of his mouth so easily, he didn't even realize what he had done. Hold on a second. Let's back up a moment here. Wasn't this the same man who only a few hours ago had boasted:
I will lay down my life for you. (John 13:37)
Even then Jesus had warned him of this denial but Peter rejected that thought. The way he felt right at that moment he could never imagine himself denying his Lord. But worry, fear and stress do a funny thing to a person's mind. It wasn't until his third denial of Jesus that Peter realized the words that were coming out of his mouth:
Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:74-75)
Under such times of stress our mind can play terrible tricks on us so it is hard to say how we would respond. However, there is one difference between us and Peter; we have the Holy Spirit through whom we have the peace of Jesus. Such peace is unbeatable unless we take our mind off of Jesus. If we give priority to the stress, to the waves, to the storm we are facing, we lose sight of Jesus and we begin to sink into the waters.
Peter had the right idea, stick as close as you can to Jesus. Peter did not have the access we do, as we live in Jesus and he in us. As the storm increases we do not run away, we sing louder, pray more deeply, dance and shout the praises of our Lord even more. If God cannot help us, what lesser force could? We cannot rely on anyone else, our hope cannot come from any other source. If it is not based on the promises and relationship with Jesus then it is a false hope. Even if everything is stripped away from us in this world, as it was for Peter, we have the greatest treasure, Jesus, who no one can separate us from.
Remember though, if the stress does play tricks on you and you have a moment of doubt leading to denial, God's grace is sufficient. Jesus sought Peter out afterward and restored everything to him by asking a simple question: "Do you love me Peter?" Such a gentle restoration and then a charge to be faithful to the task assigned to him. That same restoration is available to us when we lose our faith, take our eyes off of Jesus and allow denial to plague our hearts. Stay strong my friends because our God is faithful to save.