Wednesday, February 18, 2015
When we hit "rock bottom," Part II
Many of us have hit rock bottom before, and others haven't "been there" yet. We are studying Peter, and his failure, and trying to learn from it.
Let's dive in again!
I think it is very important to determine what the cause of Peter's fall really was . . .if Peter could hit rock bottom like this, then so could I, and so could you, right?
Wherefore, let him who thinks he is standing take heed, lest he fall.
(I Corinthians 10:12)
Peter had already been slipping down that slope before his denial of Christ. Look with me in Matthew 16:21-26....
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he
must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the
elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must
be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside
and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never
happen to you!” 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.” Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their
cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for
someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can
anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Did you remember that about Peter? That had to hurt.
This was his controversy with Jesus about the cross. He disagreed with Him. The issue is that Jesus is talking about the way of the cross, the suffering, a process and way of life that the world simply despises and refuses to accept. And Jesus is going further, to say that not only must He walk that path, but all of His true disciples must, as well. Have you ever noticed how many people love to jump on a successful religious movement? Wow, they are eager for Jesus to come into their lives and make them prosperous and happy, or fulfill some other personal agenda. Hey, we even want our sins forgiven, Lord! Oh, and don't forget, we want to go to heaven, too, not hell. (Grin) I guess there are lots of us that might even have felt like that at some time, before we really understood.
But here is the problem: when Jesus starts talking to us about a personal cross, or a pathway through suffering and persecution . . . when Jesus' way is different from the way that we thought it would be, or should be, then we might have a controversy with him. We might have a disagreement.
Have you ever had a controversy with the Lord?
How long have you had this problem with the truth? (Wink) Hey, I know for a fact that if I am honest, I need to admit that there have been times that I thought that God wasn't doing something in the way that I thought He should.
I thought I knew a better way.
I think we've all been there.
It can be a slippery, downhill slope if it is not resolved. When we have a controversy with the Lord, others may or may not know what is going on. But we pull back from the Lord a bit. We may feel offended. We may feel resentful that things aren't going the way we think is best. The joy of serving God begins to elude us, because the word "why" is beginning to creep into our thoughts. We might even be saying to ourselves, "It's not fair." "It's not supposed to be this way." This is what Peter was thinking -- he disagreed with the way God was proceeding with His plan.
We might also do as Peter did, and begin to rely more on ourselves than our Lord. Peter was quite certain that no matter what all the others did, he would be there for Jesus. It's interesting (and true) that our natural strengths can become the flash-point for our failures. Over the years, we have learned about ourselves, and we know our strengths. We have come to depend upon those strengths even before we ask God to assist us. (If we are facing something that we know full well we are inadequate to face, we will quickly plead with Him for help.) Peter knows that in comparison to many people, he is strong and not easily intimidated, so he blurts out his boasting. His words reveal his heart; he is committed to Jesus, and he will stand strong with him...in his own strength.
When we rely on ourselves we are praying less. And prayerless hearts are hearts that are operating in the flesh, not in the Spirit. Relying on his own strength, and operating in the flesh, Peter has good intentions but does the wrong thing. He tries to help Jesus -- the results are pretty disastrous. He responds to the coming arrest by pulling out his sword and whacking away at the problem. We all do that if we're not in the Spirit.
What Jesus does next frustrates and discourages Peter. Right there, in front of everyone, He scolds Peter, who has tried to help Him. He even reverses what Peter has done, by healing Malchus.
Oh, Peter. You gave it your best shot, and nothing has worked out. Then, you don't know what to do, so you flee with the rest as the mob arrests Jesus.
I know many of us have felt like Peter. We are discouraged. We've tried, and tried hard, and nothing has worked out. We understand how he felt.
Now I think we can put Peter's denial in context. It happened to a very discouraged, depressed disciple, who felt he had given it his best shot.
We'll see what happened next, tomorrow.