How is a Christian supposed to respond to suffering and persecution? This is the main theme of 1 Peter, therefore all of my posts this week will focus on the answer Peter gave to the churches in Asia Minor. There are many other great ideas in this letter, but because this same question is a perennial one with Christians still today, even in a country like America, I will limit my thoughts to this theme.
Is this world as it is your home?
How we answer this one question may explain why we experience certain situations as suffering. If this world and the way we think life is supposed to be lived here and now is what we embrace as “home” anything that endangers that state of life will no doubt be greeted as an enemy to be opposed. An economic downturn is a travesty because we cannot have all we have become accustomed to. If life here and now is supposed to be getting progressively easier and more comfortable, old age and career setbacks are anathema. Diseases and death are the ultimate foes because they end this life and tear us from this world. Think about the prayer requests you have heard lately and ask yourself if they don’t reveal where our real home is.
But Peter describes our experiences here and now very differently. He calls his recipients “God’s chosen ones who lives as foreigners” (1:1). In tomorrow’s reading he will call them “strangers and resident aliens” (2:11). For Peter the answer to the initial question is a resounding “no.” This world is not our home and, therefore, we should not expect to be comfortable here. We are on our way back home with our father and in the mean time we should be sure not to be “squashed into” the pattern of this world (1:14). The “rescue of our lives” is coming (1:9), “a rescue that is all ready and waiting” (1:5). That is a very different mindset and it makes a whole world of difference.
This mindset can be used to rationalize a total detachment from this world and an apathy to anything and anyone not waiting for the great heavenly train to “back, back, train and get your load.” As we will see that is not what Peter would advocate either, but this mindset can help us to face hard times with faithfulness and even celebration (1:6). If this world is not our home, the twists and turns of fate (or crowd approval) need not leave us feeling uncertain about our future and the quality of life to come. Retirement plans may dwindle. Knees and hearts may give out. Our very freedom can be taken away. However, because of our second birth as the children of God, we have an “incorruptible inheritance, which nothing can stain or diminish” and nothing can endanger that fact (1:3-5).
There is a better Kingdom coming, and until that reality becomes true to us the setbacks that our present, self-centered fiefdoms suffer will seem excessively oppressive.
What do you think?
Categories: 1 Peter
Tags: 1 Peter, Bible, future, God, heaven, here and now, home, kingdom, oppression, reading, self, suffering
The disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray (which would mean Jesus’ way of praying, not how to pray in general as they would have been taught to pray since childhood) and he gives them two contrasting teachings.
First, he gives them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. The outstanding point of this prayer is how God-centered it is. God is praised. It is God’s kingdom that we wish to see advanced. The rest of the prayer is one of basic provision: bread for today, forgiveness, and protection from the Devil.
Next, Jesus also challenges his audience to pray with audacity:
So this is my word to you: ask and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. You see, everyone who asks receives! Everyone who searches finds! Everyone who knocks has the door opened for them! (11:9-10)
This is the prayer of bold persistence. Prayers of this sort are focused on the person praying. This is a very different kind of prayer from the first.
Most of us pray one or the other of these prayers. We easily pray for ourselves and God’s agenda takes a backseat. We have an easy time taking our needs to God but have yet to learn there may be a more important, kingdom-advancing point to our need. Or, for others, God is the center of much of our prayer and we feel guilty asking for ourselves. We might come around to “asking, seeking, knocking” but only after our own best efforts have been exhausted or we are convinced we should dare to ask for ourselves.
Jesus tell us here that both kinds of prayers are necessary. There is not one right way to pray. Some days all that matters is God’s agenda and we can be content with the basics. Other days, in desperation, we cry out boldly for our own needs, because we must.
Life requires both.
What did you learn today about prayer?
Tags: Bible, boldness, God, humility, jesus, Luke, persistence, pray, prayer, provision, reading, self
Many of us live lives full of anxiety and insecurity. This only leads to a loss of joy and contentment. In 4:11 Paul claims to have learned how to be content no matter the circumstances.
There is much to consider in Philippians and any of it would be interesting and worthwhile. However, as we read through each chapter, I have chosen each day to concentrate on Paul’s secrets to a life of contentment and joy.
Paul begins his book with great confidence in the future of the Philippians:
Of this I’m convinced: the one who began a good work in you will thoroughly complete it by the day of King Jesus. (1:6)
He has also been able to see how God has used his imprisonment to “help the gospel on it’s way” and to bring “new confidence to most of the Lord’s family” (1:12-14).
Though Paul desired for his own sake to go to be with God, he was able to be content with however long he lived because it meant he still had chances to benefit others in the Lord (1:21-27).
In the point that may be most astounding to me in this chapter, Paul is able to rejoice even in the preaching of false teachers seeking only power and money because at least the good news about Jesus is being spread (1:18). That’s a new way to view the Jim Bakkers and Ted Haggards that make Christianity seem so corrupt.
Secret To Contentment #1: Anchor your confidence in God’s ability to orchestrate the future in the way He knows is best rather than your own ability and foresight, and joy and peace can be much more constant. God is in control and it’s going to be okay.
What did you learn today?
Tags: Bible, BIble reading, confidence, contentment, control, God, happiness, joy, Philippians, self, trust