When this year started, I came across this blogpost that I really resonated with. It talks about the moments around Peter denying Jesus. I was and still am struck by how Peter was determined to be the disciple who stands for and with Jesus. He sounds to me like a man with resilience, determination but above all else a genuine love for God. This conversation therefore comes naturally for him: Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
When Jesus tells Peter that very night he would disown Jesus, his response is even more determined: “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And so a few verses later to read that this is exactly what happened, is very disheartening. It must have been even more disheartening to Peter. He must have asked himself, ‘where did my resolve go? How could I disown the one person I absolutely love and promised to never disown?’ The bible records that he went outside and wept bitterly. I understand that response.
Yet everytime I read this story, what I ask myself is ‘what I can learn from Peter; from this man that I can see similarities between self and him’. Determination check, love for God check, resilience check (well, or so I thought) yet these were still not enough.
I am a peter
These were my thoughts when this this year started; I am a Peter in many ways. If you had told me that anything would waiver my faith in the year I would have laughed it off. I was a determined woman, a woman who had met the Lord so many times and knew that she was loved and that this Lord can be relied on. I was a woman who had walked with Him. I knew I loved Him. I still do.
Yet there were moments as the year went on that came like a storm and really hit me bad, and truth be told, I was not too far off from the Peter of my day; disowning would have come easily, despite the love I profess to have for Jesus. And not disowning once, but twice and thrice. I have gone through the furnaces of life and well the resolve I had when entering these furnaces has wavered some times.
I am currently reading the book of Daniel and so I am thinking a lot about the response Meshack, Shadrack and Abednego gave when they were threatened by the King to be thrown to a furnace that was 7 times hotter than normal. These guys were unmoved; they had an almost equivalent response as Peter had. They say “the Lord we serve is able to save us, and He will save us….But even if He does not, I want you to know I will not bow to any other god”. This is a response of a people who know their God is; that they are loved and therefore one way or another He will work it out for their good.
This trio is eventually thrown to the furnace and the furnace was so hot that some of the guards who were throwing them in got burnt to death. That hot. So you can be sure for the trio who inside the furnace, it is even hotter.
But there is something I see here that I believe is the reason the trio were able to keep through their vehement promise. There was help I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
There was a fourth person in the furnace. The trio was no longer battling this alone; the Son of God Himself was at hand to help them. There is an encouragement here that I hold onto, that the battles belong to the Lord. Something tells me, even with the determination that the trio had, if they were on their own, I am not too sure they would have survived the furnace. Perhaps like Peter they would have disowned the Lord. They could easily justify it anyway, when the furnace is hot, justifications come easy. Afterall King Nebuchadnezzar was not asking them to worship his gods, just bow to them, right?
I love how this ordeal ends: “Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire…..and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.”
These guys were not scathed; eve the smell of fire, smoke, was not on them. They had come out with a new meaning to unscathed, the furnace had not touched them one bit. They were absolutely unscathed.
It’s not by might…
This is what I am learning, we do not stand because we are determined, or passionate, or good; we stand because we are loved by the Lord and so He helps us.
This is what has made the difference in me this year. Each battle I have attempted to fight in my own strength, I have tired and given in to my otherwise vehement promise to follow the Lord. I have found myself disowning Jesus when I should know better. I have found my self-reliance is too fickle for the heat that is the furnace of life, what with 7 times hotter than normal!
I have been in places where the issue of depending on God has been debated. Someone once asked me what does depending on God mean, does it mean we seat and bum and wait for God to do all the hard work? How does that work? We often over-simplify depending on God, we feel it is not enough. Surely there must be a role for me to play?
I ain’t one with all the answers. I do know this though, simplifying waiting on God is a lie, it is truly the hardest thing ever, it is what surrender is all about. It involves taking the guns away, even the hidden ones, placing them at the feet of the cross and saying Lord, even the best guns will not do if you do not battle for me. It involves saying Lord, I am broke, and my guns tell me to take that corrupt deal, but Lord I will let you fight this ‘broke-ness’ battle. It involves saying Lord, I have prayed for a child for so long and my guns tell me to have an affair but Lord I will let you fight this ‘child-less’ battle. It involves saying Lord, I feel this dude, he’s cute and all, but we are unequally yoked so I am walking away, trusting You for one I will feel even more, yes even now when I am tired of the wait. It involves saying Lord, I place every burden at the cross, every selfish desire, whatever You say that’s what I will do.
So this one thing remains….
‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.
You betcha if Peter could disown Christ despite being determined not to, you can be sure I also can. I have seen what furnaces do to me and honestly I have little faith in self.
And sometimes we can go through the furnace, survive it as I have, but come out of it scathed; smelling of smoke. But there is a way I can come out a furnace that is only possible when Help is on my side. I am realizing, the only way I get out of a furnace, absolutely unscathed, without a smell of smoke, the only way this is possible is not through my strategies or determination, only through and in God. I love what Jesus says when He was leaving us; that He does not leave us as orphans…..Orphans hustle, they fight alone, they have no other way out; but we are a people who are not orphans. We have a Helper. The battle is His. To truly believing that.