Happenings around Antioch

Our God Will Do It

Peter brings his first letter full circle at the end, reminding the elect exiles that their suffering is purposeful but temporary. “After you have suffered a little while,” he writes. Some of you might feel like your suffering has gone on for much more than a little while, and indeed there are people who suffer most or all of their lives with chronic illness. But the Bible tells us we are not victims of chance. We are not tossed about by the wind and waves of fate or cruel destiny. Instead, the God of all grace is for us, and he has called us to his eternal glory in Christ. And even though our suffering may last a lifetime, it is still a ‘little while’ compared to the eternal glory we have waiting for us. As the Puritans liked                                                                                                                                to say, “Affliction may be lasting, but it is not everlasting.”

Peter then tells us four things God is doing for us now and will bring to completion then, on that day when we see Jesus face to face. First, he will restore us. It is the word used for restoring a broken bone, putting it back in place. That restoration work is mostly painful, and many of you know that a physical therapist’s main job is to hurt you in order to help you. The process may be painful but it is purposeful, just as our suffering and often our restoration can be.

Second, he will confirm us. The word means to establish, to set fast or permanent, so you won’t topple or be knocked over. I remember years ago when Cindy and I were in our first home, and putting up our first Christmas tree, which I had cut down in the field behind us, some scraggly pine that was barely a notch better than Charlie Brown’s. I had a stand that I put the tree in but it wasn’t a good stand and the tree was wobbly. So I ran outside in the dark to where I knew there were a couple of cinderblocks and I grabbed one, without gloves, and carried it toward the house. As I got to the back stoop, and into the light, I looked down and saw, right next to my thumb, the biggest healthiest black widow I had ever seen. I screamed and dropped the cinderblock, probably on my foot, I don’t remember. But God doesn’t use cinderblocks or spiders to help us stand firm and not be wobbly in our faith. But by all means, if you’re going to get a cinderblock in the dark, use a flashlight. Or at least gloves. God strengthens us by the means of grace: his Word, prayer, the church, fellowship with our brothers and sisters. Paul wrote in his final words to the Romans, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ…” The promise that God will make us stand up straight in trials is a great comfort to all of us who know we are weak.

Third, he will strengthen us. God not only keeps us from toppling but gives us strength to accomplish his purpose. He makes us strong in our soul and more and more as we walk with him. It would be a good practice for all of us, but perhaps especially for we who are ‘seasoned saints,’ to read Isaiah 40 every week. We may be feeling weakly so we need to read this weekly. “…They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” I also believe we who are older have been given strength by God to encourage and teach and strengthen someone younger to come along behind and pick up where we will leave off. It is our gift to the future of His church to do so!

Fourth, he will establish us. This means he will place us on a firm foundation that we may be steadfast. Our hearts may waver and our strength may be small for a time, as Peter knew better than anyone. But God promises to establish us in him, even and especially through dark and difficult days. I think of John the Baptist in prison and his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth perhaps having a conversation about whether their son would be ok and stand strong through his trial. And saying to one another, “I think we put him on the right path as a little boy growing up in this house. We taught him about Jehovah and how to trust in God even in times when he can’t see his plan. I think he will be ok.” And he was. God kept him strong, even through momentary doubts, as he does us as well. All the way to the end.

We can say with Peter, “To him be glory and dominion forever and ever!”