Trust in Times of Trial
Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times. And after the Lord's resurrection, He appeared to Peter and asked him three times if he loved him, using the Greek word for self-sacrificing love, agape.
Indeed, Peter would show that level of devotion to the Lord when he was martyred years later.
In John 21:18, we read Jesus's words to the apostle: "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go."
When I was young, I wondered why more people didn't go to the mission field. What was the worst that could happen? Martyrdom? Then they'd be with Jesus. But once I began to question why I wouldn't volunteer for overseas missions, I realized martyrdom wasn't some romantic notion. It was an unsettling, fear-inducing possibility.
It is not God's plan for every believer to be martyred. And it certainly isn't something we should actively seek. If, however, this comes to be, we must seek to honor God until we take our final breath.
There are two ways we should view trials, persecution, and martyrdom. First, we must acknowledge that it's God will for us to endure. Hebrews 12:11 says, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
When we go through trials, it produces fruit and we grow closer to Christ.
Second, we should be thankful for trials because we don't experience them by accident. God is fully and completely sovereign over all things, including the trials we go through.
Romans 8:28 says, "With God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
God uses even trials for our good. James 1:3-4 says, "For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
We should be thankful for trials because God uses them to make us more and more like Jesus. Trusting in Christ while enduring our trials produces spiritual maturity.
A long and peaceful life is not guaranteed. The Christian life is more fulfilling, joyful, and peaceful than anything this world can possibly offer. But an easy life? Absolutely not! When we follow Christ, life gets hard.
First, we must deal with our sin nature. God has given us many blessings to enjoy, but we often want to satisfy our physical and emotional desires in ways that do not honor Him and are, ultimately, harmful to us and to others.
Second, we live in a dark world that embraces deception and lies. The world rejects the truth, gets angry with the truth, and wants to destroy the truth. Often, we experience trials and persecution because the world has rejected Jesus, who is the truth.
Hebrews 11:36-38 describes saints who went through great trials and persecution, only to experience a painful death: "Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth."
1 Peter 4:12 says, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you."
Although God has given us life and we are not to seek martyrdom, if we have put our faith in Jesus for salvation, death isn't something to be feared. And even in death, we must seek to glorify God. In Titus 1:2, Paul says, "… in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages."
Philippians 1:20 says, "… as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death."
Our spoken and unspoken testimony as we draw close to death speaks volumes to those who witness our peace and calm and hear us declare the gospel.
When I was 32, I was presented with a choice. I could take a pill every day for the rest of my life to treat a rare, life-threatening heart condition and deal with the long-term side effects or I could undergo high risk surgery. Neither option was ideal. Both had their risks. After weighing the options my wife and I felt surgery was our best, long-term solution.
About a week later reality set in. I was sitting in my office and became overwhelmed with fear, because there was a possibility I was going to die. And then I began to pray. God took away my fear and anxiety and replaced them with joy. I decided, if I was, indeed, going to die, then I was going to share the gospel with as many people as possible. Everywhere I went I used it as an opportunity to share the gospel. Even the day of the surgery, right before they wheeled me into the operating room, I messaged over 200 contacts on my phone and shared the way of salvation with them. When I was finished I placed, I said goodbye to my wife, and they wheeled me into the operating room. I wasn't afraid, instead, I was full of joy.
Now, to my disappointment, I didn't open my eyes to see Jesus. But that simply means there was—and is—more for me to do before He calls me Home. This event in my life is a constant reminder that we are to glorify God in our death by not only trusting Him in our hearts, but displaying it by sharing the gospel until our final breath.
Trust and Serve
As far as we know, Peter did not respond to Jesus's command to take care of His sheep nor His revelation of the hardships Peter would face.
In John 21:20-21, we read Peter's words: "Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, 'Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?' When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, 'Lord, what about this man?'"
As can be true of all of us, when we find the Lord's commands hit too close to home … when we find them too challenging … we may deflect. What about him? What about her?
Jesus saw right through Peter's questions. His response reminded the apostle—and us—that we are responsible to follow the path the Lord lays out for each of us, not point to someone else. In verse 22, Jesus says, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!"
We are all called to obey, but what that obedience looks like in each life will be different. Your roles, responsibilities, and giftings aren't exactly the same as mine or anyone else's. He has made each of us unique for His own plans and purposes.
While it's good to have mentors, those who disciple and guide us, we are not them, nor are we anyone else. It should be our aim to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. Although we don't know for sure who said it first, the following quote is true: we must be ourselves; everyone else is taken.
It was true for Peter. It was true for John. And it's true for us.
Trust that the Lord will Return
There is abundant scriptural evidence that the Lord Jesus will return to Earth, but too many people have tried to pinpoint the exact time.
Matthew 24:36 says, "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only."
After Jesus had ascended into heaven, those who had seen Him go continued to watch the sky. Two men dressed in white came to stand beside them and asked, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven"
God always keeps His promises. Jesus will return. We just don't know when. We can trust the Lord no matter what's going on in our life. And we can live out that trust by serving Him.
Trust in His Word
In John 20:31, the apostle tells us why he wrote his gospel: "… but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
In John 21:24, he says, "This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."
Jesus did many things that aren't recorded in the Scriptures, but there is enough to teach us who He is and what He requires of us. We have no excuse for disobedience. We are called to believe in Jesus as our Savior and trust Him as our Sovereign Lord and King.