Why is it so hard for us to often see the clear handwriting on the wall? We seem to struggle against forces beyond our control continually, i.e., the actions, inactions, opinions, and attitudes of others that seem to work so effortlessly to keep the sands shifting under our feet and hold our spiritual momentum at bay. It feels like the old saying, “one step forward and two steps back,” has rooted itself to be a social norm because we live in a world of judges who judge by factors of wealth, status, power, and oh yes, by differences in appearance.
The real question is, what do we do when the road of life becomes clouded by a dense fog leaving us with zero visibility? What do we do when it feels like the world is pressing in and permeating our skin? What do we do when various trials by fire challenge us from all sides while those who judge eagerly fan the flames? Let’s put it another way. As Christians, how do we cope with the endless barrage of deceit, bitterness, and hatred that seems to envelop us day after day? My guess is each Christian has pondered these same questions at one time or another.
We can easily overthink these questions about life and to a point where they become the stumbling block more so than the issues that spawned them. However, if we examine the framework of these questions, we begin to see a pattern. The pattern seen is this: our focus is on the world, not God. When our focus shifts from God to the problems that surround us, we begin to sink into the sea of despair. Apostle Peter learned that very lesson, and he learned it not by reading about it; instead, he learned it through on the job training.
One time, Jesus sent His disciples in a boat to cross the sea ahead of Him. When the boat was far offshore, a storm had come upon the sea, and the winds and waves battered the small boat. Then the disciples saw something on the water, which they presume to be a ghost. Jesus said, “Take courage; it is I; do not be afraid. ” Peter, being Peter, of course, said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replied, “Come!” (Matt 14:27- 29).
So Peter stepped out of the boat and began to walk on water towards Jesus; however, he became distracted by the raging storm around him. Does that sound familiar or what? As his focus shifted away from Jesus, Peter became afraid and started to sink beneath the crashing waves, but before going under, he cried out to Jesus, saying, “Lord, save me!” Jesus said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:29-31).
An essential note to keep in mind is that even though Peter took his eyes off of the Lord when he walked on water, Jesus never lost sight of Peter and kept him within arms reach. That applies to believers today in that when the world begins to press in on us, Jesus is always within an arm’s reach, and in fact, He is even closer. Peter usually takes a bum wrap for allowing the storm to distract him as if we have never allowed the same to happen to us. To his credit, Peter knew he could not save himself, but he knew Who to turn to and trust with his life by faith; it was Jesus.
Therefore, as we press on to share the gospel and do God’s work, we must keep our role in perspective. There is a much bigger picture that goes beyond the limits of what we see. We are but one puzzle piece if you will of that picture. Perhaps that is why King Solomon wrote the following statement in a proverb. He wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Pro. 3:5-6).
Now, does that mean by trusting the Lord we will no longer encounter trials in life? Hardly! Trails are necessary to one’s spiritual growth and learning to trust the Lord completely. I have often said if it were not for the trials in life, how would we come to know and appreciate the many blessings we receive from God? In all fairness, if it were not for trials, we would be an unappreciative people and take our blessings for granted.
So when we are hated for our faith, judged by the world for whatever reason, faced with disappointment or even failure, because those things will come, believe me, let us be mindful to keep the words of James, brother of Jesus, close to our hearts. He wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
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