We are going through a unique time in history. It seems as if the odds are continually piling up against mankind as a whole. How can we hold on to our faith in God when things go wrong? When 2020 shuts down our lives, routines, and isolates us from those we lean on for support? How can we be thankful and trust God at a time like this?

It’s important to remember that God hasn’t promised us a rose garden. Not in this present world, anyhow. In fact, we never find that in the Bible… maybe the exact opposite. When life seems full of pain, we need to remember that we live in a fallen world. If things go wrong and trials come our way, this isn’t a reflection on the power and genuineness of God’s love for us! Nor does it necessarily imply that we have sinned against Him or displeased Him. It simply means that the world isn’t what it’s supposed to be anymore.

Genesis 3 tells the story of mankind’s fall from grace. The once perfect now has a stain on it that we know as sin. This fall created a divide between our perfect Creator and us. It caused us to rebel against Him; it affected our physical bodies, bringing sickness and death into the world. It threw a wrench into our relationships with one another. It introduced pain and suffering into our lives. Because of this… the world in which we live today is not the world as God intended it to be. It is, in a very real sense, a defective world.

The good news is that The Bible continues after Genesis 3 and the Fall. In fact, the rest of the Good Book points us to the fact that the Lord is not content to leave us there in our brokenness. This is the second thing we need to bear in mind. Our Father in Heaven has a plan to fix the brokenness of the world and heal the pain in our personal lives. He loved us enough to send Jesus Christ, His only Son (John 3:16), to reverse the effects of the fall. Christ has come to reconcile us to God.

Of course, the Bible never gives us any reason to suppose that these reconciliations and changes are going to take place overnight. On the contrary, it states very clearly that while we live in the flesh, we can expect to experience hard times. Ultimately, a day is coming when there will be no more sickness, pain, or death… but meanwhile, there’s nothing wrong with being honest about our pain and hardships.

The men and women of the Bible understood this. That’s why I love Scripture! It speaks into our situations and gives us a glimpse at hope… a glimpse to what is on the other side of the situations and circumstances that we face.

Does anyone else ever find themselves not fully trusting God? Not fully letting go of the things in our lives that are hard to let go of? I for one do!

Trusting God would certainly be easier if we could see Him and His angel armies face to face. But even though we can’t see them in the physical realm, we can trust they’re in the spiritual realm… a realm more powerful than anything we could ever imagine. Even when we don’t see God working, we can be sure He is!

God shows us a powerful glimpse into that spiritual realm in 2 Kings 6:8-17. Syria was fighting the Israelites, and God used His prophet Elisha to predict how the Syrians would attack, and to warn the Israelite army.

The Bible explains that this enraged the King of Syria, so he began plotting to attack and cut off Elisha from helping Israel. But God stepped in and protected Elisha and his servant and even changed what they were allowed to see in the physical realm.

2 Kings 6:8-15 says,

Once when the king of Syria was warring against Israel, he took counsel with his servants, saying, “At such and such a place shall be my camp.” But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are going down there.” 10 And the king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God told him. Thus he used to warn him, so that he saved himself there more than once or twice. 11 And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?” 12 And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” 13 And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” 14 So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. 15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”

I’ve felt like this before. Haven’t you? Difficult circumstances press in from every side. You might think to yourself, “I can’t do this anymore.” Has anyone else been there? Has anyone else ever been so stressed out, so anxious, that they just want to mentally check out or even cry? We think, “Where are You, God? You promised You would never leave me or forsake me, but I don’t sense Your presence. Why aren’t You doing something? I want out of this story!” Can anyone relate to that? If there was a time that this was relatable I think the last 18 months would be it for many of us!

The problems that surround us we can’t change and often can’t control. They are part of life. They are part of that abnormal imperfect and broken world in which we reside in.

Elisha’s servant probably felt the same way.

But check out how Elisha responds to his servants fear. 2 Kings 16 says,

16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 

Did you catch that? Elisha knows to not be afraid, because the God we serve is greater than the obstacles we may face.

How can we better trust God during trying times? By remembering, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha knew there was more power and strength in the unseen than the seen reality of the enemy’s army. The passage continues in verse 17 with,

17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 

Elisha didn’t pray for God to send an army, because the warring angels on chariots of fire were already there. He knew they were there! He had faith in a God that had brought him to this point. Elisha simply prayed his servant would be allowed to see them at work.

Elisha had faith in his God who had proven Himself faithful up to this point. We all have the ability to do this. In fact, we all do this to some degree everyday! When you sit down you have faith that the chair you sit in will hold you… because it has proven it’s ability to do so every other time!  

Friend, God is surrounding whatever difficult situation is surrounding you. God most likely won’t pull back the curtain separating the physical realm from the spiritual realm for us to see, but we can be assured: We’re surrounded by a heavenly host of angels, ready to protect us in our deepest struggles.

Our God loves us and will never leave us to fight alone. We just have to surrender and allow him to fight. You might be saying, “Tanner, I don’t remember the last time I felt the presence of God in my life. Things are out of control and I just don’t see a way out.” Let me reassure you, God is there and He has never stopped loving you.

You see. God’s care for his children is like the sun: it’s constant. It’s always there! Even though the clouds obscure it, it doesn’t mean the sun isn’t there. Even in the darkest of nights we know the sun is still there and if we hold out long enough we will see it again.

We may not always recognize God’s love and presence in our lives, but let me tell you that it’s there if you make the choice to find it.

The Faithfulness of Jesus

In this week of Easter, I can’t help but think about Peter. Peter was a man of extreme faith who boldly declared to Jesus, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” but then found himself doing the exact opposite.

Mark 14:17-31 says,

17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

Imagine the shift in mood among Jesus’s disciples during that last Passover meal. In the midst of such a celebratory moment of illustrations, eating, and singing, Jesus tells his disciples that the wine they drink represents his soon-to-be-shed blood and the bread his soon-to-be-broken body, and then he goes out with them and drops the bomb that by the end of the night, he will be betrayed by a brother and that they all will leave him.

Clearly at this moment, the disciples could not see what Jesus saw. They believed their devotion to him would be greater than what reality later revealed. They believed that their faith could withstand each and every storm thrown at them.

Such is clearly the case with Peter. He clearly had a true love and connection to Jesus, he was zealous in his following, but he also overestimated the strength of his love for and devotion to Jesus, and disregarded the prophetic words of God, responding, “Even though they all fall away, I will not… If I must die with you, I will not deny you.”

Let’s take a closer look at the continuation of Peter’s story in Mark 14. This portion of Scripture comes after the Lord’s Supper and the arrest on the mountain. Jesus has been betrayed by Judas and seized by the Romans. While Jesus was being taken to see the high priest, Peter and another unnamed disciple followed.

I can’t imagine the thoughts in their minds. They had given up everything… friends, family, jobs, and livelihoods. Now the man whom they’ve entrusted their futures too is in the hands of the Romans.

Mark 14:66-72 says,

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

The very thing Peter swore he’d never do, he did.

As much as we might want to shake our fists at Peter, I for one know I can’t. Because I get it. I really do. I know what it’s like to have intentions that are good but follow-through that falls to pieces. It’s easy to say the words “I’m all in for Jesus, and I’ll do anything He asks of me.” But then we get rejected or hurt by someone, or become afraid we often fail, and amidst our failures it becomes increasingly difficult to live out those words.

Fear, pain and insecurities can really do a number on our hearts.

Peter’s initial responses to the girl’s accusations appear impulsive, a bit reactionary. Peter seems to respond out of fear instead of out of the faith in which he boasted a handful of hours before.

Isn’t it interesting how the quick responses to the unexpected temptations in life so often reveal our Christian character and faith? Where now was the courage and boldness he spoke with before? He was not fearless enough to be even named as a follower of the one with whom he just broke bread. Peter’s words did not match his reality.

In a moment of doubt, disappointment, and uncertainty Peter chose to distance himself from Jesus.

But before we give in to feelings of shame, let’s look at Luke 22:56-62 because we know that the Gospels all share the same story but with different insights. This passage gives us a slightly different glance at the moments immediately following Peter’s final denial. It says,

56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

“The Lord turned and looked at Peter.” My goodness the thought of that moment sends chills down my spine.

Who knows if Peter would’ve continued to deny Jesus more times than this if the jarring sound of the rooster didn’t shake him out of his depraved trajectory. As soon as the rooster’s crow reached his ears, his eyes met with Jesus’s and that holy glance must’ve paralyzed Peter. Looking at the face of his Lord reminded him of the words of his Savior. The weight of it all caused Peter to run away and weep bitterly.

The Bible doesn’t directly say… but I believe that the look that passed between Jesus and Peter wasn’t one of condemnation. It wasn’t an “I told you so” moment where Jesus got to boast in His wisdom being greater than that of Peter, but I believe that look from Jesus was filled with compassion for Peter. The same compassion He has for us today. A look that acknowledges the shortcomings, but invites us to trust Him and draw near to Him once again.

Christ’s future work on the cross would pay the penalty for Peter’s pride, fear, shame, and condemnation. While Peter had been ashamed of the truth, Jesus would bear shame in the name of truth. While Peter was unfaithful, Jesus was uncompromisingly faithful.

Though Peter was reminded of and broken by his sin, there was hope for his fickle heart and hope for ours. Christ’s previous words had warned Peter of his impending denial, but they also prepared Peter for his impending forgiveness and restoration. In Luke 22:32 Jesus said to Peter,

“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers”

I love that part of the conversation between Jesus and Peter. Jesus acknowledges that Peter is going to deny Him and turn away, but in a simple sentence reminds Peter that the invitation to “turn again” and come back is always there. He then tells Peter to redirect his failures and shortcomings into strengthening those around him.

If we want to fully accept the invitation that Jesus offers then we must “turn back” and allow the lessons learned through our failures to be used to strengthen those around us.

Like Peter, we need to ask ourselves where we’re denying Jesus’ truth in our lives. Where are we denying Jesus’ healing? Or denying Jesus’ grace and forgiveness for ourselves, or others? Where are we denying Jesus’ redemption? Where are we denying Jesus’ hope?

We all have our moments when we overestimate our devotion to God, trust ourselves instead of his Word, and deny the one we love. Nothing is beyond the reach of our Jesus. In Him, everything is certain. No matter what we’ve done. No matter what the enemy or our life’s circumstances may say. Nothing is beyond the reach of Jesus.

We don’t have to deny Him. We don’t have to doubt His truth. His truth is certain. His victory is secure. And because we’re in Him and He’s in us, that truth is sure and certain for us, as well.

2 Timothy 2:13 says,

If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself

Psalm 91:4 says,

He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

1 John 1:9 says,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.