April 12, 2009

Trusting, no matter what

Yesterday, I thought about the family who befriended a hitchhiker who intended to kill them and take their car. He changed his mind because they were good to him. Today I’m thinking what might have happened had he not taken that attitude.

Jesus is the perfect example who shows me that good people are not always treated well. Good people sometimes suffer and even die, no matter how well they treat others and sometimes because they are good people. The reference yesterday was 1 Peter 3:13. Today I’m reading the next few verses.
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. (1 Peter 3:14-15)
In a worst case scenario, the hitchhiker remains hardhearted. He pulls his gun, orders the driver to take them to a remote place, shoots the family and takes their car. They might be without fear at his threats and untroubled by what is happening, but I cannot imagine it, neither can I imagine the young man having any interest in whatever hope they might display.

Does this mean Christian people could never face danger or threats such as this with an amazing lack of fear? Stephen, one of the first martyrs in the church, did. He preached to his kinsmen but they didn’t like what he said.
When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. . . . as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:54-60)
I’ve read of others who faced death with the same hope. Some were burned at the stake, others abused and mistreated in terrible ways, yet Christ was set first in their heart and He gave them what they needed to die the same way He died, without fear.

Friday we thought about Jesus’ death. Many other days my mind goes there, both in gratitude and wonder, and often with tears. Today we celebrate His resurrection, even though I’m still mindful of His death, remembering that He suffered without fearing their threats. He also took the wrath of God for my sin, not for any wrong doing on His part. He will always stand before His father in innocence and without fear.

This is my defense. This is the hope that is in me. Jesus died for me and rose again. Because He did that, I know that this life is not all there is, but I also know that my sins are forgiven. Salvation isn’t about earning or deserving it; any goodness I have is there because Jesus lives in me.

Not only that, whether I die by the hands of a hitchhiker with a gun, or in my sleep, or get hit by a truck, I know where I am going and that the Son of Man will open the heavens for me. I also know that He can give me whatever I need when that day comes.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

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