November 3, 2014

Warning: life is seldom level, and mostly up and down

Before our youngest son became a teen, some wise person suggested we inform him about the near future. That is, like most his age, he would go through a few years of insecurity, low self-esteem, and constantly worrying what people would think of him. The idea was that if he knew about it ahead of time, he may not believe then that it would happen, but when it did, he would know that we knew and not feel so alone or as isolated as teens often do.

This was a good idea. When he was in grade nine, he told me that he didn’t care what others thought of him because, “I know that you and dad love me.” Knowing about trauma before it happens can be helpful.

However, when the early church was formed and began to experience persecution, some of those new Christians must have been confused. They were sharing the most wonderful news that they had ever experienced, but many people were not thrilled with it as they were. Instead, these people made fun of them, even threatened and killed them.

Peter knew this persecution would happen. He wrote two letters to persecuted Christians telling them to continue to trust Christ. He said that in Jesus, they had all they needed to live godly lives, even in dire situations. He talked to them about suffering as a Christian and to not be ashamed. He warned them about false teachers and how God would protect them.

He also said, “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.” (2 Peter 3:1–3)

In short, he reminds them that they would experience mocking, and that this had been prophesied beforehand. When it happened, it should not be a surprise. They knew it and needed to be reminded of what they already knew.

How is this relevant for me? What is happening in my life that God said would happen, but I have forgotten?

Well, for one thing I’ve often the idea (or hope) that when things start going well for me, they will stay that way, and that I can enjoy victory over discouragement, worry, and temptations without any further struggles.

But the Bible never makes that promise! God tells me that, “in this world you will have trouble,” and that I will get weary in doing well, and that “the devil is like a roaring lion” seeking to devour me — meaning that I can expect valleys as well as high places, rough spots as well as smooth sailing.

In these verses, Peter used an unusual term; he was making an appeal to remind their “sincere” minds. Apparently this is an obscure word. It has something to do with the ability to stand up under the scrutiny of sunlight. This catches my attention for I’ve long since passed the age where it felt safe to look in the mirror in bright daylight. I look much better under the light of candles, so want to avoid the bright light of the sun.

When it comes to having my mind examined in broad daylight, I’m not too eager for that either. My mind is often undisciplined and often thinking in ways Peter would not call “sincere.” Yet this is the very reason why I need Peter’s reminders. For one thing, if my mind was more like the mind of Christ, I would have less trouble remembering that the Christian life is seldom lived on a plateau and not be so disappointed when the mountaintop experiences do not last very long or when those valleys appear when least expected.

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