1 Peter 2:19-25
“Entrusting Ourselves to Him Who Judges Justly”
Post-Easter Series: “Feed My Sheep”
May 3, 2020
Hard times, such as the one we’re going through now, have the potential both to teach us new things about ourselves and to confirm other things we already knew. I’m still not sure what all I have learned over these last two months, but there is one thing that they have confirmed to me about myself – I am not too good at doing deprivation.
I don’t know that any of us is. Part of it is that we have grown up with the ability to procure pretty much whatever we think we need to get by in life. And part of it is that when we have not been able to get our hands on that thing, we have managed to find a reasonable substitute. Not my favorite brand? That’s OK; I’ll go ahead and be satisfied with the store brand. Not my favorite restaurant? No problem; I’ll go ahead and take my chances with the one I can get into. Not the game I wanted to see? I’ll be just fine with watching this one that’s being shown.
But what do you do when the substitutes are unavailable and the restaurants are only half full and the games are still cancelled?
These are strange times, to be sure. These are times when we are confronted with the fact that for the first time in our lives we are no longer in a position to guarantee our well-being, which may be the most important lesson any of us can learn about ourselves so that instead of pressing on to secure our lives we can instead make the decision to entrust them to a life-guaranteeing God.
That’s one of the lessons Simon Peter sought to make plain to the people to whom he had directed his first epistle. New Christians who had come to faith in Jesus Christ from a slave background, where they were deprived of the opportunity to chart their own destiny, Peter gives them guidelines for how they might hold up in the midst of their harsh existence and might know that as they do, they would be following the example of their Crucified and Risen Lord, who on the cross had gone through more than they would ever be called upon to endure.
While none of us here this morning would ever be able to identify with the plight of a first century slave, Peter’s words nevertheless speak to our own deprivation and the sense of suffering through which so many of us are going through at this time.
So, what is it that Peter offers to these slaves and to us who are suffering today? It is to make sure that whatever deprivation we may be required to endure in this life in some way enables us to appreciate more deeply the pain and deprivation that Jesus endured for us.
Pain, you see, is one of the most provocative experiences in life. When people are pushed to the limits in life, they begin to ask themselves questions they never would have considered before, questions like, “What is going on here?” “Why is this happening to me?” “How can this be fixed?” And for people of faith, there is yet another question: “Where is God now that I am hurting?” Many of you have probably been asking some of these questions over these last several weeks, if not all of them.
You don’t have to be an expert at reading between the lines to see that many of the people to whom Simon Peter was writing were asking him those same questions. And Peter’s answer to them was at the same time both compassionate and challenging. Essentially, we might phrase it like this: “When you go through seasons of suffering, don’t ask yourself, ‘Why?’ Instead, ask yourself, ‘What?’ Specifically, ‘What is this season of suffering and deprivation doing to my faith and how might I endure it to win the approval of God?’”
That question, of course, is much easier for us to ask than to answer, which comes as no surprise to God. And because none of us mortal creatures excels in deprivation, God sent Jesus to show us the way and to be to us an example. Notice how Peter points us to Jesus and the manner in which Jesus held face in the face of his suffering: “When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.” It’s that last line that I think offers us the direction we need for dealing with our present desperation. “He entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.” In other words, when Jesus was faced with the most agonizing form of deprivation, his crucifixion, though he could have, as the old song puts it, “called upon ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set him free, he (instead) died alone.” He died alone “for you and for me.”
What the cross of Christ teaches us is that we experience God’s powerful presence best when come to Him not by being strong, but by being weak; not by having all the answers, but trusting Him with the questions; not by fending for ourselves, but by looking to Him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
All of this is of course so counterintuitive to what the world tells us is the way to go. And yet when we dare to go through our difficult seasons with this degree of faith, we find, even as Jesus found, the strength and the power to say what Jesus said, while hanging upon that cross: “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” which is the only kind of faith that will ever get one from the darkness and deprivation of their Good Friday to the glory and the splendor of an Easter Sunday.
Can you do that this morning in the face of whatever deprivation you may be experiencing. Regardless of how hard and how challenging this season may be for you, can you dare to entrust it to Him who judges justly and in Jesus has drawn near to us to become what Simon Peter calls “the shepherd and guardian of our souls?”
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian during the last century, who along with other family members helped many Jews to escape Nazi persecution by hiding them in their homes. Her story, and the story of her family, are featured in the book, which many of you have most likely read, The Hiding Place. She is the source of so many well-known quotes on the power of Christian faith. “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” “Worry does not empty today of its sorrow; it (only) empties today of its strength.” And my personal favorite for when life becomes anxious and uncertain, as it is for many of us today: “When a train goes through a tunnel and (the world) gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer to get you through.”
Isn’t that what Jesus did, and might that be something you need to do today? No, it won’t automatically eliminate the hard times that we’re going through. It won’t by itself disperse the clouds and cause the sun to begin shining. But what it will do is that it will provide you with a new outlet for your anxiety and a new grounding for your uncertainty. Because in the face of your deprivation, you will begin to know more fully the very power that raised Jesus from the dead. You will know more fully the abundance that only God can make possible.
So sit still. Trust God. You’re in good hands. His grace in response to your faith in Jesus Christ will be more than enough, more than enough to see you through.
If that is the only lesson you learn during this hard, hard season we’re all having to go through, then you will have done well, because you have learned the one thing about God that you can count on every step of the way