Falling & Rising

“No one has ever fallen so grievously that he may not rise again. Conversely, no one stands so firmly that he may not fall.

If Peter (and Paul and Barnabas) fell, I too may fall. If they rose again, I too may rise again.” 

– Martin Luther.

Peter’s name meant “rock.”  He was supposed to be the “rock” of Jesus’ church. (Mt. 16:18)  There are many times that he did exhibit this rock of faith: walking on water to reach Jesus (Mt. 14:29), confessing Jesus as the Christ (Mk 8:29), even injuring the servant of the high priest on the night Jesus was arrested (Jn 18:10).

But even this rock of faith was not enough to keep Peter from falling.  When the pressures of this world became real and overwhelming, Peter denied Jesus.  Denied even knowing him much less being the rock of His church.  Three times.  In One Night. (Jn 18:15-27)

Just like Jesus knew he would (Jn. 13:37-38).  God knew from the beginning of the world Peter’s story, and He still chose to call him.  Chose to use him to build His church, even though He knew Peter would fall.

If God knew Peter’s story, then He knows yours, too.  He knows just how far and how hard you will fall.  Because we all fall.  Romans 3:10 tells us, “There is no one righteous, not even one.”  It’s not a matter of “if” you will fall, but “when.”

The key is to rise again.  Peter denied Jesus three times, but Jesus later reinstated Peter as his rock by confirming three times that Peter loved Him (Jn. 21:15-17).  One confirmation for each denial.  Then Peter truly became the Rock of Faith.

Jesus loves you.  He knows you.  He knows your sin, and still loves you.  Nothing “in all creation will be able to separate [you] from the love of God” (Rm. 8:39), not even your sin.  Not even your secret sin that no one else knows about.  Yes, yours.

You are not so fallen that Jesus can’t raise you back up.  For His glory.

Jesus, the friend of sinners, who has compassion and mercy on the guilty, wants you.  Wants to talk to you, to listen to you, to restore you.

He wants to raise you up out of sin and despair to deposit you into the Father’s hand where “no one can snatch [you] out” (Jn. 10:29), to keep you safe for all eternity.

Lord, help us to know that everyone falls, but that through You, we can rise again.  Let us never be fearful of coming to Your throne to seek redemption, which you freely give.  Help us through the pain of falling, and be with us in the joy of rising!


When Jesus Calms the Storm

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet!  Be still!”  Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?”  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him!” – Mark 4:37-41

I’ve always been interested in the account of Jesus calming the storm.  In truth, it’s a relatively small story within the three gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), but I think it speaks volumes as to a believer’s encounter with trials.

We’re in this boat

This story starts with Jesus taking his disciples and getting in a boat in order to travel to the other side of a lake, “Let us go over to the other side.”  In much the same way, Jesus calls us to travel with Him.  He instructs us to follow Him to the “other side.”  We’re told to leave our old self behind, and follow Him to this new life.  And we’re perfectly fine with that because, hey, we’re with Jesus.  He’s shown us things about ourselves and about the Father in such a way that we trust Him completely.  Nothing could possibly go wrong while we’re with Jesus.

A storm comes

Somewhere in the middle of the trip, far away from the shore, a “furious squall” comes and the waves are crashing over the boat, nearly taking it over.  Because no one, not even the disciples, not even me or you, can journey through this life without storms.  You’ve gone a distance with Jesus, things are looking pretty good, you’ve probably had a fantastic blessing or two, and then out of nowhere, a huge “furious” storm comes into your life and it nearly takes you down.  You’re close to losing it all.

But Jesus is sleeping

In the midst of this storm, with waves crashing all around them, and fearing for their very lives, the disciples don’t see Jesus.  He’s down below deck, out of sight.  Sleeping.  And even though He’s going through that storm as much as they are, He can’t be seen.  Those are the times, when we travel through the storms, that we are in desperate need of a word or comfort from Jesus, but He’s silent.  He’s not talking.  We’re looking at this raging storm and just thinking, “I’m not going to make it,” and feeling all alone.

So we reach out

In that moment, the disciples rush down to wake Jesus.  They ask the question we all want to know, “Don’t you care?”  In our storm, in that overwhelming situation, we cry out to our silent Savior, “Don’t you care?  Why aren’t you doing anything about this?  Can’t you see I need You?  Help me!”

And Jesus calms the storm

The account says that Jesus got up and “rebuked” the wind, telling it to “Be still,” and it was completely calm.  Psalm 46:10-11 also tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God,” then goes on to say that He will be exalted among the nations and the earth, and that He is our fortress.  When Jesus calms our storms, He is changing the situation for His glory.  That is not to say that He will answer our prayers in the exact way we request, because He often doesn’t.  But we can be sure that when all is Quiet and Still, He will have been glorified.

Then convicts our hearts

When it was completely calm, Jesus turned to His disciples and asked, “Do you still have no faith?”  As His followers, they had been with Him, heard His teaching, seen His miracles, and still in that storm, they faltered.  And so do we.  We spend so much time focused on our storms that we stop focusing on our Savior and who He is.  We panic, and Jesus reminds us that we don’t have to.  We have Him in our boat.

It’s also interesting that Matthew’s account has the conviction of heart before Jesus calms the storm.  Out of the three gospels with this account, Matthew was the only one that was a disciple of Jesus.  Mark and Luke heard these accounts second-hand from Peter and Paul.  And yet, Matthew was there.  Clearly, he felt convicted even before Jesus changed the situation.

This can be common among believers.  When we are struggling through a storm, and reaching out in a panic for Jesus, there’s a huge part of our heart telling us, “Don’t worry.  Don’t be afraid.  You know Jesus is bigger than this problem.  He has provided so many times in so many ways, that there is no reason to stress like this.”  But it just doesn’t help.  Because we are human and finite.  We can’t see the big picture.  We get lost in ourselves and our storms.

And we stand amazed

At the end of the storm, in that moment of clarity, when we can finally take a breath, we stand in awe.  “Who is this?”  Even after all that we have gone through with Jesus, we are still constantly amazed at His greatness.  When our situation has finally been changed for His glory, we’re left standing there, dumbfounded, asking ourselves, “How is this possible?  Is there nothing He can’t do?”  And there’s not.  There’s nothing He can’t do.

We can’t stop a storm.  We don’t have that type of power.  All we can do is hold on, say a prayer, and trust that Jesus is with us.  Even if He’s silent.  When the storm is finally over, you can bet that your surroundings will look different.  There will be damages, but there will also be a chance to rebuild something even better.  For His Glory.

Lord, we don’t like storms.  We don’t enjoy the unknown and changes, but we know that You are with us, and You are for us.  Enable us to hold on to You, looking forward to the calm that You bring and the glory You receive.


What Use Is My Suffering?

“God uses suffering to strengthen our faith.”  That was the quote of the day in Our Daily Bread, and isn’t it the truth?  God allows us to go through suffering, and then He uses that to strengthen our faith in Him.  Unfortunately, no one wants to actually go through that suffering to get that stronger faith.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if God just gave us stronger faith?  But the truth is, if we didn’t “earn” it through suffering that faith wouldn’t last.  Just like the difference between giving a child a new toy and making him work to earn it.  I have seen many times birthday toys tossed to the wayside, and yet the simple stuffed animal earned years ago still holds a place of honor in the center of the bed.  There is simply a longer lasting value in what you must earn.

But of what use is my suffering to God?  As the Bible tells me, “… all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose” (Rm 8:28).  So if I am part of His family, then He is working even my suffering for good.  How is that?  How is suffering good?  That’s a very hard question to wrap your mind around, especially when you are the one going through a season of suffering.  In that moment, it’s hard to see how any good can come from it.

But it does.  In our times of pain and weakness, when we have exhausted ourselves through work and tears, when we have worried and screamed through our frustrations, when there is just nothing left of us, we turn to Him.  We speak to the Father more openly and honestly than ever before.  We confide in Him our doubts and our needs.  Our dependence on Him is critical because we can no longer depend on ourselves.  And bit by bit, He reveals Himself to us.  He gives us new strength.  He supplies provision and resources beyond our understanding, because He is faithful.

Then, when our storm is over, and we rest on calm waters again, He calls on us to be the provision for someone else.  Colossians 1:24 says, “… I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”  This was written by the Apostle Paul, and it is interesting that he states he is filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.

Is there lacking in Christ’s afflictions?  What was Paul saying there?  No one could claim that Christ wasn’t afflicted.  Apart from the holy work of salvation on the cross, Christ was afflicted.  He suffered.  He suffered the loss of a friend, Lazarus.  He suffered loneliness.  He suffered betrayal.  He suffered alienation from his home town.  He suffered separation from the Father.  He suffered.  So, how can that be considered “lacking?”

One of the most amazing aspects of Jesus is that He left heaven and came to Earth to be one of us, to share in our existence, including love and joy, pain and sorrow.  But even though he clearly suffered, He could not possibly suffer everything in His short time on Earth.  He never suffered the death of His mother.  He never suffered the pain of divorce or adultery.  He never suffered the loss of a child to miscarriage.  He never suffered cancer.  He never suffered drug addiction, or a thousand other ways that we suffer.

You see, one of the greatest connections that we can make with someone is in the sharing of an affliction.  It is not joy.  It is suffering.  It is in that moment that we are at our lowest point that we need an anchor.  We need something to hold on to that will keep us from simply drifting away.  It is moments like those that believers get to come along side Jesus and minister to those that are hurting.  And unlike Job’s friends that could not understand his pain, we need someone who has been where we are.  It’s the widow who comforts the grieving wife who lost her husband much too soon.  It’s someone who can look us in the eye and say, “It gets better,” and know that they know.  Someone who can share the source of their hope that it does get better, Jesus.

This is true not only for the church as Paul states, but also for the unbeliever.  If God allowed His people to go through this life without suffering, then we could never be a source of hope to this world.  We could never come along side the lost to connect with them and to show them a God who loves them, a God who hurts when they hurt, a God who wants to restore them.

After all, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher,” (Lk. 6:40).  Jesus was “Rabonni!” (Jn 20:16).  He is the teacher.  We believers should not expect to be above Him, but we should expect to be like Him.  Jesus came and suffered so that He may save the world.  We should also expect to partake in suffering in order to show the world our teacher and our Savior.

Lord, allow us to embrace your will, not to hide from it.  Give us the faith, strength, and courage to face our storms so that we may be a help in times of suffering for others.  To You be the glory.