Wherever we may be in our faith, on days that go along without many hiccups our hope can stay fairly steady. It’s when an avalanche hits us from one direction or another or we falter and fail yet again on something we felt we had overcome that hope can get out of focus.
Hope can get out of focus for a lot of reasons.
The lack of focus can be how the enemy seeks to defeat us or it can also be because we have placed our hope in the wrong thing. No matter the cause, if you live long enough you will have opportunity to have such an experience. And it will be easy to start berating ourselves when that happens. It’s a temptation the enemy knows will usually work.
The temptation usually works to move us into greater hopelessness because it pulls us deeper into focus on us. Then accusations of the enemy get turned up louder in our heads as memories of other times play across the jumbo screen in front of us. The goal is to nudge us to despair and loss of faith as well as hope.
If you have been reading some of my writing recently, you are aware I have been studying a bit about Peter and gleaning rich insights into Christ’s love in the midst. Too often messages give us more focus on when Peter opens his mouth and blurts out something without appearing to think and shows everyone what he has missed in that process.
But Peter’s life and personality are brimming with windows into so much about our own relationship with God though Christ. They offer us a rich understanding of Christ’s covenant with him, but also with us.
On that pivotal night of the Lord’s Passover so many story lines leap off the page to consider. One of the saddest is when Jesus tells these disciples He has loved and walked with so closely that they will all be tempted to betray Him and fall away. He does in fact already know who and how this will happen. He knew it before He called each of them to be among the chosen twelve.
Then the Lord turns to Peter specifically and gives him the example that he will be sifted like wheat and in the testing, he will falter despite his protestations of steadfastness. What comes next is something we need to pause and digest because we will need to remember it – not just Peter.
Jesus tells Peter that He has seen all this and has prayed for him already for that moment. There is no hint that He is surprised or disappointed, but instead He reassures Peter that He has already prayed.
“How incredible that Jesus Christ and God the Father do not stand back and watch to see if Peter, or the disciples, or any of us, will have enough strength to endure in faith.”
Eric and Kristen Hill
Those words are no less true for any one of us who are his current day disciples, but we cannot stop there with what Jesus said to Peter and says to us in the last portion of Luke 22:32:
“And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Jesus does not doubt that when Peter falters as He knows He will that He will turn again and be able to then strengthen others around him. He is making an assured statement about this most impulsive and dearly loved disciple.
Eric and Kristen Hill in The First Breakfast make the truth stand out in bold bright colors:
“Peter’s faith will be tested, but it will not be abandoned. The prayers that Jesus has already been praying will go on to strengthen Peter, drawing him back to Jesus again. Peter will not be left without a shield to fight the temptations of the enemy. Jesus has already gone before him, making a way back to Himself in restoration before the testing of his faith even begins.”
It confirms the promise John writes in John 10:27-28:
“My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Jesus’s heart for us sees ahead of the temptation, the testing, the faltering or failing in the test, and looks toward the restoration and reconciliation. Even in our weakness, we will not be snatched away.
“The hands of the Father and the Son are wrapped fully around us, even as we walk through the flames of the refining fire. And though we may be knocked down and shaken to our very core, we will not fall through the sieve. His loving hand will hold us fast. The words of Jesus are true of our own souls, just as it was for Peter that night, just hours before Peter would do the one thing he so confidently insisted he never would.”
Eric and Kristen Hill