This week's Bible Study - August 30, 2009
Will You Remain Faithful?
Matthew 26:36-46; 1 Peter 4:12-14,19
Quote of the Week:
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Although I've never personally seen it, I've often heard of Old Faithful, a geyser located in Wyoming, in Yellowstone National Park. It was named in 1870 by an expedition in that area. Eruptions of the geyser often occur about 90 minutes apart, but the interval can range from 45 to 125 minutes on occasion. Although the interval between eruptions may vary and the length of the eruption can also vary, it has been surprisingly consistent, even with earthquakes that have surely affected water levels below the earth.
Over the course of our lifetimes, there are things that we assume to be consistent. However, it doesn't take long to see how things change. It doesn't take long to see how fans of a professional sports team are in one season extremely crazy about their team and in just a few short years of continued losses, the fans seem to care less. It's that 'What have you done for me lately?' mentality. We also have seen major companies come and go. Some were very powerful in the past century, yet they are barely existent today, if at all. We see new state of the art buildings that are designed and built, but after several years, they may very well be torn down. There are very few things that are consistent around us throughout the course of our lives.
This is one of the key qualities of the Christian faith. Actually, it's less about us and the Christian faith and more about the Bible and Christ. Although the Bible was written over a period of several hundred years, minimally, and the latest updates are nearly 2000 years old, it is still extremely relevant. Think back to what things must have been like in the year 600 AD. None of us were there, but ask yourself - were people texting on cell phones and were Gregorian Chants available on iTunes? Were doctors working from the same medical assumptions and textbooks? Were the same subjects and curriculum taught in the universities? Were the automotive dealers creating assembly line vehicles? Were planes often late and did they lose their luggage? Actually, life was very different - in every facet EXCEPT what you would find in a church. They may be speaking a different language or using a different translation than what you have in your possession, but they were using the same Scripture that we use today. Isn't that amazing? God has certainly been consistent and faithful throughout history.
Certainly, mankind has not been as faithful over time - even committed believers. The atrocities committed in the name of religion were unbelievable. The mistakes made by Christian believers have unfortunately made headlines from time to time. We are called to remain faithful today. You likely know people that you can look at and admire their faithfulness. God places those people around us for encouragement. Eventually, we are to be those types of people for others. Will you remain faithful?
As Jesus was nearing the end of his earthly ministry, he was agonized over what he would have to go through. He had many committed friends and followers, including the disciples, but few, if any of them, knew what was to come. Jesus took three of his disciples with him, as he went to Gethsemane to pray. Likely, Jesus had taken disciples with him to places that he had prayed, and they had also seen him take time off on his in prayer. He asked them sit and wait for him while he prayed. The passage says that he was sorrowful and troubled. I'm sure that they could see a change in his countenance.
He told them that his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Can you imagine the reaction of the disciples? If it were us, I would imagine that we'd try and comfort him and tell him that it really wasn't that bad. How many times have you seen people who have gone through some trauma in their life and have told them that they just need to get over it? I know I've been guilty at times.
Jesus went a little farther than his disciples and then fell to the ground in prayer. He prayed that if possible, the Father would take this cup from him. He knew of the impending torture and death, as well as the sins of the world that would be heaped upon him. I feel sure that he was dreading what he would have to go through. We will never know of dealing with anything as dire, yet we can relate to this feeling. He asked that it be taken from him, yet he made it clear that if it was truly God's will; he was willing.
I know that many people have a difficulty in praying for a long period of time without going to sleep, even while praying. If you find yourself waiting for someone else for a long time at night, it can become difficult to stay awake. I'm sure we can all understand how this happened with the disciples. Jesus came back and found them sleeping. He questioned Peter as to why they were not able to keep watch with him for one hour.
Again he asked Peter and the others to watch and pray so that they would not fall into temptation. He knew that they desired in their spirit to be with Jesus, but he also knew that their spirit was weak. There are times where we find ourselves at a crossroads in our relationship with Christ. On one hand, we want to do whatever He has called us to do, but on the other hand, we are so prone to fall back into our flesh. None of us are superhero Christians.
Jesus went away for a second time and prayed. He continued to pray to the Father that he would be strong to do his will. It is evident that Jesus, in the flesh, truly desired that another outcome could happen. But, in the war with his spirit, he knew that this was what God had planned from the start. Jesus asked for strength to do the Father's will. This pattern is what we need to follow in our lives. There are times where we will find ourselves truly dreading doing what we know we have been called to do. Are we willing to say that God's will be done?
Jesus once again returned from praying and found them sleeping again, because their eyes were heavy. It is amazing how tired we get when our eyes are heavy, and it is also amazing, at least for me, how that time often comes when I need to be awake. I have been on several international flights, where sleeping would be the one thing I would love to do. On most of them, I have had great trouble trying to get to sleep. But, I will often find that when I get to the destination, I have a hard time staying awake. On a trip to Belarus several years ago, I took some medication to help me sleep on the plane. No luck at all. However, when we landed and got to where we met people, I could barely stay awake. I know what it means to have heavy eyes. Sleep….
This time Jesus didn't even wake them up. He left once again and prayed again to the Father, saying the same thing. It is interesting that even Jesus had to go back to the Father on multiple occasions for strength to do his will. I wonder why we sometimes think we can get all that done with one simple prayer.
When Jesus returned, he woke up the disciples and asked why they were sleeping and resting. The hour was near and Jesus was to be betrayed into the hands of the sinners. I am certain that they didn't understand this fact. They had been told of the impending doom and all of the events that were going to happen, yet they disregarded that as foolishness. If they had truly known what we happening, they would have likely been able to stay awake and pray with the Lord. Jesus told them to rise, so that they could go face his betrayer.
Who among us has not had the opinion at one time or another that if we truly were faithful and did what God told us to do, that our lives would become easier? There are teachers that say as much, and there are many people who love to have their ears tickled with this type of teaching. Who wouldn't want to have an easy life?
However, Peter, in this passage tells us that we are not to be surprised at the painful trial we are suffering, as if our Christian status should keep us from experiencing those things. There are truly intensely difficult circumstances that people have to deal with. Each of us can probably think of something that has happened in our own lives or in the lives of others, even in the past week that makes us question why God would allow such a thing. Don't get fooled into believing that life becomes easy as you become a Christian.
Peter tells us to even rejoice that we can participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that we may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. In this passage, he is primarily speaking about being insulted because of the name of Christ. There are places in the world where believers face persecution if they truly take a stand for Christ. There are many different types of persecution. Sometimes it can just make us feel like we are not part of a group of our friends or co-workers. If we are insulted because of the name of Christ, we are blessed. The spirit of glory and of God rests on us. When we continue in the face of insult and trials, we will be overjoyed when God's glory is revealed to all people.
This verse in 1 Peter should encourage us to continue to fight the good fight. It doesn't tell us that we do good so that we don't suffer, but that if we suffer according to God's will, we should commit ourselves to our faithful Creator and continue to do good.
What if our suffering has been brought about by our own sin or our trying to take control of all situations in our life? God can use anything for good, but we must repent of our sins and continue to be faithful as we move forward. None of us can claim perfection or that we have always sought (and followed) God's will consistently. We can each look back to things that we have done on our own. God can continue to use us and our forward looking path should always be to do the right things. I also know that we will also all experience failure in our futures. God did not send Jesus to save us at one point and time, and then we carry it forward on our own for the rest of our lives. We are utterly dependent upon reliance upon Christ, and only through doing that can we remain faithful.
We have already mentioned that faithfulness does not imply that things are easy. Jesus is the supreme example of faithfulness. He was faithful to the Father's will, even when he himself had reservations. He was truthful and took those to God in prayer, but he was willing to submit to God's will, rather than just go with what he may have desired.
The disciples were there for Jesus, at least for a period of time. It is interesting that Jesus requested that the disciples go with him to Gethsemane. They were there for some support, even if they couldn't give him everything he was wanting from them. Let's think about our roles as fellow believers. When we are experiencing difficult issues, are we involving others? We do need to be a community of believers. We need to be willing to help one another - and to be free to ask for help. Will you ask others for support, and will you provide support for others in need?