Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Peace or Anger? (Letter to a Brother) Page 19

I concluded the previous post in this series with:

"We must beware the red horse. We must fear lest we invite the red horse into our souls, our families, our churches, our friendships. We must also be prepared to suffer, for I think that it is only through suffering that we can know peace – I will pick this up on the next post in this series."

Peter writes (1 Peter 5:6 – 11), “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

One of the many dimensions of suffering is that in suffering we have to decide whether or not to surrender our will to God; when we surrender to God in the midst of suffering we enter into His peace. A temptation when the red horse is running rampant in society (Revelation 6:4) is to respond in kind. We return anger for anger, hatred for hatred, vengeance for vengeance – we enter into the downward spiral of the abyss – for that which rises from the abyss will eventually descend into the abyss.

In a red horse culture we are called to “humble” ourselves “under the mighty hand of God” casting all our anxiety on Him because He cares for us. Peter also writes (4:19), “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” Peter (4:13) reminds his readers that to the degree that they share in the sufferings of Christ that they are to “keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” This is a mirror of Paul's words to the Romans, “For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” (Romans 8:18).

Jesus speaks of a time when men’s hearts will fail them for fear – we live in such times. Stress, anxiety, and fear are agents of the red horse removing peace from the earth. Men and women no longer sleep – for sleep only comes to those at rest, only those who dwell in safety – sleep deprivation is a major health concern in the West. Due to stress and anxiety we have become a nation that consumes drugs, alcohol and counseling sessions. We do not just consume material things to gratify our cravings for “more” – we consume products, including entertainment, to deaden our anxieties and fears. Peace has departed our land, peace (what little there ever was of it) is departing our world. The most materially prosperous culture in history is devoid of peace – we lock our doors and we medicate ourselves. Even food has become medication – we have lost religious ritual in sacred places and have replaced it with food ritual – the loaf of bread along with wine or beer is no longer enough for us to simply enjoy and give thanks for, for simplicity leads to contemplation and contemplation to eternal questions and the red horse would have us avoid eternal questions at all cost.

Those who surrender their will to God in the midst of a society in which the roaring lion and red horse rant and rage and lie in wait are those who in surrender will know the peace of Christ. We resist the enemy as we submit to Christ, we resist the enemy as we commit our souls to our loving gracious heavenly Father in the midst of suffering – in the Cross is the ironic victory of resurrection. In dying in Christ we live in Christ.

As Peter’s first letter makes clear, we are called to suffer, but in suffering we find the peace and glory of God (1 Peter 1:6 – 9). In suffering we learn to resist the enemy while at the same time we learn to submit to God, our heavenly Potter. In suffering we learn that resistance includes turning the other cheek, and that turning the other cheek means submitting to our Lord Jesus Christ. Submission to Christ means resisting the enemy. The temptation is to take matters into our own hands, the call of God is to surrender our will to our Lord Jesus. The red horse and the roaring lion want us to respond in kind, they want us to play their game, they want us to view things as the “earth dwellers” of Revelation – but the cry of Revelation is “woe to the earth dwellers!” We must not be deceived by appearances – this deception will lead us into anger and fear and anxiety and will rob us of the peace that is ours in Christ – this deception will leave us destitute and afflicted and unable to help others, this deception will debilitate us in evangelism, in worship, and in building up the body of Christ.

We cannot “achieve” peace through suffering – that is not the Gospel message. The Gospel message is that in Christ, through suffering, we can know the peace of God as Jesus Christ and His Word live within us by the Holy Spirit; and that in our union with the Trinity we can experience the peace of the Trinity and be conduits of that peace to others. We cannot “achieve” anything, but our Lord Jesus Christ will work His good will within us as we surrender our will to Him – a surrender that is only possible through the enabling and the work of the Holy Spirit.

  “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” 

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