In my post of May 28, 2014, I discussed I Peter 3:13-14, with the conclusion that we should not be afraid of those who would persecute us. I had said that persecution could take varied forms, from verbal to physical to deadly. Those are difficult things not to be afraid of. How can we do it? If we continue reading through I Peter 3:15, we will find the answer.
I Peter 3:15 starts with the instruction to set apart Christ as Lord. If we give Christ control of our hearts and lives, and we fear—reverence—Him, if we know that He has ultimate control over what happens in the world, if we know that nothing that happens to us is unknown to Him, then we will be much less likely to fear what man—humans—can do to us. If, however, we are more concerned about what people think, what they can and might do, if we don’t believe that God can keep us from ultimate harm, then we are likely to spend our lives living in fear.
As humans, it is only natural for fear to rise within us in certain circumstances, and sometimes fear is a very good thing; it keeps us from putting ourselves into unnecessary danger. But what is our first reaction when we feel fear? Do we become anxious, worrying about every negative possibility that may or may not ever occur? Or do we turn immediately to God to ask for help, protection, mercy, a way out? What Peter is saying here is very similar to the promise given by the Lord to Solomon in II Chronicles 7:14. If God’s people will be humble and turn to Him, something that the Israelites had real difficulty with, He would hear and answer their prayers, forgive them and heal their land. If we would humble ourselves and turn to God, something that we have real difficulty with, He will answer our prayers too. The answers might not always come in ways we expect, but we can be confident knowing that God cares for us, knows what we are going through, and wants only the best for us.
In my next post, I will look at the rest of the instructions in I Peter 3:15-16.
Today's post was written by and shared with permission from Tim Challies.
Why sheep? Why not cheetahs or wolves or ligers or another animal with a bit of flair, a bit of class? But the Bible tells us often that we are sheep. We are sheep and God is a shepherd. That sheep/shepherd word picture is at the heart of the best-loved Psalm—Psalm 23. I spent some time with that psalm lately and tried to gain a better appreciation of why God saw fit to tell us we are sheep.
I will admit I am not the world’s foremost expert on sheep. I grew up in the city and even now live in an area of town that explicitly forbids owning livestock. In place of first-hand knowledge, I spent some time reading about sheep. It was funny. And kind of humbling.
Do a little bit of reading about sheep and you’ll soon see they are not survivors. They are not strong and independent creatures, not proud hunters or fierce predators. They’re actually kind of pathetic, entirely dependent upon a shepherd for at least three reasons. Two of these reasons are related to the brain of a sheep and the other is related to its body.
This is a real news story that aptly tells us the first reason sheep need a shepherd: because sheep are dumb.
Hundreds of sheep followed their leader off a cliff in eastern Turkey, plunging to their deaths this week while shepherds looked on in dismay. Four hundred sheep fell 15 metres to their deaths in a ravine in Van province near Iran but broke the fall of another 1,100 animals who survived. Shepherds from a nearby village neglected the flock while eating breakfast, leaving the sheep to roam free. The loss to local farmers was estimated at $74,000.
One sheep wandered off a cliff and 1,499 others just followed along. Can you picture it? 1,500 sheep, each walking off a cliff, one after the other. Soon they were piled so deep that the ones at the bottom were crushed to death and the ones on top were lying on a big downy-soft pillow. It is completely absurd and tells us one important fact about sheep and the first reason sheep absolutely need a shepherd: they are not the smartest animals in the world. In fact, they may well be just about the dumbest animals in the world.
And here’s a second reason sheep need a shepherd: they are directionless. Sheep are prone to wander. Even if you put them in an absolutely perfect environment with everything they need (things like green pastures and still waters), sooner or later they will just wander off. If a shepherd doesn’t manage them, if he doesn’t micromanage them and keep them under constant surveillance, they’ll wander off and be lost.
Sheep are dumb and directionless. They are also defenseless. Left to themselves, sheep will not and cannot last very long. Just about any other domesticated animal can be returned to the wild and will stand a fighting chance of survival. But not sheep. Put a sheep in the wild and you’ve just given nature a snack.
Think about it: there are different ways animals react when they perceive some kind of danger. Here are three common ones: fight, flight, and posture.
Let’s think about fight. A sheep gets frightened or sees that he is in danger. Maybe he sees a bear rambling toward him. What is he going to do? He doesn’t have claws, he doesn’t have fangs, he doesn’t have venom, he doesn’t have spines or quills or large talons. He’s got nothing to protect himself. Fighting is definitely out. But that’s okay—there are lots of other animals that don’t fight it out.
How about flight, just turning tail and running away? That’s a good defense mechanism. Unfortunately sheep aren’t fast; they certainly aren’t agile, especially when their wool is long, and even more so when their wool is long and wet. Last I checked they don’t have wings. A sheep is not going to outrun or outfly a bear. The sheep will not fight and it cannot take flight. So far it is looking pretty good for the bear.
How about posture? A dog will bark and growl and show his teeth to warn you away. A lion will roar. A rattlesnake will shake his rattle. A cat will arch his back and hiss. The best a sheep can do is baaa. I don’t think that bear is going be too intimidated. It is for good reason that no one relies on a guard sheep to keep their property secure.
Sheep can’t fight, they can’t run away, and they can’t scare away. So what does a sheep do when danger comes? It flocks. When a bear approaches, the sheep will gather with others in a pack and run in circles in complete panic, just hoping that the bear will choose someone else. Without a shepherd to protect them, they’ll be picked off and eaten one by one.
Sheep are dumb and directionless and defenseless. So I guess when God says that we are sheep who need a shepherd, he doesn’t mean it as a compliment to us. It is just a very realistic assessment of who we are and what we need. We are sheep who are completely dependent upon a shepherd.
To say that God is our shepherd and we are sheep, is to humble ourselves, admitting what is true about us, and to elevate God, declaring what is true of him. When you say, “The Lord is my shepherd,” you are saying something that ought to move your heart in praise and gratitude. To declare that God if your shepherd is to praise and glorify him because God the shepherd stoops down to care for poor, lost, not-so-smart sheep like you and me.
You can visit Tim's website at challies.com
Most people go through a rebellious stage at some point. For many it is in their teenage years, or when they go away to college. It usually represents their fight for independence, or their search for their own identity. The length of the rebellious period varies according to the person. I once had a grade eight student whose rebellious period lasted two weeks. She had been one of my more mature students, until she decided to experiment with a new personality. She became rude, uncooperative and insulting. I was surprised, saddened and annoyed. Thankfully at the end of those two weeks, she was back to her sweet, good-natured self, and I was glad for her return.
Luke 15:11-32 tells the story of a much more involved rebellion. It is the parable of the prodigal son. Many translations call this the story of the lost son, or the wayward son, which would also be an accurate representation of the person in question, but a more accurate synonym for the word prodigal would be wasteful. Oxford American Dictionaries defines prodigal as “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant”.
The prodigal son, the younger of two, boldly asks his father for his inheritance, and then goes as far away as he can get from family responsibility and accountability. He wants to make his own decisions and live his life his way, but his short-sighted choices and some unforeseen circumstances produce a desperate situation. He finds himself with nothing left when there is a famine in the land. He stoops about as low as a Jewish boy can go when he starts tending pigs for a foreigner. He realizes that he could have tended flocks and herds for his father and been treated much better. Oh how the perspective of experience can change one’s view of things! The independence he had asked for so that he didn’t have to live under his father’s authority he was now more than willing to give up so that he could live under his father’s blessings. For even if he were only a servant in his father’s household, he would be much better off than facing starvation to the point of wanting the pigs’ food and not even being able to have that. Again he had a choice to make. This time he chose humility, and went back to his father. Thankfully for him, his father was glad of his return and welcomed him back not as a servant, but as a son.
You will have noticed that this parable starts with Jesus saying that “A man had two sons.” (Luke 15:11) Next week, I will look at the other son, the older brother. The following week, I will examine the father’s reaction to them both.