Silently, one by one, Christians slip into a tiny house. It’s a rare moment of respite from their persecutors. With the door locked and guards posted, they carefully unfold a precious, smuggled letter from their spiritual mentor, the Apostle Peter. They read it aloud, eager for his words of guidance, assurance and comfort, drinking in all of his ―
“Hey! Where does he come off with this humility stuff?”
“Humble Yourselves Under the Mighty Hand of God”
Peter’s message for these newfound Christians rang loud and clear, although most probably didn’t appreciate it, what with all the pain and suffering they daily faced.
“Humble ourselves? I thought we already were pretty humble. Here we are, being dragged into prisons, tortured, murdered, fed to lions for the entertainment of pagans, and he’s asking us to humble ourselves? Well, listen pal, you can’t get any more humble than dead.”
If Peter spoke these words face to face instead of through the written word, I bet I know how he would’ve responded to their outcry.
“All right. In all this suffering and dying you’ve been doing — did any of you rise from the grave? Did God claim any of you as the only begotten of God? When they tortured you, did any centurions say, ‘Surely this was the Son of God?’ I didn‘t think so.
Look, nobody is belittling your suffering, but believe it or not, what I’m telling you is Good News. Yes, we suffer, and yes we die. But because we suffer in the name of Someone who is greater and more powerful than we are, we share in His triumph as well. And if that’s not a reason to be humble, I don’t know what is.”
Humility Я Us
The disciples of Jesus must have felt humbled by the last few days ― even the last few moments ― of Christ on Earth. He told them their hopes and dreams for the future held no importance and that they were not fit to know the answers to the questions they asked. But then He changed everything with just a few promises.
“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses … even to the remotest part of the earth. ”
When Peter wrote to a struggling, young church about humbling themselves under the hand of God, it served as more than just some friendly advice he picked up somewhere — he lived it.
Americans today face a different kind of struggle. We face a challenge some have called the Great Depression striking like Pearl Harbor. Will we, despite the suffering, follow Jesus’ words written through Peter and humble ourselves?
As individuals, as a nation and as coworkers, will we turn our backs on selfish interests and lift one another out of disease and despair?
Have a Little Faith
God never promised an answer to every question, a solution to every problem, or a cure for every affliction. Rather, God promised the trials of this life prove only temporary, like this life itself. As Pogo’s Porky Pine counsels, “Don’t take life so serious, son ― It ain’t nohow permanent.”
And in our hopes and dreams, the first, greatest, most-wonderful purpose we can have is living for God as the new creation He promised for every one of us through His life, death and resurrection. But a close second looks like humbly serving our fellow human beings as God, in Christ, served us.
God promised us power great enough to sustain us through all of life’s trials. The power that saves us from sin and death also proves greater than any nation and any crisis.
Christians in the United States have never needed the cover of darkness as Peter’s early disciples needed. We’ve never watched fellow Christians burn at the stake or lions eat our families.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from this lesson of humility during difficult and scary times.
If we truly desire to experience God’s promises in the world and in our hearts, we can’t allow ourselves the luxury of staring at the place where we saw Jesus last.
In life and in death, in sickness and in health, Jesus is not limited to black and white — and red — words in the pages of our Bibles. This Jesus, who seems so far away in Heaven, so far away from our suffering, remains with us now. By His grace, the words of our Bibles leap off the pages in glorious acts of service, comfort and love.
Our own behavior determines whether our brother Peter’s words sound like threat or promise, encouragement or condemnation, swell, full-color pictures from the book of life, or just plain, old, black-and-white printing.
Either way, his instruction reads as powerful today as the first time Christians read it aloud by the flickering light of an oil lamp:
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.”