So did a blind man called Bartimaeus, whose story appears in the Bible. One day, while he was hanging out by the side of the road begging, a noisy crowd came his way. When he found out the Rabbi Jesus was in the crowd, he began to shout out to him. Long story short—Jesus stopped and asked him what he wanted.
PANNING FOR GOLD
Digging into 1 Peter – A Key Word
What does this title call to your mind (pun intended)? A referee calling a game off because of lightning? A candidate calling an election because of a decisive margin of votes? A letter calling you to jury duty? Your coach calling you a good sport?
Just for fun, look up the word called on The Free Online Dictionary and you will find a kazillion other possibilities.
You will also find several meanings for called in the letter of 1 Peter. That is, the apostle states that God has called us to be and do various things.
The reason I mention this is because–as I was meditating on the verses containing the word called–I got excited. I thought maybe you would too.
So here are the four verses and my comments:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9 NIV).
A purely natural response might be: “I’m not so sure about this. I have a few bad habits I really would like to keep. Besides, the full light of God shining on me–I’m need ready for everything in me to show up clearly.”
The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: “God has invited me to leave the closed-in world of night and enjoy the wide horizons of day. He has invited me out of the guesswork of darkness into the clarity and certainty of the light. He has invited me out of guilt to be clean and carefree.”
If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21 NIV).
A purely natural response might be: “I don’t even want to think about this. Fortunately, I live in the United States, so I don’t have to.”
The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: “God is calling me to make a difference in this world. To live a life worth living. What a privilege! Yes, I’ll make waves by standing out like this, but–I’ll know I did the right thing. I’ll enjoy self-esteem and a clear conscience.”
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9 NIV).
A purely natural response might be: “This sounds ‘way too generous and kind for me. I can meet people half-way if they are trying to get along with me–but this is too much.”
The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: “God is calling me to initiate an aggressive brand of friendliness toward others. To see the good in people I’ve never appreciated before. To care about people who aren’t really related to me. If I do this, I’ll have deep relationships. I’ll belong. I’ll be at peace with everyone (whether or not they are at peace with me). The Lord promises I’ll be glad (be blessed) if I go out of my way to be good to others like this.”
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10 NIV).
A purely natural response might be: “What does this mean? I believe I’ll be in God’s eternal glory when I go to heaven, but what does this have to do with suffering and being restored?”
The response of a believer who understands the power of a supernatural God in their life: ” Jesus was amazing (glorious) when he went to the cross. He kept his composure. He encouraged others. Then–he had the glorious last word by rising from death. The apostle Paul said, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Well, not any more. When I turned my life over to Jesus, he reinstated me into the gloriousness of God–into his inner power of love that radiates in glorious attitudes and actions–even in hard times.”
The good deeds you naturally tend to do, the ways you can figure out to straighten out bad situations–you don’t need God to call you to do those. You can do them on your own (pretty much). But God is calling you to so much more. Things you can only do because he says you can. Because he will make it possible with his own goodness and ability in you.
The usual way of thinking about the supernatural is that it is separate from nature. That it is separate from the world with its natural laws. That it is separate from people with their physical bodies and human personalities. Even though miracles do happen, and even though we sometimes know God is speaking to us, we believe these things are not supposed to happen very often. When we get to heaven, everything will be supernatural, but here on earth, things are natural–99% of the time. So most of us think. So I used to think.
The first crack in that type of thinking came when I read the gospel of Luke for the sole purpose of becoming better acquainted with Jesus. As I read it, I had to admit Jesus did not play by the rule that the supernatural has no place in everyday life. Since then, reading other gospels, I noticed something else about Jesus: he was surprised, and a little upset, when his disciples did not expect the supernatural to happen–whenever.
37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:37-40 NIV).
The best way to explain what the Bible shows here is to use some illustrations–some parables, if you will.
Without wind, a sailboat merely bobs up and down on the waves. Without gas, a car stays parked. Without gasoline or electricity, an oven cannot turn a panful of batter into a cake.
There may be nothing supernatural in any of these examples. After all, a car is a natural object and gasoline comes from nature, as well. But they are examples of the Bible’s revelation that God created this natural world as one half of a divine equation.
Look at it this way: the natural world is like a computer–the hardware half of the equation. The supernatural presence and power of God is like the software that operates in it. God created us (the hardware) then breathed into us the breath of life (the software). Whether we are aware of it or not, his provision, protection, and guidance are with us every day.
When we get a revelation of this partnership, it’s like discovering apps that we didn’t know were on our computer. We can do things we had not dreamed possible. No, we’re not in heaven yet. But when we understand God’s place in our natural world, it’s like heaven on earth.
Let’s back up a minute. Aren’t unaided natural processes pretty remarkable all by themselves? Yes (although they’re not really unaided. I mean, God gave us the raw materials to construct boats and he gave us the wind to drive them). But using the natural stuff God gave us only gets us so far. Have you ever thought, There’s got to be more to life than this? That’s because there is. Do you have a deep, impossible dream? You’re glimpsing the super for your natural.
You know, even without gas, a car looks impressive. It even has some practical uses. A homeless family can sleep in it. With its rubber tires and metal body, it can keep a person safe from electrical shock during a thunderstorm.
But, are you satisfied with a car that doesn’t go somewhere? Isn’t “going somewhere” its main purpose?
What about gasoline? You can dampen a rag with it and wipe tar off your car. You can spray a bit of it on charcoal or wood to jump-start a fire. (Stay far away when you toss the match on it!) But oil refineries don’t work day and night to produce gasoline for these uses!
A car alone has its benefits, and gasoline alone has minor functions. But put them together, and–look out!
God did not create a great divide between the natural and the supernatural. Sin and satan caused that estrangement. Jesus came to re-unite us with God.
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18 NIV).
Notice–this does not say Christ died just to make it possible for us to go to heaven when we die. He mainly did it to bring us to God. To re-introduce us to the companionship and partnership with God that Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden.
Sin caused a detour. Jesus died to remove the effects of sin. It wasn’t his main mission. It was a necessary first step–to get us back on the road with him. To bring us back into a life in which God is king. To put the super back into our natural.
I’ve lived in a few “lands” in my life–the Dominican Republic, Arizona, California, Illinois, and now Kentucky. I’ve heard Spanish . . . and Southern drawl. I’ve lived in lush tropics . . . and in the desert. I’ve enjoyed beaches . . . and snow. No two of these places are alike.
Just like the two places I am thinking of today: the land of Barely Enough and the Land of More Than Enough.
You can see a really good example of these opposite “countries” in the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to what became The Holy Land. The Lord delivered them miraculously from slavery in Egypt. He led them through a wilderness area to Mt. Sinai, where they stopped and built the Tabernacle of worship. Within months (a year or two) they could have entered the Promised Land, but they were not ready. So they wandered in the wilderness for forty more years, until all the older generation had died.
Why were they not ready to take possession of the Promised Land? They didn’t trust God when he said he would go before them to give them the victory over their enemies.*
Now, God cared for his people–even when they did not trust him. During the years of wandering in the wilderness, he miraculously provided manna for those millions of people to eat. He also (according to Moses) kept their garments from wearing out and their feel from swelling (Deuteronomy 8:4). Daily miracles of provision for forty years! But the desert was the Land of Barely Enough.
They could have been in the Land of More Than Enough “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper” (Deuteronomy 8:7-9).
Two of the original adult generation–Caleb and Joshua–made it to the Promised Land. They knew God would do what he said. They believed. And it happened for them–in spite of the doubters around them.
Do Christians around you say things like:
“Ask God for what you need but don’t expect him to give you what you want.”
“I’m only human. I can’t live the way the Bible says.”
“I’m just not very spiritual. I don’t know what God wants, so I’ll have to decide by myself.”
“God only heals once in a while.”
“It is not spiritual to want to be comfortably well off and have plenty to share with those in need.”
“God only calls a few, extraordinary people to do great things.”
“Until they get to heaven, Christians have to put up with everything the world dishes out. Strong Christians don’t expect God to protect them. He wouldn’t anyway. He just gives you grace to endure.” *
Maybe “the masses” of well-meaning Christians are saying these things, but what what does God say? (Did you click on the link in each statement to see?)
Are you content to live in the Land of Barely Enough–barely enough grace, barely enough well-being, barely enough protection, barely enough provision, and barely enough fruitfulness? You don’t have to! Study the Bible, take God at his word, and step into the Promised Land. Be like Joshua and Caleb–hold out for God’s full purpose and destiny for your life. And–like Joshua and Caleb–as you step into it, take all your family and friends with you.
No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,
Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9 MSG).
*Christians do suffer persecution and challenges for the sake of the gospel. And God gives great, supernatural grace for that. But, otherwise, God blesses and protects them.
One of the mind-boggling thoughts that hit me—after visiting Israel—is how many supernatural events have occurred in that small country. The current state of Israel is smaller than the state of Delaware, but there have undoubtedly been more miracles per square mile in that land than anywhere else on earth.
Speaking of square miles, our tour guide pointed out that most of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee took place within one square mile. In that one square mile, he turned water into wine, feed 5000+ people by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish, calmed a storm, walked on water, and healed countless people.
But miracles occurred in Israel even before Christ’s time. The prophet Elijah’s prayers resurrected a dead boy. He confronted the 450 prophets of Baal (a pagan god) on Mt. Carmel with a spectacular result that left the observing Israelites saying, “The LORD—he is God!”
His successor, Elisha, performed sixteen miracles in all—the last one happening after his death. (A corpse was placed hastily in Elisha’s tomb. When the dead man touched Elisha’s bones, he came back to life!)
I said that Israel has seen more miracles per square mile than any other place on earth. But miracles happen all over this planet. During World War II, in Ravensbruk, a large concentration camp in Germany, Betsy Ten Boom shared her precious bottle of vitamins with other ailing women Her supply never dwindled. In widely separated parts of the globe, when believers have prayed, tidal waves have separated, and fires and tornadoes have changed course, leaving them unharmed. A friend of mine has strong faith in God’s desire to heal. When she went through chemotherapy for cancer, she did not experience nausea or any other symptom.
Where do miracles fit in the scheme of things? When is it appropriate to “bother God” for a miracle? Is it a sign of immaturity and weakness to ask for God to supernaturally solve a problem?
When my granddaughter was two, she didn’t want help dressing herself. “No! Nikki by ’erself!” she protested as she proceeded to turn her shorts backwards and put both legs in one hole. My point? God doesn’t want us lazy, but, on the other hand, he wants us to know our limits. If I did not let experts do things for me, my car would be in terrible disrepair, my computer would have me completely stumped, and I wouldn’t know how to read and spell.
Was the apostle Paul’s statement “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7), just a sentimental thought? Or did he mean that God would help us with the issues of everyday life? To what extent? Well, when we go to a human friend or professional, they put the full extent of their knowledge and skill into helping us solve our problem. Will God not do the same? And, for him, that means pulling some strings supernaturally. Not just once in a great while, but every day. If we ask.
However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8 NIV).
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12 NIV).
Making It Personal
- Will you ask God for his help today, and expect a miracle, if that’s what it takes?
- Unless you expect miracles, will you be able to accomplish the God-size tasks he has called you to do?