I think most of us find that it is difficult to be patient with process, whether we are talking about learning a new skill, remodeling a home, or getting back in shape. Wanting the good results is the easy part, but it’s that one step forward and two back that really tests your resolve to persevere. The number of abandoned projects and piles of new equipment gathering dust out there attest to that fact. Peter the Disciple was a live-in-the-moment kind of guy, knew what it was like to be wired that way– big on excitement and not so much on follow-through. So it is remarkable to read his letters to the Christ-followers living in the outer reaches of the Roman Empire and see his big-picture viewpoint, hear him urging them to keep their eyes fastened on who they are and where they are headed.
Maybe that was his secret, that at some point he did learn to stop looking at the waves,and start looking at his Savior’s hand outstretched instead. When you take your eyes off the immediate circumstances and the swell of emotions that crash all around, start focusing on the One who is walking with you, your perspective enlarges dramatically. You can say things like, “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.” (1 Peter 1:6) The grief of this world is still very present and real, but so is the “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:4-5) As a Christ-follower, the saving grace in life is that you are not trying to get it done in your own strength and self-discipline. Literally. Our life in Christ is wrapped up in His saving grace from beginning to end. And when you grow weary of one more day, and discouraged about your progress, you can rest in that grace that carries you, look forward to the glorious future He purchased, and not give up. Peter was very aware of his own weaknesses– that’s why in his letter he emphasizes how salvation belongs to God and is not dependent on our efforts. It was the Father’s grand plan from the very Beginning, accomplished through the death and resurrection of the Son and the sanctifying work of the Spirit in the hearts of those who believe. It is vitally important to Peter that he lay this out clearly because only on this firm and unchanging foundation can his faith and ours rest secure.
Peter goes so far as to say that persevering in the everyday process is what proves a person’s faith is real. He knew from experience how emotions are not trustworthy guides for a walk of faith. High on the excitement of a miracle or caught up in the passion of a big event, it was easy for him to claim large faith, or propose action. But the same emotion that swells has its counterbalancing downswing, and he also knew the pendulum-swing of failure and rebuke and shame. The emotions will never be enough to make you strong, carry you through; what really matters most is the foundation you are acting on when the fireworks of emotion die down– what you do next.
So Peter can write to these believers (with the authority of one who has learned the hard way) that real faith hangs onto the eternal things that are True, no matter what: “You love Him even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9) When you know the Most High has gone to such lengths to claim you as His “…special possession….has called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9), you can rest assured that perseverance in living out your faith will result in the happy ending that God intends for you.
And to all of us, I hear Peter saying: be patient with the process. Learn to see God at work in it. Wrestle with what it means to “live as God’s obedient children” (1 Peter 1:14) and practice living out His holiness in everyday things. Don’t be too quick to look for escapes and quick fixes. Listen more to His Word and His Spirit instead of your emotions. Long for growth, soak up every bit of nourishment you can get, so that you will grow strong and healthy inside. And be patient with what He is working out in you, for “when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:7) God did it for Peter, and He can do it for you. .
I heard a wise teacher say once that our transformation, our healing, our growth will take one day longer than we live in these bodies. Hang in there, then, and be patient, because ” In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” (1 Peter 1:3-4) This is worth waiting for.
“So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world….For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.”1 Peter 1:13, 23
“Most of our healings will be experienced through the relatively slow processes with which God wonderfully and wisely equips our bodies. And most of our deliverances will be experienced through the relatively slow (at times frustratingly so) processes with which God wonderfully and wisely equips our minds and souls — replacing habitual responses of belief in deceptive promises and condemning accusations with habitual responses of faith in the true promises and gracious acceptance of God.”