Do Not Worry?
Do Not Worry? Matthew 16:13-18 1 Peter 3:13-22
For most Christians, prayer is a natural reaction to life. And what I mean by that is... we tend to pray about those things in life that affect us most vividly and intimately; no matter what those things may be.
Having served in ministry for three decades now, I’ve had countless people come to me asking for prayer... for family, friends... themselves... for every imaginable reason. And believing in the power of prayer - I’ve prayed! And asked countless others to pray for me, too.
I’ve been asked to pray for everything from a young lady who was worried about going to her first high school prom... to parents who were worried about their child being deployed into a war zone. I’ve prayed for sick kittens... and people facing life threatening surgery. It’s natural, and a good thing to pray... to turn to God with all of our worries... no matter how seemingly small and insignificant, or large and overwhelming!
Of course, the reality of life is that alongside all the blessings and joys... we all have fears. And it’s most often our fears that lead us to pray. Fears concerning what the future holds... Our world seems to be getting worse by the minute. Crime, death, injustice, hate - all on the rise. So we worry... we fear all those things in this life that we cannot control.
So... we pray. We pray for the best when it comes to those we love the most! We pray for a better life, a better world... We pray for those closest to us especially, because we don’t want to see them suffer.
But, the truth is... even for the most faithful... sometimes, our fears overshadow our hopes.
God’s Word reminds us that the early Christians lived in the very same world that we do! Their fears often overshadowed their hopes.
They were facing enemies (opposition) from every side. The Jews (their brothers and sisters by blood) opposed the preaching of Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One... and started riots and created disturbances as Christians gathered to proclaim the Good News. The Romans didn’t like the problems the Church was causing, so they persecuted the Christians, too. With so much opposition, the future looked bleak.
So Peter, inspired by God, sent a message of hope to the Church. He said, “Who will harm you if you’re eager to do good?” It makes sense to a degree. I mean, most of the time, anyone in their “right mind” would never hurt or harm someone who was trying to help them? But that’s exactly what was happening to the early Christians.
The Jews and Romans were persecuting Christians - despite the fact that all the Christians were trying to do was share the Good News of Christ. And since Peter knew the reality of the Christian’s plight... in the VERY NEXT sentence he said, “BUT even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed” - so - “do not fear what they fear.” In other words, Peter was telling the persecuted and oppressed followers of Christ - that even though they suffer for doing good - keep doing good! Have hope and do not fear.
Now, listen: I’ll be the first to admit that whenever someone tells me not to worry, it’s mildly offensive. I mean, when I’m honestly concerned, and troubled, about a situation (or about another person) the last thing I usually want to hear is “don’t worry.”
It reminds me of that ridiculously catchy song that came out a few years ago: “Don’t worry, be happy!” Do you remember that? It’s good to be hopeful, and to be positive... but to give a big ole’ “don’t worry, be happy” response to serious concerns kinda belittles my honest vexations and heartfelt feelings. I don’t need to be reminded NOT to worry! I need to be reminded WHY I don’t need to worry! Big difference.
I don’t think God’s Word is telling us “don’t worry, be happy!” We’re not being called to ignore the enormity of the troubles of this world and the difficulties of this life.
Remember, Peter was the first of the disciples to actually confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus’ response to Peter's confession? Jesus said, “You are Peter (the stone), and upon this ROCK I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall NOT prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
Understand something here: Jesus did not build his church on Peter. That’s not what Jesus was saying! Peter was just a “chip off the ole’ block” so-to-speak. The ROCK Jesus built the church upon is the TRUTH (of Peter’s revelation) that HE, Jesus, is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
So, in the face of their persecution and fear - Peter was reminding the church of this truth. Peter says, “for it’s better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil” (vs. 17). Then he puts this suffering into context, by saying, “For Christ suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.” Christ suffered to bring us peace, and hope, and security... in spite of the worries and anxieties of this world.
Of course, Peter’s words say several things to us as Christians.
First, Christ suffered for us. He knows what suffering is all about… And he knows the suffering we’re going through in this life. He understands our fears. He knows our pain and anxiety because he’s been there and done that! Christ knows what it means to suffer.
The second thing to remember is Christ suffered for doing good. And that means, you and I can expect the no different. Jesus suffered as a result of following the will of God. And that means, all suffering could NOT POSSIBLY be bad. It was God's will for Christ to suffer for a greater good... that “greater good” being our salvation.
Jesus suffered and died so that all of us could live! So it stands to reason that our suffering, must also be for the greater good. After all we’re intended to be Christlike and we’re called to be imitators of God. The greater good, for which the early church suffered, was to pass on the faith to you and to me. Their suffering was a testimony of what Peter has written here. It was also a fulfillment of what Jesus said to Peter, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!”
Peter goes on to make a point… making sure that the persecuted church, knew, that Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.”
Jesus has ultimate authority over all things. The power of evil may have been set loose on the world for a time, for a season. And for a while... evil makes the righteous suffer and fear. But Jesus has ultimate authority. In Christ we have victory over the forces of this world! Which means, in light of our fears and anxieties - Christ is still King of kings and Lord of lords... and we can rest in HIM... in our faith, because our faith is in Christ, and not this world.
We all worry... we all fear... we all get anxious. But as followers of Christ, we don’t fear as the world fears. Jesus Christ is the “Alpha and Omega” - the beginning and the end. Christ lives in our hearts through faith... and our lives and prayers and faith are all built on the rock of Christ.
Let’s commit together, to use our troubles and trials and concerns and anxieties... as springboards of faith! Let’s pray, allowing God in Christ, to use our fears as justification to love... and as reasons to do good.
Of course, by doing that... you and I are following in the footsteps of Jesus. And, brothers and sisters, there’s no safer place to be.