Tuesday, February 5, 2013

God's Peculiar Treasure

"Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, 
Lord, and what shall this man do?  
Jesus saith unto him, 
If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?  
Follow thou me."
John 21:21,22

Does it ever seem that God is requiring more of you than 
He demands of others?
Does it seem that your cross is heavier....
than the cross of anyone else you know?

I was full of questions.
Asking God.
Why do You require this of me, Lord?
Why do I have to pay this price...
when there are so many others who seemingly don't?
Why can they do certain things
that You will not allow me to do?
If we are all going to the same Heaven,
why must I refrain...
while others do not?

To my rambling questions,
came God's loving, but solid reply.
In the words of His only begotten Son...
uttered almost 2,000 years ago...
yet, so relevant to my situation....
recorded by Luke in the 12th chapter & the 48th verse.
Such a fitting answer...
to the deep mysteries springing from my heart.
"For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required..."

I began to ponder and consider the wisdom in Jesus' words,
the spiritual light and understanding He has revealed,
how much I have been given,
how much is required of me,
and how responsible I am.

Then He reminded me of the scenario surrounding today's passage of Scripture.
Peter had denied Jesus...
not once,
but three times.
On crucifixion night.
When Jesus needed him most.
He told three people that he was not a follower of Jesus,
when in reality he was one of Jesus' closest, most intimate friends.
Fiercely loyal.
Intensely devoted.
A vital member of the inmost part of Jesus' inner circle.
One of the three invited in,
while the others were told to stay out.
By the third time someone accused him of being one of Jesus' followers,
Peter went so far as to swear....
that he didn't even know Jesus.
Blatant denial.
In my opinion, almost as severe as the betrayal of Judas.
Which one of us would not have done the same....
under the same extenuating circumstances?
Jesus told him he would do it.
He knew.
Sure enough, it came to pass...
just like Jesus predicted.
After Jesus rose from death,
He appeared to Peter and asked him three different times
if Peter loved him.
Peter became frustrated...
by the third time Jesus asked.
If you had just been betrayed,
if a close friend had just denied that they even knew you...
not once, but three separate times...
wouldn't you wonder?
At the depth of their commitment?
At the validity of their profession of love?
Peter denied Jesus three times.
Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him.
Completely understandable.
After the line of questioning,
Jesus prophesied concerning the day Peter would
suffer and be put to death, against his will,
for the sake of the Gospel.
He then looked at Peter and said those all-important words,
"Follow Me."
It was a special call.
Personal and direct....
just for Peter.
After that,
his life would be forever changed.
He was set apart.
Called to follow Jesus....
no matter where the road took him.
Invited in.
To a place of uncommon fellowship...
with the God of Heaven.
Given a unique appointment.
Commissioned with an uncommon assignment.
The meaning of it was not lost to Peter.
He must have felt a sense of overwhelming weight.
A mixture of complete disbelief....
that Jesus had completely forgiven and restored him to 
his place in the Kingdom of God,
and an overwhelming sense of the heavy implications of Jesus' call.
His reaction?
Peter turned to look at one of his best friends in the world...
a fellow disciple, named John.
"Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, 
Lord, and what shall this man do?"

It was like he was thinking,
"Lord, I completely understand the implication of Your words.
I know what this means.
I get it.
This is no ordinary invitation.
This is unique...distinct...divine.
It requires complete self-abandonment.
My dreams, my ambitions, my aspirations...
all of it...
must be surrendered....
for the sake of a greater cause....
from this moment forth.
My life...is irrevocably changed.
I can't just walk away...
like it never happened.
This encounter is real.
More real than anything I have ever felt in my life.
I feel the weight.
I comprehend the significance.
But, what about him, Lord?
Why are you asking so much....
of me?
What are you asking of him?
What about John?"

Have you ever felt that way?
Like Peter must have felt?
That God was requiring hard demands...
of you?
While others around you ran free?
That He expects more of you...
a deeper consecration...
a greater sacrifice...
than the price others have to pay?
That others seem permitted to do things that you would like to do,
but each time you have sought permission,
God has answered with a firm "no"?

To Peter, Jesus replied,
"If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?  
Follow thou Me."

It didn't matter what Jesus required of John.
That was between Jesus and John.
It was none of Peter's concern.
What God required of John had absolutely nothing
to do with Peter's responsibility...
to his own divine call.
Peter's calling was appropriate...
to Peter.
John would have his own cross...
to carry....
to deal with....
to bear.
Comparing himself to John was an unwise thing
for Peter to do.
Because Peter's call was individual.
It was exclusive....
to Peter.
Just like John's call was singular to John.

Maybe it looked to Peter as if John got the easy end of the deal.
The light end of the load.
Jesus knew what was ahead....
for both men.

God customizes our individual callings and crosses.
Did you ever think of that?
In God's Kingdom,
one size does not fit all...
not when it comes to callings....
and crosses.

God knows how much each of us are capable of handling.
He knows our limits.

Your composition may be a lot stronger than mine.
You may be able to bear up under a lot heavier load than I can.
You may look at me and think God is demanding a lot more of you...
than He is of me.
And vice versa.

Peter wasn't alone in his wondering.
No doubt, we have all looked at God's requirements of us,
turned to our spiritual brother or sister standing nearby...
you know,
the one who seems to flitter through life without a care in the world,
the one who seems to thrive without much sacrifice,
the one who professes the same dedication to spirituality as we do,
yet seems to get by with doing the very things for which we feel condemned.....
and turned our face toward Jesus and said,
"Lord, what about her?
What are you going to ask her to do?
Why does my calling require so much of me?
Why can't I be as care-free as she is?
Why are the demands of me so great, Lord?
When she gets by with so much less?"

God may never tell us why our cross is so heavy.
Jesus didn't tell Peter.
He didn't give reason for the life of self-denial
Peter would be required to live in order
to maintain fellowship with his heavenly Father.

He didn't explain why Peter would one day be carried away,
against his will, to a place he did not wish to go...
to be crucified on a rugged cross...
not right side up,
but upside down.
He didn't tell him then....
that the being crucified upside down part 
would be performed at Peter's request...
because he wouldn't feel worthy to be crucified in the same manner as His Lord.

Nor did Jesus explain the grief John would endure over the years,
because of his determination to defend the Gospel.
He didn't go into the details of how John would be placed 
in a vat of hot boiling oil in the presence of a mob in a Roman Colosseum. 
That the intention would be to boil him to death,
but he would endure the torture, and walk away.
Or how he would have his eyes gouged out.
Or how he would afterward be banished to the Greek island of Patmos 
where God would meet him and allow him, in spite of the loss of his physical vision,
to see the most glorious spiritual vision that he would later share and call  "The Revelation".
That precious, magnificent vision now comprises the last book and 22 chapters in every Bible.

There are unanswered questions in all of our lives.
As I struggled with my own questions today,
I picked up my Bible promise book for women,
a thoughtful Christmas gift from my sweet sister-in-law, Lori.

I never cease to be amazed at God's timing.
I keep it close at hand,
near our school area,
so I can pick it up and read it during breaks while teaching Zach.
For some reason,
I didn't turn to the place I stopped reading
the last time I put it down.
I flipped to a page that was a few pages past it,
and my eyes immediately fell upon the words from this verse,
"Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, 
and keep my covenant, 
then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me."
Exodus 19:5

God's peculiar treasure?
Is there any greater joy?
Could a higher pursuit be found?
No matter what the personal sacrifice....
could there be any nobler reward?

The formula isn't difficult to read or understand.
To be God's peculiar treasure simply requires total obedience.
It comes as a reward for following Jesus....completely.
To "obey God's voice indeed" is to do every, single thing He requires...
it matters not what everyone else is doing.

I decided today that it is worth it.
No matter what God requires of me.
To be His peculiar treasure,
no matter how peculiar I seem to others,
is worth every sacrifice.

We aren't always going to earn applause.
Following Jesus sometimes requires walking a lonely, radical path.
He did.
It will not always be easy.
It may appear that God's requirements of you
are much greater than what He is requiring of others.

When Jesus walked the earth,
He was misunderstood, scorned, hated, talked about,
ridiculed, refused, envied,
and eventually killed by means of the most violent, cruel, mean-spirited method known to man.
He was God's peculiar treasure...on earth.
He did every, single thing God requested,
and He carved a path that led to victory.
Following that path will bring us the same result.

What is God requiring you to do?
Does it seem like a heavy cross to bear?
Does it seem unorthodox, overly heavy, and unfair?
Especially, when you look around and realize He isn't asking 
others to do the same?

As Jesus told Peter,
"If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?  
Follow thou me."

Remember this, my friend.
No matter how difficult, rough, and rocky the path of obedience,
being God's peculiar treasure
is worth whatever it takes.

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