So You Feel Like Giving Up …

(Scripture Reference: Mark 8:31-37)

Have you ever had those moments in your spiritual walk of faith, when you were so frustrated, disappointed, unhappy, and weary—that you felt like dropping everything and walking in a different direction? Obviously, the answer is “yes” for all of us, and even for the great men of faith.

Peter was a great disciple of Christ, and yet he had his confused, frustrated, and even doubt-filled moments. Let us use our imaginations for a few moments, and see Peter writing a letter of resignation to Jesus; then see what happens. Peter begins to write:

“Dear Jesus, I am writing this letter to inform you that I hereby resign as your disciple. This afternoon’s outburst was just too much. And to call me Satan in front of all the others —at least that’s the way it sounded to me. I’ve about had it!

“I guess you just don’t understand that I care about what happens to you. I care about this new way you were showing us. But you are too much of a dreamer. You are the kind that would go running straight to Jerusalem and to the gallows. Then where would this kingdom way be? Can’t you see that you need people like me to look out after you —and to protect the interests of our movement? Just like you telling all of us to keep our mouths shut about the healings and casting out of demons. Oh, I know people appreciate your humility, and I admit that I find it one of your more attractive qualities. But fortunately, James, John, and I know it is just your modesty showing through, so we spread the word anyway. And the folks you help are ecstatic and blab it all over the place anyhow. After all, a blind man goes home and he can see! He has got to have some kind of an explanation.

“But what hurt me the most this afternoon, was the fact that I received no real recognition for having been right about who you are. You are the Christ, the Messiah, aren’t you? I’m still not sure why that idea came to me. Certainly the puzzling way you act sometimes should convince me that you are not. But as you confronted us with the question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ —it hit me all of a sudden with power — ‘You are the Christ!’ Why that truth did not hit any of us before is obvious. You don’t act like a Messiah is supposed to act. You squabble with respectable people, then turn around and make friends with poor folks, sinners, con men, prostitutes, and outright scoundrels.

But it became clear to me today, you are the Messiah. Out of the blue I came to know. I still do not understand how it can be. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but I know it is true. I feel it in my bones. But your only response to my declaration was, ‘Don’t tell anyone.’ Can’t you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’? Couldn’t you give me any assurance that I was on the right track? Don’t I get any credit at all?

“And this talk about suffering. That is no way for a Christ to talk. Where is your faith? You tell us to trust God and you come back at us with doom and gloom. Jesus, you are never going to get anywhere inviting people tocarry crosses. You are a visionary — an idealist — and that’s great; but you have to be practical, too. If you are the Messiah, that is all the more reason to stay away from Jerusalem — at least for now. Get more followers first, then deal from a position of strength. You are going to mess around and get the Messiah killed. Well, I don’t want any part of it. I’m through! You had better remember who your friends are. I will be gone by the time you read this.
Sincerely, Peter”

Jesus read the letter and smiled. He felt it best to respond to Peter’s letter with a personal letter in His own hand. He wrote the letter and with the Holy Spirit’s direction found Peter asleep in a nearby barn and placed the letter near his head. Peter spotted the letter immediately upon awakening, and began to read:

“Dear Peter, I just read your letter, and I have to tell you that I am not surprised. Not because I think you are a quitter; no, I know your heart, and that is not your heart talking. Your decision came out of a frustration over things not seeming to work out; and our work not moving in the direction that you expected and hoped for. Remember when we first met on that seashore, and I said to you, ‘Follow me’? Why do you suppose I chose you? Was it because you were an expert fisherman, and I wanted to be sure that we would always have something to eat? Not really. I am a pretty good fisherman myself, you know. Remember the net breaking, boat sinking catch you had because of me? Pretty good, eh? No, I saw your heart, and I saw the man I needed. You were special and a soon-to-be fisher of men, not fish.

“You write that I don’t understand that you care about what happens to Me. Yes, Peter, I do understand, because I know you. I, too, care what happens to Me. Your rebuke of me for not fleeing my fate of suffering tempted me, my friend, and it brought back memories of Satan tempting me in the wilderness. My response was a reference to this painful experience.

“It is a great work we are doing. It would be a wonderful thing to continue wandering through Galilee together, healing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons. This great work will carry on through all who hear and receive my word. But the Son of Man is not called to this task forever, for a greater work lies ahead. It will involve more than just me.

“You write that you want me to give you some assurance that you were correct when you said that I am the Christ, the Messiah. But at the same time, you say that you feel it in your bones. What word could I have said that would add or take away from that Holy Spirit voice within you? Peter, my friend, your problem is not with what I say or do not say about the Messiah. Your problem lies in what you take the Messiah to be. You look for the Messiah to be a successful national ruler, who will save Israel like King David did. My dear friend, don’t you remember what the prophets foretold?

The Son of Man will be crucified, yes — but I don’t think you heard me when I said, ‘…and after three days the Son of Man will rise again.’ The crucifixion will not be the end of the story, dear Peter — but only the beginning. God cannot be defeated by the evil of the cross, and His victory will be real and final. The world will try to convince you otherwise. But you, Peter, and all generations that follow, will see in the cross a love that conquers death, disease, and hell itself?

“As you, Peter, have this sense about the Messiah, the Christ, so I have the assurance that the Father will not fail us; not now or in Jerusalem. Notice, Peter, I said ‘us.’ You and I live in a world of fear, suffering , and insecurity. It will always be so until the Father says, ‘Enough!’

“The Son of Man has been sent to provide the eternal answer to life and living. And you, dear Peter, and others now with you and coming after you, have and will be called to proclaim that answer to all who are searching for that security — that salvation.

“I fully understand why you wrote that letter, Peter. It isn’t easy, is it? Our common enemy, Satan, will always try to divert our attention and get us to change our minds. But when you learn to live in the presence of God every moment, you will really trust Him. You will take up your cross of service and give yourself to bringing salvation, healing, and deliverance to others.

“Peter, when I said, ‘Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ I was not talking just to sinners and unbelievers, but also to you, the other eleven, and to all of the laborers who will come after you in the coming generations.

“Whatever decision you make, Peter, know that you will always have a place in my heart, and I will always have a place in yours. Peace to you, my brother.
I love you. Jesus”

Let’s briefly summarize: Notice that Peter’s letter reflects the feelings of many Christians from time to time. Not necessarily a feeling of wanting to quit the faith. (Where would we go?) But in essence, resigning from service. Nothing seems to be going right so we resign from praying, getting in the Word, attending church worship, reaching out, and on and on. That is why He sent Pentecost — so we would have power to resist and overcome the world.

In Jesus’ letter we see two important facts. First of all, in our moments of frustration and “resignation”, He is writing — and has indeed written — us a letter: the Word of God. I refer to such passages as John 15:7, 3 John 2, Matthew 11:23,24, James 4:7, and many more. And, secondly, something very significant: Jesus never told Peter, “I accept your resignation.” (Nor will He ever accept ours.  His love is that powerful.)

Remember the scene at the tomb as the risen Jesus talked to Mary. He specifically said, “And be sure you tell Peter.” Very significant!

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