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Perhaps you have had one of those days when everything that could have gone wrong did, and you got nothing accomplished that you had planned. All day long, it’s been the little things. Roadwork made you late for an important meeting. A computer crash cost you precious time and wiped out the best part of an hour’s work. It’s now well into the afternoon, and your number one priority task for this morning glares impatiently from the top of your to-do list. Your boss is texting you in ALL CAPS. She wants results and has neither the time nor the heart to understand. You feel more than a little frayed, and your coworkers are watching how you respond.
Or perhaps you work at home. Your daughter is upset because her new blouse isn’t washed, dried, and ready for school. Your son, dragging his feet as usual, is making everyone late. You have a lot to get done this morning, and you are already behind. To make matters worse, an impossible schedule of pickups and drop-offs for soccer and music practices threatens your afternoon and evening schedule. Worry claws away at the fabric of your patience. Next week, you have an ultrasound followup after an abnormal mammogram result last month. You dread the result. To cap it all off, you have a luncheon date today with your neighbor in the cul-de-sac. She is not yet a Christian but shows a clear interest in our faith, and your not-very-relaxed heart isn’t ready for a very relaxed lunch date. How real should you be with your friend? Inwardly, you think: “I fear I will appear overwhelmed by life. What kind of witness will that present?”
You want to appear like a Christian soaring by faith with eagles. Instead, you feel like you’re being pecked to death by the pigeons. As the red fog of war descends, you remember the last line of Rudyard Kipling’s famous ode: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, then you will be a man, my son.” The line only mocks you, however, telling what you must do but not how on earth you are supposed to go about doing it.
One of my go-to passages in such situations is 1 Peter 2:18–3:17. It displays the force and the foundation of Christian steadfastness and peace. In this passage, Peter deals with the difficulty of living under the oppressive purview of an unwanted, unbalanced, and unprincipled temporal authority. The Apostle describes Christians doing their best to keep a clean conscience before a watching world (2:15, 19), servants living under the brutal hand of an unjust master (2:18–20), wives struggling with inconsistent, unbelieving husbands (3:1–6), and husbands living with complex and at times emotional wives, who aren’t quite as strong under pressure as they might prefer (3:7).
The force of Christian steadfastness and peace lies in its power to provoke a watching world to wonder: What makes this man, this woman, different (v. 15)? Where do they get such monumental self-control? Most people aren’t like that.
The foundation of Christian steadfastness and peace lies in its vision of God. It can only be found in Christ and from Him. We cannot white-knuckle our way to Christian steadfastness on our own. In particular, we must keep three truths front and center in our minds.
1. Jesus is a fear greater than any earthly foe. When we feel up against the pressures of life, we must actively call Christ to mind. He is the Lord not just of heaven and earth but of everything in between (3:15). The foundations of His throne are justice and righteousness. One day, He will right every wrong, punish every evil, and settle every debt. Self-justification and vindication become desirable only to the degree that we forget this fact. With God as our Father, we don’t need to threaten, and we certainly don’t need to lash out at those intensifying our stress (2:23). We can give it all to God. Fearing Him, we have nothing else to fear in life.
2. Jesus has a smile sweeter than any earthly friend. Jesus is the Lord of all. He controls all creatures, actions, and things from the least even to the greatest, and He does so as our friend. Christ is on our side even as He allows trouble into our lives (Ps. 66:8–12). He is Lord of all our frustrations. If He is for us (and He is), they cannot be against us.
3. Jesus is a shield stronger than any earthly danger. So, when people attack you, you don’t need to defend yourself (3:9). “But,” you think to yourself, “If I don’t fight back, people will walk all over me.” This is true only when you fail to factor Jesus in to the equation.
But what a difference it makes when you sanctify His lordship in your heart. Don’t forget His exalted throne and His energetic, endless love. Keep your tongue in its place. You don’t need to curse, swear, and threaten (3:10). Turn away from obstructive acts of passive-aggressive spite and be a peacemaker (v. 11). Use your tongue for better things than spite. Call on God in prayer. He will listen. He’s always listening (v. 12). What’s the sense of sinfully responding to a sinful spouse or boss? Such folly will only bring you both under God’s frown (v. 12). Exercise sanctified self-control instead, and you just might find an opportunity to put your tongue to better, more heavenly service as you answer the wonderment of the wicked with the wonder of the gospel (vv. 15–16).