By David Dombrowski
Do you at times feel overwhelmed? It would be understandable for we are living in overwhelming times. Actually, God has orchestrated our lives in such a way that we are going to face challenges, some small, some great, some daily, some yearly, some where the solution is obvious, and some that appear to have no solution at all. And sometimes it seems that our world today, even with all its technological improvements, has multiplied our cares and worries exponentially. Add to this the fact that the Bible tells us in the last days Satan will multiply his efforts “having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:12). Consequently, we need to arm ourselves with the hope we have in Christ.
In his first epistle, Peter refers to the trials and challenges that beset us and offers a reason why God allows them in our lives:
[You] are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ . . . receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:5-7, 9; emphasis added)
I placed the word “temptations” in italics to mention that the root word for this Greek term means to test or prove by assaying or trial to find or prove the value of something; for example, the assaying of gold (see Strong’s Concordance, Greek entries no. 3984-3986). It makes perfect sense that Peter then refers to our faith being tested, purified, and strengthened through the fiery trials of life.
What the Bible then is offering us is not a way to make our lives easy but a way to face our struggles. We struggle through life, but God has given us His Word and His Spirit; plus, Jesus died on the Cross as payment for all our sins so we might have peace with God and secure an eternal home in Heaven. And that saving grace is freely given to all who put their trust (faith) in Him. Peter speaks of this wondrous grace in this manner:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3-4)
The Object of Our Faith
We should always remember that Jesus is the object of our faith as presented in the Gospel. That is why, even though Peter describes how our daily struggles are “the trial of your faith” (v. 7), ultimately the fruition of our faith will be the salvation of our souls: “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (v. 9). It is important, then, that no matter what our struggles may be at the time, our perspective needs to be focused ultimately on eternity with Christ. And, when we keep things in that perspective, somehow the testings and struggles of our lives will also take on a new perspective, and life as a whole will have more meaning and value. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon attests to the fact that he was a man who tried all the pleasures and undertakings that life has to offer; yet in the end, he had this say:
Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit. (Ecclesiastes 2:17)
It is a sad thing when our lives get off focus from the Lord, who actually is the giver of all good things, but without Christ, we have nothing. In the end, Solomon realized the folly of living a life of endless pursuits while taking his eyes off the Lord. That is why he ended that book with these words:
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
One of the saddest statements I find in Scripture is the mention of Solomon’s spiritual condition in First Kings, where it says:
For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. (1 Kings 11:4)
As the chapter goes on, we learn that God confronted Solomon, who continued in disobedience for which there were consequences, and according to his own confession, much of Solomon’s worldly accomplishments were only vanity. And yet, multitudes of people have been blessed by his contribution to the Scriptures. And while we cannot prove it as a certainty, in God’s continued dealings with Solomon, I believe Solomon made it to Heaven.
Many Christians Similar to Solomon
I suppose many Christians may wonder how God would save a man whose heart had strayed away from God for so much of his life, but I dare say that this is the condition of many in today’s church. Just from our point of view at Lighthouse Trails, we see many pastors and spiritual leaders especially not only rejecting the warnings we give about unbiblical spiritual practices and teachings (e.g., New Age, contemplative prayer, Yoga, Word of Faith, Calvinism, Catholicism) but actually embracing these things that are contrary to the Scriptures. They accuse ministries like ours of being divisive, breaking unity of the church even though the Bible teaches that those who are divisive are those who introduce erroneous doctrines and heresies into the church:
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (Romans 16:17; emphasis added)
Discernment has become an appendage of the body that many think should be amputated. By allowing dangerous practices and doctrines to enter the church, is it really much different than what Solomon did? The actions may be different, but the results of turning from our first love (the Lord) are the same.
May we imitate Solomon in his wisdom but not in his folly. Many Christians today are walking on shaky ground, and they don’t know it. The only true security is found in Christ alone, and not in the false gods—no matter what kind they are.
Who Do We Truly Honor, and Who Is Our Head?
It is easy to find ourselves, as Christian believers, attached to Christian figures, which can be detrimental no matter how godly the leader may actually be. The fact is that, as the body of Christ, we are all supposed to be connected with the head, being Christ Himself.
As a former Catholic, I am often dismayed at how Catholics continually elevate the pope as the supreme authority of the “one true church,” infallible in all doctrine, and a successor of Peter. Personally, I believe Peter would have been shocked to know that in subsequent centuries he would be looked upon as the first pope.
Jesus did honor a man named Simon by giving him the surname Peter (Petros) meaning a rock or a stone. When Jesus said to him later, “thou art Peter [Petros] and upon this rock [petra] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18), it becomes apparent that Jesus intended for Peter, as an apostle, to help establish the church by building upon the foundation rock “petra.”
What is interesting here is that, throughout the New Testament, whenever Peter is referred to as a rock, the surname “Petros” is always used, never “petra.” The word petra is rendered sixteen times in the New Testament (as “rock” or “rocks”) but is never applied to Peter. Wherever used, it either refers to a massive rock formation (as in a sepulcher or a building foundation) or to Christ Himself. Paul identifies petra as being Christ Himself where he speaks of the Jews who escaped from Egypt:
[They] were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:2-4; emphasis added)
Again, I want to emphasize that Peter is never referred to as petra in the entire New Testament. What’s more, Peter himself identified who petra actually is:
Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock [petra] of offence. (1 Peter 2:6-8; emphasis added)
So, the “rock” Jesus spoke of to Peter was, indeed, not Peter but Christ Himself. However, in this same chapter, Peter instructs all Christians to come to Christ, “a living stone” (v. 4) and to be “as lively stones” whereby we “are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood” (v. 5). The word for stones here is not petra; we are building stones to be placed upon the foundation, which is Christ.
Where Is Our Focus?
In writing his two short epistles, Peter’s intention was wholly to stimulate a devotion to and focus on Jesus Christ with a mandate to protect, defend, proclaim, and apply the Gospel. Peter never glorifies himself in these letters but rather only mentions himself as “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1) and “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1) as a means of identifying himself as the author. In these letters, rather than drawing attention to himself, he beckons his audience to remain faithful in their study and commitment to the Word of God:
. . . whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:4)
In closing, I wish to return to my original thoughts in this article. People today are being swamped with a multitude of worries and cares. The remedies the world offers are oftentimes worse than the original problems themselves (as we saw with Covid). And the media is swift to bring all of this to our door. We, as Christians, are affected by these things, and it is a temptation to put our focus on the challenges and trials, while the real solution lies in allowing Jesus to be the center of our lives through His Word and His Spirit. For many though, God has been excluded from their lives so all that is left, like Solomon, is “vanity and vexation of spirit.”
Above all, let us remember what it means for Christ to be our foundation and the spiritual Rock from which we can drink. We need to draw our strength from Him and remember that our virtue comes from Him as well. Christ is our all in all. That is why Paul could say, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
It takes a humble heart to recognize that all our own righteousness is as filthy rags, but He can clothe us with the “garments of salvation . . . [and] the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). Consider the characters of the Bible who failed but then recovered with a new outlook from God’s humbling process. For example, there was Paul who persecuted the church, or Peter who denied Christ thrice, or consider Nebuchadnezzar, who praised himself (rather than God) for his accomplishments then lost everything, including his mind, but was restored again:
And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven . . . Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase. (Daniel 4:34-35, 37)
Photo: 1912 painting by C Napier Hemy; from alamy.com; used with permission.
Harry Ironside: My Conversion and My Journey Out of “the Holiness Movement”
Casting Our Cares on God by Maria Kneas
YouTube Video by Warren B. Smith – “Truth or Consequences: The Importance of Spiritual Discernment”
What God has always wanted to do for those who trust in Him, even before Peter was born…
Deuteronomy 32:9 For the LORD’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.10 He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.11 As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:12 So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.13 He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock;14 Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.
Psalm 81:10 I, the LORD, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.11 But my people didn’t listen to my voice. Israel desired none of me.12 So I let them go after the stubbornness of their hearts, that they might walk in their own counsels.13 Oh that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!14 I would soon subdue their enemies, and turn my hand against their adversaries.15 The haters of Yahweh would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever.16 But he would have also fed them with the finest of the wheat. I will satisfy you with honey out of the rock.” (ASV)