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Shrinking

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.”  And, “But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.  Hebrews 10:32-39

Often, when a new love is birthed, the greatness of that new experience minimizes any sense of shame or insecurity about the bold expressions of affection in that euphoric relationship.  The same can be said about being swept into a movement, whether political or social activism, as evidenced by passionate exhortations made on Facebook by people who may hardly speak in public.  The good and true aspect of these moments is that for their duration, they are bigger than the individual, interrupting self-focus just long enough to serve something greater or, at least, to step out from hiding behind the tree.  God is inviting us to live in that real focus on His Kingdom.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said,“why did you doubt?”  Matt. 14:28-31

At the sight of Jesus, Peter’s instinct was to climb out of a boat and walk on water.  WHAT!?  And then came the shrink back…the reality of the cost, the danger, the fear, his own limitations, his own weakness.  Maybe he realized his impulsiveness, not humongous faith, had urged him out of that boat.  Maybe he realized everyone was looking at him and he could never fool those who knew him best.  Only God knows the complexity of all that happened in those moments.

I, like Peter, have forgotten my first love.  I need to be reminded from Hebrews that it is “because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”  My confidence is not in my personality, my strength, my balance, my perspective, my experience, my understanding, my buoyancy, my tough skin or soft heart, my correct theology, my anything.  My confidence is in the truth that His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, that His Kingdom will swallow up the old and make all things new and that any loss now is no loss, ultimately, in His economy.  I have lost confidence in this.  I have lost sight of this.  I have stopped believing it.  And I have been sinking, shrinking back, with little faith and great doubt.

Enduring great conflict and suffering turned my eyes from His Kingdom onto protecting my own.  Rather than turning the other cheek with joy, I hunkered down and went diving for cover, while chucking a few rocks back at my attackers.  Bitterness, sorrow and defeat followed.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.  Mark 8:35  Too easily and with disappointing speed, the wind and waves have drawn my attention from Him.

And here is the final truth, where the Good News must be just that, unless Jesus reaches His hand out and catches me, fishes me out, and places me back in His boat, I remain among those with whom God takes no pleasure because I cannot clench my jaws for more faith, I cannot will myself to the top of the water and I cannot give sight to my darkened eyes.  But because with His Son He is well pleased, and because I am hidden in Him and clothed in Him, the reward of HIS faithfulness is mine.  He is faithful to complete the Good work that He has begun.  He will do it.

Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things.  Who is like you, God? Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. Psalm 71:19-20

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