Nursing Hope that’s Hidden in Self-Preservation
(Gaining a Boldness Like Peter’s, Part 1 of 3)

 

Sun rays break through clouds above a snowy meadow at Yosemite Valley


I’ve been a Christian for over 40 years. I’ve attended church very regularly for each of those years. I was much more than a Sunday Christian - very involved in ministry. But I was also a closet Christian.

I didn’t always speak up for Jesus. I still don’t. Too often I shrink in silence. When the guys in the locker room carry on about girls, I do my own thing. When they exclaim, “Jesus Christ!,” I keep quiet. Sure, they know I’m a Christian. They even know I published some Bible studies, but when they occasionally comment about going to church or recite a Bible phrase, I clam up.

 

Why? Am I ashamed of Jesus?

 

The short answer: Yes, I am ashamed of Jesus.

I’m a member of Christians Anonymous.

Sometimes I prefer to sit on the sidelines and just watch instead of following through with the Great Commission that Jesus expects of us: Do what we can to help people everywhere follow Jesus, who in turn will do the same (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8).


Who are we when we’re not in church? I’m not at all ashamed of Jesus in church and in Bible study groups. But why can’t I say, “Praise the Lord!,” when God gives a victory at work? One time a co-worker asked me, “Why are you always happy?” My heart was saying, “Because I know Jesus,” but I didn’t say anything so bold.

Peter was ashamed of Jesus, too, and so were the rest of the Disciples. On the night He was betrayed by Judas, Jesus told them they would all deny Him. All of them. He quoted Zechariah 13:7 when He said, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” And scatter, they did, as they watched the trauma of the cross unfold.

They were timid, but let’s focus on the positive. The disciples scattered, but they didn’t run very far. Jesus was such a part of their lives that they didn’t just walk away. They watched. They winced. They wondered. Then they regrouped (John 20:19). They didn’t’ do anything courageous and they didn’t understand much of what Jesus told them. But they stayed together, and that’s a start.


We’re fragile. When pressures come, sometimes we back down. When it’s time to speak up for Jesus, sometimes we clam up. Not necessarily because we’re being wise or politically correct. Isn’t it more due to our fear and lack of genuine care? As a result, our witness falls flat. The opportunity is lost, and later, maybe instantly, our God-given conscience reminds us we’re ashamed of Jesus, just as it did Peter after he denied knowing Him.

How do we make this right? How did Peter become the great leader, preacher, and teacher of the Acts and his epistles? We will explore this question over three blog posts.

Here’s the starting point: Peter wasn’t willing to lose hope. He didn’t write off his Savior whom he proclaimed to be “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). He was disenchanted, but not hopeless. Judas, on the other hand, lost hope in this man who didn’t live up to his faulty ideals. We may sometimes be ashamed of Jesus, but deep down inside, we who follow Him stick around for a reason.


Peter wasn't willing to lose hope.
He didn't write off his Savior whom he proclaimed to be
"the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

***

Maybe Peter remembered the time when Jesus called him to become a fisher of men, or when he gave the Disciples authority to cast out demons and heal the sick. Maybe he recalled how great it was to stand at Jesus’ side as His partner; and maybe the thrill of walking on water vitalized his senses. Do we have fond memories of what Jesus has done for us or through us? Was there a time when we dropped everything to serve Him because He is worth it all? Perhaps we led a loved one into a lifelong relationship with Jesus as Savior. These aren’t just warm fuzzies. They represent the hope of our hearts – a hope that spurs us because Jesus doesn’t lose His grip. He holds onto us with forever arms.


Are we struggling to make sense of our lives? Is our journey with God not as we expected? Maybe serving God is a struggle and we’re not sure we should continue. Don’t lose heart. Even the Disciples wondered if they would betray Jesus (Mark14:18-19), but they went on to shine for Him. Don’t question why our efforts aren’t as productive as others. The Disciples argued with each other about which of them was the greatest, but Jesus told them it’s better to be a servant (Luke22:24-26). We don’t need to be super-evangelists. People may not respond the way we hope when we talk or get excited about Jesus. They may reject His good news time after time. Knowing that Peter would struggle, Jesus reassured him. He prayed for him, that his faith would not fail. He knew Peter would deny Him, but he also knew he would recover (Luke 22:31-32). Why? Because Jesus prayed for him.

Jesus prays for us, too. John 17 shares one of Jesus’ prayers for us and I’m sure he still prays for us today. We have the Son of God and Savior of the world praying for us. Look especially at John 17:20-23:

 

“My prayer is not for them alone.
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
that all of them may be one, Father,
just as you are in me and I am in you.
May they also be in us
so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
I have given them the glory that you gave me,
that they may be one as we are one—
I in them and you in me—
so that they may be brought to complete unity.
Then the world will know that you sent me
and have loved them even as you have loved me.

 

Jesus wants the world to know that God sent Him. He wants to world to believe He is the Savior – the One who changes and unites hearts to Him and each other.


Jesus wants the world to know that God sent Him.
He wants to world to believe He is the Savior -
the One who changes and unites hearts to Him and each other.

***

In the next two posts, we will see how Peter was recharged by theresurrected Savior, and the difference the Holy Spirit made in his ministry. For now, remember we are with great hope. We’re not just chasing a dream. Heaven is real (1 Peter 1:3-5, Philippians 3:20-21, 1 John 5:13). Our work for Jesus carries great meaning and makes a difference for the sake of others, and God promised to make us competent as we share about Him (2 Corinthians 3:4-6). So, Paul said, “since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (2 Corinthians 3:12). We may not see or hear about the fruits of our labor, but when we share God’s truth with others, our effort is never wasted (Isaiah 55:10-11).

Be encouraged by Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:12-16:

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.
“Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.

Always be prepared to give an answer
to everyone
who asks you to give the reason for the hope
that you have.

But do this with gentleness and respect,

keeping a clear conscience,
so that those who speak maliciously
against your good behavior in Christ
may be ashamed of their slander.

 

There is much to say about Peter's boldness to share the gospel of Jesus, but I will only cover some key points. You can add to the conversation by commenting below. I would love to hear from you.


Continue on to Part 2...


 

If the Great Commission or the good news about Jesus is new to you and you want to learn more about it, please email me at authordlv@att.net or visit the Good News page on my blog. Jesus is alive and preparing a place for us in Heaven while we serve Him until He comes back for us.

 

Read more blog posts here.

 

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Comments

  1. Great post! Sometimes we want but we don't! I think at times we feel the weight of society trying to label us as being "intolerant" (which we aren't). Society tries to project the question: How can there only be ONE way into Heaven? So, we are hesitant to witness because of the fear of rejection.

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    1. Not sure why it says "Unknown". I, Elfriede, posted from our website https://michaelcopple.com

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    2. Hi Elfriede. Sorry about the "unknown" label. Blogger is kind of finicky. I know what you mean about intolerance. The wonderful thing about following Jesus is that it's not about being right or special or elitist, so we don't have to have the intellect or logical arguments to share His truth. It's about coming to Jesus in humility. Jesus is the only way to eternal life because He is the only person who was able to pay the penalty for our sins. He is the only person who was (and is) perfectly sinless - who satisfies God's standard of righteousness. Nobody else could ever do that. What a compassionate and merciful Savior we have in Jesus.

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  2. Thank you Stephen. I found so much encouragement in your post. It is easy to give up but, like Peter, we need to keep going. Thanks for sharing

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    1. I'm glad you are encouraged, Yvonne. It is definitely easy to slip into our comfort zones, but Jesus wants us to stick our necks out because He loves all the people of the world. How will they know about Him if we don't tell them.

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  3. Wow - this post was a balanced combination of conviction and encouragement!

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    1. Amen, Ava. Our God-given conscience should convict us to be more bold for Jesus. May we encourage each other to that end and brothers and sisters in Him.

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  4. Amen to this. I used to be a "Christians anonymous" member, but no more. Today I've realized the single most important thing I can do is share Jesus (and the hope and peace He brings )with others in my life. Beautiful piece, and I can't wait to read the next installment!

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    1. That is great, Jessica. Several months ago I wondered how Peter could go from denying Jesus to becoming the de facto standout leader of the Apostles in sharing the gospel and leading people to Jesus. So I began digging. Yes, He is what people need and sharing about this is the single most important thing to do.

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    2. An excellent post, Stephen! You’ve covered the challenges that many, if not most, of us have times of challenge, times when our witness of God’s faithfulness to us is fearful, rather than courageous. I remember making the decision to be as open about my faith in public as I am in church or with Christian friends. I decided to speak to unsaved friends and family as if they were on their way to Christian faith, beloved by Jesus, and therefore not holding back when I have something to state from God’s Word or from my typical comments that give glory to God when we’re protected during a car accident or when a prayer is answered, and we want to vocally praise the Lord. I still assess periodically to make sure I’m stating boldly what I would typically say as a woman of faith.

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    3. I love your decision: to speak to unsaved friends and family as if they were on their way to Christian faith. That's a great way to think about proclaiming the gospel. It's hopeful and expectant. It's very helpful and I will remember that. With Jesus threaded into our lives, it should be very natural to allow those threads to be public in our words and responses and moments of sharing His good news. Thank you for adding your thoughts.

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  5. 1 Peter 3:15 is THE verse that Christian apologists use to encourage others to learn a bit of how to defend their beliefs. So that’s what I have been doing for a nearly 10 years now, and because I have good answers to skeptical questions, I am not afraid of sharing the truth about Jesus as I used to be. Thanks for being so honest about your struggles in that area. We all have been there, and there’s grace.

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    1. Yes, 1 Peter 3:15 is a verse I had memorized some 40 years ago. I appreciate God's grace every day and I suppose there will always be a sense of hesitance from time to time. I'm grateful that God is perfecting me and that He promised to make me competent with the gospel (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

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  6. Thank you for the comforting reminder that Jesus prays for us.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

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    1. Hi Wendy. I think we've come as far as we have in our journeys because of the effective prayers of our Savior and the work of the Holy Spirit who lives inside us. Praise God for that.

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  7. Stephen, thanks for this honest and evangelistic message. Peter's testimony is one of redeeming grace after a big failure. That's what I love about amazing grace, when we fall short, grace stands tall every time. And this spoke to me, "...remember we are with great hope. We’re not just chasing a dream. Heaven is real." Looking forward to the next posts.

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    1. Yes, Karen. Heaven is surely real and that should motivate us to invite others to join us there with Jesus. God has more than enough grace to welcome anyone into His family. Thank you for adding to the conversation.

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  8. Amen 🙏🏻 So wonderfully spoken

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    1. Thank you, Paula, and thank you for visiting. God bless you as you share about Him.

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