“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13, NASB95)
In the past month and a half, I’ve sat down with this verse several times to think on and write about it. But, each time I went away having penned nothing while knowing that I indeed must heed its admonition. It can be very difficult to plan for action when you are uncertain of the action that needs to be taken or when you have been previously shaken or turned back by the ones that you have. Staying focused for the long haul without measurable progress can even become discouraging, and I must admit that I have struggled as my hopes have not been realized in the way that I have been longing.
As we walk before our incredible God we do so without the perfect knowledge of His intended outcomes. This can lead to seasons of extended waiting and even efforts that may not meet with our idea of success. At my home church, we have been working through the book of Ruth, which is an incredible example of a small family who set out on what they thought would result in the betterment of their family only to find that those hopes were dashed. It is in this record that we find the mom of the household (Naomi) returning to her home and her people without the husband and sons with whom she had left. Instead she returned with a daughter-in-law for whom she could not provide. It includes the record of the daughter-in-law (Ruth) taking the role of a widow and the poor by going into the fields to glean from the leavings for her and Naomi’s daily provision. And it includes the introduction of a well-placed landowner noticing her, being touched by her, and then making sure that she was taken care of. Then as we enter chapter 3, where we were last Sunday, a risky plan is devised by the mother-in-law to provide for the security for her beloved daughter-in-law. Without going forward in the verses that follow and seeing how the plan was resolved, we find Ruth responding to Naomi and her plan with these words, “All that you say I will do.” (Ruth 3:5, NASB95)
Neither of them knew what would happen. What they did know was that there was a plan with a hope, and Ruth purposed to do all that she had been told in order to see where the plan ultimately led. Because of her love for her mother-in-law and her trust in her God, Ruth chose to do just as she was instructed, and what would follow next is far beyond anything that either of them ever could have imagined. At the end of Sunday’s message two very special verses were put up on the screen for all to see as they appropriately pointed to the person would become the great-great grandmother of the man who penned them. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, NASB95)
Proverbs 3:5-6 have been very special to Robin and I for a long time. My blog is titled “ButGod356.com” because of the truths of these verses. When everything seems out of control, when there seems to be no clear direction, when my mind is racing trying to come up with answers I am reminded that God has it all under control. He knows what He is doing, and He will set the groove for my life. It is then up to me to seek after Him, trust in His leading while not becoming overwhelmed by the obstacles along the way, and trusting Him to bring me and my family just where He wants. It is important that I make this regular and persistent response to trust in Him and not lean on my own understanding that makes all of the difference in being able to persist when things get really tough and plans as I see then do not come to pass or are delayed well beyond my expectations. It is trusting Him that even allows me to adjust as His leading becomes more clear along the way. When things seem overwhelming it is this recognition of “But God” that makes all of the difference in standing and even continuing to take new steps.
Peter wrote that we are to “prepare our minds for action.” This means that we need to be constantly looking to God, hiding His Word in our hearts, and growing before Him regardless of how clearly we may see or not see the action ahead. To prepare our minds for action means that we are to continually be making ourselves ready for His use. We are not to sit back and wait, only to get ready when an opportunity arises.
He also said that we are to “keep sober in spirit” or “sober-minded.” Sober has the idea being self-controlled and not easily swayed by circumstances or obstacles. It means thinking clearly and not being intoxicated or deluded by other fancies, fears, or frustrations. And it means doing things right, not cutting corners or holding back. One commentator wrote, “The sober Christian is correctly in charge of his priorities and not intoxicated with the various allurements of the world” (MacArthur Study Bible). Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians, “so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6–8, NASB95) And then in 2 Timothy he wrote, “But you [Timothy], be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5, NASB95) Clearly things are not intended to be easy. What is intended is not that we see clearly, but that we trust God fully during these difficult and challenging days and even in the face of obstacles for which we see no quick or obvious resolution.
Lastly, in this verse, Peter wrote that we are to “fix [our] hope completely….” Maybe the most important part of this instruction our focus on the end. What we often see as the objective is not necessarily what God has in mind. It may not be about us holding on to achieve a desired or believed appropriate goal, but in fixing our hope on the real end which Peter wrote is “on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” For over four years we have been searching out God’s leading for me in ministry, and we’ve had many difficult days. There have been days when I have wanted to give up and walk away. There have been days when burdens of caring for and proving for my family have pressed in very powerfully, and honestly there have been days when I have questioned whether we listened rightly and set our course appropriately. On the days when my back aches standing in a cash register I begin to wonder if there is really reason to hope for anything different. All of this can ultimately become very disrupting to hope and faith when they become bigger than the end which we will all realize when we see our Lord face to face.
On the 7th I leave two decades of the F’s behind and enter the S’s. I don’t know what God has in store for 2017 or whether a church will be led by Him to call me as their next pastor. I don’t know what work lies ahead or what will come of the struggles. I do know that even as 2016 ended, God showed Himself through His people in incredible and loving ways. And, knowing His faithfulness while looking forward to the great hope He has given us for eternity I resolve to make the admonition of Peter my overarching objective for the future. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”