When life goes sideways, God is still in control

Have you ever had one of those days when everything was going along beautifully and then suddenly a crisis hit? It may have caused you to say, “Why me, Lord? What did I do to deserve this?”

The Bible asks the question, “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” (Romans 11:34 NKJV).

The answer to that question is I have … on many occasions. I’ve tried to give God counsel and direction.

But as I think about my attitude many times, I realize that I’m not alone. That’s why I’m so glad Peter’s story is in the Bible. You have to love a guy like him, because he was so utterly human. He was outspoken and thoroughly honest. Peter said what we’d probably say in a situation.

Although Peter was impulsive, impetuous and hotheaded, he also was very honest, courageous and intelligent. And perhaps he was the most accessible of all the followers of Jesus.

I can look at Peter’s life and say, “There’s hope for me,” because not only does the Bible record Peter’s great victories, but it also records his foibles and defeats.

In Caesarea Philippi, Jesus commended Peter for his insightful statement in which he recognized that Jesus was the Messiah. But then Jesus spoke of his impending death and suffering.

Matthew’s gospel tells us, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (16:21 NKJV).

Jesus knew exactly what was in his future. It came as no surprise to him. He even knew who would betray him. He knew he would be raised from the dead, and he knew exactly when that would happen.

Peter, however, couldn’t believe that Jesus was saying this. In fact, Jesus used an interesting word here when he said he would be killed. From the original language, this word also could be translated “murdered.”

I wonder if Peter heard anything else after that. He must have been thinking, “What? That cannot happen!”

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It’s commendable that Peter was concerned about Jesus, but he was missing what Jesus was trying to say. And he took things way too far: “Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!'” (Matthew 16:22 NKJV).

Maybe Peter thought, “Look, I’m on a roll. It wasn’t that long ago when he told me, ‘Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’ Hey, I’d better set Jesus straight. He’s making a big mistake.”

Interestingly, in the original language the word used for “rebuke” carries the meaning of a leader or an officer rebuking someone under his jurisdiction. It’s a word that would describe a commanding officer giving his troops a tongue-lashing. It also implies that Peter did this repeatedly.

So picture this in your mind. Jesus had just made this statement and was obviously in anguish over it. And then Peter took an authoritarian position over the Lord and repeatedly began to rebuke Him.

Peter had lost touch with reality, but Jesus set him straight. He said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23 NKJV).

Now, why did Jesus say that? Because it was Satan who wanted to stop Jesus from going to the cross. But Jesus would not let anything deter him from his course. He knew what he had to do.

So one moment Peter was speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the next moment he was speaking under the inspiration of the devil himself. It’s that continual struggle that we all face between right and wrong, between the flesh and the Spirit.

The Bible says, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:17 NLT).

And guess what? The battle never stops. No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, this battle will rage until your final day. On one hand you can speak under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and on the other hand you can speak under the inspiration of the flesh. We must guard our words and be careful, because that battle will persist.

May God help us to trust him when he doesn’t do things the way we think he ought to do them. May God help us to trust him when we’re tempted to say, “Why, Lord?” or when, like Peter, we say, “Lord, that’s a bad idea. What are you doing? What are you thinking?”

God is thinking of his eternal purposes. We can only see the short term and what will benefit us in this moment. God is looking at the long term, the big picture. And he knows what he’s doing.

It’s during these times that we must trust him, cast ourselves at his feet and say, “Lord, I admit to you that I don’t understand. I don’t know why. But I thank you that you are in control.”

When it comes to things that I don’t understand, I fall back on what I do understand. I understand that God loves me, that he’s looking out for my best interests, and that he will work all things “together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT).

I don’t understand a lot of things that happen in life, but God will make it clear in that final day. Until then, we all need to trust him.

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