On two separate occasions Simon Peter went to sleep in crises‑‑once with the Lord's life at stake, once with his own. Two crises: twice asleep.
But while failure characterized the first occasion, success characterized the second. For in the eleven years between the two, an immeasurable amount of experience and maturity empowered Peter to fall asleep in Herod's prison at peace with God as he had once fallen asleep in Gethsemane from exhaustion caused by sorrow.
In the intervening years he had learned to trust God, whatever the circumstances, even when it seemed his life would end prematurely. He had learned that, whatever happened, God could be trusted to provide and to care. And he had learned that, while hard times came as surely to Christians as to unbelievers, while unbelievers surrendered to their fears, Christians used them to bear witness to God's abiding presence.
The basic optimism of American culture has somewhat deluded us. In the best Horatio Alger tradition, we think everything always works out for the best.
Which happens enough to make us optimistic. A plane crash in Colorado left eight people stranded in the Rockies. Since they had four strong Christians aboard, they had faith in being rescued. And, just as one of them read aloud from the book of Job about human suffering, the first rescuer reached the plane. "It was remarkable," a survivor said.
Yes...remarkable. But sometimes rescuers don't come; sometimes prayers aren't answered; loved ones die anyway; sorrows afflict us. Sometimes we have no say over what we experience. But we still have everything to say about how we respond to the experiences. In them we can either sink to fear, questions and self‑pity or rise to a witness in God's eternal goodness and concern! We can either see good in the worst circumstance or problems in the most glowing possibilities.
God's reality, presence, concern, etc. must be true at all times, under all circumstances, for all people or they're not true at all. God's reality can't be true just when all is well with us and false when we experience pain. It must be as true in sorrow as in joy, as true in death as in life. And if for a moment it isn't true for us, it isn't that its promises have suddenly failed, but that we've failed to understand the nature of life in a fallen world.
Andy Williams and an art-afficionado acquaintance Peter Tillow attended an art exhibit, featuring a set of paintings of pin-tail ducks by the Ward Brothers. On Peter’s advice, Andy agreed to go as high as $6,000 for the set.
However, the bidding continued beyond $6,000 to $8,000, then $10,000, Peter involved and an increasingly frantic Williams fruitlessly trying to stop him. The bidding finally stopped at $29,000, with Andy in shock. With a well-chosen profanity he exploded: why did Peter so casually ignore his appeals and why did he crash through the ceiling that both agreed to honor? He had no response to the reply: sometimes you have to take a chance. Moon River, 222-223.
Sometimes you do have to take a chance. Nothing is certain in life, but doing nothing will usually achieve an equivalent result. Doing something may very well have the same result, but it also may bring success.
Non-Christians face the challenge: should they take a chance and surrender to Jesus? Can they survive the loss of habits to which they have become habituated, even addicted? Or long-established companionship with like-minded friends? And on and on.
Christians don’t escape the challenge. Do they dare take a chance in discipleship: accepting a role they fear but find necessary; serving in an area they have previously avoided; risking failure or rejection by witnessing to a friend or acquaintance. And on and on.
Sometimes you have to take your life in your hands and TAKE A CHANCE! Christians have this assurance: if God wants it done, and us to do it, he’ll empower skills we haven’t used, and maybe didn’t know we had. And this assurance: if we try and fail, the very effort increases our confidence to keep trying. For in Christian service, the “behinder we get the greater our forward motion becomes.”