What is our rock and our fortress?

Daily Readings: Genesis 49-50, Psalm 18, Matthew 16

Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

-Matthew 16:21-26

It is amazing how quickly we revert back to our human nature and allow ourselves to be completely consumed by, not the concerns of God, but what Jesus refers to as human concerns.

Immediately before this exchange with Peter, Jesus had a very different interaction with him. Jesus said that Peter, because of his faith, was the rock on which Jesus would build his church. It is incredible how easily our hearts can be shifted away from God’s design and towards human worries. Peter, the rock, when adversity was merely discussed, reverted to human concerns.

I can’t imagine how Peter felt having Jesus turn to him and say, “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me…” shortly after saying “he was the rock”.

Quite the shift.

The enemy works quickly and decisively to throw our focus off. He works extremely hard to direct our hearts towards human concerns and away from the will of God. In that moment I am sure Peter was not alone amongst the disciples in thinking, “We can prevent this somehow!” They probably all wanted to come up with a plan to avoid having Jesus taken from them.

As humans, we love to be in control. We love trusting in ourselves instead of God’s plan. Even when Jesus, the son of the living God, was the one standing there in front of the disciples laying out God’s plan for how things would unfold, Peter wanted to step in and change it. We have such a hard time releasing control.

We see this in Genesis as well today after the death of Jacob. Even though Joseph had rescued his family from starvation, forgiven his brothers, brought them to Egypt, and declared to them that it was God’s plan all along; all it took was the death of their father for Joseph’s brothers to begin waiting for the other shoe to fall.

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?”

So they went to Joseph and lied about their father’s dying wishes. They wanted to be in control. They wanted to manipulate the situation.

How often do we do the same? For me it is a constant battle that rages throughout each and every day. I am always wrestling with my own human nature and desire to be the captain of my own ship. I want to trust God with every step, but need to turn things over to him over and over and over again throughout the day. When I pray in the morning that God lives in me today and uses me for his plan and his purposes, it lasts for a little while. However, it doesn’t take long for Satan to put stumbling blocks in my path that cause me to jump back to wanting to take control. It doesn’t take much for me to want to nudge God out of the way and take back control of the ship. And I need to pray that prayer again…and again…and again.

Submitting to God’s will throughout the day is an ongoing battle. I believe that far to often we beat ourselves up as Christians when we feel this natural tendency occurring. If Peter, the rock on which Jesus built his church and one of the disciples who actually walked the earth with Jesus in the flesh, struggled with this; it is unreasonable to think that we will not struggle as well. The enemy is real and he is active.

The key is choosing to battle. The enemy not only wants us focused on human concerns, but he also wants us to feel an extreme sense of shame and guilt when we realize we are doing it. Shame and guilt are two of the most powerful tools in Satan’s toolbox. It keeps more Christians on the sidelines, instead of in the game building the kingdom, than almost anything else.

So, today, when you feel yourself leaning on your own abilities, wanting to be in complete control, wanting to manipulate the situation to match your human concerns; turn it over to God. Pray without ceasing throughout the day. Give it over to him repeatedly. Reject the feelings of shame and guilt and choose to accept the beautiful gift that God has given us in the Holy Spirit that desperately desires to live within us the entire day.

It doesn’t have to take long to recalibrate our heart in these moments. When you catch yourself today, start by offering up the words of David we read in Psalm 18:

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

When we stop trying to be the source of our own strength, our own deliverer, our own rock, shield, horn of salvation, and stronghold; and allow God to be firmly behind the wheel, amazing things happen.

Thought to ponder

What is the biggest area in my life where I tend to want full control and struggle giving control over to God?

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