I’ve been talking about how the Lord looks at our lives from a ‘big picture’ perspective, since He has invested in us for eternity. Unfortunately, we tend to take issues in our lives and make them larger than they should be in the face of eternity.
Just a moment
You don’t have to live very long on planet earth before someone betrays and hurts you. From playground betrayals to high school soap opera-like romances, and on into adulthood, hurts and betrayals are something we’ve all experienced.
Ministry and church life can be particularly hurtful, and one day a woman in the traditional church we pastored hurt Barb deeply. She took things Barb told her in confidence and shared them openly with others. And it wasn’t just the betrayal, what hurt Barb more was that this woman valued their friendship so lightly, as something not to be protected, but rather, disposable.
Having her words taken out of context and her heart bared open before immature people who reacted as immature people do, hurt Barb deeply. The woman never apologized, and though Barb forgave her, the emotions still hurt.
As she was still deeply hurting some weeks later, the Father broke into her brooding and said: “Don’t turn a moment into a lifetime; It’s only a moment.”
(I have a cd/MP3 series on forgiveness that may help some. Jesus said forgiveness is a decision, not an emotion. A person can forgive a person yet take even years to work through the emotions - that process is covered in the series)
The Father’s words set Barb free emotionally for she had become so focused on the ‘little picture’ that was the hurt and betrayal that she had forgotten the ‘big picture’. This woman’s actions proved she was not ready to be a true friend to Barb, and therefore forced Barb to let their relationship remain dormant until we all get to heaven and it will be ‘safe’ to pick up the relationship with her again.
Something Barb and I discussed at the time was the Father’s words: “Don’t turn a moment into a lifetime.” That statement meant the Father was showing her she had a choice – it was her choice to carry that moment in time’s hurt throughout her life, the small picture, or she could step back and see that moment compared to eternity, and let it go. Barb chose wisely, to see the hurt in a big picture framework, and it lifted as a result.
In John 1:41-42 Peter is introduced to Jesus by Andrew, Peter’s brother, with the claim ‘We have found Messiah’. Nothing happened at that meeting, but Peter was left to consider the claim of Jesus as Messiah. The next time we see Peter and Jesus together is in Luke 5: 1-11. Peter and his business partners, brothers James & John, are loaning one of their boats to Jesus so He can speak to a crowd along the lake shore, taking advantage of the better acoustics of water.
Thanking them for the use of their boat, Jesus tells them to cast their nets 1 more time even though they caught nothing all night long, and gives them a huge load of fish, so much so both boats are nearly sunk and the nets were breaking in the process of hauling them aboard.
Upon seeing this miracle Peter falls to his knees and says; “Leave me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”, to which Jesus responds, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will catch men (rather than fish).” And they all gave up their business right then and there, and followed Jesus.
Peter, James, and John left the fishing business, leaving Zebedee – the father of James & John – now the senior partner, having to completely reorganize his business without his sons and their friend Peter.
I’m going fishing
Yet some 3 1/2 years later after the resurrection we once again see Peter, James & John together with others, returning to the fishing business. And just like it was before Peter saw his first miracle in Luke 5, they caught nothing all night long.
And once again Jesus is on the shore giving instructions to cast the net just 1 more time, and when they do so they cannot haul in the net due to the huge number of fish, yet this time the net didn’t break. Peter is no dummy, in his deja vu experience he recognizes ‘It is the Lord’, and jumps into the water to swim to shore. (John 21)
I wonder if Peter saw the parable of the net breaking the first time in Luke 5 but not the 2nd, a picture of Peter hopelessly flawed before Jesus came into his life, the net tearing under the strain representing his broken, flawed character that kept allowing ‘fish’ to escape? (Sins, errors, faults while chasing maturity in God)
So here we are the 2nd time, this time the net doesn’t break in a parable of Peter’s maturity process the last 3 1/2 years with a view to the rest of his life, and Jesus asks Peter a big picture question: “Do you love me more than these?”
Not James, John, Philip or Nathanael
Some would suppose Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Him more than James & John and the others loved Him. Or perhaps asking Peter if he loved Him more than he loved his friends.
But that would be completely inconsistent with every other interaction between God and man from Genesis through The Revelation. At no time in the Word does God ever ask a comparative question involving people – do you love me more than your best friends love me? Do you love me more than you love your friend? Do you love me more than your spouse loves Me?
In the Old Testament there are some comparisons made between serving idols versus serving the God of Israel, but never a question comparing one person’s love for Him versus another’s love for Him.
No, the context makes it clear Jesus is asking Peter if he loves Him more than fish and fishing. The ‘these’ are fish. Do you love me more than these fish we just ate, Peter? Do you love me more than your fishing business? Early on Peter had left the fishing business to follow Jesus – he had made a big picture decision.
Emotions and the big picture
Jesus once again asks him to make a big picture decision, and He asks that decision be founded upon deep love for Him, asking 3 times, “Do you love Me? Feed my sheep.”
When the Lord asks us to make a big picture decision as he did here with Peter, notice it is made out of love for Him, and that he doesn’t send us to a conference or therapist to work through the emotions of such a big decision.
For instance, in John 8:11 when the woman is caught in adultery and Jesus saves her from a horrible death by stoning, He simply says, “Go and sin no more”, or “Go and leave your sin”.
He doesn’t say to go see a counselor to deal with the ‘soul ties’ she incurred. He doesn’t tell her to pray over a generational sin that opened the door to lust that allowed her to enter into the affair. He doesn’t sooth her emotions – He just says to stop sinning – break it off and move on with your life!
He asks her for a big picture decision – make decisions based on your destiny, not based on the short term.
So when Jesus asks Peter for a big picture decision founded upon love for Him, He doesn’t go into detail soothing Peter’s emotions and answering questions about how to turn the business once and for all over to Zebedee, or to sell the business and boats. He doesn’t tell Peter how to tell his wife and kids they are probably going to have to give up their home and live out of a suitcase much of the rest of their lives, and most likely move out of Israel.
He does tell Peter something about the ramifications of making the big picture decision: “When you are old others will bind you and stretch out your hands and take you where you don’t want to go”, thus signifying John 21:18-19 says, that Peter will die by crucifixion.
He always shows us the finished vision
He doesn’t tell us how to work through the emotions of a big picture decision, whether that be Barb returning a moment in time to merely a moment in time rather than a lifetime, or Peter making a decision knowing that when he is old he will die by crucifixion. He just puts it out there for us - Will you do this?
Saul of Tarsus persecuted the body of Christ in Jerusalem, but Acts 8:1 tells us every single believer in Jesus left Jerusalem except for the apostles. So Saul had to expand the hunting down of these people to other areas, which took him to Damascus one day.
The Lord wasn’t ready to allow persecution to expand yet, and so interrupts Saul’s trip by appearing to him before he can reach the city gates. He had been dealing with Saul for some time, because the Lord comments to him: “It’s hard (for you) to kick against the ox-goad”.
The ox-goad was a pointed stick with which a person walked behind an ox and jabbed him to keep him going a certain direction. The Word was the pointy stick the Lord had been using to try to get Saul of Tarsus in the right direction, but like a stubborn animal, he kept ‘kicking’ against the Lord’s jabs. Essentially the Lord appeared to Saul and said ‘Give up!’.
The Lord tells Saul to get up and go into the city, where it will be told what he must do. At that point the Lord appears to a another disciple and tells him to tell Saul some things, and mentions this: “He is a chosen instrument to proclaim my name before the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel, and I will show him how much suffering he must endure for my name.”
The testimony of Saul of Tarsus is found in Acts 9, 22, & 26, with Paul adding or subtracting various details each time depending on who he is talking to. But it is clear the Lord showed him the big picture, the mature ministry, and the consequences of making such a decision.
He doesn’t help us work through the emotions directly, He puts the decision out there, shows us the cost to make a big picture decision, and then leaves it up to us to decide.
Ages to come
A couple in our church were picked out of the crowd and prophesied over every time a guest speaker came to our church, and given the same prophetic word about them going to nations to teach people the Word.Yet one of them got into adultery and the marriage ended in divorce.
During a visitation when the Lord was teaching me about prophecy, I asked Him about this couple, saying, “Isaiah 55 says your Word doesn’t return to you without accomplishing the thing it was sent out for, so what about all the words over this couple? How will they come to pass?”
He said: “Some words spoken in this age won’t be fulfilled until the age to come.” I said, “I’ve never heard that before, I need chapter and verse!” He kindly responded: “There are many prophecies in the Old Testament that leap over this age to speak of the millennial age to come, and you believe them, so why is it so hard for you to believe that some prophecies spoken in this age will be fulfilled in the next?”
You see, God’s Word in our lives WILL come to pass. He shows us the mature vision, the completed work, and then sin and life happen and small picture decisions are made, until one day we look back at how we have failed Him and wonder how we will ever be granted entrance to heaven. Or if we make it we think, we will hear how sorely disappointed and perhaps even angry with us He was our whole life.
Yet nothing in our lives has caught Him by surprise, and when He speaks a Word, a vision, an invitation to a big picture decision to us, He did so having seen all the detours and failings in our lives.
His big picture Word WILL come to pass in your life. If not in this life, then maybe 100 years from now, maybe 400 years from now, maybe 900 years from now – but whether it comes to pass in this life or the next, know that in the big picture we are already in eternity. We don’t die and THEN pass into eternity. You have already started living forever.
This life is only a moment, don’t make it a lifetime.
More next week, blessings,