Faith in Hard Times

On Sunday, Reverend Kelly of Open Door talked about what it looks like to keep the faith in hard times. And I got to thinking about Peter.

Acts is the story of how, after Jesus had left the earth, his followers built the Christian church (not a building....but a movement). In Acts 3, Peter approaches a man, lame from birth, a beggar outside the temple gates and, unsolicited, says, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”

Seriously???? Who does he think he is? Does he really expect to heal this man?

Early in Jesus’ ministry, Peter was quick to perceive that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus called Peter out this way:

“God let you in on the secret of who I am. And now I’ll tell you who you really are. You are Peter, a rock. And on this rock I will build my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

You are a rock. And on this rock I will build my church. Sounds promising.

But we have lots of stories of Peter’s failures. And some of Jesus’ harshest rebukes are reserved for Peter. Peter definitely had some hard times.

  • Peter steps out of the boat, starts walking on the water toward Jesus, then notices he’s in the middle of a large body of water in a nasty storm, loses heart and starts to sink. He cries out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus reaches out his hand and says those stinging words, “You of little faith,” (ouch) “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  Peter’s faith was tested. Peter failed.
  • Before the Garden of Gesthemane, Peter says, “Let me go where you are going. I’ll lay down my life for you.” Jesus replies, “You? Lay down your life for me? You’ll deny me three times before morning!” And he does.  Peter’s faith was tested. Peter failed.
  • This Peter is the one to whom Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!”

As far as disciples go, Peter seems a far cry from a teacher’s dream! But Jesus doesn’t give up on Peter. And Peter doesn’t give up on Jesus.

After that first Easter, Peter recognizes Jesus. He jumps out of a boat into the water and swims for the shore. Maybe he's not walking on water, but his faith is taking him to Jesus. He can’t get to Jesus fast enough! The conversation goes like this:

Jesus asks three times, “Peter, do you love me? Really love me?” And every time Peter replies, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus gives Peter as many chances to declare his love as he had to deny it.

 Before his death, Jesus said to Peter, “Where I’m going, you can’t come now, but you will follow afterward.” And now Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me….and feed my sheep.” Jesus is saying, "Afterward is now!"

So again, Peter’s faith is put to the test as he says to the lame man at the temple gate, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”

What kind of faith did it take for Peter to tell the man to stand and walk? Peter is a rock, and on this rock Jesus will build his church.

Peter preaches outside the temple saying, “Faith in Jesus’ name put this man on his feet – yes, faith and nothing but faith put this man healed and whole, right before your eyes!” Who did the healing? It wasn't Peter who did the healing.....it was Jesus.

Peter says, "Faith in Jesus' name put this man on his feet..."  Whose faith opened the door for Jesus to do the healing? It wasn’t the faith of the man who was healed. It was Peter’s faith in the power and promise of Jesus. A faith that had been through hard times….a faith that had failed before…a faith that never gave up….a faith that Jesus never gave up on....and a faith that was the ROCK Jesus would use to build his church.

Have you ever faced hard times and felt like a failure at faith?
Peter did too. But he didn't give up on Jesus...and Jesus didn't give up on Peter. We don't have to have perfect faith...only faith that perseveres. Don't give up on Jesus. He won't give up on you.  And he will use you. You will be his rock, and he will use you to build his church....not a building, but a movement of faith and love and healing and hope....just like he used Peter.

Jesus, when times are hard, I'm tempted to lose faith. Especially when I feel like a failure at faith, help me to be like Peter, never giving up, always trying again to be the kind of rock you need me to be to build your church....to bring love and healing and hope to people who desperately need you. Amen.

Kim Turnage

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