Get behind me Satan

Daily Readings Judges 3-4, Mark 8, Psalm 67

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 

Mark 8:31-33

I have heard it said many times that friends tell you what you want to hear, but true friends tell you what you need to hear.

While I agree with this sentiment and find it absolutely true that we should always seek to surround ourselves with people in our lives that will challenge us, push us, and call out the best in us; it strikes me that this statement oversimplifies it a bit.

The reality is that friends, family members, and colleagues frequently love us so much that they just don’t want to see us struggle. They don’t want to see us in pain. They believe that their advice truly is in our best interest.

Sometimes it is.

However, sometimes, they are simply telling us to take the easy road when that is not God’s will in our lives.

As a friend it can be extremely challenging to know where the line is. It is difficult knowing whether a particular challenge in someone’s life is one that they need to remove themselves from or one that they are meant to push through and grow from. Unless you are incredibly close to the situation and have the full context, it is easy to offer bad advice. Sometimes, we even believe that we have 100% of the context, and yet there may be more to it than we realize.

Peter was trying to help. Peter didn’t want to see Jesus suffer. Unfortunately, Peter wanted to see Jesus live out PETER’S plan for Jesus’ life, not the plan that God had designed. And here is the thing, how many of us would have been much different than Peter at this moment?

The Jewish people spent hundreds of years picturing a Messiah coming in as a conquering war hero like the judges we read about today. They pictured the Messiah overthrowing the Roman Empire and establishing a new Jewish Kingdom that reigned forever.

God had a different Kingdom in mind, an eternal one.

Peter was quite literally Jesus’ right hand man. Jesus would later say that Peter was the rock on which he would build his church. I would dare to say that Peter would qualify as a true friend.

However Peter is also human, just like us.

So, when you get advice from a friend to remove yourself from a challenge in your life, when you are tempted to take the road that seems easier at the moment, when you have friends and family members asking, “Why are you still trying so hard to…” I think it is important to bring that question to God. It is important to spend time in God’s word, take SERIOUS time prayerfully considering whether this is a challenge in your life God wants you to push through and grow from, or whether your friends and family are right in their assessment.

It is so easy to accept advice from people telling us to the do the thing that would be emotionally easier in the moment. That is what we have desperately wanted to do as well! At those moments it is easy to think, “This is a trusted, wise, and Godly friend! I should heed their advice!” Sometime this is true and their advice is spot on.

However, sometimes they may be playing the role of Peter.

They may genuinely think they know what is best for you, not wanting to see you in pain, thinking they are giving Godly advice from a place of love, but ultimately missing God’s bigger plan.

In these times, we need to have the confidence to say, “Get behind me Satan.”

(Not literally, since that is a pretty easy way to lose friendships!)

For me, I have found the easiest way to discern God’s will is to really prayerfully consider big plans in my life before ever embarking on them. I know that there will come a point in any difficult endeavor where I want to quit. I know I am going to want to be like every major character in the Bible that wanted to turn back at some point in the mist of the challenge. So, I want to make sure I have thoroughly thought through my decision before I commit.

A mentor of mine said that it is important to pray over decisions and commitments while rational and then stick to what God has told you when you turn emotional. When we are emotional the easiest thing in the world to do is say, “I feel like God is leading me to…” and spiritualize our emotions in order to justify avoiding hard moments in life. I know I have been guilty of that!

At these moments, we probably have many Peters in our life ready to come with seemingly good advice that we are desperate to hear. We want an out. We want someone else to justify turning back from the path God has set us on. At these moments we need to really try to settle our hearts, turn back to God and ask with an open mind, “Have you changed the path you want me on, or is this a challenge I am meant to overcome?”

Sometimes the answers don’t come immediately. We live in such a western culture that demands the instantaneous. We do not serve a God that works on our timeline. He works on his.

My encouragement to you is this, if God has previously put something in your path that you really felt called to, continue to push through challenges until a door has been CLEARLY shut. Otherwise, we may be falling prey to our normal human emotions and miss out on the incredible work God has planned for us if we just trust fully in him and embrace the ups and downs that come with a life of service.

God never promised that serving him faithfully would be easy, but he did promise that he would be in the yoke with us. He did promise to share the load if we would allow him to walk alongside us.

Peter was eventually Jesus’ rock on which he built his church, but he was also human.

Appreciate the Peters in your life. Even if their advice is not always helpful at the moment and you instantly know is incorrect; remember that they love you. They are just trying to help.

God has bigger plans. Don’t be afraid to turn to the father and seek those bigger plans out.

Thought to ponder

When was the last time you were tempted to turn back from a path that God set you on when it was getting hard? How did you respond? How would you like to respond in the future?

Five short chapters later…

Daily Readings: Genesis 37-41, Psalm 16

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

-Psalm 16:7-8

Keeping our eyes always on the Lord can be easier said than done at times in our lives. Declaring that we will not be shaken regardless of what comes, knowing that God is always there at our right hand to counsel us, can be incredibly challenging!

One of the best stories throughout the entire Bible that illustrates this is found in Genesis today when looking at the life of Joseph. Talk about a rollercoaster!

Throughout the course of five chapters we see some amazing drama unfold. Joseph is his father’s favorite son. Then, out of jealousy, his brothers sell him into slavery. God has a different plan, however, and Potiphar puts Joseph in charge over his entire household. This doesn’t last long. Soon Potiphar’s wife is trying to seduce Joseph. When he refuses, she lies about Joseph attempting to rape her and has him thrown in prison. God is still with Joseph and the warden eventually puts Joseph in charge of the prison. After miraculous dream interpretations from God, Joseph is let out of prison and put in charge of all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh!

Joseph’s story truly is the stuff that movies are made from. Challenges, high points, devastating plot twists, and eventually redemption. There is an inspiring theme throughout the story of Joseph that applies to our life as well.

God wants to use your story, no matter how bad it looks, to further his plan for your life. Whether the adversity you face was God ordained for a specific purpose, or simply self-inflicted based on our own choices; God will use those challenges to advance his story and serve others if we allow him to.

The hard part is remaining patient as God does his miraculous work of redeeming our story. It is easy to read the story of Joseph for 10-15 minutes, over the course of 5 chapters, and say, “Wow. Look at the faithfulness of God!”

It is easy to scan over the following verses without even thinking about them:

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers

Some time later 

When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt…

This entire short story for us was anything but short for Joseph. As soon as things began looking up, immediately the next shoe fell. Over and over and over again. This wasn’t 13 days or even 13 months; it was 13 years!

I try to put myself in Joseph’s shoes. I think about the last time we see him made to wait in this story. Joseph gives the cupbearer good news about his dream and simply asks that he talk to Pharaoh on his behalf once the cupbearer is restored to his former position. Joseph must have been sitting there that day when the cupbearer was restored, eagerly awaiting the call for him to be released from prison. Finally! After years in slavery and then prison, I am going to get out!

That day passes, and the next one, and the next one…

Eventually the cupbearer remembers Joseph and, only a chapter later, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream, is released from prison, and in charge of all of Egypt!

One chapter for us was a two-year wait for Joseph.

How patient are we with God’s story? How do we respond when we are in the midst of the slavery chapter in our lives? Where do we fix our eyes when waiting in our own personal prison for longer than we would like?

Often in my own life when going through challenges I try to maintain the perspective that God is going to use this for his glory in some way. This trial will allow me to minister to others in the future who are dealing with similar challenges as I am facing right now.

It is a comforting thought. However, more often that not, I want to pass quickly through the prison phase and get the part where I am in charge of all of Egypt! I want to fast forward God’s plan. I want to skip ahead.

Whatever you are facing right now or whatever trials you face in the future, God can use them to advance his plan. He can use them to have a powerful impact in the lives of others. He can redeem them for his glory. Our job is to release control, trust in his timing, and keep our eyes fixed firmly on him.

Thought to ponder

How could God use previous challenges in my life to advance his kingdom and to serve others?

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