When I was working in the lumber department at Lowes, I interacted with many construction workers and others of the like, which are different than my mindset in different ways. While I worked up the stamina to load building materials off the shelf and onto trailers with the best of them, but I did not have the rougher mindset that most construction workers have. I saw a man one day in the lumber department digging a knife into his hand and when I asked what he was doing, he said, “I have a splinter deep in my hand and I’m trying to get it out.” When I expressed that I didn’t think I could do such a thing, he profoundly replied, “Well I either leave it there and my hand will get infected or I use a knife and get it out now. It’s better to go through a little pain now to get it out than to have an infection later.”
The man digging the splinter out of his hand illustrated a spiritual need that is difficult. As he was a realist on the dangers of his reality (having a splinter) and need for temporary pain to secure future health, we need be such a realist with our spiritual lives. James writes in James 4:6-10 about the need for acknowledging sin and repenting of it. He writes in verse 6, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” If we are too proud to admit sin and handle, God will be opposed to us. If we are humble, likened to the construction worker, we will use a spiritual knife to cut out sin, despite the discomfort it causes. In contrast, when we are willing to be humble about the changes that need to be made, God exalts us. The result of cutting out the bad and being exalted by God? God is no longer opposed to us but fighting for us. “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31).
Though some of us do not enjoy learning the details of past events, history is frequently used in the Biblical text as reference point for connecting with readers to teach them. In the mid-60s AD, Christians were undergoing vast amounts of persecution and Peter was writing to give them hope. Peter used Noah as a historical illustration in 1 Peter 3:17-21 to latch onto the readers’ minds. Though the water of the flood was judgement upon the disobedient, it was salvation for Noah and his family. The Jewish mind would have understood that well. Peter used that to say that the suffering taking place for them was beneficial for salvation if they handled it through the hope of their salvation.
Likened to the intended readers of Peter, Christians today can get very worn down by the pressure and the varied forms of persecution that the world inflicts. When the world claims we are too different, it gets easier to think about giving up. When the world hates us for denouncing “new social norms” because it is against Scripture, it gets easier to think about giving up. When we are called judgmental for maintaining God’s judgements, it gets easier to think about giving up. Scripture is God’s absolute standard, which acts as judgement for the disobedient and salvation for the faithful Christian. Noah endured 120 years of what had to have been difficult persecution, then justice was served. History does, indeed, teach. As the readers of Peter’s letter were being encouraged to stand firm in the hope that was in them through persecution, we should also not be pressured to crumble. As the equivalent waters of judgement and the waters of salvation rise, let us heed Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:58. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”