August 24, 2009
At a Distance
"But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome." Matthew 26:58 (NIV).
I sat in the sanctuary all alone, hot tears trickling down my young face. As a high school senior, I often attended our church's open door, self-serve communion time that was held a few days each year. The church was left unlocked providing a place to be alone with God: to pray or read your Bible. Then, at the altar were the elements. When ready, believers spent time meditating before partaking of the bread and the cup. Although I had done this many times, that night would forever be seared in my mind.
I'd been a follower of Christ for just over a year, having first dedicated my life to Him at a youth retreat. The next 12 months, though an exciting time of growth, were also one of sorrow. I lost friends. I no longer fit in with the "in" crowd. I had no desire to attend certain parties I knew God wouldn't approve of or engage in conversations I wouldn't want Him to hear.
So I clung to my crisp, new Bible and rushed home each afternoon, eager to read more while making notations in the margins. My youth group, as well as my mentor, a stay-at-home mom of two, became my lifelines. I desperately wanted to know how to live this new Christian life and live it in a way that made Jesus proud.
But as I sat there that night, I felt as if I had failed God. There was a new group of kids at school who, when the more popular kids shut me out, had taken me in. But things were beginning to get sticky. I was challenged at many points in my faith; was asked questions by those who felt God didn't exist and were very eloquent in arguing their case. So normally chatty me, often became silent. There were times I knew I should say something, but I remained painfully wordless instead. My silence spoke volumes, and in a way, denied Christ.
It was then that, alone in my church, crying and searching my soul, I read today's key verse. The words stung. "But Peter followed him at a distance…" That was me! I followed my sweet Jesus, but often at a distance; not wanting to get too close; to be lumped in with the Bible-thumping fanatics; to be labeled a "Jesus Freak." That night was a wake-up call. I didn't want to lurk in the shadows any longer. I wanted to be so closely associated with Jesus that I cared not what any soul on earth thought. I left with a renewed commitment to this goal.
God, in His mercy, allowed me to come across many more verses about Peter in the next few weeks as I flung myself on my bed and flung open my Bible each afternoon after school. I witnessed his three-time denial. Then, I saw his sorrow; his repentance; his eventual boldness for Christ. I garnered encouragement from knowing that his once hesitant, in-the-shadows disciple became a bold, world-changing servant of God. And, just weeks later, our youth group took a personality test that matches you with a biblical character and my result came back as—you guessed it—Peter! I knew then that if he could learn to follow boldly, then I could too.
Oh may God help us all to turn our fear of association into boldness for His kingdom! The world is waiting and watching. Will we pursue Him closely or follow at a distance?
Dear Lord, may I not shirk from associating myself closely with You for all the world to see. I want to reflect You; not reject You. Please grant me the courage to do so. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
A Life that Says Welcome by Karen Ehman
Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst
When in my life have I been afraid of speaking up or associating myself with Christ? What was it that I feared?
When it comes to following God publically, do I tend to stay close by His side, follow at a distance or run and hide in the shadows?
What are some practical ways I can follow Christ more boldly? What can I learn to say when the topic of God comes up that will help me to associate myself with Him?
How can I give reason for the hope that lies within me, yet do it with gentleness and respect?
I Peter 3:14b-16, "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (NIV)
© 2009 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
Originally published Monday, 24 August 2009.