What's a Few More Laps?
In 1 Peter 4:1, the apostle writes to marginalized believers:
"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking...(1 Peter 4:1)"
Prepare your heart, mind, and flesh, to suffer for righteousness sake; for the cause of Christ. Arm yourselves. Get ready. Don’t put off thinking big thoughts about whether or not this Jesus stuff is just a hobby for you, or if it is SOMETHING and He is SOMEONE
- you’d willingly be thrown to lions for,
- willingly burn at a stake for,
- or willingly stand in front of a firing squad for.
Have you armed yourself in this way?
If you haven’t and you live where I live, I get it.
In the US of A, most of us live in heart and spirit-numbing comfort and ease and it’s easy to dismiss apostolic commissions such as these by thinking,
“It will never come down to that. I’ll live here, sing songs on Sunday, take the kids to soccer practice during the week, raise grand kids, and die peacefully in my sleep in my 80’s.”
And you could very well be right.....But what if you’re not?
One Big Yes
Peter, and every other prophet and apostle (Jesus included!) always lay out discipleship (and the faith required for discipleship) in terms of life and death; in terms of martyrdom.
Why do they do that?
Why, when calling people to discipleship, do they first call people to suffering and martyrdom?
The reason is this: Bound up into that big “YES” to martyrdom; to death, are a thousand smaller “yeses" along the way.*
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).”
Peter’s not saying, “If you suffer in the flesh, you will never sin again.”
“If you’ve got the big “YES” martyrdom, suffering in the flesh, and death, taken care of, these other calls to follow Jesus, the little “yeses” needed along the way, are already also taken care of. You won’t live for human passions, you’ll live for the will of God.”
What’s a Few More Laps?
I’ve always run distance races. Reason one being because I am mostly legs, and reason two being because I like to win. (From my earliest days racing, everyone signed up to run the 100 meter dash or long jump, but few signed up to run the mile and 2 mile; so in the worst case scenario, I’m getting 3rd place every time.)
Once I got to high school , I really started running the distance; 4 miles every meet.
The day started with the 2 mile run (8 laps), then the 2 mile relay (2 laps), then the 800 meter run (2 laps), and then to cap it off and bore people before the mile relay (which is just a ton of fun to watch), the day ended with the mile run (4 laps).
Do you know why I was able to do that every Saturday in the spring?
I was able to say “yes” to 2 laps, 2 more laps, and then 4 more laps, because I’d already given my big “YES” to 8 laps.
In my head every Saturday I’m thinking, after running 8 laps:
“Two more laps? Ok. I already did 8.”
“Oh, two more laps again? I already did 8.”
“Wow! 4 more laps now? I already did 8.”
By giving the big “YES” to the hardest race (this illustration isn’t perfect because the 800 is actually the hardest race and the hellscape of track and field, but you get the point) I could do the rest of the small “yeses”.
Martyrdom = 8 Laps
That’s what the call to martyrdom in scripture is about.
A big “YES” to this big commandment covers the small “yeses” to small commandments.
- By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to not consuming porn.
- By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to resisting gossip.
- By giving the big “YES” to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small “yes” to gather with the church or share the gospel.
Do you see what I’m saying?
If we can’t follow Jesus four blocks to the church building once a week for an hour and a half (a hilariously small “yes”), what makes us think we’ll follow him to the gallows (a great big giant “YES”)?
If we can’t confess Him as Lord to our neighbor who is a nice guy (a small “yes”), what makes us think we’ll confess him as Lord on the guillotine* (a big “YES”)?
Or like the Lord posed to Jeremiah, “(Jeremiah 12:5) If you have raced with men on foot (a small “yes”), and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? (a big “YES”)
If we can’t say yes to 8 laps, what makes us think we’ll be able to say yes to two?
Dalton Thomas, in his book “Unto Death” writes:
Though not every believer is called to give a martyr-witness, every believer is called to embrace a martyr-mentality, every church a martyr-mandate, and every minister a martyr-theology. Whether we live or die is ultimately in the hands of our Master, and if we have not entrusted Him with that decision, we may be deluding ourselves into assuming we are His bondservants when in fact we are not.”
Beloved, if we will arm ourselves with this way of thinking, if we give our big “YES” to suffering in the flesh, to martyrdom, even if it doesn’t come, all of our little “yeses” are taken care of and sin will gradually lose its grip.
Give the Lord the big “YES” and watch as the other “yeses” follow. I mean really, what’s a few more laps after 8?
Until He Comes,
*(this is a paraphrase from Dalton Thomas, but I can’t seem to find the source)
*(I use guillotine cause you’ve got 70s,80s,90s, rapture movies in your heads and it’s always a guillotine, isn’t it!)