The Developing Dangerous Situation: A Lesson from Dr. Mike Strawn
The Developing Dangerous Situation
Recently I received my first copy of a monthly bulletin from the GBS-CIDP organization. It provides support for those who suffer from Guillain Barre Syndrome (in all its variants) and its ongoing sister-disease, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy.
The newsletter had several stories of people’s onsets of these ailments. Like Dan when he first began having GBS symptoms, all the people did not understand the gravity of the first tingles in the fingers, the first weaknesses, the first stumbling steps. Only when the situations became debilitating were they able to recognize, and get others to recognize, the gravity of their conditions.
Recently our dear family friend and spiritual mentor Mike Strawn shared with me a lesson he developed, entitled “The Developing Dangerous Situation.” It is based on Luke 22:54-61, and what follows is Dr. Strawn’s lesson which has been of great encouragement and insight to me (particularly considering that in November of last year I was able to stand in the very place in Jerusalem, in the excavated and restored house of the high priest in Jerusalem, where this actually happened.) I pray that it will help you too.
Peter Disowns Jesus
54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”
57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”
60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Most often when ministers and others teach about this passage, they emphasize that even after Peter publicly denied the Lord Jesus, He later forgave him. And although that is true, it is from a retrospective point of view, that is, reflective of the way that God forgives. But it shouldn’t be used to justify our lack of vigilance against sin in the first place.
Peter didn’t set out to sin against the Lord. The passage says that after Jesus was arrested, Peter followed at a distance. He wanted to see how this situation would develop.
Suddenly he found himself the focus, at least for a few moments, of a developing situation that took him in when people asked him if he was a follower of Jesus. Each time, he denied that he was.
By so doing, he became a symbol of four things:
1) The failure of faith in a critical moment
3) Disavowal of revealed truth: He had been with Jesus for 3 years
4) The love of self and one’s physical safety above the love of the Lord
All of us have at one time or another been guilty of each of these things, and each of us has come to understand it when the rooster crows metaphorically in our own lives.
It is at that point of recognition that Peter, and we, feel remorse and weep bitterly.
The idea of a developing dangerous situation is one that is pictured over and over in the lives of people in the Bible. In fact, finding oneself in such a condition must be a common condition for people of faith. Consider the following example (and, if you have time, examine them in detail):
Elisha and his servant at Dothan
Elijah at Mt. Carmel
David in the valley of Elah
David pursued by Saul
Jeremiah (his whole ministry)
Joseph in the house of Potiphar
Moses when he was called to go back to Egypt
Peter with the prophecy of Agabus
Stephen’s last sermon
Daniel challenged not to pray
The three Hebrew young men before the fiery furnace
Those in Revelation 13 who were told they would soon die
The murder of Hebrew children in Exodus 1
Herod’s murder of children
Paul escaping in a basket in Damascus
And of course, many more situations such as these. Consider the role of God Himself as the Developer of these situations. (It is true that Satan has a role as well, but for the purposes of this study we will concentrate on God’s part.
It is undeniable, scripturally true that God develops such situations not only to test us, but also as vehicles by which He can demonstrate His power in them, and bring glory to Himself so that others will trust Him. (Undoubtedly God is using Dan Scott to do such things.)
Here is the Anatomy of a Developing Dangerous Situation:
First of all, God is the developer of the situation. He shapes it and gives it the form it takes, determines the parameters of it including its limitations and its effects on believers, and sets its course. Nothing about it shocks or surprises Him. And nothing about the situation is autonomous: It does not operate on its own power.
Secondly, human beings are part of the situation and by nature do not always do well when they are stretched beyond what they believe they can tolerate. This was certainly true of Peter. In fact, it was true of Jesus, as He acknowledged in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked that His developing dangerous situation be taken away.
Thirdly, there is the very real nature of the danger itself. In all the situations we’ve discussed, the risks were very real. Nothing was theoretical or imaginary about the danger. For Peter and for Jesus, they did both eventually face abuse, torture, prison, death.
How did Peter fail in his developing dangerous situation in the courtyard of the high priest? He did these things:
1) He extracted God from the situation. He acted as if God were not part of it, as if he were on his own in solving the situation and getting out of danger.
2) He looked at the situation and acted as if it were a freestanding machine, not connected to God, that operated on its own. For him, it had its own “necessary” rules, its own course, its own inevitabilities.
Scripture makes it clear that God uses situations in a personal way to either get our attention or that of others who are watching us in the situations (see Hebrews 12, for instance.)
Once you begin looking at a developing dangerous situation as Peter did, it seems to fuel the machine aspect of the situation. Once you mentally extract God and the supernatural as factors in a situation, faithlessness gains its own rationale, its own logic, its own trajectory. It becomes easier and easier to act without faith, to treat a situation on its own terms, to see it as “natural” and as pure history unfolding before your eyes.
In fact, such a view of situations –whether personal situations, political situations, economic situations—is what Marx and others have used to enslave people and remove the thought of God as causative from people’s minds for generations. It becomes an all-inclusive view of not only history but life itself. And it modifies, calibrates, and suppresses any hope in God and the Gospel.
And it trivializes personal faithlessness in developing dangerous situations.
What should someone do in a developing dangerous situation?
1) Don’t extract God from the situation. Do whatever it takes to keep reminding yourself of His reality and His involvement in the situation.
2) Infer His involvement in your situation. Acknowledge that He has an eternal point of sight about this. His purposes, and His glory as goals want to include you, for good and not for harm to your soul.
3) Denature the historical elements of your situation. We look at “facts” and think that they are freestanding machines that we have to work around. Consider the facts about Jesus’s and Peter’s situation: They had been accosted by a well-armed squadron of soldiers who arrested Jesus and physically removed Him from the Garden. The priests and political leaders were powerful and influential. But Jesus knew the truth about their supposed power over Him. In John 19:
So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You
Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above. . .”
Thus Jesus assessed the situation correctly: No imprisonment, no illness such as GBS, no physical condition, no political condition, not even death had its own inherent power. Jesus’s statements denatured the situation of its hold and control.
4) Make a personal resolution to remain faithful in spite of any outcomes of the situation – whether dealing with our fear of outcomes, or undesirable outcomes themselves. Sometimes we think that outcomes are inevitable because fiery furnaces burn up people, hungry lions eat people, young boys and smaller untrained armies can’t defeat larger foes. But God determines – and conditions – such outcomes.
5) When we are in developing dangerous situations, put our trust in God and Him alone, not in any element of the situation.
6) Acknowledge that causation of a situation is from God, not from the elements of the situation. Although we may do things that seem to set in motion a situation (through our own sin, for instance), for a believer God who foreknew this is not ambushed by it as we are.
7) Don’t concentrate on escape, look for deliverance. Peter in the courtyard of the high priest wanted to do whatever he could do –lie, get away unnoticed, blend in—so as not to be included in what Jesus would undergo. He looked for all the natural elements in the situation to help him, instead of expecting that God would eventually deliver him, as He indeed did; as He does eventually do for us all. We only look for escape when we concede that the situation itself has both causation and inevitability. When we do that, we lose the blessing of deliverance.
You cannot live by faith, you cannot pray in faith, if you believe that the elements of your crisis, your developing dangerous situation, is causative. You cannot be triumphant if you are in the embrace of the machines of history and physical elements.
One of the least-known characters in the Bible – a person, in fact, who is not even named—exemplified this kind of triumphant attitude in a developing dangerous situation.
The armor-bearer of Jonathan went with Jonathan to view a developing dangerous situation – the armies of the Philistines, in 1 Samuel 14. After Jonathan said, “Nothing can hinder God from saving, whether by many or by few” (thus denaturing the historical and physical elements of the situation), his armor bearer responded.
7 “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”
That should be our attitude toward our Lord.
Do what YOU have in mind, Lord Jesus.
I am with you, heart and soul.