Ordo Salutis: Pivotal Circumstances and Suffering
What are the experiences, positive or negative, that you say have shaped you the most? I once had a pastor give an exercise where we wrote our forming moments on sticky notes and then placed them next to results from a Meyers-Briggs test, a spiritual gifts test, and a StrengthsFinder test.
This is perhaps so obvious and yet easily overlooked–God uses our daily experiences to shape us. The loss of a job, the birth of a child, a marriage, a tragedy, a crisis of faith, a powerful worship service, a time of devotions, a conversation with a friend, etc. All of these and more can be used by God to change us.
It is our job to begin viewing life through different lenses. What if God wants to use something but we’ve not opened our eyes to the possibility?
Let’s take an example from Scripture, from the life of Peter. What were the pivotal circumstances in his life?
- Being born a Jewish boy into a home where he was raised to love God, to know the Torah, to take part in Jewish rituals and feasts, etc.
- Becoming a fisherman, presumably like his father, as sons learned the family business.
- Being called to follow after Jesus (Matt. 4).
- The healing of his mother-in-law
- Calling Jesus the Son of God and then being rebuked by Jesus (Matt. 16)
- Witnessing the transfiguration with James and John
- Denying Jesus 3x
- Being forgiven by Jesus (John 21)
- Preaching his first sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2)
- Dreaming on a rooftop and meeting Cornelius (Acts 10)
Peter’s pivotal circumstances before meeting Jesus paved the way for him to follow Jesus; His pivotal circumstances as a disciple prepared him for leading the early church.
Peter’s first letter gives us another clue as to one of the most pivotal circumstances we experience: suffering.
- 1 Peter 1:6-7: 6In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
- 1 Peter 3:17-18: It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
- 1 Peter 4:1-2: Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because those who have suffered in their bodies are done with sin. 2As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
- 1 Peter 5:8-10: 8Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your fellow believers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
Our suffering results in genuine, steadfast faith in God. While Peter spoke of suffering specifically for being a Christian, our present sufferings can be used in the same way. When we are faced with pressure at work, the loss of loved ones, broken relationships, financial difficulty, etc., God can provide the strength we need to face the suffering and come out of it having passed the testing of our faith.