And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Peter 5:10-11
Thinking about the promises of God is sometimes a vague, overwhelming prospect. It can be hard to know what to look at first to remember how God wants to work in our lives. In this verse, the four words restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish all stand out as great reminders of how God wants to work in us.
When God begins to build something in our lives, He rarely starts from scratch. Often, what God prefers to do is take something that is already broken and begin to fix it. This is how God worked through Nehemiah in rebuilding the walls around Israel. Nehemiah was not instructed to remove the old, burnt walls and simply start over; he was told to build up from the rubble.
I know in my life, I want God to work by replacement. I want him to remove all the broken situations and bad thinking patterns and make me a brand new, entirely different person. God instead chooses to restore broken people. When we remember this about God, it changes the way we pray. The very thing you may be asking God to remove from your life could wind up being the building block He sets as the foundation. Instead of asking God to replace everything in us, we should ask Him to restore us to wholeness.
Growing up in New Jersey, many of my friends were Catholic. I would often talk to them about how their churches were different from mine and was fascinated by their ceremonies I knew nothing about. I had something of an understanding of their concept of communion, but the one that baffled me was confirmation. While the way the ceremony went was lost on me, I’ve always loved the idea of being presented before the church and having someone say “these are our people.”
Just to be clear, I’m not lobbying to bring confirmation ceremonies into Protestant churches. But what I am saying is that there’s real power in knowing you belong. This is something God does for us, He gives us a sense of belonging. Sometimes, faithfulness to God will demand isolation, it will lead you to be the only faithful follower where you are. In those moments, remember that God will confirm you. He is not ashamed to be called your God, and when you look back towards Him, He will lovingly say, “Keep going, you’re one of my people.”
When I read this word, I want it to mean receiving a new inner strength to handle difficulties on my own. The longer I walk with God, the less I think this way. Paul encouraged us to boast in our weaknesses. The Christian walk is not a steady march towards becoming a super hero, it’s steadily growing in our ability to let God strengthen us.
When my wife and I were moving into our apartment, one of the trickier things to move was our couch. It comes in two pieces, and one of them is just small enough that I would think I could lift it alone, but just big enough where doing that was awkward. Trying to be an impressive new husband, I would try to move that one section on my own, struggling the whole time and threatening to scratch our floors. Whenever anyone helping us move would see me do that, they would come along and help carry the load.
This is the way God works to strengthen us. Just the way that a friend helping you carry a couch does not infuse their strength into you, so God often provides an outside strength to us as we face difficulties. This can help us take steps of faith even when we don’t feel like we have the strength to handle them. When we take the step, we often learn that God gives the strength.
Doing something once is easy, proving it wasn’t a fluke is hard. In my walk with Jesus and in my ministry, I feel like I’m often trying to prove it’s not a fluke. The difficulty is that on my own, I cannot establish myself as an impactful minister of the Gospel.
The beautiful lesson with God is that while we work alongside Him, He does the work of establishing us. Our place is settled because God has made a way to welcome us in. Rather than working to earn a reputation, we are given the greatest reputation because God earned it for us.
These four words, taken together, begin to paint a picture of a God who wants to do the work in us. He is not a demanding task-master asking us to reach a certain level of holiness on our own, He’s a loving father looking to help every step of the way. As you look to follow hard after Jesus today, remember that he wants to restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.