“…who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (I Peter 1:5)
Exactly five years ago, my oncologist put me on a program to radiate my head and neck areas. A few weeks earlier, in December of 2004, the surgeon had removed cancerous tissue from under my tongue and had ordered the radiation. When I asked why, since he assured me he’d gotten all the cancer, he said, “Because the processes that gave you cancer in the first place are still at work. We want to shut them down.”
The oncologist–the cancer doctor–informed me that he spent many hours programming the computer so that certain areas would be lasered with pin-point accuracy. In former days, radiation was widely broadcast and killed every thing in its path. These days, with computers, they try to avoid taste buds and saliva glands as much as possible.
The ENT doctor had prepared me for the change. “Food will never again taste as good to you as it does right now.” He was right about that.
In the weeks of preparation and then through the months of daily radiation, I found myself praying something extremely biblical: that the Lord would be my shield.
I began reading the Psalms and highlighting every mention of the Lord as our shield. I wondered if the exact number of mentions would correspond to the number of treatments ordered. At this distance, I do not recall how many times the Psalms call God our Shield, but the numbers were not the same.
“Lord,” I prayed again and again, “be my Shield. Protect me from this radiation. Let it do what it’s supposed to do and nothing else.”
As far as we can tell five years later, the Lord answered that prayer magnificently. I’m still cancer free and have most of my taste and a good portion of my saliva. Some foods have little taste, but most do just fine, and my mouth is often dry. So I’m rarely without my water bottle, especially when preaching.
Most translations of this verse make the Greek word “phrourein” out to mean “protect” or “keep.” It’s a military term, we’re told, similar to being “garrisoned” or “guarded by a great power.”
The NIV says we are “shielded.” I like that. It’s good to be shielded.
During the Reagan presidency, there was talk of the United States constructing some kind of giant shield-in-the-sky to protect us from nuclear weapons from various enemies. The impracticality of that ended the discussion, but there’s no question that we need a shield. The only question is what kind and where do we find it.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield.” (Ps. 28:7)
“The Lord God is a sun and a shield; the Lord gives grace and glory. No good thing does He withhold from him who walks uprightly.” (Ps. 84:11)
Even when the Lord does not use the actual word “shield,” He still has it in mind. To young Jeremiah, fearful of the staggering assignment he was receiving, the Lord said, “Today, I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land…. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you.” (Jer. 1:17-19)
You and I who are in Christ are kept by the Lord’s power.
I do not keep myself saved. It’s an impossibility, for one thing.
For another, if I was charged with keeping myself saved, I would forever be taking my spiritual temperature and checking my vital signs to see if I was still saved. What a depressing thought!
Whether I feel saved is irrelevant.
The ‘keeping’ and ‘shielding’ is God’s business. My job is to keep my eyes on Jesus Christ and remain faithful.
We are kept by God’s power in anticipation of something very special out there in the future: the culmination of our salvation.
Here’s how the Apostle John spoke of the same event: “Beloved, now are we the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2)
In short: Jesus Christ is coming back. When we see Him, we shall be transformed, what the Bible calls “glorified,” into His likeness. After a time of sorting out (my euphemism for judgment), there follows an eternity of Whatever Jesus Has In Mind For Us.
I capitalized it.
I do not know all the Lord Jesus has in mind for us. The Scriptures variously calls it Heaven and our eternal reward and the joy of the Lord. We’ll just have to trust Him on this, and are glad to do so. Whatever it is and wherever it is, it will be Heaven.
The old preachers used to talk about the three tenses of salvation as related to sin. It still has not been improved on:
The past tense of salvation: we have been saved from the penalty of sin.
The present tense: we are daily being saved from the power of sin.
The future tense: we shall be saved from the very presence of sin.
(Plus, it has alliteration, and what preacher doesn’t love that!)
Interestingly, when the Apostle Paul thought of all this, he taught that it’s all a done deal. In the incredible 8th chapter of Romans, he writes:
“He predestined us to be conformed to the image of His son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:29-30)
We’re all right on that until he comes to the last and speaks of our being glorified in the past tense, as though it had already occurred.
“It’s so certain,” Paul was saying, “that we can speak of it as over and done with.”
Perhaps in the same way Jesus called out, “It is finished” from the cross. There was still a lot to be done, but He had completed the final payment for our salvation. From then on, it was merely a matter of working out what was already bought and paid for.
The sanctification process which disciples of the Lord Jesus are undergoing from day to day is making us more and more like Him. We are growing into His likeness. (See II Corinthians 3:18)
That process is not completed in this lifetime.
“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6)
A generation or two ago, we would see people walking around wearing buttons with the strange message of: “PBPWM–GIFWMY.”
When asked, the wearer would reveal that it means, “Please be patient with me–God isn’t finished with me yet.”
It’s a good word about today and a great reminder about tomorrow: God has big things in store for His beloved.