…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11 NKJV
On March 12, 1998, Stephen Wrigley Peifer died. Born with a very rare disease, the eight-day-old baby never had a chance to live.
Stephen was not the only one who died that day. A very vital something died in his parents, too. Steve and Nancy Peifer found themselves in a place beyond grief. A way of living came to an end. They both recognized that their lives simply could not go on.
Eight years later, in an internationally televised special, CNN recognized Steve and Nancy as true “Heroes” in the world.
What happened in those eight years?
Very simply, the Peifers allowed their American life to fall into the ground and die (John 12:24). Out of their profound grief, they moved to Kenya to spend one year working with a school.
But, as they saw the true face of poverty and hunger, they both recognized they simply could not return to their old life. They clearly saw that – contrary to the modern consumerist culture – life did not belong to them. They had to pour it all out. A certain destiny was absorbing them into something larger than their own family and their own grief.
They set out to do something about hunger in Kenya. Today, as a result of their efforts, 18,000 children have enough to eat each day. They have also built solar-powered computer labs in some of the most isolated areas of Kenya.
True to the pattern of John 12:24, when their life fell into the soil and died, it produced a harvest for the deep and wide blessing of others.
Resurrection is a Power
Many people, including Christians, view the Resurrection only as a great historical event. They pause each Easter to reverently remember the death and resurrection of Christ.
But, resurrection is also a force, a power that belongs only to God.
The death and resurrection of Jesus was much more than just something that happened one time. It was an historic demonstration of God’s attitude and power.
When we come to a place where we die to our own dreams and preferences and possessions and agendas – when we let it all fall into the ground and just pass away and be covered over with dirt – the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead comes into the story.
In the pattern of our Lord, we cannot taste the power of the Resurrection without first going the way of the cross.
It seems that the cross never kills the ignored or tolerated parts of our life. It always seems to demand life’s most cherished dimensions and details.
When we read the story of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac, we often miss the fact that Abraham is the one who died that day. The father who walked back down the mountain was a different Abraham than the one who ascended it.
His personal ideas and affections as a father had to die, to be poured out, so that the infinitely larger purpose of God could flow into his heart. Because Abraham died to himself, God could trust him to carry the seed that would bless the whole earth for all time.
God exchanged Abraham’s old life – very provincial, personal and limited – with the unlimited and panoramic sweep of the Lord’s generosity for the whole earth. Abraham became one of the largest figures in world history because he released his cherished and only son Isaac into the hand of God.
Cashing in the personal for the eternal
Steve and Nancy Peifer have been my friends for more than a quarter century. They were always a blessing to the relatively small circle of people who knew them. They served the Lord, blessed their friends and neighbors, raised a family and lived out the American dream.
But, when they “died,” they were lifted beyond the limits of their old life and carried up to the much larger life that only God could have produced. As CNN recognized, their life today carries immeasurable benefit for countless people.
A seed is one of the most mysterious things in all of God’s creation. When you hold a grain of wheat in your hand, you are holding much more than a seed; you hold future fields and generations of wheat.
The seed in your hand may belong to you. Yes, you can eat it. But, if you drop it into the ground and walk away, by its own death it takes on a brand new and limitless life. It can literally feed millions.
Jesus’ friends and disciples could not understand the cross.
How would it even be possible that their Friend, the youthful and very vibrant Jesus, could just, you know, die? And, besides, He was just a magnificent man, such a continual fountain of blessing and health and provision for them and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others.
Such wonderful blessings are supposed to continue. A “God-who-is-good-all-the-time” just had to know that they really needed the One whom He gave. Surely, He would remain with them every day of their lives.
But, the largeness of God knew that the personal and very local relationships with Jesus would have to be cashed in for the grand eternal purpose.
What about the gifts that God has deposited in you? Were they given for your own life? For your own family? Did God give them so that you could control and dispense them according to your vision and agenda?
Or, does He have a harvest in mind?