The Boeing 747 was empty. Whole rows stood vacant and the handful of passengers that were on the plane could fully stretch out on their surrounding seats. It was the summer of 2021, and no one was traveling if they could help it. Yet, I found myself flying solo, on an international trip. I was seated in the center row. Four seats in total, all to myself. To my left and right were rows of three seats, and most were also empty. What would have normally been a long boarding process took mere minutes.
The flight was about fifteen hours long, but halfway through I noticed flashes coming from the left side of the plane. There was a storm brewing. Ordinarily, that would have been the end of the story. Seated in the center, I would have had no way of moving to a side row and looking out the window. But this was no ordinary flight. I was able to easily slip into a vacant seat by a window and watch the heavens unfold. To the bottom left of the plane there was a raging mushroom cloud. It was pitch black, but every 10-15 seconds, lightning bolts could be seen through the darkness, making it even more ominous. I studied the cloud for over half an hour.
I remember thinking two things. First, some people on earth must have been scared or, at the very least, huddled in their homes, waiting for the storm to pass. The spatter of farmland and houses below peeked through the darkness periodically. From their perspective, the cloud must have been all-consuming. Second, I was struck by how insignificant the cloud looked from my perspective on the plane. It was as if the cloud were an overdramatic toddler throwing a tantrum, in comparison to what else I could see above. A heavenly landscape was stretched out overhead, perfectly calm. There were white, cotton candy mountains of clouds, as far as the eye could see. As I continued to watch, the sun began to set, and warm yellow, pink, and orange rays flooded the sky above. Yet, that small storm cloud continued to scream at the earth below.
I often think about that flight and the importance of perspective. At the time, the whole world was scared and huddled in their homes. There was an invisible cloud hanging over all our heads. It impacted all of us. Despite all our efforts, fear and grief seeped through the masks, both man-made and unseen. Yet, from the right perspective, pandemics and yes, even death, are but light afflictions when compared to the things above (2 Cor 4:17-18).
In May of 2024, the GES will be hosting our national conference near Denton, Texas. We will be covering First and Second Peter. These are incredible books about suffering, the role that trials have in perfecting our faith (1 Peter 1:9), and the Lord’s promises to return and reward those who have been faithful (2 Pet 1:4). If I could summarize the books in one word, I think perspective might be a good one.
In 1 Peter, the apostle addresses the external persecution that faithful believers can expect from the world when they do good. By contrast, 2 Peter deals with the internal dangers of false teachers within the Church. Both books elevate the importance of the Lord’s soon return as a key motivation to godly living. The apostle warns of the dangers that can come when we no longer cultivate such a life, by saying:
For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins (2 Pet 1:9).
Whether it’s external persecution or internal attacks on doctrine, believers are in danger of losing perspective. As the apostle warns, we can become shortsighted.
Hodges remarks on this verse:
“What does Peter have in mind? Since the epistle as a whole lays heavy stress on the reality and certainty of the Lord’s coming (see vv 11, 16, 19, and 3:4-14), the Apostle is probably thinking of believers who no longer look ahead to the Rapture. Instead, their vision is severely limited to the here and now. People who live simply for the present times, or for the present world, are tragically shortsighted” (Second Peter: Shunning Error in Light of the Savior’s Return, p. 15).
Like the storm cloud, the things of this world are a formidable distraction. It is so easy to have shortsightedness when the tempest rages around you. However, Peter pulls us upward, like a master pilot, drawing our gaze to things to come and things above. For however loud your storms may get, all will pale in comparison to the day we meet the Lord in the clouds at His coming (1 Thess 4:17). These, and many more themes, will be discussed in our upcoming conference. If you are interested in joining us this year you can check out our events page here.