Sometimes, we can’t seem to escape who we are. It is fine, to a point, for us to believe we are a “new creation . . . the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
How often do we slip back in to old habits, old ways of thinking, instead of focusing on the words and actions of Jesus?
I’m reminded – particularly of Peter.
Just as I can – when I see my circumstances as being insurmountable – Peter sees the waves and he takes his eyes off Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Just as I can – when I worry about what others will think – Peter denies being a friend of Jesus.
Then they seized Jesus, led Him away, and took Him into the house of the high priest. And Peter followed at a distance. When those present had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. A servant girl saw him seated in the firelight and looked intently at him. “This man also was with Him,” she said.
But Peter denied it, “Woman, I do not know Him,” he said.
A short time later, someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”
About an hour later, another man insisted, “Certainly this man was with Him, for he too is a Galilean.”
“Man, I do not know what you are talking about,” Peter replied.
While he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.
Just as I can – when (can you believe it) Jesus calmly and clearly calls me onwards and into a new way of being and giving me purpose – Peter’s first thought is . .
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”). When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
What about him?
Restored, recommissioned a disciple reborn . . . and this is what Peter says in response, “What about him?”
I love Peter – but I also can’t believe that he says and does what he says and does – AND that we have it written down! If this was me, I’d edit out some of the rough stuff, the unseemly, the foolishness, the impetuous actions, the foot in mouth . . . but we have Peter in all his messy “I’m still learning” stuff. It doesn’t stop after the coming of the Holy Spirit either. Just read Acts and Peter’s problems with eating with gentiles . . .
I just want to focus on three things from the three instances I’ve shared above. They tell me so much (at least for me) about life in ministry.
They are there, you can see them for yourselves – but just very simply, three golden guidelines for being in ministry and staying in ministry ::
Look at Jesus not your circumstances. The waves of expectation, the wind of not enough hours in the day, the depth of the need we see around us. Eyes on those things causes us to sink. Let’s have eyes only for Jesus.
You can’t follow from a distance. That is literally what the second passage says in the build up to Peter’s denial, “And Peter followed at a distance.” Hanging back, seeing what might happen, gauging the enthusiasm in the room before we nail our colours, judging our commitment by the disinterest, fear or hostility of others leads to mess that Peter gets himself into. Let’s stay close to Jesus.
Don’t compare your calling with others. What about him? What is Peter thinking when he says this? What you have for me Jesus isn’t good enough? Why is John your favourite? This isn’t what I signed up for – can I swap with John? The thing is, we don’t get to walk someone else’s walk. This is the crucial aspect of growing as a disciple. Jesus calls each of us, as he does Peter to “Follow Me!” When we start out as followers of Jesus there can be a whole mass (or just a few) of people we “look to” – teaching, guiding, showing, modelling . . . but in all of that, while we are a community of the called out ones following Jesus together – we have to grow up into a faith we own and live, that isn’t swung by the faithfulness (or lack of it) of others – but is sustained by doing the very thing that John 15 tells us – remain in Me. Abide in Jesus. “Be rooted in Me” Jesus says to us – not that truth that someone espouses, nor that way – when someone other than Jesus says, “this is how”, not that glittery picture of life over there – but knowing that He is the truth, the way, His life.
I’ve sometimes stood in meetings when there is prayer ministry – waiting for the hand on my shoulder and the reassuring prophecy that makes me feel special again. Wow, special again – can it get more special than doing what God has called me to and just getting on with it? Generally, I hear the quiet whisper of the Spirit saying, “This is it – what you are doing is what I’ve got for you – keep doing it.” In the grace and love of God, this isn’t a chastisement – just a gentle reminder that I’ve been called to follow . . . and I need to keep on following.