I believe God when He says He knew me before I born. Because He gave me Peter to read about.
I have always identified myself with Peter. Impetuous, quick to speak, a little reckless, daring. But always at his core loyal, loving, and lively.
I know, I know. How can I call him loyal? This is the guy who denied Jesus three times in the courtyard (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 18). But in his defense, he was loyal up until that point. He left his business, his home, and his family to follow a Teacher to who loved and cared for all people. He was the first disciple to proclaim Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:16). He was the disciple quick to defend his friend Jesus in the garden at Judas’ kiss (John 18:10). He was the first disciple to race toward the risen Savior on the beach (John 21:7). He was the voice of the new church on Pentecost (Acts 2).
And in his defense, when he denied Jesus, he didn’t know the miracle that was coming. Sure, he had been told. Repeatedly. But it was impossible. His Teacher was being tried and convicted as a common criminal – and He was going to be put to death. It was all over, and he had a family to think about.
And I personally am not naïve enough to think I would have reacted any differently. Yes, I can pridefully say I would. But I would be a liar. Because in Peter’s shoes I don’t have the advantage we have now – the real end of the story.
Once Peter realized the end of the story was different than he thought, his posture changed. His attitude changed. His thinking changed.
And here you can hear me chuckle as I think how like Peter I truly am.
Last year we hired two shop managers at work. The first was young and driven by disappointment in having to do administrative work. When given the choice to be reassigned, he quit. The second one came with experience and a work ethic. In preparing to hire him, my only comment was this – “if he starts making more money than me, who has been here 4 years and helped built this business, I will be super pissed.”
Really mature, right? Just like Peter. When the resurrected Jesus shows up on the beach in John 21, Peter is so thrilled at recognizing Him that he jumps out of the boat and swims to shore. They dine, and then Jesus has great compassion on Peter by redeeming his three denials before the cross. He gives Peter three opportunities to say “You know that I love You” (John 21:15-17) and undo his previous three denials.
So how does Peter react to all this? By turning to John and asking “But Lord, what about this man?” (John 21:21). Instead of glorying in Jesus’ complete forgiveness and love, he turns and wants to know John’s fate.
And that was me last year. “”What are you going to pay him?” was my focus. Because money is how your value is displayed. I wanted my value to be denoted. I wanted my value to be drawn out. I was Peter, wanting to know how I ranked against someone else.
Maybe not the most healthy attitude. Maybe a little immature. But four years and the creation of the inventory system started talking for me.
And it still talks today. Not as often, but a little more loudly recently. Because I see value being assigned, and I see my value tipping away. I have been somewhat consumed lately watching it. Just as Peter watched the waves.
Peter had it. He was in the middle of a miracle. He saw Jesus walk on water. And it started him thinking. So he asked Jesus to call him, and then he takes that first (tenuous) step out of the boat. He has one foot and then two on the water. And he was still above it! He gets even bolder and “he walked on the water to go to Jesus” (Matthew 14:29). But suddenly his focus shifted. Suddenly the miracle was impossible in the reality of the raging storm. And in the blink of an eye, he finds himself “beginning to sink” (Matthew 14:30).
He let himself be distracted by circumstances instead of focusing on God’s purpose for him. He destroyed the miracle by looking somewhere other than Jesus.
And I laughed at myself this week as I realized I am Peter in that moment of seeing the wind and waves. I stopped appreciating where God has me and how God is blessing me. And I saw myself beginning to sink into discontentment, discouragement, and disappointment. So far from where God wants me to be.
And just as He was compassionate to Peter, so too is He compassionate toward me. He didn’t turn to Peter and condemn him. He didn’t leave Peter to drown. “And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him” (Matthew 14:31), saving Peter from himself and redeeming his fear for faith. And as I realize I have been sinking into my emotions, He reaches the same hand to me to pull me up and out. He doesn’t condemn me, instead offering me the same chance as Peter to redeem myself.
And how can I do that? Start at Philippians 4:6-11 and focus only on God.
- Stop worrying about everyone else. It doesn’t matter what they have.
- Be thankful for what God has allowed you to have – and do good with it.
- You will never have peace comparing and contrasting your life to others.
- Change your thinking and appreciate your “lovely” aspects of life.
- Be content where God has you and the blessings He pours into your life. It doesn’t matter what you don’t have.
And get up every day remembering the Bible is full of far from perfect people. Peter included. Yet God still loved each one of them truly, working through them in amazing ways. Because imperfection is the open door for God to begin doing miracles for us and through us.
Thank You, Father, for examples like Peter who remind us we can mess up and still be part of Your miracles. Thank You for redeeming grace that picks us up and allows us to declare our love and fidelity no matter what we have done. Help us each to find the Peter of Pentecost within ourselves. AMEN!
Marie Fremin. 9/3/17