Our recent posts have introduced the concept, that if we are going to claim to be Christians, then we are going to need to work to live an authentic Christian life. Not necessarily perfect, (at least on this side of heaven) but as persistent followers and students of our Lord, Jesus. As a very wise mother frequently counseled me growing up; with the goal of progress in front of perfection. Not acting for our salvation but in grateful response to it. Leaving to and acknowledging the things of Jesus, to Jesus.
The thing is; that takes a genuine willingness to change. To be healed. To ‘rise, take up our mat and walk.’ Act as God is calling us to act. Burn the bridges that would take us back; to make no provision for a relapse. And finally, to move forward. Drive our cars of life looking forward through the windshield of things to come and strive toward better rather than trying to maneuver using only the rear-view mirror and wallow in the worse. And being willing to humble ourselves in order to see what others see. To get beyond statements like, “it’s just who I am and if people don’t like it…” or, “I’ve tried to change but nothing I do seems to work.”
Sure, God may have created you with that personality or allowed certain things to happen in your life, but that doesn’t mean He intended to keep you in any place of negativity, despair, anger or hopelessness. He doesn’t create junk (that’s our doing) and He loves you way too much to abandon His creation or to give up on you.
And you’re right; you probably have tried to make some changes, and you’ve failed; on your own.
So have I.
So have a lot of people reading this post.
Most likely, because we tried to do it our way. We failed to follow or even consult “the owner’s manual.” We’ve been stubborn or have tried to bend the instructions to have it our way instead of humbling ourselves to follow His. And we’ve paid a price. It’s cost us something (or someone).
Fortunately, in today’s study, we find ourselves in pretty good company.
Let’s take a look and begin to unpack the first book of Peter (1 Peter.).
Written by a guy who knew a thing or two about reacting (emotionally) instead of responding (more thoughtfully); who was known (initially) for acting or speaking before thinking.
A guy who:
- Had his words often lead to some embarrassment.
- Was once called ‘Satan’ by Jesus.
- Frequently lost control of his emotions; once even to the point of cutting the ear off of one of the Roman soldiers.
- Walked right beside Jesus for 3 years only to later deny ever even having known him; 3 times!
- Attempted to walk on water, but ultimately failed when he took his eyes off of Jesus.
…ever had that kind of week? Or that age-old feeling of taking two steps forward but three steps back? Of wishing you could somehow just be free of the trouble that seems to follow you at every turn in spite of the valiant efforts you’re making?
Well, Peter was a guy who also:
- Was loved by Jesus for his big heart.
- Was the only disciple to attempt to get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus.
- Was specifically selected by Jesus to be part of His inner circle.
- One of 3 who witnessed Jesus’ miracle of raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. (Mark 5:35-43)
- Was chosen by Jesus to witness the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9)
- 1 of 3 who saw Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane. (Mark 14:32-42)
- At Pentecost, was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he began to preach to the crowd wherein 3,000 were ultimately converted in one day. (Acts 2, in particular, v. 41)
- Came, through a vision from God, to understand that the Gospel is meant, not just for Jews, but for gentiles (all people) as well. (Acts 10)
- Is credited with being the eyewitness source for the Gospel of Mark in addition to his own two books in and over 120 other mentions throughout the Bible.
- Was ultimately forgiven and extended great rehabilitation and full restoration by Jesus.
- Originally called Simon, was renamed Cephas (Peter) by Jesus
- Went on to be one of the early leaders of the church
- Was later persecuted and ultimately crucified (upside down at his request)
Many followers of Jesus have come to love the Apostle Peter because so many can relate to him so well. We all have moments where it seems we mess up. Yet each of Simon Peter’s missteps serve to reveal a dimension of Jesus’ character or His teachings that can now grow our own commitment to follow Him. We know that Simon eventually became rock-solid in his faith and commitment to Jesus. But during the three years he spent learning from Jesus, Simon had a lot of maturing to do. Still, Jesus saw his potential from the start, when He changed Simon’s name to Cephas (Peter), which means “Rock.” And just as Jesus lovingly restored Peter, He restores us. Every time we miss the mark.
God used and showed Peter just as He can show us today that, with Jesus, failure is never final.
He sees the potential in you, too.
He is willing to forgive and continue to instruct each of us.
All He demands is that we put Him in first place. His rightful place.
As so eloquently stated in an article about Peter by Jack Zavada in May 2019 (and also the author of Hope for Hurting Singles: A Christian Guide to Overcoming Life’s Challenges):
“When we forget that God is in control, we overstep our limited authority. God works through us in spite of our human frailties. No offense is too great to be forgiven by God. We can accomplish great things when we put our faith in God instead of ourselves.”
Friends, this week, I’d like to challenge you to read through the short books of 1 and 2 Peter.
They’re short little 5 and then 3-chapter books that should only take minutes to read but are so full of wisdom, encouragement and good counsel on authentic Christian living – especially in an ever more challenging world.
In and through them, Peter teaches us that difficulties and hardships don’t have to wear us down. In fact, Peter’s letters teach us that God can use difficulties to strengthen us and our witness. Knowing this brings hope. A hope that can help us to discover that our missteps can lead to correction. Correction is fueled by faith. Faith, refined by suffering, can help us to see the Lord more clearly and help us to hold firm through difficult times.
As you read 1 and 2 Peter, take note of the specific things that speak to you as to how you might change some of your thinking and then to grow that into changing how you do certain things. And then pause, listen and ask God what He has to say to you about these things and ask for His help.
This is the way we get better. Written from the perspective of one who changed and then helped change the world.
Right here with you,