There is one thing that is true of all Christians; we are under construction. There is nobody who is not still learning. There is nobody who has arrived at a state of complete maturity. We all are still making mistakes. And for those who will be honest, lots of them! But there is good news; God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. We are under construction, and the general contractor is God himself; we are God’s works in progress.
My problem, however, is that life keeps giving me ample opportunity to doubt this truth. Just like the guy who always seems to fall for the old “quarter super glued to the floor trick,” I am always falling for the illusion that I can handle the struggles in life on my own. And it takes me by surprise. I blow it repeatedly. When will I ever learn? Will I ever learn? If you are like me, then I have some encouraging news for you.
The Apostle Peter thought he could handle the challenges of life on his own. In the upper room, the night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, Peter stood and stated to the Lord with great confidence, “I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:36-38). He thought he had the ability to handle whatever life would bring his way. Boy, was he wrong! That very night Jesus informed him that he would deny him not once, but three times. And sure enough, before sunrise, Peter did just that. He then went away weeping bitterly (Mark 14:72). Why is it that we think we can handle life all by ourselves? We try, and then we fail, rinse and repeat. The biggest lesson any of us will learn as we walk with God is that we can do nothing apart from the Lord (John 15:5). The exciting thing about Peter’s story is not that he learns this lesson, but it is what his learning of that lesson reveals to us.
After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter, still struggling with his enormous failure, decides to go fishing (John 21:1-11). He goes back to what he knows he can do. Without Peter being aware, Jesus shows up and has him cast his net on the “right-hand side of the boat.” The text does not say this, but I can imagine that Peter, who had not caught any fish all night, said under his breath, “Where do you think it has been all night!” He does it, however, and pulls in a huge haul of fish.
Interestingly, this is exactly what happened the first time he met Jesus (Luke 5:1-11) when he was called to be Jesus’ disciple. The first step toward recovery from our mistakes is a renewal of our calling to be Jesus’ disciple. We must constantly return in our memory to that glorious moment when we first believed. In so doing, we will begin to recapture the power and joy of our true identity in Christ.
Next, we see Jesus restoring Peter to ministry confidence. It is this process that brings the greatest insight (John 21:15-19). Three times Peter denied Jesus, and three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. And three times, Peter confirms his love for Jesus. And finally, three times Jesus gives Peter a ministry responsibility. What you notice on a closer look is that the word for “love” that Jesus uses is different than the word for “love” that Peter uses. Jesus asks, “Do you have a committed love for me?” Peter replies, “I have affection for you.” Peter could not say he had a committed love for Jesus because he had proven that his love was conditional through his denials. But on the third time, Jesus asks, “Do you even have affection for me?” This question cuts Peter deeply because Jesus has brought into question his inadequacy to have even affection for Jesus. Taking Jesus’ questions alone, it seems almost cruel, even though it is understandable given Peter’s failure, that Jesus would keep asking Peter the question. However, Jesus’ purpose was not cruelty but enlightenment. With each question, Peter’s confidence in his own ability decreased, but at the same time, the responsibility that Jesus gave to Peter increased; feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. As Peter was coming to the end of his own ability, Christ’s ability was growing in Peter and so was his ministry opportunity. Peter was under construction.
This is what God is doing to you and me. Our struggles may bring us disappointment when we fail to respond as we should, but they are also bringing us awareness of our need to depend on our Lord. We may not always be aware of this process, but that does not mean it isn’t happening. Every failure brings greater dependence, which in turn brings greater responsibility and the hope of greater glory for God. It is this process that is the Christian life. The purpose of this humble attempt at blogging is to help all of us make it through the stages of this construction with hope and joy!