Saturday, March 10, 2012

“Simon Who?”

Thank you to the Leaf-Chronicle for publishing this message. Here it is in its entirety:

Ask me which character from the Bible I want to hang out with when I get to heaven, and without a doubt I’ll say Peter. He seems the most real. He fell down a lot, got excited, and said the wrong things. There are times when I read the Bible that even if he’s not mentioned I can hear him grumbling under his breath a bit, maybe about things that didn’t make sense to him.

Peter was not well-educated. We know this because he was a fisherman by trade and because the Sanhedrin marveled that he and John were so knowledgeable and bold even though they were uneducated. If you had asked the religious leaders of his day about Simon (his name before Jesus came along), their response would have been, “Simon who?” I’ve heard him described in many ways, from clumsy to stubborn. I’ve even heard him called a coward, which I really don’t get because even though he denied Jesus after His arrest, Peter was the only disciple not in hiding. Most of the others had scattered. Even though it was dangerous, Peter wanted to be as close to Jesus as possible. That’s not a coward, that’s a loyal friend.

Peter was the only disciple with enough faith to get out of the boat in the story in Matthew 14. Everyone else was still in the boat. And even though Peter was just a fisherman, Jesus said to him, “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). Peter was willing to charge ahead even when it didn’t make sense or the odds were against him. He had a genuine faith. Peter himself called this kind of faith more precious than gold to be guarded (1 Pet. 1:5, 7). Some translations call it a precious jewel, which is also hard to find. These weren’t just words to Peter; it wasn’t just knowledge, it was a life lesson, learned through every blunder and hard knock. Every time Peter fell and got back up, it helped refine this precious jewel that he called faith.

Even though Peter made mistakes, Jesus saw his faith like a lump of coal ready to be refined. In Peter’s day and even today, some of us would have picked someone different, someone with more connections. But in this rock, this unrefined jewel, Jesus saw the hidden faith that would change the world for His glory.

Another passage about Peter that resonates with me (and to which I’ve dedicated my life) has some of the last recorded words Jesus spoke to Peter on this earth. Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” and Peter’s response every time was yes. Jesus’ next response was different each time: “Feed my lambs,” “Take care of my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep.” All three involved service. By serving, Peter’s faith shined even brighter.

That day on the shore when Jesus first called out to Peter and his brother Andrew, “Follow me,” Peter had no idea where that call would lead—that on his faith, Christianity would be built; or that two thousand years later we would read about his life and his blunders. But Jesus did. In the history of this journey called Christianity, God has placed that same faith into numerous people who have accomplished miraculous feats even though they, in the eyes of the world, didn’t seem like the best person for the task. Some, like Peter, were even martyred in the process, but through them, regions, tribes, and even nations have been introduced to this faith. Bibles have been smuggled into hostile areas, books have been written, songs have been sung. When Jesus called them they had no idea where the call would lead. But Jesus did.

When I started my walk with God, I had no idea of the different directions my life would take. I had no idea that, as part of my journey, I would lose everything to the point of homelessness or that God would restore me so I could have the privilege of feeding and loving people in the name of Jesus. But Jesus did.

There is a big and hurting world out there waiting to be loved on, fed, called by name, given the love of Christ, and shown this precious gift of faith. I don’t know what Jesus has in store for you in order to refine your faith, but He does. Say yes.

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