This is part of an ongoing series on the Call of Christ.
If we are honest, we admit that it is a struggle to consistently live out the Call of Christ, and comfortingly, this is what we see in the gospels as well, as there are several stories which reveal the ups and downs of Peter’s life as he sought to live out the call from Christ. We’ll just look at a few examples.
In Matthew 14.24-33, we have the story of Jesus appearing to His disciples in the middle of the night on the Sea of Galilee, and He’s walking on the water. Peter is impressed by this and he says, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
So Jesus tells him to come, and Peter steps out and walks on the water—at least for a moment. But then he becomes frightened because of the storm around him and begins to sink. Jesus grabs his hand and saves him, chiding him for his lack of faith.
Later on, in Matthew 16.13-20, Jesus is with His disciples in the district of Caesarea Philippi, and He asks His disciples who the people think that He is. And His disciples tell Him: “Some people think you’re John the Baptist; others say Elijah, others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
But Jesus persists: “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This one of the high points for Peter, one of the times when he gets it right, and Jesus tells him that the church will be built on this confession.
In Matthew 17.1-8, Peter and James and John are with Jesus up on a mountain, and He is transfigured before them. The Bible says that “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.” Moses and Elijah appear as well, and began speaking to Jesus. And Peter gets this brilliant idea. He says, “Jesus, this is really cool! I’m going to make three tabernacles, one of you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!”
And I think that in Peter’s mind, he’s doing Jesus a great honor, because he’s putting Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah, two men who were heroes of the Jewish faith. But then God speaks out from heaven in response: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” The message is clear: Peter was mistaken—these other men, regardless of how great their service to God was, can never compare to Jesus, the very Son of God.
A clear pattern emerges as you look at the life of Peter. As he moves along, learning more about Jesus—who Jesus is and what He expects from His followers—he experiences a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes Peter does pretty well: he has the courage to step out of the boat and walk towards Jesus; he realizes that Jesus is the Son of God and confesses it publicly.
Other times he messes up: he takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to sink; he misunderstands Jesus’ teachings; he gets confused and thinks that Jesus is no more important than mere men.
When you think about it, that’s usually how it works for us too, isn’t it?
We’d like to think that as we live our Christian lives, each day we do better than the day before, each day we grow a little bit closer to God, and look a little more like Jesus. But realistically, it doesn’t work like that. We have ups and downs just like Peter did.
I have been in ministry at the same church for almost a decade now, and one thing that is neat about that is that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know many people from our congregation from a spiritual perspective over a period of several years.
And over time, what you see is basically what you see with Peter: at times, people have their good moments, times when they render incredible service, or sacrifice, or love. And at other times, they have their not-so-good moments, when they act selfishly, or complain, or talk bad about one another.
It is important for us to realize that as we seek to answer the Call of Christ, we’re going to go through rough patches. We’re going to have our ups and downs.
But through the church, through Scripture, through fellow Christians, Jesus is there, walking with us. He is there to affirm us when we do well, and to correct us when we make mistakes, just like He did with Peter.
And by God’s grace, as time goes on and we spend more time following Jesus, we mature, and gradually have more good moments, and fewer bad moments.
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