Struggling with God

Monday, April 20, 2020

Struggling with God

 

WHAT:     READ THE TEXT:  John 21:1-19

SO WHAT:    REFLECT ON THE TEXT:
1. Power of Personality
Everyone who is of the church and everyone called to lead in the church will, at times, wrestle with God because of our shortcomings and failings. Yet, take encouragement in knowing that the Lord ministers to us amid our fears and doubts, just as He did with Peter.Peter often spoke and acted before he thought through all the ramifications. I am sure each time Peter encountered the resurrected Christ, he struggled with where he stood in relation to Jesus. He had, after all, denied the resurrected Lord three times.What is your personality type? Is it one that prompts you to speak and to do before you process carefully (let’s call this overzealous)? Or is it one that tends to wait too long before taking action on a situation (let’s label this fear of conflict or change)?

I’m sure we could come up with a multitude of categories. The lesson we should learn from Peter, however, is that the power of our personalities can easily cause us to go astray — even if that is not what we intend.
2. Power of Love
     Among Christ’s post-resurrection appearances, the account of John chapter 21 marks the third time the Lord appeared to Peter. I doubt it merely a coincidence that Jesus asked Peter three times whether or not he loved Him.
Perhaps Jesus primarily wants to strike a blow at Peter’s overconfidence. After all, he had boasted that if even all others deserted Christ that he never would. “Do you really love Me more than these other disciples love Me, Peter?”
You could understand why Christ’s opening inquiry would affect him so.
For a little while, there was a pattern that unfolded between me and my boys. I would say I love you. Trying to “one-up” me, they would say, “I love you more.” Certain I was in a winning position now:  I would declare, “I love you most.” Only then they would come back with, “I love you mostest-morest.”
How competitive and comparative we can be, even in matters of love! Did Peter want to be Jesus’ favorite? Did Peter want Jesus to know that his love and commitment were stronger than any of the other disciples? Maybe so.
If so, Jesus is not comparative when it concerns the love and commitment of His disciples. And Jesus does not want us comparing our love and commitment to other disciples either. It’s not a competition of who loves “mostest-morest;” it’s just a matter of being personally faithful in the love that we hold.
That’s why I believe Peter was most affected by the fact that Jesus asks him three times, “Do you love Me?” Peter was hurt because the third inquiry served as a vivid reminder that he failed to keep his promise never to deny Christ.
How many of us can relate to Peter?
The magnitude of our failures can prick our hearts, causing us to struggle with our standing before the Lord. Amid these doubts, Jesus whispers to our souls, “Do you love Me?”
Even children at a young age can answer that question. You can rest in the hope and mercy of a basic theology built on the power of love.
3. Power of Restoration
The three questions Jesus presents to Peter serve as an encouragement that  his past missteps must not define him or throw him off the course of his present and future ministry to care for Christ’s flock.
We must not let our missteps define us or throw us off course either.
I particularly like the analogy of discipleship with respect to our car’s rearview mirror and its windshield. The rearview mirror is small because we should maintain some sense of what is behind us, while our front windshield is significantly larger because we need to fix our attention on what lies before us. (Peter’s struggle with the Lord serves as a good reminder of this for us).
During Peter’s first commissioning in Luke 5, the disciple and his companions pulled in such a large number of fish that “their nets began to break.”
But in John 21:11, we read:  “Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.”
Various views exist on why John mentions the number of fish. We cannot know for certain. I contend that it literally shows how heavy the net was that Peter pulls to land but which does not break.
After Peter’s first commission in Luke 5, he broke; he eventually denied the Lord. Following his second commission, you can trace in the book of Acts how Peter’s net would not break again — a net that was going to prove quite heavy. Jesus, in fact, foretells of the Rock’s fortitude in John 21:18-19.
Early church tradition teaches that Peter was crucified upside down because he refused to die in the same manner as his Savior. That’s the power of restoration.

NOW WHAT:     RESPOND TO THE TEXT:

  • In what ways in your life has your (or does your) personality type tend to get you in trouble? How might you learn to temper your personality?
  • How many of us have promised our allegiance to Christ only to become silent for Him when we fear how certain persons might receive us or respond to us? How many of us have fallen into a certain sin and then promised Christ we would never commit that sin again, only to fall into the same pattern over and over?
  • How are certain sins from your life still crippling you? Look for scripture passages that encourage you to move forward in Christ’s unfailing love. “Leave behind your regrets and mistakes/ Come today, there’s no reason to wait/ Jesus is calling” (Elevation Worship, O Come to the Altar).