The apostle Peter was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, and the writer of 1 and 2 Peter. To me, he is a dynamic example of how God can use the ordinary and make them extraordinary. These principles I have learned from Peter are so universal that anyone, no matter religion, race, class, ethnicity, gender, or any other human identifier, can apply these to their lives! I’ve had a tough week, and more and more, I have been thinking about how the apostle Peter also had tough times- -Times where he was hypocritical in his character, so his actions betrayed what he believed; times where he was persecuted against and rejected by others, times where he felt inadequate to God and to others. All these I have also experienced in my life, and I can bet, some of you have, too. However, I have learned these following things from the life of Peter that has helped me not only to understand him better, but also to encourage myself and others in our life’s journeys:
- Think before doing or saying
- You don’t have to be perfect to make a difference
- Never give up.
One of the mistakes that Peter made throughout his life, was he did a lot of things without thinking them through. This is something I struggle with as well. For example, in Matthew 26, Peter is recorded as saying that he would die for Jesus even if he were being persecuted! We know that he didn’t think about what that really meant, because even when three different people, including a servant girl with no power to do anything bad to Peter, asked if he (Peter) had been with Jesus, Peter denied even knowing of or being with Jesus, all three times! In another instance, the apostle Paul writes in Galatians 2 :11 (KJV), that Peter “was to be blamed, “ meaning he was to be corrected, because he separated himself from eating with the Gentiles (non-Jews). Peter did this only because he was afraid of what some other Jewish people would think. Peter did not think about the implications that his actions would have on the Church, as a whole, nor on the example he was setting for the rest of the Jewish believers. From these two instances, I learn from Peter that it is better to think things through before saying or doing anything. For instance, when I am upset at someone, I want to say very mean and hurtful things to that person as a way of making them “feel” my rage at the time. However, when I really take the time to think through the implications and consequences of my actions, I often am successful at not saying those things.
Another thing that I learn from Peter is the fact that one does not have to be perfect, or even saintly, to make a positive difference in this world. As I noted before, even the apostle Peter, was far from perfect! However, some weeks after Peter denied Jesus, Jesus encourages Peter by reinstating him to ministry and preparing his heart for this endeavor by asking Peter if he loved Him. Jesus reinstates him to ministry by basically telling him to “feed His sheep,” meaning to encourage people (the sheep) to follow God’s directives by “feeding” them His words and His teachings. Even though, Paul had to reprimand Peter later, Peter still made a huge difference in helping the early Christians be able to withstand persecution for their faith, and to be able to stay mentally strong despite these persecutions and other life trials. We know this, through Peter’s writings, where he encourages the churches he lead to stand firm in their faith and persevere. Sometimes, the perfectionistic-me thinks that when I fail morally or in another way, that I can’t do anything worthy for God or for others. However, through learning about Peter’s life, I am encouraged that this is not the case. I believe that this is not the case for any of you either. No matter where you are in life, or what you have done or failed to do, you still can make a positive difference in this world. You just have to believe you can!
Lastly, and perhaps, most importantly, I learned from Peter never to give up. Even when Peter made, what I think to be the biggest error of his life—denying even knowing Jesus, Peter did not give up on life or on himself. As noted in John 21, Peter went back to hanging out with Jesus and, eventually, accepted his mission from Jesus. Peter did not avoid Jesus or the other disciples that were left, but faced his mistake when Jesus gently confronted Peter with the issue of his love for Him. In contrast, another disciple (Judas) that betrayed Jesus, went and committed suicide, giving up on life and on everything else. Also, in several biblical passages, Peter is recorded casting his nets all day, or all night, for fish, but not getting any. Peter could have given up until Jesus came to him, or waited for another day, but Peter persevered. Eventually, in John 21:11 (KJV), it says, “Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.”
Many times in my life, even several days ago, I have felt so overwhelmed with life, that I just wanted to give up. However, my faith in God and the hope of a better future, prodded me on. When I look to the apostle Peter and see his perseverance, I am also inspired to keep going, because I know the reward can be great for me, if I don’t give up. I’m sure the rewards you can get, both in this life and in the next, can be very great, if you don’t lose hope and if you keep on, keeping on!