Have you ever thought about the person in the Bible you most relate to? For me, it’s the Apostle Peter. He was impulsive and outspoken, capable of fierce loyalty and love, and equally prone to despair and doubt. Peter’s human frailties are front and center in many of the stories featuring him in the Bible. And yet, with all of his faults, from the very first moment he heard Jesus call, he responded. The Bible says that he immediately – at once – left everything behind and followed Jesus. He literally left everything he had, and simply followed Jesus.
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. | Matthew 4:18-20 NIV
Peter’s decisive action when he heard Christ’s call, causes me to consider what I am willing to give up to follow Jesus? It also makes me marvel that God can use such a flawed individual. Since I am fully aware of my own many flaws, it gives me hope that God can use me too. But lately I’ve been wondering if relating so deeply with Peter might be a little bit of a cop-out – dressing up my doubts and fears, telling myself, “see, you’re just like Peter” instead of trying to live my life more boldly and with greater faith.
- What am I being called to sacrifice to follow Jesus?
- Is there something in my life standing in the way of my faith?
As much as I’ve always related to Peter, I’ve also always been a little annoyed by Paul. Is it just me or does it strike anyone else as a little arrogant when Paul says, “be like me” in 1 Corinthians 4:16. I mean, why didn’t he just say, “follow the teachings of Jesus”? Why did he have to bring himself into the equation? He seems like the antithesis of the humility I feel like God must surely require of those who serve him.
At face value, Paul – or Saul as he was known pre-Damascus road, was probably the most unlikely person for God to use to spread the good news of Jesus. He was – in fact – a true enemy of the faith; his zeal for ravaging the church and killing Christians was well known. In fact, he was on his way to Damascus as ordered by the high priest, to seek out and arrest Christians, with the intent to imprison or even possible to execute them. It was on the road to Damascus that Paul was engulfed in a blinding light and heard the voice of Jesus, calling him out his sin. Paul’s conversion, which began on that road, was the beginning of an incredible journey, and he became one of the greatest missionaries of all time.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I have at times found myself a bit envious of people who were rescued out of a really hard place in their life when they come to know Jesus . . . you know – circumstances like substance abuse or illness or even just a hard life in general. Somehow the story of how they found faith seems more vibrant, and maybe even more alive than mine. By comparison, my story is a bit benign and dull. I grew up going to church and accepted Jesus in Vacation Bible School as a child. It has always seemed to me that those who are rescued from the darkest of places must that much more appreciate the light. That certainly seems to be the case for Paul. And because his faith was so profound, he knew the great value of living a life for Jesus, and wanted the same for others. Is it any wonder then, that because he was confident in who he was in Christ, he would say, “be like me”?
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! | Romans 5:10 NIV
- In what ways has my life changed since I gave my life to Jesus? Can people see that?
- Does my life reflect Jesus more today than when I first put my trust in him?
By comparison, Peter’s faith doesn’t appear as steadfast as Paul’s. Matthew 14:22-32 recounts the story of Jesus walking on the water, approaching the disciples who were in a boat out on the water. Peter, true to form and clearly someone who aspires to do great things, says to Jesus, “tell me to come to you on the water.” When Jesus says, “come,” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk to Jesus on the water. What an amazing leap of faith – followed almost as quickly, with fear and doubt. Taking his eyes off Jesus for the briefest of moments, Peter begins to sink, and cries out, “save me.” And with the touch of a hand, Jesus does just that. How many times in my life have I taken my eyes off Jesus just like Peter, and felt the feat and doubt closing in? There are some who might be critical of Peter for doubting, but he gets a good measure of respect from me. I admire the fact that he at least had the courage to take the risk of getting out of the boat; I’m not sure I could say the same. If walking by faith is simply taking the next right step, for Peter, in that moment, the next step was getting out of the boat; and he did it. So, I have to ask myself, “what am I willing to risk for Jesus? And what is my next step?”
- What is my “get out of the boat” move?
- What adventure – maybe even out of my comfort zone – is God calling me to?
On the one hand, there’s Peter, the disciple who seems the most like me – a little brash and prone to ups and downs in my faith, the one who doesn’t get me out of my comfort zone too much; and on the other hand, there’s Paul, the one who makes me bristle just a little, and the one who I think I could never be like. The thought of saying to anyone, “be like me” seems to be a little arrogant, but I find myself wondering, if the reason I feel that way is because I really think it is arrogant, or because I’m not living my life in such a way that I could legitimately say that. The reality is that when you identify yourself to the world as a Christian, whether you say, “be like me” or not, people are watching; Hebrews 12:1 says that we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” And really, isn’t discipleship just modeling your faith to others? Disciples making disciples? So maybe, instead of seeking to be comfortable and make excuses for my fears and doubts, I need to aspire to get out of my comfort zone and . . . well, maybe to “be like Paul” so that I can in turn, say, “be like me.” What am I doing – right here and right now – to live out my faith in such a way that when people see me, they see Jesus?
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. | Ephesians 4:1 NIV
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. | Matthew 5:16 NIV
- When people look at me, do they see Jesus?
- What is standing in the way of me being able to say, “be like me”?
🎨 Credit :: Matt Rhodes
Creative Associate Director
✍️ Credit :: Laura Sexson