For three years, Peter had abandoned all. He pinned his hopes on a man who said “Follow me” and Peter did. All his hopes for a brighter tomorrow seemed to be available to him now that the Christ had come. The one who was anointed by God to free Israel from their oppressive Roman rulers was on the scene now; it was easy to leave it all behind for the sake of the cause.
Throughout his entire life, the Liberty Bell of freedom pealed within the heart of every Hebrew, but it hadn’t rung in the land. Freedom to be all that God promised them they would be was the desire of every man, but the reality had eluded them. Jesus would change all of that and Peter had some ideas of his own about how Jesus would free God’s chosen people.
The dreams he held in his heart for Israel were about to come true. Many others had come before with promises, comfort and hope for the people of God, but none of them were able to keep their word. Death took them before the Declaration of Independence had been read in Jerusalem’s streets. But, this Jesus talked of life in ways none of them had ever heard.
In three short years Peter would see things that had never been seen before. A wine making class in Cana was unheard of. Men, women and children who lie at death’s door were called to walk away from that door for a season. Lepers who had absolutely no hope for a cure fell at the feet of this man that Peter was following.
Hope that lie dormant in his heart was fanned into flame. Perhaps the promises of a land flowing with milk and honey were believable after all. For three years sufficient evidence had been gathered that would lead him to believe once again.
All his life he’d heard the stories of Israel’s God. Read to him like a bedtime story or while resting in the shadow of an olive tree conversing with a friend.
As a young man he’d known the excitement of his first time going out onto Galilee’s waters. He was thrilled to finally have come of age, the legacy of his father, grandfather and their father’s was passed on to him. But, this fervor, this excitement of following Jesus was unlike any he had ever known.
He spent hours defending his decision to follow Jesus. A family member who didn’t understand the reason for his choices would take him to task. Their arguments only served to reinforce his convictions about Jesus. Like another layer of pitch added to Noah’s ark, his own words would seal out their attempts to drain his soul. He was adrift on the words of the Rabbi.
Day after sunny day and night after moonlit night he listened as Jesus told him of a kingdom unlike any he’d ever known. He’d heard that this kingdom would be ruled with a scepter of righteousness and his hopes for peace in Israel grew all the more.
All of Peter’s hopes and dreams died long before the hammer drove the nail into Jesus feet. Peter’s passions grew cold hours before the thorny crown would cause Jesus body to become a cold corpse. Before Jesus ever said “It is finished” Peter said “it’s over?”
The cheers of the “Triumphant entry” became the tears of Calvary. The whale of a story he’d heard about Jonah was swallowed by the wails of his broken heart. Goliath was dwarfed by the giant that executed his hopes on a bloody tree.
Times like this have to come. Not just in the life of Peter, but these times have to come for us as well. It’s the way of the Kingdom. To avoid it is to postpone our own liberty. To call it what it is not only allows our darkness to remain. To choose to not believe it does not make it a lie, but will only cause us to continue to believe another lie.
When we first came to Jesus, we came in need. More than that, we came with the notion that we realize what we need and we saw that Jesus would be the means to our end. We had expectations for our life.
Most of us came to Him with our own ideas about “the way” life should be lived. We had within our souls thoughts we were self assured were “the truth” and it was the combining of these two which made up what we call “the life.” Even before we came to Him, we were the god of our own trinity; we were the way, we had some truth and we were living life.
The things that had to die in Peter have to die in us as well. All hope, every dream and every promise must die. Even the promises of God must die. If that strikes a nerve in you then read where Abraham was told to sacrifice his promised son and see that God has the right to ask of us to lay down the very thing He promised us.
But, why does it have to be this way?
Most of us, like Peter, have some ideas of our own. We hope to make the world a better place and we dream of a brighter future. But, why do times like this have to come into our lives?
So much in my life has changed since Jesus called my name. The “old things” have passed away. Even when speaking of one who’s just died, we say they “passed away” and there are many things in my life I’ve seen die.
When I first came to Christ I thought it would be good for me. Not because I was scared of hell, I was just unhappy and I saw happy people who told me that Jesus made them glad, so I joined them.
People who followed Jesus were some of the most peaceful people I’d ever known and peace had been absent all my life, so I agreed to follow them as they followed Christ.
I had never known love in the way I saw it in the church, so I stayed there. Not to love, but to be loved.
Times like this must come to all of us. The “blood of Jesus” deals with what we’ve done. The “cross of Jesus” deals with what we are. The sins I’ve committed were done because of the heart within me. One led to the other and this is exactly why times like this have to visit you and me.
To one degree or another we are selfish. Self serving, self seeking, self righteous, self centered and self assured and so it goes.
Whatever our reasons were for coming to Jesus and then following Him are selfish. Most of us chose Him so we wouldn’t go to hell; it was self preservation that caused us to respond to His call.
Or we came because we wanted peace of mind, but be sure it was only for our personal peace that we came. Some of us came because we want to be accepted for who we are, but be sure you realize it was for your own acceptance. For whatever reason we came, the fact is, we have come and we have followed.
Grace is amazing and more so. He knew that our real reasons for following Him were selfish to the core and still He said: “Follow me.”
Yes, it’s true that God loves us just the way we are, but it doesn’t end there. He loves us the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us there.
In Peter’s life and in yours and mine there must be the death of all our hopes and dreams; even if that means that the ministry you’ve asked for in tears go the way of the altar. There must come a time in all our lives when our God given dreams must die.
If you expected your marriage to go a certain direction now that you and your wife are following Jesus, that expectation must die. He is Lord of your life and as such is not bound to your expectations. If your expectations do not die; you will.
Doubtless I could go on, but there really isn’t any good reason to. Reading these words of mine will not exempt you from the work of His cross in your life. As painful as it will most certainly be, I know that there isn’t any way around it.
For God’s people there isn’t a “way around” there is only a way “through”. And it is the Way that is the reason for the journey. Jesus is the Way. The goal is the reason for the journey.
But, right now you are in a place where it seems that Jesus is dead. She said “no” to your marriage proposal and has returned the promise ring. The death of a job has given birth to fear. The open door of ministry was opened for another and your place in the pew becomes a tomb.
Whatever the disappointment is, you have had enough. All your hopes and dreams are dead and you say, just like Peter did; “I’m going fishing.”
For most of us though, these words come more like this; “I’ve believed God for this or that. I’ve followed Him for years and now this? The desire of my heart has been for God to use me and He’s not.”
So, what do we do? We do what we’ve always done. We go back to what we know. Some retreat to the back of the church and some actually make it out the doors. Some are resigned to a meaningless life inside the church and some are resigned to a meaningless life on the job. Our hopes, dreams and expectations died and we think that because this thing we desired is gone, Jesus is gone with it. He’s not dead, He’s just dead to us.
Few are the people that think it; rare are the people who will say it. Most of us are so afraid of being rejected we won’t even admit it to ourselves, much less to some one else.
“This Christian life hasn’t been any thing like I thought it was going to be. In fact, I’ve known more sorrow than before; at least before I came to this life I could drown my sorrow in a bar somewhere, but here there is no anesthetic for my broken heart.”
“This life is nothing close to being what they told me it was. I’ve never seen a meaner bunch of people talk about grace, mercy or forgiveness. Few of them act the way they say that I should.”
“I’ve said hundreds of times ‘Here am I, Lord, send me.’ And I’ve sat here for years, watching as many brothers have been sent out to pastor churches. They are being used by God while I sit here and warm a pew. Maybe I need to face reality and just go back to work.”
In whatever form or fashion you’ve said it, you’ve said exactly what Peter said that day; “I’m going fishing.”
Why do days like this have to come?
Well, when it comes to Jesus Christ, God and Christianity there are a million reasons to leave it all behind and go fishing, but there can be only one reason to stay. It’s the death of the other million reasons that is so painful.
Jesus knows that the reasons you first came to Him were self seeking and He knows you believed following Him would benefit you somehow. He knows that none of us have come to Him because of who He is. Mercy allows for selfishness, but grace says it cannot remain.
Notice Jesus words to Peter after he’d gone back to what he’d known before. Peter, like you and me, had a time when all his hopes and dreams “in Jesus” were dead and gone. But, why?
“Children, do you have any meat?” or to put His words in more modern terms, He was asking “Children, now that you’ve gone back to what you did before I called you, have you found anything of any real substance? Has your returning to work given you something you can sink your teeth into?”
We need these times of hopelessness, because most of want Jesus to do this or that in our lives and the thought that He actually may gives us hope. But the truth of the matter is that we don’t love Him unless He can do something for us.
Which is why, after Peter had returned to shore, had a bite to eat that Jesus asked Peter that penetrating question that each of us have been asked or will be asked.
Jesus said to him, as He still says to you; “Do you love Me?”
These times come and they are ordered by our invisible God and it His intent to remove absolutely everything that we love. Our expectations become idols and keep us from seeing Him. Our dreams are enshrined in our hearts and minds, instead of Him. Our hopes rule monarch over every minute of every day, our hopes rule in His place.
All that we have that is not from Him will be stripped from our stubborn hands. It grieves Him to see us holding on to some good thing that He’s given rather than holding onto Him.
He’ll take it all away. Once it’s all gone, if you’ll listen closely, you’ll hear Him whispering the same question to you:
“Do you love Me?” and He may ask you after you’ve spent the day fishing.
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