I tend to think of the apostle Peter as a big strong fisherman who could haul in heavy nets full of fish, heave on heavy canvas sails and pull up heavy boats onto a beach. I tend to think of him as a man who had gained his self-confidence from his broad-shouldered, man-against-the-elements approach to the livelihood he'd embraced. And so it doesn't surprise me that when Jesus told Peter that He was praying for him so that his faith wouldn't fail (Luke 22:33), Peter responded by saying that he'd go to prison and even die for Jesus (v.33)! That's when Jesus warned Peter that'd he'd actually deny that he even knew Him -- not once, but three times before that very night was over. And when that happened, and the rooster crowed just like Jesus said it would to signal Peter's denials, it says that "the Lord looked at Peter" (v.61) and that Peter "went out and wept bitterly" (v.62).
The strong man no longer felt strong. The strength he thought he had had failed him. I'm sure the Lord's look was a look of love, but Peter must have felt exposed nonetheless. Exposed as weak -- something he'd never thought himself to be. And through that experience, Peter must have learned that the kind of strength he needed -- and would soon have -- was of a different nature than the forcefulness and aggressiveness of a seasoned fisherman. He needed a strength of heart that came from heaven and that depended on God rather than on guts.
And I have to wonder which sort of strength I'm most inclined to depend on when the pressure is on. Is it the strength of my own momentum as I push to get things done for God, using the forcefulness of my own will to try to make things happen as I offer God a helping hand? That does sound a little like me in the seasons of life that appear more like me doing work for God than like God doing His work through me. Or is it a peaceful yet determined strength of heart that comes from patiently seeking and hearing the voice of God, obeying Him as He leads me? Because I know that only one of those strengths will stand the test of adversity, and only one will bring God glory as I seek to follow Him.
© 2011 by Ken Peters
© 2011 by Ken Peters