April 21, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Steve Kim, Gracepoint Riverside

John 18-19

In Mark 14:30, Jesus says to Peter, “I tell you the truth, today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times. In response Peter emphatically insisted, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”

It was just earlier that same evening that Peter so confidently said that he would never disown Jesus, even if he had to die with Jesus.  I think Peter was very sincere about the words he uttered so passionately, but he underestimated how much his courage and confidence was dependent on certain assumptions and expectations.  Peter never seriously considered that their band of brothers would ever scatter, and he certainly didn’t prepare for His Master, who walked on water, rebuked the storms, casted out demons and healed the sick, would ever be reduced to a helpless prisoner.

But as soon as his closest companions fled and he saw his hero and master so helplessly subdued and beaten, he shriveled up inside and became less assertive.  He tried to muster up all the courage he had left to follow Jesus into his trial before the High priest, but he could only manage to follow at a distance.

Once his identity as a follower of Christ became fuzzy due to his fears and desire to save himself, he finds himself seeking personal comfort by warming himself near the fire at a time when Jesus was being intensely persecuted.  And finally what Jesus predicted came true.  He ended up cowardly denying Jesus 3 times before the rooster crowed.  He couldn’t even muster up the courage to identify himself with Jesus before a servant girl.

As I reflect on Peter’s journey from that moment of great boast and self-confidence to denying Jesus 3 times, I see a window into my own heart.  I see how like Peter I too overestimate what I think I’m capable of.  I’d like to think I’m a sacrificial, loving person with a  generous heart, but I see that so much of my self-confidence comes from ‘favorable conditions’.  It’s not so hard to be godly and passionately devoted to God when things go well.  When there’s steady income, good health all around and a fruitful ministry, being zealous and radical for Jesus won’t seem so hard.  Even when there are times of intensity in doing God’s work like participating in mission trips, GLIVE, or starting a new church, I can be excited by the collective excitement and zeal of doing things together with others in the church.  And there’s also the reward of seeing the fruit of our labor as people come out to our events and develop spiritual hunger to seek God more.

But what will happen when 6 months of unemployment hit?  What will become of my zeal and passion when I experience setbacks in ministry?  What will happen to my enthusiasm and generous heart when my wife and kids are hit with prolonged illnesses?

Such times of discouragement and trials have hit me in the past, and I know my response to such times was far from a saintly, Christ-like response.  I’ve complained, fell into self-pity and wanted to just seek out fleshly comforts like Peter warming himself around a fire.  Those were times when my sense of identity as a follower of Christ became fuzzy and dull as I became so self-focused and deflated by the challenges and trials that were before me.

So should I wish such times would never come, because the real me…the best of me comes out in more favorable circumstances? NO, because the real me…the truth about who I really am get exposed the most during those “garden of gethsemane” moments in my life when I’m stripped of all the external  conditions that prop up my frail ego and pride.  It’s when I am faced with the truth about myself that I’m given the opportunity to look upon the face of Christ as did Peter when he denied Jesus 3 times.  I can then see His face and recognize that I’ve been loved unconditionally all along.  It’s only then can I experience His grace being greater than all my sins.

I pray that I would never think of myself more highly than I ought, but rather with sober judgment.  I pray that God will keep me as low as my ‘character’, so  that I may always say, “I am what I am by the grace of God!”

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