As we move forward this year, seeking to encourage growth on a variety of levels, I am aware of the concern that such efforts could minimize the gospel and water things down to merely a “self-help” type of spirituality. Yet, as God’s word reminds us, there is a continuous need for us to give “all diligence” to adding to our faith (2nd Peter 1:5). I have been giving this a lot of thought lately, as I look at myself and the journey I am on, along with all of you. I have concluded, that the road we must travel is not always a straight line.
But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You,
I will not deny You!” And they all said likewise.
When it comes to one’s walk with Christ, we would like to see onward and upward maturity. But the bible reminds us so often that such a view is unrealistic. I believe the story of Peter is one of those reminders on how easy it is to have high expectations, only to falter in our follow through. More importantly, I believe his story shows us how much God yearns for us to get back up. It is about redemption! Not only the saving of a soul, but the saving of a life meant to bring God glory. So, let me ask you a question, “How many of you, like me, have made absolute promises to change?” Peter’s was even supported by a noble effort to defend his Lord, drawing his sword as they came to arrest Jesus (John 18:10). Yet, soon after, he is seen denying the One he was just a short while before, so willing to die for. Spiritual growth, that inner transformation which God so desires, is not a straight line for most, if not all.
As the years would pass by, the growth of Peter is one to learn from. He learned that his mission would include preaching to the Gentiles (Acts 10) and would defend that act before his fellow Jewish Christians (Acts 15). But, for whatever the reason, he became fearful of “those who were of the circumcision” (Galatians 2:12), resulting in him influencing others in a not so good fashion. The apostle Paul had to confront him because of his actions (Galatians 2:14). No doubt, there was need for repentance; that is, a change in direction.
Why say all of this? How many of us use failure to give up? Spiritual growth is not defined by a straight line that reflects a constant upward trend. Real spiritual growth has peaks and valleys, ups and downs. God is the God of both peaks and valleys, ups and downs. Consider the Mark 16:1-7, when the women who came to anoint the body of Jesus after His death, were startled by an angel. The angel told the women, “But go, tell His disciples-and Peter- that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you” (Mark 16:7). Only days ago, Peter was distraught, in a deep valley, weeping “bitterly” (Luke 22:62) over his failure. Jesus was there to reach out to him, to help lift him out, if he wanted.
Jesus had plans for Peter and He has plans for each one of us. The road to spiritual growth is seldom, if ever, a straight line. There will be times where godly sorrow will be needed and repentance exhibited. There will be times when moving upward seems almost impossible. Our Jesus is Lord over all those areas of life and is willing to help guide us through it all. The only question we might need to answer is this, “Are we willing to travel the road before us, with all its peaks and valleys?” Thank You Lord for being so patient with us, and empower us, Lord, to travel intentionally homeward.