Character Through Perseverance
The gospels tell us of Peter being invited to be a “fisher of men.” Peter walked side-by-side with the Jesus. He traveled with Him, ate with Him, prayed with Him and spent countless hours listening to His words and experiencing what we can only dream of today!
Peter thought he was ready to serve, yet there are pivotal moments in his story when his convictions and behavior seemed in contradiction. When he saw Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 8), he wanted to join Him. He stepped off the boat, only to eventually sink! Jesus then kindly pointed out his lack of faith. Later when Jesus’ time with His disciples was drawing to a close, Peter boldly stated his loyalty, love and allegiance for Jesus (Matthew 26). But within a few hours of that supper together, he fell asleep after having been asked to stay awake and pray with Jesus. Moments afterwards he cut off the ear of a soldier in Jesus’ defense and hours later he cursed and swore, denying he even knew Jesus.
The Bible tells us that it is only when Peter hears the rooster crow that he remembered Jesus’ words predicting his denial and betrayal. As he wept bitterly we can assume he was overtaken with guilt and remorse. Although Peter had been with Jesus, he had a very imperfect idea of the plan of salvation. In order to understand, Peter needed to take a long, hard look at his spiritual journey––where he had been, where he was now and where he wanted to be.
Often along our spiritual journey we don’t realize our weaknesses until we completely surrender to Jesus’ will. We can get burdened with the past and feel we can’t move forward, or we get fixated on self-made plans. When that happens, we stop journeying spiritually and our priorities are focused on ourselves instead of God. But like Peter, we have opportunities to re-prioritize our spiritual life. As we work through our suffering we know our perseverance muscle is strengthened and that in turn produces character (Romans 5).
Note that before Jesus ascended to heaven (John 21), He took time to help Peter assess his spiritual life and spiritual priorities by asking one simple question, three times.
Do you love Me?
Jesus didn’t ask, “Peter, what in the world happened a few days ago? Why did you cut off the soldier’s ear? Why did you deny me even after I forewarned you of the event?” No, there was nothing mentioned of the past! Jesus had granted him pardon and extended forgiveness.
Do you love Me?
Jesus didn’t say, “Peter, let’s talk about my kingdom and if you do this or don’t do this, there is a crown waiting.” Jesus showed him grace and accepted Peter unconditionally.
Do you love Me?
His response to Peter each time is to feed His sheep. Accept His forgiveness and grace and share it with others everywhere you go. Jesus indicated this was the banner that Peter was to carry for the rest of his life.
Peter would endure severe trials in his future. He would be imprisoned and end up giving up his life for Christ's sake, but his allegiance to Jesus would never again waver. Consider the trials in your life.
Are there areas where your perseverance muscle needs strengthening? Remember that Jesus always extends forgiveness and grace and relishes in the development of your character.
Sherry Fisher is the Health Ministries Director for the Oklahoma Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. She is a registered nurse and the past Director of Health and Physical Education for the Oklahoma State Department of Education. She is a member of the Bristow Seventh-day Adventist Church.