HE WASN’T EXACTLY a great prospect…
His resume had some rather obvious “gaps” in it. He was an uneducated (Acts 4:13) fisherman (Matthew 4:18). He was quick-tempered (John 18:10; Matthew 26:50-51), impetuous and impulsive. He was prone to break his word (Mark 14:29; Matthew 26:74). He made promises that he didn’t keep; in fact, he lied. He started things that he didn’t finish (Matthew 14:28-30). He was prone to fear and doubt (Matthew 14:30-31). He couldn’t always be counted on in a pinch (Mark 14:53-54). He could be cowardly (Luke 22:54-60a) and undependable (Matthew 26:40-41; Mark 14:37). He couldn’t always control his tongue (Mark 14:71). He couldn’t always see the “big picture” (Matthew 16:23; John 18:11), but was often preoccupied with the urgent and immediate. He was a narrow-minded racist (Acts 2:39; 10:13-14; Galatians 2:11-14) and a male chauvinist (John 4:27).
Let’s be brutally honest—Simon Peter (Matthew 16:17; John 21:15-17) wasn’t “the right man” for leading the early church. Right? The Lord needed an entirely different breed of man. He required an uncommon stock—a man with minor blemishes, a near-perfect specimen, a spiritual giant. He needed a man with a long track record of spirituality and maturity—or did He (Luke 6:12-14a)?
At Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ, there was Peter—boldly preaching the first Gospel sermon with his fellow apostles (Acts 2:14, 38)! Yes, Peter! However, it didn’t stop there. The very same man who fled for his life when he was identified as a disciple of the Lord was the very same man who, despite the threat of imprisonment, fearlessly proclaimed the risen Lord (Acts 3:11-4:20, 29-31). When the counsel commanded him not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, this once reluctant disciple replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (cf. Acts 5:29).
Think for just a moment; how can we account for this incredible transformation? How did this milque-toast Galilean fisherman become a notable force in the kingdom of the first century? How did he get from catching fish to catching men? How did Simon get to be Cephas (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Galatians 2:9) the Aramaic for “stone” (John 1:42)? How did this common man with an unsubmissive personality become a rock-like leader—one of the greatest preachers among the apostles and in every sense the dominant figure in the first twelve chapters of Acts? Most significantly, what does Peter tell us about ourselves? Consider the following:
1. No matter what your previous background, the Lord can use you as a vessel in His service. Our faults can be molded and fashioned into virtue. Failure yesterday is not necessarily fatal tomorrow. Weakness can become strength. “Mustard-seed faith” (Matthew 17:20; Mark 4:31; Luke 13:19; 17:6) can be enhanced to move mountains. “[The Lord] specializes in transforming hearts, redirecting our self-centered energy, and reshaping our raw talent and abilities to achieve His purposes in the world” [Gene A. Getz, “Peter,” The Apostles, 21- 22]. This He did for Peter, and this He can do with/for you. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10; cf. Isaiah 64:8).
2. It takes time to become the person Jesus wants you to become. Evolving a Christ-like spirit is a l e n g t h y process (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18; cf. Hebrews. 5:12ff). No one is shaped into a leader overnight. Peter certainly wasn’t. In fact, approximately twenty years after his service during the Lord’s personal ministry, Peter as an apostle, a Gospel preacher and an elder (1 Peter 5:1) still needed some “internal refinement” (Galatians 2:11-12). Whenever the Jews came to visit, Peter only ate with the Jews. However, when the Jews went home, he practiced open fellowship with his Gentile [uncircumcised] brethren and ate with them. Paul immediately recognized Peter’s hypocrisy and rebuked his fellow-apostle to his face (Galatians 2:14). Isn’t that ironic? In Acts 2, on the birthday of the church, Peter had taught, “…For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off [i.e., Gentiles]…” (v. 39). Then some eight-to-ten years later it took a vision from heaven (Acts 10:9-16) to convince him that God, in fact, accepted all men—including Gentiles—into the faith (Acts 10:34-35; 11:18). Later yet [perhaps another eight-to-ten years] in Galatians 2, Peter still struggled with the concept of the Gentile equality. He was a slow learner. You might say he suffered from SADD—spiritual attention deficit disorder. Growth was an incremental element for Peter. The same is true for each of us today.
3. Jesus seeks a willing spirit. Peter’s problem wasn’t his lack of desire and zeal; it was how he employed these qualities that often got him into trouble. One of the reasons Jesus chose Peter was because he was a man of devotion, determination and passion.* Granted, his passion was misdirected at times, but once Peter came to terms with the concept of the risen Lord (1 Peter 1:3), that same fervency was channeled in a very constructive and powerful way.
The good news is—the Lord sees beyond what we are to what we can become. We see spiritual resumes that are tarnished by transgression, failure and neglect (Romans 3:23). We see rank sinners; Jesus sees holy saints. We see humiliation; Jesus sees exaltation. We see despair; Jesus sees a living hope. We see Simon the crumbling disciple; Jesus saw Peter the rock-solid leader who would help stabilize the first century church.
Dear friend, are you looking for a job? Do you feel incapable? Is your work-history marred by defeat? Yes? Great! You automatically qualify. The Lord is hiring new laborers at this very moment! You can start your new work now (Acts 2:38; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 4:16). (Mike Benson)