They sat across the table together betrayed, wounded, and defeated. They had poured out their broken hearts to my wife and me; and we all just sat for a moment with a dreary silence among us.
What Happened? Many years ago, our dear friends had each surrendered their lives to Jesus. They were married and eventually followed a call to full-time ministry. They worked with passion and served faithfully for years on staff at a church. Now, they were being let go due to power grabs and creative budget cuts (ambiguity intended).
Just before the silence around the table became uncomfortable, my friend’s wife spoke up. With a humble, yet sober confidence. She said, “But we know God isn’t finished with us in ministry.”
That simple statement was more powerful than it may seem at first.
Consider Peter’s famous call to follow Jesus. He was a blue-collar worker who made an honest living catching fish. One day, a respected Rabbi walked by and said, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” Peter simply dropped his fishing gear and followed Jesus. There is much Peter was leaving behind; but in that moment, following Jesus was an adventure full of promise and excitement. (See Matthew 4:18-20)
Fast forward a few years. Although there were some exciting times and unbelievable experiences, there was also a fair share of painful and well-known blunders. The bottom fell out for Peter when he personally betrayed Jesus the night before He was executed. Whatever excitement and adventure there had been was now gone. It may have felt like a dismal end to the story… but unbeknownst to Peter this was only a chapter in the middle.
Days later, Jesus came back from the grave – fully alive. Certainly, Peter was thrilled to see Jesus, but imagine the implicit shame Peter must have felt for his actions. One of the most moving interactions ever recorded between Peter and Jesus was the moment Jesus addressed Peter directly over his recent betrayal. Jesus lovingly and creatively pulled him out of the shame; and immediately steered the conversation towards the realities of a dangerous and uncertain future. Then Jesus simply reissued the same call Peter first heard, “Follow me.” Although the simple words were the same, think about how different they must have sounded this second time. (See John 21:15–22)
Peter’s decision to answer the first call was potentially distorted by the excitement and opportunity. This renewed second call would need to be answered with the sober reality of how narrow, difficult, and uncertain the path could be. There would be opposition, hatred, slander, beatings, public humiliation, and eventual execution.
You may have already realized that following Jesus is not always sunshine and lollipops.
…You may have been harassed or ostracized for your faith.
…Your own continued failures may seem overwhelming.
…You may have cried out to God in the middle of your deepest pain, and felt no immediate reply.
…You may have been burned by the actions of church people.
Following Jesus will be difficult at times, but very worth it. When my friends expressed their resolve to press forward, I believe they were making a decision similar to Peter’s. The road had been hard, the future was uncertain, but they answered Jesus’ call to follow Him with a renewed commitment. This couple continues to serve in ministry, serving, loving others, and following Jesus.
Every follower of Jesus will have AT LEAST one moment where He softly reissues the call, “Follow me.” What will you do when that time comes? How will you answer that call? Some answer with excuses and conditions; some answer with a more refined and resolute “Yes” than the first.
By Eddie Zdanio
18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him. (NLT)
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. 18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” 20 Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” 21 Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” 22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” (NLT)