The life of Peter reveals some powerful lessons for us on our journey toward deeper faith. He was called to follow Jesus and that was Peter’s first step of instant obedience. In Matthew 4:19-20 it tells us: He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
The book of Luke expounds on this story even more in chapter 5:4-5, 9, 11, saying: When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets…For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken… When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. We can pause to ask ourselves if we have dropped our plans and followed whatever we sensed God asking us to do or did we follow our own will.
Peter had a strong, impetuous, bold personality so I think Jesus had to take him through some humbling experiences to break his will and self-confidence so that he would be led and empowered by the Spirit instead. We, too, will go through some testing and brokenness to become the vessels God knows He can use.
During a storm at sea, Jesus was walking on the water toward the disciples’ boat. They were frightened because they thought it was a ghost. Peter was the one who responded by saying: “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31)
Peter was able to walk on the water as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus; as soon as he looked at the storm instead, he fell. That is a huge lesson for us all. It is also important to note that when Peter fell in, Jesus stretched out His arm and rescued him. Jesus will rescue us in our times of trouble, too.
Have you ever thought about how Peter felt after that incident? Was he berating himself for falling in? Did he feel hurt because Jesus called him “of little faith”? Perhaps, but we can see that this was another step of learning to keep focused on Jesus and let faith grow stronger. The overflowing fishing nets, the healing of his mother-in-law and the other miracles Peter had witnessed were all demonstrating that Jesus is worthy to place our unwavering faith in Him.
In Matthew 26 we read the story of how Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him three times. Peter swore that he would not but after Jesus was arrested he did just that. He remembered what Jesus had said and wept with shame and regret.
Despite the failures and mistakes that Peter made and some rough edges of his personality, Jesus called him “the rock” and chose him to lead the early church. (Matthew 16:18) It was his understanding that Jesus was the Son of God that qualified him. But his willingness to obey and to keep on following even after failure showed that God could keep refining him and use him to help build His Kingdom.
This demonstrates that we do not have to be perfect to be used by God. We can fall and He will pick us up. We can fail and He will teach us how to grow in our faith and obedience. We can trust that God knows us better than we know ourselves and He will use us in the way that He knows is most suited for us. He will teach us, refine us, strengthen us along the way. Our part is to be willing, to follow and to obey.