Why do we, as followers of Jesus, persevere? How do we maintain saving faith with a perfect God when we ourselves are so far from His holy standard? Does our relationship with Jesus depend on our constant effort to please and obey Him? We are saved by faith; how do we hold on to the new life?
These questions all concern the passage of scripture I am contemplating from the May 7th reading in our devotional Bible taken from Luke’s gospel. The setting is the Lord’s last Passover meal with His disciples. Following a dispute among them as to who would be the greatest in His kingdom, His admonition to them was not to think as the world does reminding them that the least among them would ultimately be greatest. He also knows He would soon be arrested and begin His march toward the cross. It is a reflective and solemn moment when Jesus says to His appointed leader of the group, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32, NASB)
Notice from Jesus’ words that it is not a question of “if” Peter would turn again, but “when.” What was Peter’s roll in all of this? His only involvement in the matter would be to betray his Lord! Even after a sincere and heartfelt response that he would go to prison, even die for Jesus; time would prove Jesus’ prediction that Peter would deny three times even knowing Him before the crowing of the rooster. Luke goes on to record that after Peter’s third denial, Jesus looks at him as the cock crowed and Peter understandably goes out to bitterly weep; exemplifying the uncontrollable grief he suffered.
Some key take away points are first, God’s sovereign control over His universe. Note that satan needed permission to affect Peter. Satan’s desire was the destruction of the disciple, while Jesus knew the ordeal would eventually strengthen him in the end. Was Peter responsible for his actions? Could he not use the excuse, “The devil made me do it!”? Of course not. When the protective hedge of God was removed from Peter’s life with regard to the devil’s insidious temptations, Peter acted from what was truly in his heart rooted in fear; a sobering reminder for future reference as to a personal weakness in the apostle’s life.
Secondly, a perfect illustration of the Apostle Paul’s recorded words of Jesus in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God’s grace is sufficient for us because His power is perfected in our weakness, the only effort Peter brings to his continued connection with his Lord and Savior is failure. I note this not as an excuse for failure; but as a solid reminder of where real success originates.
Lastly, as history records, Peter returned, did strengthen his brethren, and was absolutely significant in launching the early church. Why? Because Jesus prayed that his faith would not fail! That’s it! The same faith given to him by Jesus to believe was the same faith that kept him in that relationship.
As the hymn writer has noted, “Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow!” In this is rest. Cease from your labor to appease a perfect and holy God and rest in the light of the knowledge that we are saved, kept, and will finally be perfected in His grace!