As children, we all loved the merry-go-round and wished we could ride it all day long. But as adults, and more importantly as Christians, it is better that we stay off the merry-go-round and keep our feet planted on solid ground.
** I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. ** Luke 22:32
It would be so great if the Bible were a magic wand that just whisked away our problems and our weaknesses away. But, unfortunately, it isn’t. The Bible has beautiful and thought provoking words but few problems go away with just a thought or just a word. I can only think of one, actually.
Salvation. One moment of sincerity before God mixed with an understanding that Jesus Christ is our only pathway to Heaven and yes, poof, we are saved. Forever.
But from that point on Christianity is a daily decision. It is sometimes a minute-by-minute decision to walk in that original faith and pure trust that God’s way is the best way.
In our verse from Luke 22, Jesus tells Peter that He has prayed for him. That He has prayed that his faith would not fail.
But it did.
It failed when he denied Christ three times.
It failed when he quit following Jesus and the things He taught him and went back to his old life of fishing. And, I imagine, it failed several other times as well
Jesus didn’t mean that he prayed for Peter and then his problems went away. He meant that his prayer was going to keep working in him even though Peter would fail a few more times until he understood what the Lord did for him. But, Peter’s first reactions were not ones of faith.
In reality, Peter often had a faith crisis. He wasn’t prepared for the fears and pressures of identifying with Christ when he stood alone. Nor did he have a clear picture of what to do with his life once Jesus left him and his friends alone to figure out how to go forward.
Maybe that’s why Jesus also said, ** and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. **
Peter needed two key ingredients for his faith to not fail: Conversion and a clear purpose.
The details of Peter’s calling to strengthen the brethren is from Luke 22 and 24 and John 21. There is more information there than we can look at today. But, we can summarize it as a process over time.
Before Peter was ready to take up his calling, he had to see the empty tomb. He had to hear a personal message of forgiveness from the Lord and he needed to try some things out in his own way. And he had to fail. Many times.
He had to see that all of his impetuousness, his lack of discretion, and his selfish motives had to be dealt with before he could fulfill the Lord’s words to strengthen the brethren.
There was a learning and growth process that he was going to have to go through before he could walk in the steps that the Lord had laid out for him.
In 1 Peter 5, Peter tells us how he was strengthened and how the brethren will be strengthened:
** But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. **
He had to suffer–For a while.
I’m sure he didn’t always enjoy it, because we all hate suffering, don’t we? We would all rather live on a bed of roses than a bed of sharp glass and thorns. We all want things to be easy.
But anything worth achieving is going to be hard.
If Peter was going to learn how to do what the Lord asked him to, and if we want to know the Lord better, or we want to fulfill what the Lord has given us to do. We are going to have a lot of bad days. A lot of them. Let me emphasize that!!! We are going to have a lot of bad days!!!!!
Strong’s Concordance defines strengthen like this–*to set fast, to turn resolutely in a certain direction, to confirm…to fix, stablish, steadfastly set, strengthen*
The very definition of strengthening agrees and solidifies our understanding of our verse from 1 Peter 5:10!
Peter lived many years like he was on a merry-fo-round. On again, off again. He was constantly moving, running from one pretty horse to another, up and down, up and down and on and off again. Until he, finally, got a few things straight in his life, and was finally able to get off the merry-go-round and walk a straight and consistent path.
This is what I believe Peter figured out:
Peter needed to understand fully: that his faith in Jesus Christ alone for his salvation and for his own strength to fulfill his calling, was enough. Doing right or not doing right was not going to change that.
Peter also needed clarity on what the Lord wanted him to do. He needed to try a few things and see if they were the right fit or not. He had to test his understanding of what he was supposed to do.
Peter also needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The task that Peter was given was way beyond him. He needed beyond-this-earth power to achieve it.
He also needed to be made worthy to carry the name of Jesus wherever the Lord sent him. (He was made worthy through the suffering and persecution he endured for speaking the name of Jesus to others, and probably many other trials that the Bible doesn’t mention).
Peter was sent to strengthen the Jewish believers in Christ.
Paul, the apostle, was sent to the Gentiles. But look what Paul prays for the Colossian church…
** that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;** Colossians 1:10,11
Jesus prayed for Peter. Paul prayed for the Colossians. But their prayers were basically the same message.
**Strengthen the brethren. ** **Be strengthened. **
Through trials, pain, and suffering.
Because the Lord wants to teach all of us that Peter had to get rid of the old Peter and put Jesus Christ in his place. Just like we have to die to self. It is the only way we can increase the fullness of Jesus in us and to be worthy of what the Lord has given us to do.
Peter had to let go of anything in himself that was in the way of being filled with the Spirit of God. We also need to face our trials with faith and allow the Lord to work in us what He worked in those that have gone before us. That way we can be strong enough to lead the next generation of believers in Christ.
The Lord is praying for each of us to be to others what Peter was to the Jewish Christians-an ambassador of truth–an example of unbending faith. Peter became a source of confidence and assurance to all new Jewish believers. He learned to get permanently off the merry-go-round of indecision and doubt. He chose to stand firmly on solid ground, trusting that the Lord would lead him and teach him no matter where he was or what he had to do. He laid aside the On-Again-Off-Again Christian lifestyle.
Now, the same challenge is in our own hands. We need to be converted in every inch of our hearts and souls, cleansed of all doubts and wavering. And we need to be FILLED with the Holy Spirit in order to be able to truly fulfill the Lord’s purpose for our lives. We cannot be FULL until we learn to be EMPTY.
We all need to learn and grow in truth more and decide to get off the roller coaster of an On Again, Off Again Christianity, and find solid ground to stand on. Just like Peter had to.
Jesus said…** I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. ** Luke 22:32
Jesus’ prayers for Peter and Paul’s for the Colossians are our encouragement that we can do what Peter and Paul did. They fulfilled their purpose and they glorified God with their lives.
We can, too, if we get off the On-Again-Off-Again merry-go-round of faith and grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We can fulfill the Lord’s calling on our life, whatever that might be, if we accept the trials we face each day as the stabilizing tools we need that will build our faith. Those trials will also fortify our boldness to share with others what the Lord has done for us.
Peter did it. Paul did it. You and I can too!!