After his resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples several times. One of the encounters occurred on a beach, after they had been fishing all night. They were close to shore and noticed Jesus on the beach; he was cooking breakfast for them.
After they had finished eating Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Most of us are familiar with this discourse between Jesus and Peter. Peter responded all three times that he truly loved Jesus. Jesus told Peter to “tend my lambs, take care of my sheep, and feed my sheep.” (John 21)
There is plenty to learn from the three questions Jesus ask, but I think the deeper and more profound words of Jesus is what He said to Peter next.
“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.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. (John 21:18-19 NLT)
Jesus’ point to Peter is that his life from this point forward was going to be difficult. Jesus is telling Peter that there will come a time that he will be taken where he doesn’t want to go, and he will be treated like he doesn’t want to be treated, and then he will die.
The deeper message behind this foretelling of Peter’s future is not just Jesus telling Peter how he is going to die. The deeper message is Jesus telling Peter how is going to live. In a way, Jesus was telling him that life is not all about “Peter”. His life now is about a bigger story. Peter’s life is now about his mission, his mission of bringing the gospel to the nations. With that task comes a life of “being led about where you don’t want to go.”
Life is not about being the main player, but it’s about being a part of the big picture. In other words, life is not about creating a plan and knowing what is going to happen every season of your life. Life is about conflict, difficult days, disappointment and failure. But God has a purpose in all of that. He wants to lead us to the point of “If you want to keep your life you must be willing to lose it.”
God wants us to get to the point of surrendering every aspect of our life to Him, so we can give our life away. That’s where radical Christianity comes in. When we let go of our life, we will find it.
That’s how a highly trained Physician can leave a financially lucrative career and become a missionary doctor in the bush of a 3rd world country. It’s how a professional school teacher can quit her secure job with a good salary and benefits and go teach at risk, inner city children in the ghetto of a major city.
The issue is not “are you willing to be a missionary.” The issue is are you willing to lay down your life, your dreams and your plans at Jesus’ feet and give him a blank pad, and have him write your story as He sees fit.
The Bottom Line
All good stories and movies have an unpredictable and unseen surprise ending. It’s that conflict and tension that etches the story in your mind. Our life is one big story being written by the God. That means we are going to be led into situations that are uncomfortable, unpredictable, and like Peter, we may be led to places that we don’t want to go.
As a committed follower of Christ we must remember that life is about faith and trust. It’s trusting God in every situation, and even sometimes, being led down a path where we don’t want to go. Be encouraged because God passionately loves you and He always has a purpose for everything He allows in your life.