How would you describe your faith? Peter, the well-known disciple of Christ, was convinced he was a man of great faith. Though the Lord foretold of his denial, Peter assured Christ he would not fall away but that he would follow Jesus to imprisonment or even death (Matt 26:35). Talk about committment! Could you say the same? Though Peter portrayed great confidence in his faith, there was just one problem.
Peter was deceived by his own heart. He thought his faith was stronger than it was. In reality, when he was confronted by those who associated him with Christ, he was not at a place of even acknowledging that he knew Jesus. Perhaps he was fearful. After all, he had watched from a distance as Jesus went before Caiaphas, the high priest, and was beaten and mocked. Likely he was fearful of experiencing the same harsh treatment that Jesus had experienced. Furthermore, maybe he was not prepared for his faith to cause him any inconvenience or disturb the peace.
If we’re honest, most of us can probably identify with Peter. I mean, let’s not forget, he did get out of the boat, and he did proclaim his love for the Lord, both of which showed his faith; but when his faith was really stretched, he became crippled by fear. Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you were convinced your faith was strong but when really tested, fear crept in. Perhaps you began to doubt God’s promises or even question whether his plans for you were really good. You may have even wondered if He truly is who He claims to be.
I think Peter would be able to relate to all those feelings. Having spent much time with Christ, witnessing His miracles, hearing His teachings, watching His interactions, Peter was well acquainted with Jesus. Scripture tells us that upon denying Jesus a third time, Peter went out and wept bitterly. Perhaps in that moment Peter is frustrated by his lack of faith, by his refusal to identify with Jesus in His most difficult moments, and realized how deceived he was by his own heart. Maybe he felt like a failure. Jesus was on His way to the cross and after all Christ had invested in him, Peter may have felt like he had blown it. At this point, although Jesus had previously spoken about His resurrection, maybe Peter grew discouraged thinking this was the end.
While Peter may have felt like a disappointment or a failure, God had other plans for him. Peter was on his way to becoming one of the most bold followers of Christ to date and this was just the beginning. In order for that to happen, Christ not only revealed Peter’s heart, he revealed Himself. In Peter’s discouragement, Christ showed up, quite literally. While Peter had professed Jesus as Lord on multiple occasions, Jesus appeared to Peter after his resurrection and confirmed that He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. With that hope and that confidence, Peter’s faith was strengthened.
Given the charge by God to make disciples of all nations, Peter seized every opportunity to make Christ known. While at one time he watched from a distance as Jesus stood before the high priest, accused of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God, now he stood before those same men proclaiming this same truth—proclaiming the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and exclaiming “there is salvation in no one else, for these is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The entire Jewish council recognized the boldness of Peter (Acts 4:13) and wondered how they could stop him from preaching. After being threatened and charged not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus, Peter explained that he could not help but “speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
Peter had become a changed man. Not only did Peter proclaim Christ despite being opposed by the very ones responsible for Christ’s death, but he, together with the other apostles and believers, prayed earnestly. They prayed not for deliverance, not for God to remove the opposition, but rather for boldness to continue speaking the Word of God in the face of opposition (Acts 4:23-31). What a profound and convicting prayer!
What is our prayer like when we face hardship and opposition? Do we pray that God will remove the trial? Do we ask him for safety? Do we ask him to make things easier or more comfortable for us? Or do we grab hold of His promises and ask Him for the strength and the boldness to confidently persevere despite the trial we’re facing?
Peter’s faith was no longer hindered by fear. In his moments of doubt, in his moments of failure, God was at work. He was in the process of refining Peter—of showing him his weakness while helping him come to a greater understanding of his calling in Christ. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, God took him from being a man of fickle faith to a man of fearless faith. He was not Peter, the disappointment; he was not Peter, the failure; he was not Peter, the denier, though he may have been tempted to allow those experiences to define him. He was who Christ said he was: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
God’s purposes for us are so much bigger than our failures or disappointments. When Peter realized the weakness of his faith and relied on the Spirit of God to strengthen his weakness with boldness, he not only underwent a heart transformation, but a faith transformation. He went from being scared to suffer for Christ’s sake to having courage to share in the sufferings of Christ and encouraging others to do the same (I Peter 4:12-19). When our prayers become those for perseverance, those for boldness, those which proclaim the hope and confidence we have in Christ, then, by the power of God, may we become not just a follower of Christ, but a force to be reckoned with.