Things did not go the way the disciples thought they would. Even though Jesus told them that he was going to be crucified and raised from the dead three days later, they still just did not get it (Luke 9:44-45). They were looking for the Messiah to be their King and place the Jewish nation at the top! This did not happen; and, even though they had already seen the resurrected Lord, they were still in a daze. Finally, Peter decided that he was going to go back to his old way of life. He said in John 21:3, “I go a fishing…” He had given up. Even after three years of learning and working along side the Saviour, Peter was so discouraged that his expected end never materialized that he essentially quit. Jesus met him on the sea shore and specifically addressed Peter with the purpose of helping him to realize what he needed to do to continue serving the Saviour. Jesus did not give up on Peter, and He has not given up on you either.
Sometimes things do not turn out the way that we thought they would, whether it be a job, a home, an education, a church, or just life in general. Our expected end never comes; and, sometimes, life turns out to be the worst-case scenario. What do you do then? How do you move on past the events that have so discouraged you? Let us look at three things to do when you are down in order to keep from being knocked out.
Have a sincere love for Christ.
The first thing that Jesus said to Peter in verse 15 is, “lovest thou me more than these?” What are the “these” that Jesus was referring to? Fish! Peter was a fisherman, and when he met Jesus in Matthew 4:19 he was busy catching as many as he could. For the last three years, Peter had learned at the feet of the Master and had followed after Christ who promised to make him into a fisher of men. Now, suddenly things changed. What did Peter do? He went back to his old life. Jesus found him in a boat fishing for fish. Three times, Peter was asked by Jesus if he loved Him. Each time, Peter said yes. The point Jesus was making with Peter is that actions speak louder than words. Each time Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, He told him to “Feed my sheep.” Jesus was telling Peter that your love should be backed up by your actions. Jesus seemed to be saying to Peter that if you love me, do what I taught you to do. Love as an action is found all throughout Scripture. (The first and second commandments found in Matthew 22:35-40 are also a great example of it.)
When things get tough and you get knocked down, it is tempting to call it quits and go back to your old way. It is easy to go and do what you used to do. Do not go back to your old ways; go forward for Christ and follow Him. Love is not a feeling (though it evokes a lot of feelings); it is an action word. “For God so loved the world that he gave…” Have a sincere love for Christ that is reflected in your actions toward others.
Demonstrate a true sense of purpose.
Three times, Peter was told by Jesus to “Feed my sheep.” Peter had learned from the Master and had been given a clear purpose. Apparently, according to Galatians 2:7-9, he was the apostle to the Jews and a pillar in the church at Jerusalem. This seems to be a confirmation of what Jesus had spoken to Peter here in John 21. He told him to “Feed my lambs.” Peter’s life changed, and he found a higher calling in Christ.
Jesus Christ saved us, and we should willingly serve Him. Many people want to know what the specific will of God for their life is, but they have not put any thought into following Christ’s general will for their life. This general will includes performing the things outlined in Scripture that apply to all Christians: being faithful to church; giving of your time, talents, and finances; having a love for both the saved and unsaved; and, the most important part, participating in the Great Commission by actively giving the Gospel everywhere you go. These are just the basics of being a Christian. It is not the time to call it quits when things don’t go the way you think they should. It is at this point when demonstrating a true sense of purpose matters! In Job 13:15 Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.” This is the attitude we should all have: “No matter what the circumstances, I will continue to trust Him and serve Him. I will demonstrate a true sense of purpose, I will perform the calling that he has placed upon my life, regardless of what is happening around me.” Go forward and move on! Though circumstances can be difficult, there is joy to be found in doing what God has instructed you to do. (Luke 10:1,17)
Be unwavering in your duty.
In verse 18, Jesus speaks to Peter about what his life will be like when he is old. He will not be able to do the things that he wants to do or could do when he was younger. Christ then follows that up with the phrase, “Follow me.” Peter, realizing that he had the ability to follow after Christ and should not be out trying to catch fish, then tried to bring the attention away from himself to the Apostle John. In verse 21, he said, “Lord, and what shall this man do?” I love Jesus’ answer, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.” Jesus did not care about his excuses, He cared about his effort to follow Him.
Some day, life will take its toll on all of us and we will not be able to do what we can do now. We need to be unwavering in our duty and follow Christ now, while we have the ability to. Many people have used the old argument, “I could do that if it weren’t for so and so…” They are always looking to use someone else’s success or failure as an excuse for not trying. It does not matter what happens to other people. What matters is that you consciously follow after Christ regardless of those around you or your circumstances, especially now while you have the ability. Too many people fail to fulfil their duty because they either put it off saying that they will do it later in life, or they use someone else as an excuse for wavering in their own duty. If you are looking for excuses, you can always find them (Luke 9:57-62) Jesus is looking for some disciples who are going to be unwavering in their duty.
Every person I know has had to deal with circumstances that they did not foresee in life. Sometimes all the best planning in the world is laid waste due to some complication that could not be overcome. Life is not about your actions; it is about your reactions in the face of changing circumstances. You may get knocked down, but remember to have a sincere love for Christ. After all, regardless of what happens here, you get to spend eternity in Heaven with Him. Demonstrate a true sense of purpose. He called you and gave you purpose in life. Learn, grow, and perform the doing of God’s will. Lastly, get rid of the excuses. All through life, you will have plenty of opportunities to quit. Do not wait to be the person you are supposed to be later in life; do it now and do not worry about what others might say or do in response. Jesus loves you, and gave Himself for you. He has faith in you to do what He called you to do. You may get knocked down, but don’t be knocked out. Paul said it best in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”