COLLINS COLUMN: Obey Jesus in what he calls you to do

Published 9:00 am Thursday, May 9, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Even after Jesus had appeared to the disciples following his resurrection, they struggled to understand their next steps. It is easy for us to speculate and wonder how they could have doubted that Jesus had plans to use them in his kingdom, but we have the view of their future that they could not yet imagine. But I think we can relate.

We, too, have been given many promises from God. We know he calls us to serve him and promises to give us wisdom, direction, courage, and strength as we follow him – but how many times have we found ourselves uncertain and discouraged, wondering where God is in certain situations? When we remember our own fickle attitudes and behaviors, it is easier to see the disciples’ uncertainty.

Many scholars believe that in the first few verses of John 21, when Peter tells some of the others that he is going fishing, he intended to go back to fishing for fish instead of fishing for men, as Jesus had called them all to do earlier in his ministry. After Peter had denied Jesus the night of his arrest, it seems he had not been able to move past his failure and was giving up. He did not yet realize that Jesus’s love, mercy, and grace would surround him yet again.

I won’t retell the story, but reading through the entire chapter of John 21, I want to pull out a few things we can learn and apply from Jesus’s interaction with his disciples.

1) Jesus meets us where we are. He might even meet us when we are determined to give up or have taken steps to walk away from what he called us to do. Jesus certainly knew the mental and emotional state of the disciples, and especially of their leader, Peter. Jesus didn’t walk away from them; he walked toward them and called out to them as they were fishing.

2) Jesus will provide, even when – maybe especially when – we cannot see results. Some days, you can catch a fish, and some days, you can’t. The disciples had fished all night and came up empty. Hearing a voice from the shore to cast their nets on the right side, they did, hoping that whoever was shouting had seen something they hadn’t seen. The result was 153 large fish they brought back to shore. They soon realized the voice was not just some man on the shore; it was Jesus.

Jesus provided bread and fish for breakfast, just has he had provided bread and fish from nearly nothing when he fed the 5000. The one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills also owns the fish in all the seas. He has ownership of all resources and can show up in any moment with what we need.

3) While we are called to work together in unity, we are also called to work separately. And while we may all experience some suffering and difficulties, they will not be identical. At breakfast on the shore, Jesus spoke words of correction and healing into Peter, assuring him that he was still beloved and called. Twice in that exchange, Jesus told Peter to follow him. Jesus had indicated that in his kingdom service, he would suffer, yet he was to follow him. Peter, who seemed to always struggle with his place in relationship to the place of others, asked about John and if he, too, would suffer. Jesus basically said that was not something for him to be concerned about. Peter was simply to follow Jesus.

We may also be tempted to compare our lives and wonder why certain believers seem to have an easier path, more success, more resources, and on and on. Our task is not to compare ourselves to them. Our task is to obey Jesus in what he calls us to do.

We know that after Pentecost, the disciples did work together to advance the gospel, but they each had their own ministries. We are called to unity in our relationship with Jesus and obedience to his mission, but he also calls us to use our unique abilities, relationships, and situations to serve others in our service to him.

As we follow Jesus, we will learn the truth of John’s last sentence in his gospel. John said Jesus did many other things that he didn’t include in his gospel record. The truth is that Jesus continues to do far more than we can imagine all over the world. No one will ever be able to see or record all that Jesus has done, is doing, or will do. But one day, when we stand with him in eternity, we will finally realize how great his power and glory are forevermore.

  Father, thank you for the many lessons we learn as we read of your earliest followers. Thank you for your promises that remain, even today. Increase our faith that we might find the courage to trust you wherever you lead us. Use us today for your glory. In Jesus’s name, amen.