Be The First: A Look at The Apostle Peter
Ask Christians which biblical figure they most closely identify with. You will certainly get a wide range of answers, but I bet the Apostle Peter's name would be mentioned more frequently than any other. There is something that resonates about his life with all believers. Maybe it's the fact that his failures are so clearly recorded in the New Testament. We are allowed to see his struggles and that gives us comfort as we struggle ourselves. Or it could be the way his personality was used by the Holy Spirit to write the letters that bear his name. As you read them, you can almost imagine being able to carry on a conversation with this man relatively easily. Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure. There is much to learn from the Apostle Peter's life.
A Profile of Simon Peter
Peter was a fisherman by trade. He ran a fishing business alongside his brother Andrew. Fishermen were, and still are according to certain TV shows, gruff, dirty, vulgar, and tough. They were considered to be a "man's man." History does record that he was married and we have an account of his mother-in-law being healed in several of the Gospels. Peter would have been uneducated for the most part and there would not have been anything about him that could have been categorized as impressive. But he is extremely important in the eyes of Jesus.
Jesus calls Peter and his brother away from the fishing business. They drop everything to follow Him. The day Jesus calls Peter away marks the beginning of the transformation of Peter. When it is all said and done, Peter's life will be marked by the all the changes Jesus has made in him. And it started that day with one sentence--"Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."
What's In a Name?
One of the first things Jesus does in the life of Peter is to change his name. His name wasn't always Peter; his birth name was Simon. It may look unimportant on the surface, but this is a significant act because of what the two names mean. Simon means "grass-like" or "reed-like." It represented something that is easily moved; something that could be swayed by the wind or blown over without much force. Peter means "rock." Think of how a large boulder cannot be moved and you will see that Jesus is seeking to teach Peter something with the name change. Jesus is already letting Peter know that He is going to transform him--from a man who is easily shaken and moved into a rock that stands firm for the cause of Christ.
If you take the time to study when both of Peter's names show up in the New Testament, you may notice something about their usage. When Peter is acting like his old self--in ways that are contrary to the will of God--Jesus addresses him as "Simon." But when Peter acts in a way that is pleasing to the Lord, Jesus calls him "Peter." Jesus is letting him know what behaviors he needs to keep in his past and which behaviors he needs to make a part of his future. Additionally, we get to see that it is normal for followers of Christ to experience two significant "pulls" in their hearts and lives. The pull to act sinfully and chase the world, and the pull of the Holy Spirit to obey Jesus and live for His glory. What is most encouraging is the fact that Jesus doesn't discard Peter the times he calls him "Simon." Neither will Jesus discard us when we fall.
Be The First
Peter was a man of "firsts." He was often the first to speak, act, or volunteer among the disciples. Peter didn't sit around listening to Jesus talk while feeling bored. He was ready to go. When he saw an opportunity, he took it.
He was the first to confess Jesus as the Son of God, the first and only to walk on water, the first disciple to see Jesus after His resurrection, the first to preach the gospel, and his name is always mentioned first in any list of the disciples recorded in the Bible.
But not all of Peter's "firsts" were positive. He was the first to deny Jesus, the first to attack soldiers and cut someone's ear off, and one of the first disciples to act like a hypocrite. But Jesus graciously deals with all those negative firsts. Just because we are bold and willing to do something for Jesus, that does not mean we won't fall flat on our faces at times. Stepping out to be the first is a risk--and it doesn't always go as planned. I am glad we get to see Jesus picking Peter up when it doesn't. It encourages me to take some risks for Jesus; to step out and try to advance His Kingdom. We are so often afraid of failure and Peter's life teaches us that we don't have to be. This doesn't mean that we are content with our failures and sin, but rather they should never hold us back from doing something meaningful in the name of Jesus.
Remember, Peter was a normal, hard-working, and rather unimpressive individual. But that didn't stop him from doing something for Jesus; it didn't stop him from "being the first." Is there anything that you are letting stop you?
Where can you be the first? Where can you step out in faith, unafraid of failure, to make Jesus look glorious?
Can you be the first in your family of friend group to proclaim Jesus and model what an biblically-obedient life looks like? Can you be the first to, in any particular environment, stand against sin? Will you be among the first to pray, worship, minister, and go after Jesus each and every Sunday during worship services? Will you be the first to repent and apologize when you hurt others? The first to forgive? How about the first to be generous? To make the most of every opportunity to know Jesus and to make Him known?
Where and how can you be the first? Be encouraged by the life of Peter. You matter and your decisions matter. Be the first.