by Curtis Lanning
Peter is a lot of things. He’s the de facto leader of the Apostles and easily the most confident and outspoken of the group. The former fisherman is also the rock, upon which, Jesus would build his Church. And I find that I relate pretty well to Peter, namely because we’re both impulsive.
We see Peter’s impetuousness on full display when Jesus is arrested in the garden. John paints the scene for us in chapter 18 of his Gospel.
After Jesus finished his prayer, he went with his disciples to the other side of the Kidron Valley. They entered the garden that was there. 2 Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place because Jesus and his disciples often gathered there. 3 So Judas took a troop of soldiers and the guards from the chief priests and Pharisees and went to the garden. They were carrying lanterns, torches, and weapons.
4 Jesus knew everything that was going to happen to him. So he went to meet them and asked, “Who are you looking for?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus from Nazareth.” Jesus told them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with the crowd. 6 When Jesus told them, “I am he,” the crowd backed away and fell to the ground.
7 Jesus asked them again, “Who are you looking for?” They said, “Jesus from Nazareth.” 8 Jesus replied, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these other men go.” 9 In this way what Jesus had said came true: “I lost none of those you gave me.”
It’s here Peter sees Jesus about to be arrested and draws a sword to spring into action. I see myself so clearly in the next couple verses.
10 Simon Peter had a sword. He drew it, attacked the chief priest’s servant, and cut off the servant’s right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 Jesus told Peter, “Put your sword away. Shouldn’t I drink the cup of suffering that my Father has given me?” 12 Then the army officer and the Jewish guards arrested Jesus.
This is me, the hotheaded hasty person with a sword, ready to get in and fix problems God doesn’t need me to solve. And this is where I have so much work to do on my relationship with the Holy Spirit.
When we confess our faith in God, we’re given the gift of the Holy Spirit. It dwells within us and acts as a direct line from our hearts to God and visa versa. God does amazing things through us when we stand back and let him use the Spirit to move in his divine mission.
But some of us are a little too self reliant. We want to solve the problem ourselves, or more likely, we want to take the first crack at a problem, then call on the Spirit of God to bail us out when our plans don’t work.
This is me, and it’s a hard lesson I relearn often. I was raised to be self reliant, not to take help from others, but to be available to help others. And it is so very important that the world see me for what I wish I was. . . bulletproof. I want to serve others, but I don’t want to be humbled by needing someone else to serve me.
Over the last couple weeks this lesson was driven home for me. I’m a journalist by trade and work for the statewide newspaper. Writing is a profession and a joy for me. But last month my wife Meghan decided to quit her job and return to school to study graphic design. I was happy to support her in this dream, but it was going to be difficult on our budget. So we decided Meghan would seek a part-time retail job to lessen the hole in our finances.
A week went by, then two, and Meghan still hadn’t found a job yet. I should have asked the Holy Spirit to grant me patience and inner peace. After all, those are two fruits of the Holy Spirit Paul writes about in Galatians.
But I pulled a Peter. Instead of being patient and waiting for God to provide, I decided to take on a second job, freelancing for a few different magazines I’d written for in the past. I foolishly ignored past experience where writing for too many people wore me down and lowered the overall quality of my craft.
Another week went by, and Meghan still hadn’t received a job offer yet. She got called for interviews, and I should have trusted this was all part of God’s process, but that wasn’t enough for me. I should have listened to the Spirit’s again repeated message “Be patient. Wait for the Lord to provide.” But I didn’t. I was going to get myself out of this situation, doubling down on my own strength. So I sought to return to driving for Uber, taking on a third job.
God knew this would be too much for me to handle, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. So, he put his foot down. Right before I could take on this third job, my car’s transmission completely broke. There I was, in a situation where I was utterly powerless. I was frustrated, stressed, and angry at my lot in life. How could God fail me so spectacularly?
What a foolish question for me to ask. But just because it was a stupid question didn’t mean the Holy Spirit lacked a wise answer for me. It spoke to me the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9.
But he told me: “My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So I will brag even more about my weaknesses in order that Christ’s power will live in me.
Jesus didn’t need Peter to strike with his sword. He tells him as much in Matthew 26:53.
Don’t you think that I could call on my Father to send more than twelve legions of angels to help me now?
God didn’t need me to burn myself out taking on three jobs, and that was his ultimate message to me through the Holy Spirit. “Stop struggling. I’ve got this.” When we are put in situations where we have no choice but to rely on God, that’s when he does extraordinary things through his Spirit inside us.
So that’s what I did. I surrendered to God’s Spirit and asked for the patience I needed to wait for his plan. And after all my foolish decisions, he granted me that patience. Meghan continued going to school. I took the bus to work. Life went on.
Eventually Meghan and I were able to obtain a new vehicle, and she got that job, as was God’s plan the entire time. If I only would have doubled down on self control and patience from the Holy Spirit instead of my own measly strength. But that’s just so hard for me to do.
Anyone who finds themselves struggling as I did, even if the circumstances are wildly different, should stop and ask three questions:
Am I relying on wisdom from the Holy Spirit or my own understanding and plans?
Does this seem more like a Peter plan instead of a Jesus strategy?
Have I asked the Spirit for the faithfulness to trust in God’s plan and the patience to see that plan through?
Asking these questions should provide the clarity to know if someone is pulling a Peter. I often tell people I’m a pretty dense individual. I’m good at sensing when there’s a problem but terrible at figuring out what the problem is. So sometimes it takes me a while to realize I’m trying to put my head down and barrel through my dilemma instead of listening to the Spirit for guidance.
I’d like to challenge readers over the next week to work on surrendering more of their problems and worries to God and trusting in the peace of His Spirit. I know I still have work to do in this area, and odds are, some people reading this could use a little help with the problem of over self reliance as well.