Getting Back on Track

Every life has ups and downs, twists and turns, and unexpected changes. How we handle these situations reveals a lot about who we are—our character, personality, upbringing and background, and even our temperament.

One of the wisest men in the world, King Solomon of ancient Israel, came to this conclusion about life—“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” But he also realized— “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Eccl 1:2; 3:1 NIV)

It’s impossible to predict with accuracy what the outcome will be of the events in our life. No one can see that far down the line except God, Who keeps us in suspense for our good. Given a set of circumstances, none of us knows how we will react. This is one reason we need redemption, a reconciliation that brings restoration. But God’s restoration often includes His correction to get us back on track with Him.

A recurring problem among the apostles—the 12 specially chosen disciples—was an argument over who was the greatest. This is one of the universal human arguments—who’s the king of the hill? But Peter was the point man of the twelve apostles, so Jesus expected more of him.

Jesus knew Judas would betray Him and warned all His followers about this. He told Peter that the devil would severely test him, but he was to strengthen his brothers after this. As typical, Peter protested any thought of weakness in himself and boasted he would never deny the Lord, even if all the rest deserted Jesus. Then Jesus told Peter something he couldn’t imagine happening—that Peter would deny knowing the Lord three times (Luke 22:31-34).

Peter’s claim turned out to be an empty boast based on false self-confidence. Peter is a mirror of you and me. We may consider ourselves the exception to the rule that puts us in the best light. It’s easy to think we’re not like Peter, but we all are much more like him than we’d like to admit.

As the story unfolds, a mob carrying torches arrests Jesus, and the once bold disciples run for their lives. They abandon the one they claimed they would follow anywhere, no matter the cost.

Peter tries to stay close to where the Jewish leaders held their council to question Jesus but hangs back in an attempt at stealth. His identity is uncovered at least three times. Each time, Peter denies he knows the Lord with increasing vehemence. After the third time, the rooster crows to signal the coming dawn, but for Peter, it’s the beginning of a dark night of the soul.

The Lord’s prediction of Peter’s three denials pierces his heart when Jesus looks down from the high priest’s house. How far Peter had fallen in his estimation of himself! Peter couldn’t meet his expectations of himself. This needed to happen for Peter to realize his inability to follow the Lord or fulfill the Lord’s call on his life by his effort and strength. But all was not lost.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Jesus restored Peter after his three denials with one question repeated three times—“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” We find the complete story in John 21:1-22. It’s worth the read, but here’s a condensed version.

Following the Lord’s death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to His followers to reaffirm all He taught. He taught them to walk by faith, guided by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:2-3). But things were different now. Jesus was no longer with them in person, or so they thought. So, Peter reverts to his livelihood before Jesus calls him. He went fishing.

After fishing all night and catching nothing, Jesus appears on the lake shore, but they don’t realize it’s Him. He calls out to them—

“Friends, haven’t you caught any fish?” They answered him, “No, we haven’t.” He told them, “Throw the net out on the right side of the boat, and you’ll catch some.”

So they threw the net out and were unable to pull it in because so many fish were in it. (John 21:5-6 GW)

Just as when Jesus called Peter to follow Him (Luke 5:1-11), a miraculous catch of fish revealed who stood on the shore. Peter responds in his usual impulsive way. He jumps in the water and swims to shore. Jesus waits on the shore with fish grilling over burning coals and a loaf of bread. He invites them to eat breakfast and encourages them to add their fish to the grill. None of the disciples ask Jesus if it’s Him. They knew it was He in their hearts.

Just as when Jesus fed 5000 people, Jesus gave them fish and bread. This was the third time Jesus appeared to them following His resurrection. This sets the table for Jesus to restore Peter, but in an expected way.

Do you love Me?

Jesus asks Peter the same question three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than the other disciples do?” (John 21:15-17 GW) Each time Peter affirms his love for the Lord, he grieves that the Lord asks Him three times. Each time the Lord gives Peter a strong exhortation—“Feed my lambs… Take care of my sheep… Feed my sheep!”

Jesus restored Peter after the three denials and reaffirmed His call on Peter’s life. God restores and corrects Peter at the same time, just as He often does with us. We want the restoration but the correction hurts our fragile ego. This is seen in Peter’s case as the story continues.

Follow Me!

Once the three-question restoration and correction process is finished, Jesus tells Peter that his life will not end as he chooses. But the Lord’s admonition is the same as at the beginning—“Follow Me!” Again, Peter reacts! He looks to his fellow disciple John and wants to know what will happen with his life. But again, Jesus corrects Him. Make that rebukes him—”…what is that to you? You must follow me.”

This last part of the story illustrates our selfish human nature. We want to know how God deals with everyone else when it’s different from what the Lord expects of us. Why do they get to do such-and-such or not have to do the same as me? Following Jesus requires us to commit our lives to Him and Him alone. When we choose to follow Jesus, it is a personal commitment to Him, not a set of beliefs to hold or rules for life.

In his well-known Psalm 23, David says of the Lord, “He restores my soul” (Ps 23:3). King David, a man after God’s own heart, understood the need for correction and restoration. David experienced God’s correction and restoration after his adulterous encounter with Bathsheba. After, he had Bathsheba’s husband Uriah murdered. God’s correction was connected to God’s restoration of David.

God’s restoration isn’t just a removal of guilt. When Jesus restores us, He enables us to move forward by faith to follow Him. He sets things in order in our life as we follow Him by faith. Jesus is the One who restores us, but we need to trust Him to do this and submit to His leadership in our lives. This includes His correction to get us back on track with His call on our life.

How are things between you and Jesus?

Are you on track with His call on your life to follow Him?


Photo by Ahmed Zayan on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Getting Back on Track”

  1. Thanks, Trip. Yes, repentance and forgiveness are the path to restoration. Next Monday will mark 47 years for my wife and me. 47 years is a long time. How does a marriage last that long? Repentance & forgiveness! If David had not repented, he would not have experienced the restoration that comes by means of repentance. If God had not forgiven David when he repented, their relationship would never have been repaired. Whenever there is divorce, there has either been no repentance or no forgiveness. Repentance and forgiveness are the pathway into the future. Without them, you’re stuck in the past. I have no idea how many times I’ve repented in 47 years of marriage! Repentance is me knocking on the door. Forgiveness is her opening the door. An open door is the entrance to the future.

  2. Thanks Tim and congrats on 47 years!
    “Ain’t no reconciliation or restoration without repentance and forgiveness– with us and the Lord, or with one another!”

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