Need for Self-Discovery
What was his (Peter's) greatest need? To begin with, it was self-discovery, followed by loss of self-trust. And those were the very things that happened in the hard school of experience into which Simon Peter was put by his Lord. For the truth is this: that all who are going to be of real service to the Lord must be brought, sooner or later, to the place where they lose all trust in themselves. Before they can do the work for which they have been brought into this world, the work of God, they will have to come to the place where they have lost all self-trust. Peter teaches us that lesson, perhaps, above all others, in relation to service.
See this man on the day of Pentecost. Is that service? Is he now a servant of Jesus Christ? See him in the house of Cornelius - another great turning point in the history of Christianity. See him in the Council of Jerusalem: hear what he says and how he is deferred to. "Simon hath said ..." This man emerged as a great servant of Jesus Christ - but only in virtue of having emerged from this deep and terrible experience in which he lost his self-trust.
If you have read this twenty-first chapter of John in a version that brings out the different words that were used by the Lord and by Peter for "love," you may have wondered why it was that Peter baulked at the word that the Lord was using, and refused to use it. When the Lord Jesus said, "Lovest thou Me?" He used the highest word that could be used for "love," but Peter answered with another word of a lower order altogether. Why would he not rise to the word that the Lord was using? I think that he had lost his self-trust; that he was remembering: "If all shall be offended in Thee, I will never be offended" (Matthew 26:33) - and then the denial. Had something in him been touched and weakened and broken, that made him feel, 'I dare not declare myself to be on that highest level of love?' I may be wrong, but I seem to discern that. But at length the Lord Himself came down to Peter's level, and took him up on His own ground with the lower word, as if to say: 'All right: if you can only go so far, well, go as far as you can. Commit yourself to that. I will take you up on that; I will go on with you on that.' Whether that interpretation is true or not, there is little doubt that Peter had been touched on his strong point of self-assurance and self-confidence, and was a broken man in that realm. And therefore, becoming the servant that he did become, he says to us: "That is the way of service. That is the first law."
That may sound hard, but it ought to sound comforting. Are you having a bad time? If as you aspire to be of some use to the Lord, if you find yourself being emptied and broken, and taken through a hard school where you feel that you cannot stand up to it all, remember, that is the way of service. If you have any degree of self-confidence, if you think that you can 'do it,' if you can 'do all the talking,' if you are the first to take things into your hands, let me say: You will not be of service to the Lord until that is dealt with! No; we have to come to the place where we cannot and we will not, unless compelled by Another and not driven by our own impulses.
(continued with # 28)