“I can do this. I will be able to lead this ministry.” It seemed that I made that or similar statements a million times over lunch with my new boss’ assistant. She finally edged in, “Well, one thing is for sure. You are confident!” My heart sank as everything inside of me screamed, “NO I AM NOT! I am terrified.” Of course, I never said that. Rather, I pinned my lips shut and grimaced a smile. Realizing that my insecurity was spewing zealous lies kept me silent the rest of lunch. Why does it seem that we are either one extreme or the other? Trying to be a great leader seems to produce a drive for glory or throwing ourselves on a grenade. We tend to boast in our success, boast about our abilities, or wallow in our failure. Each one of these choices is fueled by the same demon, pride.
The apostle Peter is such a great example of the human dilemma. He was the first apostle to acknowledge that Jesus was the Messiah, God come as human, and Savior of the world. Jesus credited this as spiritual wisdom given by God not by human understanding. How incredible it must feel to have the living God give you a pat on the back in front of everyone. In no time the encouragement went straight to Peter’s head. Within verses Peter is pulling Jesus to the side and reprimanding Him! Jesus replied, “Get behind me Satan!”
Personal confidence is fueled by pride. Confidence in Christ keeps us humble. How many times do we do this? We lose sight that God is the giver of all wisdom and start trying to tell God that He is getting it wrong. Pride never leads to God’s glory. Pride is the work of Satan. When we mistake God’s revelation as our own personal wisdom, we become a pawn in the enemy’s hand. When we correct God, we are not focused on Him but on our own agenda. We no longer operate dependent upon Christ, rather we think we can handle God’s purposes on our own.
God loves us too much to let us remain the same. Does it ever seem like you are walking through the same types of challenges time and again. Sometimes it feels like God is just playing some cruel joke on us. Really, though, we just refuse to get it. God loves us too much to let us remain the same. Several chapters later Jesus warns the disciples they soon will all abandon Him. Peter, certain of his abilities to stick by Jesus, pipes up, “Even if everyone deserts you, I will never desert you.” Jesus gives him specifics as to how Peter’s denial will go down, and it does. But not before Peter tries to prove God wrong by lobbing off a soldier’s ear. Jesus heals the man’s ear, Peter denies Jesus three times, and Peter crumbles beneath the weight of his failure. Sometimes we have to break in order to be made whole.
It is all about His sheep, not you. After failure we can either learn or self-destruct. Peter started to go by Simon-Peter. What a great depiction of the inner turmoil humanity faces in the midst of failure. Do we return to whom we once were, or do we move forward as Christ’s new creation that is constantly learning and growing? Our pride keeps us wallowing in regret and doubt. Jesus frees us to learn and press on. Fast-forward to post-resurrection and we find Simon-Peter returning to who he once was, surrounded by his friends at the Sea of Galilee, where it all began. Just like then, they were not catching anything. Eerily, a man shouts for them to toss the net on the other side of the boat…just like Jesus did way back then. It was Jesus! Imagine Jesus calling you back from your digression and into your destiny, greeting you with a hearty breakfast on the seashore! Jesus pulls Simon to the side, tells him three times to take care of His sheep and that he would die a terrible death for the sake of Christ. In true human fashion, Peter asks “What about John?!” I imagine Jesus smirking, shaking his head, and saying, “Worry about you, Peter. Worry about yourself.”
That same picture of love, grace, forgiveness, and expectation is for us today. We have to stop basking in God’s glory as though it is our own. Nor should we throw ourselves on the grenade of self-destruction. When the disciples were arguing about who would be greatest (as all narcissists – errr, I mean leaders – do) Jesus replied, “Unless you become humble like a child you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.” We are never as grown as we think we are. We certainly will never been so grown that we no longer need God to do what only God can do. We cannot be centered on Jesus if we are focused on self. Leadership is selfless. It is smelly, filthy, frustrating, and glorious. The more we execute out of Christ’s strength the greater glory we get to behold. It seems so simple, but the struggle is real! Place your confidence in Christ and learn to rest and exist in Him alone.