Being called by God is a journey. It is not a destination. And the call is progressive as it takes us deeper into the purposes of God.
Peter’s experience exemplifies this so let’s review the historical record of Peter’s encounter with Jesus to see what you can expect as you respond to the call of God.
Peter’s Encounter with Jesus
Peter met Jesus at the time of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, at the Jordan River. While we are not told that Peter was a disciple of John the Baptist, it is evident that he and his friends were impressed and touched by John’s ministry.
That is why they had journeyed from Galilee, where they left their fishing boats idle while they went to get right with God. We can be pretty sure that Peter had been baptised by John, possibly not long before Jesus was, maybe even on the same day.
A Second Encounter with Jesus
After that initial encounter Peter, James and John had to return to their fishing boats and their livelihood. They had heard John’s prophecy about Jesus and had been introduced to Jesus as the “lamb of God”. They were among the very first people to encounter Jesus as He began His ministry. Now, however, they were many miles away from the Jordan River, back on the shores of Lake Galilee.
Jesus came to them and called them to “Follow Me”. Jesus promised to make the “fishers of men”. Peter, James and John all left their boats and their fishing nets to follow Jesus. They had come under the call of God and responded to it.
The Call of God
There are many things that could be said about the call of God. We know that when God calls us the very call itself brings with it the power for its fulfilment.
“Faithful is he that calls you, who also will do it.” 1Thessalonians 5:24
We also know that when God calls us He does not change His mind, nor abandon that call, even if we make a mess of it. The Biblical statement to that effect is that the “gifts and callings of God are without repentance”, which means God does not change His mind about it.
“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Romans 11:29
For about three and a half years Peter and the other disciples journeyed with Him, learned from Him, saw His miracles and were activated into the supernatural, being empowered to do miracles themselves. It must have been a heady time for them all, but most especially for Peter, James and John who were given privileged treatment. They alone saw the transfiguration and the raising of Jairus’ daughter.
When Jesus was betrayed, however, they were just like the other disciples. They all fled. Peter, to his shame, also denied Jesus three times over that dreadful night of His betrayal and trial. This must have been a deeply challenging reality in Peter’s experience, since it was fulfilment of a prophecy from Jesus which Peter had denied would happen.
A New Encounter
Following Jesus’ resurrection Peter saw the empty tomb and met the resurrected Jesus. Then came an encounter back on the shores of Galilee. There Peter experienced his second calling to follow Jesus, possibly very close to where he was called the first time, years before.
Peter and some of the disciples had gone fishing in Peter’s boat. They caught nothing until a lone man on the shore called to them and instructed them to drop net on the other side of the boat. They did so and caught a huge catch. At that point someone realised that the man on the shore was none other than Jesus, Himself. Peter swam ashore and met His lord once again.
Jesus Deals with Peter
Jesus then interrogated Peter about Peter’s love for Jesus. Three times Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” Jesus was ploughing deep into Peter’s soul and reducing him to a desperate cry, that Jesus knew him intimately and could tell that he was admitting the truth when he said “Yes”.
Since that first call to follow Jesus, Peter had experienced the heights of walking with Jesus. But he also experienced the depths of personal failure. He now knew that he had nothing to offer Jesus. He now knew that God’s call on his life was not based on what Peter brought to Jesus but on what Jesus brought to Peter.
Peter had failed Jesus. All of his arrogant self-assurance was decimated by his humiliating and bitter denial of Jesus. Yet the call of God on Peter’s life was without repentance. God had not given up on Peter nor revoked the call on his life.
Jesus repeated to Peter what He had said over three years before. “Follow Me!” Here we see that the call of God comes again to our life, once we have failed and faltered in our fulfilment of that call. The call comes the second time to call us to follow, not in the confidence of our ability, but in humble submission as stumbling saints. The call comes again to show us that God is not basing the call on our ability to succeed but on His choice to call us. The whole process is sovereign, on His part, not energised by what we bring to God.
Peter Gets Distracted
Peter was then told something about his own future. His impulsive response was to ask Jesus about one of the others near him. Jesus reply was a gentle rebuke that what God had in store for anyone else was not Peter’s business. By this Jesus was revealing that our part in serving Him has nothing to do with what others are doing or what others will be led into. We must do what we are called to do, irrespective of those who succeed or fail around us, and irrespective of how our journey differs from others.
Here we see that the call of God is personal. It is not something that is subject to analysis based on how ours compares with others. Instead it is something that is to be lived and pursued to the full whether we must journey alone or with a great throng. It must be pursued whether our path is unique or a carbon copy of what others are doing.
And Again, “Follow Me”
Following Jesus’ rebuke to Peter, Jesus repeats one more time the call to “Follow Me”. Here Jesus set the seal on the call on Peter’s life.
It is as if Jesus had said to him in the sequence of these different calls, “Peter, Follow Me and I will make you a fisher of men.” Then when Peter had experienced both success and failure Jesus came to him again to say, “Peter, you are to Follow Me, not because of who or what you are, but because I have called you. My call is what is important, not who and what you are.” Then it is as if Jesus added, “Peter, your call is unique, so don’t look at those around you. Just go and fulfil what I have called you to do.”
God’s Call on Your Life
So that’s what the call of God is all about in your life. May God give you grace to hear His call and to respond to it in faith and faithfulness, despite your own limitations, and irrespective of those around you who have a different deal or who shame Christ or outshine you along the way. Just be what God has called you to be, with all the power and grace He gives you to fulfil that call.
The account of Jesus final calls on Peter to “Follow Me” are found in John 21.