“In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) …” Acts 1:15 a
Sometimes I wonder about Peter’s decision to have the disciples elect a man to replace Judas. Sometimes I wonder if You, Lord, didn’t intend Paul to fill that place; if maybe Peter was a little bit immature on his decision. But then I think I’m being way too hard on him. I think I’m way too hard on myself too. Because as I sit and ponder Your words here that You are sharing with me about these spiritual and historical and personal events, and as I keep reading into chapter two, and I continue to reflect on what has transpired in the last chapters of John, I think I get a better, fuller picture.
Peter always was a brave one and a vocal one around his group of friends. He was often the first to speak out. Sometimes he was commended and You, Lord, acknowledged that the truth He was seeing was given to him by God. On the other hand, in his next breath, he might speak words that You would have to reprimand. But standing up in front of the group he was comfortable with, or standing up in front of others while they were all standing up with him, well, that wasn’t hard. There was strength and comfort in that. You know, it’s the same for me.
But where things started to change, where Peter’s world began to fall apart, was when there wasn’t the strength in numbers. When You were taken Jesus, and his strength ran in fear, so did he. It’s hard to stand alone. It’s hard to stand when our encouragers are gone. It’s hard to stand in the face of ridicule or persecution. It’s hard to stand alone.
And we all know that when Peter had to experience standing alone on Your promises, he wasn’t ready. He wasn’t ready at that moment because he just hadn’t yet learned that he was truly standing on You and You alone. I think You have to take us, each one of us, to this point, and it’s only when we learn what it is to stand alone in and on You, that we start to get it like Peter did.
Something in Your conversation with Peter on the shore after the fish, changed his whole perception. Maybe it was more than the part of whether he loved You and Your call for him to feed Your sheep. Maybe it had something to do with learning to stand alone in You in the group or out of the group. I can’t help but think about Peter looking at John and wondering what Your plans for him were. Only You told him not to worry about John, but to listen to God’s plan for him.
And I didn’t see it when I read this verse above about Peter standing up before the 120 people that were praying with him. That’s easy. Remember, at first I wanted to judge him about speaking up to appoint a new man. Why not wait on the Lord? But then I got to thinking (after reading a devotion on Desiring God about this instance) that Peter was acting in faith. Listen to his words. He was looking at Scripture. He wanted to make sure it was being fulfilled. So he was obeying the best way he could. He was doing what he read. That’s faith. And sometimes, when we take steps in faith, it might not be God’s perfect design, but then again, if it was going to thwart Your plans, You wouldn’t allow it. But this isn’t even about Peter applying faith to appoint another ambassador.
I had to keep reading. I came to Acts 2:14. The Holy Spirit has arrived. He has fallen upon the believers and they are speaking the truth of God in the languages of all the people gathered around. People are amazed. But some are mocking. And where once Peter was afraid of being mocked, He is no longer afraid. He is the first to stand up with the eleven and speak out the truth about what is happening. And if ever a fisherman sounded like a trained Rabbi, this was the moment.
Alright, so Peter doesn’t have to stand alone here either. But, in a sense, I feel that he is and he would. I say that because on a way smaller sense, I think I experienced something minimally like this once. I was a teen. I had only known the Lord for a short time but was on fire for Him. One night we were on a hayride to a bonfire with the youth group. There were other friends who were believers sitting near me. Another teen was on the ride who did not want to be. He kept cursing and being miserable. But then he started using God’s name as a curseword. I couldn’t sit. It was like something came over me. He was bigger than me and I didn’t know him, but I had to stand up. All fear left. I just needed to uphold the Lord’s name. I stood up and went over to him. I told him that the one He was cursing was the One who loved him and gave him life and there was no way I was going to sit there and let him bad mouth the God who loved us so much. But when God empowers us, when He moves in us, when we are standing in Him, we have to stand because He compels us more than our fear.
I don’t know what transpired in that boy’s heart. I never saw him again after that night. But he stopped cursing and he didn’t use Your name in vain while on that hayride. But I do know what transpired on that day that Peter stood up. On that day that Peter stood up and spoke in You, in faith, again, about three thousand souls were saved. Three thousand! And Your Word says, “Then they that gladly received his word…” Yes, something had changed in Peter. But it didn’t start at Pentecost. The Lord just strengthened it here.
What started? What was it? What was the change? Maybe Peter had learned to stand in Christ alone, no matter who was around or not around. And whether he had companions standing beside him for encouragement or no one but You, Lord, he knew exactly where he stood. Lord, I want to stand in, on, and for You no matter how other people stand around me. I want my focus to be on You and Your will and bringing Your will to pass in my life and in the lives around me. I want to partner with You in fulfilling Your will, no matter what.
There is so much I’m still learning. There is so much I still need to learn. But what I do see, right now, I want to act upon, whether others see it or not. I want to follow You no matter what. And I don’t just want to tell stories of the past when I stood up for You, when I reached out to others with the truth. Put me on the line, the front lines, no matter how scary. Because I want You to give me the strength and courage and words to stand up for You. And I pray, that as I stand in You and for You, You will give me fruitfulness. And in that fruitfulness, I will have the opportunity, like Peter, to grow in fellowship and doctrine and communion and pray together with my new brothers and sisters in You.